What’s Your Biggest Small Business Challenge?

On any given day, what’s the biggest challenge you face? If you’re like most entrepreneurs, the answer is simple: getting it all done. No wonder, then, that 38 percent of small business owners in the eVoice Technology and Your Business Survey say their time was the most valuable asset their businesses had. (“Time” narrowly edges out “computer,” cited by 36 percent as their most valuable asset).

money where mouth is

The survey also asked entrepreneurs to name the most difficult part of being a small business owner. “Covering multiple jobs” (sales, shipping, receptionist, customer service, business development, etc.) is the top answer, cited by 53 percent of entrepreneurs. With this many roles to fill, it’s no wonder that 50 percent say that “not enough time to get everything done” is their number-two challenge.

Rounding out the top five challenges: “making a profit” (35 percent), 22 percent say its “staying ahead of the competition,” and 12 percent struggle with “managing employees.”

When asked how many roles they fill in a given day, the most common answer is “3 or 4” followed closely by “5 or 6.” Out of all those roles, which do entrepreneurs enjoy the least? No surprise to me that “accountant” leads the pack at 41 percent. We don’t much like being salespeople, (23 percent), and we aren’t crazy about the office manager/receptionist role (22 percent) either. Least disliked was marketing (12 percent)—maybe because these days, social media makes marketing kind of fun.

I’m surprised that being your own IT person didn’t make the list of least-liked roles. For me, staying on top of IT issues with no in-house help has been the biggest change from being a corporate employee to an entrepreneur.

Seems I’m not alone: “Keep up with technology changes” (30 percent) was the most challenging IT issue facing small business owners in the survey, ahead of “no IT support” (16 percent) and “being more mobile” (15 percent).

With so many things to do and so little time to do them, it’s hardly surprising that entrepreneurs would pay money to squeeze just one more hour into the day. Asked how much they’d pay for an extra, productive hour, 25 percent say they’d give more than $500, 24 percent would give $200 and 30 percent would pay $100.

Of course, this isn’t just a hypothetical when it comes to our businesses. How many times have you found yourself struggling to complete some task that’s not really in your wheelhouse (wrangling a printer, trying to do your own SEO, calculating your taxes…I could go on) because “it’s easier to do it myself?”

But is it really? How much would it cost you to hire someone to handle what you hate? How much time would you gain—and what could you spend it on? With 79 percent of us saying we’d willingly pay to gain some time for our business, are we putting our money where our mouths are?

What would you do with an extra hour in the day?

Money Where Your Mouth Is Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

23 Reactions
  1. Great read as always, Rieva. I remember working as part of a two-person shop in college, and time was definitely a huge challenge. Small businesses just have to stretch themselves thinner to get everything done.

    • Oh Dave, you are so right. And it’s the “little things” that become time sucks. Last week my Outlook was acting up, have no IT person. I managed to fix it, but it took me about 5 hours!!

  2. Great article Rieva. Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. You do a good job of showing just how much work it is to make it work. The work, that is. Hah!

  3. Hi Rieva,

    Successful business people have the same number of hours as everyone else. The advantage they may have is using their time more efficiently. There are other options to hiring help.

    Pierrette Ashcroft posted 9 suggestions small business time management techniques in a blog at http://blog.bossrocket.com/small-business-time-management-techniques/

    • Thanks Paul for sharing the tips. And yes, we have the same number of hours, but I’d wager small business owners have far more “tasks” to accomplish in those hours.

  4. This is great Rieva. The one thing that surprised me the most is that the second most “disliked” job is being a salesperson. As a small biz owner everything we do is about selling ourselves and we have the passion and vision for where we’re going. I personally agree with not being excited about the accounting and office manager roles but being a salesperson seems natural so I’m surprised it ranked up there like it did. Great content…good to know where you stand with your fellow business owners.

    • Thanks Tom. I think it’s because business owners don’t necessarily categorize what they do as “selling” so they don’t like it when it’s identified that way. It is about spreading the passion, but most people don’t equate sales with passion.

      I’ve had “super” sales people tell me, “I’m so good, I can sell anything.” But they’re likely not selling with passion. It’s just a job to them.

  5. Accounting tasks are truly excruciating and it can bring out the worst in you especially if you cannot get the accounting books in order. I am glad someone told me to employ the services of accounting experts. It was worth it. There are some things that you just need to ask for help. I never knew that you can do all of those things online. From the list above, I am curious as to why doing sales is included. Cheers!

  6. I love this! The technology side of it is what interests me. I’m curious, SMB owners have trouble keeping up with technology and they also suffer from not having an IT person on hand. There is software, etc. being released all the time to help make small business owners lives easier and give them the tools big business have to compete. But I wonder if owners are hesitant to pursue a lot of these options because they don’t have the “technical team” to help teach it to them, or for more system based technologies, help them when a problem comes up (like with your Outlook, Rieva). It’s a strange cycle.

    • It’s not just hesitant to pursue, partly it’s being unaware. Running a business takes a lot of time as it is. It’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on in other industries.

  7. Dina Eisenberg | SpeakupPowerfully.com

    Who hasn’t been guilty of ‘gotta do it myself’ thinking? I have. that 30% number is a huge opportunity for micro businesses.

    Create a mini product ( instruction video, ebook,, checklist)that solves a specific, narrow problem & add an hour to the lives of fellow entrepreneurs. Apply an irresistible micro pricing model ( under $100 according to the study) and bammm! Everyone is a little happier, getting more done & you’ve got a passive income stream. Sweet!

  8. If only I could create a business that buys & sells these magical extra hours of productivity…

  9. Very interesting article summarizing the survey Rieva.
    I’m also interested in the technology side and we work hard on find ways to help SMEs keep up with technology and benefit from the digital economy.

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