9 Big Problems for Small Business Owners

© 2015 Tony Bodoh and Vinny Ribas

Business owners face a number of challenges every day just to keep their business moving forward. But, many of those challenges can be the result of their own behaviors.  Here are nine of the biggest, most problematic behaviors we’ve observed in the 1,000+ business owners we’ve coached.

Being Too Emotionally Attached

Business owners who find themselves struggling to keep up with the competition have often become too attached to their own ideas and/or business model. This naturally occurs because they put much of their own blood, sweats and tears into building their business. So they become over-protective. They resist and put off making the necessary changes to their products and services or to their business model that will keep their customers and employees happy.  This opens the door for competitors to come in and steal customers. Or in other cases, the customers simply find another place to go that serves them the way they want to be served.

Doing Too Much Themselves

Feeling trapped in their business is something most owners can relate to. In fact, according to one survey, 56% of owners feel like they can never be away from their business. For some, the reason for this is that they chose a business model that requires their constant presence. Common examples are the doctor or lawyer who runs his own practice or the coach or consultant who is the expert the clients want personal contact with. But no business owner is exempt from falling into this trap regardless of how big the company is or how many employees they have. Finding the right harmony between work, family and other interests must be intentional.

Allowing Beliefs To Limit Them

Business owners know that they are limited by their experiences, education, contacts, etc. How they react to and act on these beliefs determines if their business will grow or remain stagnant.  Building a team is essential for growth. The key question for the business owner is this: “Do I feel confident enough to seek expert advice or do I feel threatened by those who are smarter?”  If the answer is the latter, you may build a business, but you’’ll fail to build a legacy.

Ignoring Critical Roles In Their Business

Most business owners feel overwhelmed trying to balance the roles that make up their business. In our research, we’ve identified 14 key roles that require ongoing attention in every business. Many owners put too much emphasis on aspects of the business they are comfortable with and not enough, if any, on those that challenge them. Tasks are left undone, deadlines missed, and problems emerge. This imbalance not only prevents long-term growth, but also creates unnecessary risk.

Not Taking Responsibility

Building a business can be extremely challenging. Owners often face unforeseen setbacks that seem too great to accept. Too often the immediate pains of staying stuck outweigh the long-term gains of taking action.  Ultimately, regardless of the cause of a problem, the business owner bears the responsibility of responding to and dealing with it. Not accepting this responsibility or passing blame leaves challenges unattended and enables them to reappear.  If you have a habit of blaming others, you might be left alone when dealing with difficult situations or when your business faces a seemingly insurmountable setback.

Failing to Plan

Many business owners just wing it. They start with an idea but never create a long-term strategy. Some start with a plan but let things derail them too quickly. Others just feel overwhelmed when they think about the detail required in developing and executing a strategy. As a result, the company misses opportunities, experiences bottlenecks and ultimately loses revenue.  For example the company may end up with badly needed funds tied up in excess inventory waiting to be sold.  If you started your business without a strategy, you don’t have to continue that way. There are free resources available to help you or you can hire an expert to support your planning and execution processes.

Focusing Only on Cash Flow

Business owners who believe that their primary goal needs to be generating a positive cash flow are setting themselves up for a very unwelcome surprise: their company does not have the value to others that they believe it does. Of course, cash flow is important. But too often owners are unaware of or ignore the countless other ways that a business can and should increase its own value. As an example, they often fail to effectively leverage their assets (i.e. customer base, intellectual property, relationships etc.) to create new revenue streams that would exponentially grow the value of the business. As a result they limit their business’s attraction to financiers and strategic partners. This challenge becomes especially important when they want to sell their business, retire or just cash out.

Creating An Environment That Fails To Promote Growth

Some owners fail to put adequate thought, energy and capital into building a work environment that promotes the satisfaction and well-being of their customers, employees, vendors, investor, advisors and even their community. Research repeatedly shows that employee engagement is a differentiator in company success, but a survey by Gallup found that only 13% of employees consider themselves truly engaged in their work.  Skipping this important step of building a thriving environment leads to discontent, disengagement, distrust and loss of loyalty.

Being Too Easily Discouraged

We saved this one for last, but it definitely is one of the most important.  The ongoing and inevitable challenges and setbacks inherent in growing a business often weigh heavily on a business owner. This weight can lead to reactions and decisions that are based on fear, overwhelm and discouragement. The end result is often a loss of any sense of drive, a feeling of failure and the loss of self-esteem.  It’s no wonder that there is growing concern about the mental health of entrepreneurs and business owners.

What do you do if you are a business owner facing one or more of these challenges?

First, know that you are not alone. These challenges are common. We’ve seen at least some of them in every business owner we have coached.  It is likely your neighboring business owners and your competitors are facing their own challenges as well.  But don’t let that be an excuse to stay stuck.

Second, find yourself a mentor or a coach who has the experience of building a business.  If they have experience in your industry, that is a plus.  Coaches are not the same as consultants.  Coaches help you learn how to think whereas consultants tell you what to do.  But, make sure you get a reputable coach with a proven track record. Remember that just because they are certified does not mean they know what they are doing.

Third, consider finding a supportive community of like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners.  Be careful not to surround yourself with people who just join you in your misery.  Instead, find a supportive group that helps you stay focused on your mission and vision and will help you up when you inevitably fall down.

We discuss these nine challenges and their solutions in greater depth in our new course, The Brilliant Business Owner and in our upcoming book by the same name. For each of the challenges, we created tools that help you crush the overwhelm, take control and help you building the business and life you’d love.


Tony Bodoh and Vinny Ribas are the co-founders of LeaderBridge and co-authors of the upcoming book, The Jealous Business Owner (with Connie Ribas). Tony is a Fortune 150 consultant and the founder of Tony Bodoh International and VenuPlan. He is also a sought after speaker, a corporate trainer and the author of the upcoming book, ‘The Customer Within.’

 Vinny is the author of ‘CEO Secrets’ and has coached over 1000 entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of Top 4M Entertainment, a film and TV production company, and Indie Connect, an entertainment management, consulting and training company.