Four common hurdles you need to overcome to start a business

Discover four of the most common hurdles faced by aspiring entrepreneurs, and how you can get past them to start a business you love.

If you’re sick of having your time and efforts dictated by an employer, the idea of starting your own business can seem rather attractive. However, the path to successful entrepreneurship is littered with challenges designed to trip you up at every turn.

Four hurdles you need to overcome to start a business

To help you navigate these challenges with confidence, freelance writer Monica Lowry reveals four of the most common hurdles ambitious entrepreneurs face, and how you can overcome them.

1) Developing a marketing strategy

The primary goal of most any small business is to create a product or service that genuinely works and has the potential to be profitable. But once that’s done, you also have to find the source of the profits – having a great product isn’t enough if nobody knows it exists! And to ensure that people discover your products or service, you need a marketing strategy.

In The Social Media Hat, mobile developer Alex Genadinik explains that many entrepreneurs assume that simply writing about a business on Facebook and/or handing out flyers and business cards is enough to tick their ‘marketing’ box.

But the truth is that while these initiatives are fine, your overall marketing strategy needs to be far more detailed and comprehensive. Any business can get the word out to an extent via Facebook and flyers, but a successful marketing approach needs to be tailored to your unique target market, and should ideally consist of creative approaches that will appeal to them.

(Need help with your marketing strategy? You’ll find plenty of practical tips in our top 10 stories on marketing.)

2) Managing incoming funds

Raising enough capital to launch your business (and sustain it through the early weeks and months) is one of the most expected hurdles early on in the start-up process.

Most businesses need some kind of cash injection to get off the ground – whether it’s your own savings or money borrowed from a third party – and obtaining that cash can present a big challenge. However, Andrew Beattie of Investopedia suggests that the bigger money concern is managing funds that come into your company once it’s off the ground and generating profits.

At first glance it can seem not a bad problem to have, because it means you’re making money. But allocating that money in a way that allows you to benefit personally from your success while also maintaining and growing your business makes for a delicate balancing act. Beattie suggests that while some of the financial basics are manageable for a lot of small business owners, professional help often becomes necessary at some point.

3) Envisioning your long-term goals

It’s all too easy, when you’re caught up in the excitement of launching a new business, to focus on the many things you need to do right now – and lose sight of where you want to be.

In order to create and grow a business that evolves into something that you enjoy running and meets your needs, you need to have a clear vision of where it’s going. Only then can you make day-to-day decisions that will steer in that direction.

This is an issue that comes up frequently among those who choose to study business formally. Working as an instructor for MBA applicants for her Menlo Coaching programme, former Bain consultant Alice van Harten discusses many aspects of organising your goals in business.

For applicants this often means formatting resumes and finding the right programs, etc. But it also extends to the idea of outlining a clear approach to the future. This is one area in which MBA students sometimes have an advantage – they’re almost forced to sit and construct a vision for their business goals, as opposed to focusing on the early stages of an idea.

So if you haven’t done so already, take the time to outline your business vision and goals. Write them down, and give them a deadline (you can read how to set SMART goals here). You’ll be amazed at how much more progress you will make when you have a clear direction to follow.

4) Working out how to expand

Expansion may seem a long way off when you’re first planning a business, but it’s important to consider how your business will grow – and how you will manage that growth.

If you don’t, you could find yourself trying to contain an unwieldy beast that consumes all your time and causes you untold stress. This is particularly important if you have children. The desire to have more control of your work-life balance is often a key motivation in starting a business for many mums, and the last thing you want is to end up a slave to it!

So consider what type of life you want, and how your business can fit into it. For example, are you willing to quit your career to run it? Or do you just want to manage a sideline enterprise? And if you do start out with a 5-9 business, when do you want to make it your 9-5 instead?

If you do start out with a clear vision for your work and your life, you’ll find it easier to make decisions that will steer your business in the right direction.

This process is difficult no matter how you cut it, but some of the best and simplest advice came from Nick Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk. Friedman started a moving company with some friends that grew to the point at which a franchise model made sense – but he had no idea how to design one.

So what did he do? As Friedman puts it, he and his partners joined associations and groups where they could learn from experts, and reached out to relevant mentors.

This is an important final point not just for expansion or franchising but for managing a start-up in general: to the extent that you can, always try to connect with people who have done it before, and who can guide you over the hurdles.

Need help to get your business off the ground?

If you want to start your own business, these articles will help you get over your initial hurdles:

Monica Lowry is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s a self-professed trendsetter, a proud alum of UGA, and loving wife and mother. You can follow her on Twitter.