Why Do so Many Small Businesses Fail?

The failure rate of small businesses is painful to see. With a little preplanning and consistent efforts in the right areas .... this doesn't have to happen.

First, I see far too many people who think starting a business means the till is their personal money and owning a business means not having to work. They don't come into prepared and give up far too easily when they realize people are not beating down their door to do business with them.

So what are the biggest reasons behind the high failure rate of small businesses .... and what can YOU do about it?

1. early burn out (poor planning)
2. no capital
3. no business plan / expectations / strategy

Burn Out:

Owners try to be both managers and technicians in the business and it drives them batty. They love doing something, so start a business, but then find that as it grows they have no life. You must be ready to start a business and then step out of the "do" part of it so you can remain energized and expand efficiently.

One useful metaphor is to think of your business as if you were going to franchise it. You will need to hire relatively unskilled people to operate the business - you cannot be at 20 locations at once. So you develop operations manuals and specific processes that are easy to train new people on. This lets you step outside the operation and assign it to someone. You can then use your time for strategy, growth, or personal development. You won't burn out.


You need money to grow a business. The presence of ops manuals and a clear business plan are impressive to those who provide money. Getting capital will be vitally important to your success. Getting yourself set up with a Dunn and Bradstreet number, a business specific credit card, and other credit-building assets is urgently important.

Business Plan:

You've heard this before - no business plan, no success. It doesn't have to be formal, but it must be well thought out. Get help if you can. There are links in the Recommended Resources at Small Business Resources Cafe which can help with that.

Looking from a different view .... many small businesses are actually quite successful, IF, they have a good product or service at the right time and have good luck. Seriously, alot of small business success happens because of timing and luck than skill.

The trouble starts when those two run out. It is usually timing that goes first : The economy changes, a better widget comes out after yours, your product/service/industry gets bad press, etc. This is when the business spiral downwards. This is when you have to use your brain and know when to seek outside help.

It's rather easy to make a go of a small busness with luck and timing on your side. It takes a solid plan, discipline and strong problem solving skills when you lose those two attributes.

My best advice is to build your business to grow. Then plan that it will dip .... and plan for the dip by reinventing your business with new ideas and thoughts. Often these innovations come from an outsider, such as a consultant who can view your business objectively. Then, your job as the owner is to listen and respond accordingly!

Above all though, never forget that business is about making money, and making money is about sales. If you concentrate on sales and manage cash flow, then you should be able to make it out of the start up phase and grow a very healthy business for the long run.

Michael is the owner of FreedomFire Communications....including Small Business Resources Cafe. Michael also authors Broadband Nation where you're always welcome to drop in and catch up on the latest BroadBand news, tips, insights, and ramblings for the masses.

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