Financial challenges faced by small and medium business owners

MAHESH PAI lists out financial struggles faced by small business owners and how one can overcome them.

Owning and operating a small or medium-sized business is not a journey for the weak hearted. It demands unwavering effort, dedication, and an unyielding work ethic. You must ask yourself: Are you prepared to confront the lot of challenges that come your way and keep your entrepreneurial dream alive? Or, are you destined to join the 70% of individuals who shutter their small businesses within the first five years of operation? (surveys say most businesses shut within 5 years but in a 3 year format; either in the first 3 years, the middle 3 years or last 3 years)
Shockingly, majority of these businesses cease to exist due to financial struggles –struggles that leave them unable to cover essential costs and payroll. Every business, regardless of size, requires financial stability. While cash flow is undeniably important, it should never come at the expense of losing control over your finances. As a small or medium business owner, you must be prepared to weather the storm, overcome financial obstacles, and cultivate the growth of your enterprise.

Below are the major challenges faced by small and medium business owners:
1. Cash flow issues: The lifeblood of your business
Any firm can be destroyed by cash flow problems, but any business can also benefit from a healthy cash flow. A company’s lifeblood is consistent cash flow and a lack of it can put a stop to even the most normal operations. To prosper, it is crucial to keep a consistent flow of income to pay bills, make investments in expansion, and ensure stability.

2. Recovery issues: Battling delayed payments situation
A large percentage of small and medium firms are distressed by late payments. When these problems become a routine, then they have the potential to suffocate the firm, leaving it unable to fulfil its own financial obligations. Persistent issues with delayed payments can ultimately prove fatal to the company.

3. Overburdened with debt: The weight that crushes growth
Debt is a double-edged sword. While it can fuel growth and expansion, excessive debt can be a suffocating burden. Many small and medium business owners find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt, struggling to keep their heads above water as interest payments accumulate. The first step to get out of debt is to stop borrowing money. The biggest mistake of any business owner is taking a bigger loan to repay an existing loan and to add to the debt spiral the financial institutions make it easier and provide more credit as they feel every business owner is capable of repaying the loan.

4. No emergency fund: Ill-prepared for unforeseen expenses
Businesses must expect the unexpected. Not having an emergency fund in place to weather unforeseen expenses can lead to financial disaster when unexpected challenges arise. An emergency fund serves as a cushion or financial safety net to keep the business afloat during tough times.

5. No liquidity: A recipe for financial strain
Liquidity is essential for day-to-day operations and taking advantage of growth opportunities. A lack of liquid cash can severely hinder your ability to adapt, invest, and navigate financial challenges effectively. Liquidity is one of the major issues most business owners face.

6. Heavy costs of machinery, equipment, and labour: A weighty burden
Small and medium-sized businesses often grapple with the substantial costs associated with machinery, equipment, and labour. These expenses can strain financial resources, making it imperative to find cost-effective solutions and manage expenditures judiciously.

Regulatory Waters
Navigating tax regulations and government policies can be daunting. Compliance with tax laws and adhering to changing government regulations is not only a legal obligation but also a financial challenge that can consume valuable time and resources.

8. Mixing Business and Personal Finances: A Risky Blending
Co-mingling business and personal finances is a dangerous practice that can complicate cash flow management and jeopardise the financial integrity of your company. There is fine line that separates business finance and personal finance, when this line is not identified, that’s when the financial crisis begins. Keeping these finances separate is crucial to maintaining clarity and financial stability.

9. Forgetting your own Salary: The sacrifice of self
In the pursuit of business success, many entrepreneurs neglect to pay themselves a salary or pay themselves a bare minimum. They pay salaries to their staff, vendors in time but don’t draw anything for themselves with the assumption that whatever money the company holds, it belongs to them only. The belief that they can withdraw the money anytime makes them live a cash poor life. This selflessness may seem noble, but it can lead to personal financial strain and hinder the business’s ability to attract and retain talent.

10. Diversion of funds: The pitfall of unfinished projects
Shifting funds from one project to another before completion can create financial instability. It is essential to maintain financial discipline and allocate resources efficiently to ensure that all projects reach completion.
In conclusion, the path of entrepreneurship for small and medium business owners is burdened with financial challenges. To thrive in this arena, one must master the art of financial management, cultivate resilience, and be prepared to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of business. By addressing these challenges head-on and implementing sound financial strategies, small and medium business owners can increase their odds of not just surviving but thriving in the competitive world of business.

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