If building a successful business were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? Life is tough enough as a full-time employee working 40+ hours a week, but being the leader of a growing business comes with incomparable challenges and responsibilities. Nowadays, we have countless tools and avenues to create a business from scratch, but these conveniences come with new difficulties as well. Let’s look into a few of the biggest business challenges in 2021, and offer some CEO insights to make sense of them.
Strategizing for Success
Before a business can make its first dollar, it must be viable on paper with a clear strategy set forth by founders. Every great brand began as an idea, from the massive railroad companies of 19th-century America to the modern tech giants of Silicon Valley. History suggests that the best companies started with strong principles and clear direction from visionaries leading the charge, but things aren’t always so simple. Systems and processes can quickly be muddled by influences from investors and recruits, making the core mission of the company so vital to its success.
In the initial stages of a business, founders will work around the clock to map out game plans, execute key objectives, and return to the drawing board as many times as necessary to gain traction and momentum. “When it comes to pleasing your customers, it really depends on the time spent and the research done into becoming an expert on what your consumers want out of your business,” said Chris Vaughn, Founder and CEO of Saucey. “When your consumers feel directly heard and understood by your brand, they will always come back for more.”
Overcoming Cultural Barriers
The challenges of entrepreneurship can be technical, intrapersonal, mental, and physical. There are also cultural clashes that could occur on the journey, adding another layer of complexity and difficulty to the equation. Those who can overcome these obstacles show a greater degree of resilience that serves them well in the long run. “It’s been difficult gaining recognition for Sichuan food America,” said Jing Gao, Founder and CEO of Fly By Jing. “We have received a lot of negativity along the way. There is a lot of intolerance in this country when it comes to the Chinese food industry, and as a child of immigrants, I’ve always had to fight to be respected in this space.” Ultimately, if an idea is good enough and the plan is well-executed, entrepreneurs can overcome all the odds and achieve success, no matter where they come from.
No matter where a company may be in its life cycle, disruption is always a distinct possibility. New technology can derail legacy operations, and competition can present unforeseen obstacles that force teams to pivot on a dime. In this century alone, we’ve watched entire industries collapse as a result of the digital revolution, and smaller disruptive technologies are introduced each year that impact the battle for market share in all verticals. Volatility can vary; forces work to select the most effective and cost-efficient processes throughout an organization. This was on full display in 2020 with the shift to a remote work environment.
“While our team has proven that we’re able to make incredible progress and work effectively from home, I don’t anticipate that we’ll ever see a total disappearance of in-person workplace culture,” said Eric Wu, Founder and CEO of Gainful. “Call me old school, but I am still a firm believer in the importance of in-person collaboration. I’ve also heard from our team that people are feeling cooped up after many months at home, and are looking forward to coming into the office at least a few days per week – even before a vaccine is widely available – provided we take all necessary safety precautions.” The best business leaders do not view disruption as a drawback, but rather an opportunity to get a foothold over competition and drive things forward in the right direction. Since small companies tend to be more agile and flexible than larger organizations, they can sometimes gain significant ground and innovate in unexpected ways.
Intuition is your best guide when deciding whether to handle your business in-house or outsource to a dedicated professional. These days, you never know when your business may see a huge spike in traffic and be overwhelmed with transactions within just a few hours. The internet (social media in particular) can turn your company into an overnight sensation, so be prepared. The second you notice that something distracting you and your team from the core operations of your business, consider outsourcing ASAP. You want all hands on deck for things like customer service, marketing, tech resources, and general development.
“Face it, if business is booming, the numbers might be overwhelming for you to keep up with efficiently,” said Daniel Shapiro, Founder and CEO of Fourlaps. As your numbers skyrocket so does everything else and allowing room for collaboration on vital information such as finances will help you run your business more smoothly.”
Staying Relevant and Real
Companies that enter the intermediate phase of growth often hit a plateau, finding their groove and discovering reasonable limits in terms of revenue and scope. At this stage, expansion may not be priority No. 1 – relevance is the concern. Competition heats up, momentum slows, and perhaps team members lose some of the hunger that originally drove them to success initially. It’s important for leaders to continue pushing things forward in a positive direction, taking calculated risks with big potential payoffs. Examples of this include rebranding, releasing new products and services, new managerial staff, or simply a refreshed vision of the company mission. Many brands also encounter an identity crisis at some point in the life cycle. Companies may struggle to preserve their “soul” as various pressures mount and influences come into play.
“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart,” said former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. “They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”
Business challenges have no bounds, and new obstacles come up daily for managers, owners, and employees alike. Knowing about these challenges ahead of time can help a business stay on track during tough times, but the magic happens in the moment when inspiration and intuition make the biggest impact on success.
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