Two young women co-business owners of a clothing store sit at table and do their business's bookkeeping. Behind them is a rack of merchandise.
By adopting a "lean and mean" cash flow mindset, ensuring steady demand for your product, and tapping skilled leadership, you can ward off the three biggest threats to failure. — Getty Images/aldomurillo

Starting a small business takes patience, perseverance, and a lot of hard work. It’s not easy to launch a new venture: Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly half of all startups fail within the first five years.

There are some common reasons why small businesses fail. Understanding the obstacles that other business owners have faced can help you prepare to navigate these specific challenges. Below are the top three reasons why small businesses go under and tips on how you can avoid the same fate.

Challenge No. 1: Cash flow problems

According to SCORE, 82% of small businesses fail due to cash flow problems. Cash flow is a blanket term that has many underlying roots. Cash flow is simply a metric that indicates how money is coming in and being spent at your business. Cash flow issues can result from a lack of funding, poor budgeting, or inventory management issues, among other things.

There are a few ways to mitigate this risk, although it’s worth reiterating that negative cash flow is often an indicator of a different issue. First, avoid big expenses in your first year of business.

“As your business launches and grows, there will be a push and pull between funding and supporting that growth, and being conservative with your spending,” wrote SCORE. “When in doubt, stay conservative. The ‘lean and mean’ startup headset — and the concept of a minimum viable budget — is your friend.”

A lean operating budget is a good starting point, but it isn’t the only way to manage your cash flow. Spend time tracking your inventory, building cash reserves, and making sure your accounting is running smoothly. Many experts recommend working with a certified public accountant during the first few years after your business has launched to ensure your accounts receivable/accounts payable systems are working well and that you have enough set aside for taxes.

[Read more: Best Entrepreneurial Advice From the Founders Behind America's Hottest Startups]

The other side of cash flow is revenue, or financing, for new businesses. Many small business owners struggle to find loans, grants, or investors to fund their ventures. Look for unique funding opportunities for small businesses, such as government loans, business diversity grants, or industry-specific grants.

Just over 40% of small businesses fail because there’s an insufficient need for their product or service.

Challenge No. 2: There’s no demand for your product or service

Just over 40% of small businesses fail because there’s an insufficient need for their product or service. When there’s no demand for what you’re selling, the best marketing campaign in the world won’t turn around your business results.

Avoid this risk by doing the right market research before launch. This exercise should form a key part of your business plan. The National Federation of Independent Business reports that companies with a business plan have the best chance of success — particularly if they identify their potential markets, define their ideal customer, and analyze their competition.

Many good, affordable resources can help you estimate the demand for your product or service. Try Google Trends, a free tool that can show you how often people are searching for keywords related to your product or service. Surveys and focus groups can also help you get feedback on a minimum viable product during your development process.

[Read more: 5 Qualities Successful Small Businesses Have in Common]

Challenge No. 3: Poor management

As the creator and founder of the business, it can be tempting to hold tight to the reins as your venture gets off the ground. Unfortunately, attempting to do everything yourself is neither sustainable nor helpful for the longevity of your business.

“While the owner may have the skills necessary to create and sell a viable product or service, they often lack the attributes of a strong manager and don't have the time to successfully oversee other employees,” wrote Investopedia. “Without a dedicated management team, a business owner has greater potential to mismanage certain aspects of the business, whether it be finances, hiring, or marketing.”

Your budget may not allow you to hire a full senior leadership team, but look for ways to delegate key roles effectively. That might involve bringing in a fractional CFO, hiring a mid-level manager, bringing on a virtual assistant, or outsourcing key tasks to a partner.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Apply for the CO—100!

The CO—100 is an exclusive list of the 100 best and brightest small and mid-sized businesses in America. Enter today to share your story and get recognized.



Published