Read this section about developing a business plan.
Running your own business may not be as easy as it sounds. Despite the many advantages of being your own boss, the risks are great as well. Over a period of five years, nearly 50% percent of small businesses fail according to the Kauffman Foundation.
Businesses close down for many reasons - and not all are failures. Some businesses that close are financially successful and close for nonfinancial reasons. But the causes of business failure can be interrelated. For example, low sales and high expenses are often directly related to poor management. Some common causes of business closure are:
- Economic factors - business downturns and high interest rates
- Financial causes - inadequate capital, low cash balances, and high expenses
- Lack of experience - inadequate business knowledge, management experience, and technical expertise
- Personal reasons - the owners may decide to sell the business or move on to other opportunities
Inadequate early planning is often at the core of later business problems. As described earlier, a thorough feasibility analysis, from market assessment to financing, is critical to business success. Yet even with the best plans, business conditions change and unexpected challenges arise. An entrepreneur may start a company based on a terrific new product only to find that a larger firm with more marketing, financing, and distribution clout introduces a similar item.
The stress of managing a business can also take its toll. The business can consume your whole life. Owners may find themselves in over their heads and unable to cope with the pressures of business operations, from the long hours to being the main decision maker. Even successful businesses have to deal with ongoing challenges. Growing too quickly can cause as many problems as sluggish sales. Growth can strain a company's finances when additional capital is required to fund expanding operations, from hiring additional staff to purchasing more raw material or equipment. Successful business owners must respond quickly and develop plans to manage its growth.
So, how do you know when it is time to quit? "Never give up" may be a good motivational catchphrase, but it is not always good advice for a small-business owner. Yet, some small-business owners keep going no matter what the cost. For example, Ian White's company was trying to market a new kind of city map. White maxed out 11 credit cards and ran up more than $100,000 in debt after starting his company. He ultimately declared personal bankruptcy and was forced to find a job so that he could pay his bills. Maria Martz didn't realize her small business would become a casualty until she saw her tax return showing her company's losses in black and white - for the second year in a row. It convinced her that enough was enough and she gave up her gift-basket business to become a full-time homemaker. But once the decision is made, it may be tough to stick to. "I got calls from people asking how come I wasn't in business anymore. It was tempting to say I'd make their basket but I had to tell myself it is finished now".