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8 Reasons Why Small Business Owners Fail to Hit Their Goals

We know that 50% of all new businesses will fail within the first 5 years of opening their doors. Knowing this makes it easy to understand why many people feel discouraged about starting a new business. Many times, a business failure is due to not reaching the goals and milestones set by the leaders of the business.

Having key business goals helps keep a small operation on track. If a small business can reach its goals promptly, it sets itself up for years of success. When they fail to reach their financial and non-financial goals, they risk closing their doors forever. However, there are things you can do to avoid failure before starting your new business. The following are eight reasons why small business owners fail to hit their targets and what they can do to succeed in the future.

1. Lack of Preparation

Starting a small business is similar to starting on a long journey. You should have an end goal in mind; you can’t get there if you don’t know where there is. That is why it is important to prepare well.

Preparation is fundamental to the success and sustainability of a small business. It provides a clear roadmap, helping businesses anticipate potential challenges, allocate resources efficiently, and make informed decisions. Without proper preparation, businesses may be caught off guard by market fluctuations, competitive pressures, or operational disruptions, resulting in potential loss of revenue or even business failure. P

reparation involves developing comprehensive business plans, forecasting financials, and planning for risk mitigation strategies. This helps a business not only to visualize its goals but also to outline the steps required to achieve them.

Answer the following questions BEFORE starting your business:

  • What are your goals, and how do they align with the needs of your customers?
  • Why do you want to start this business?
  • What will motivate you when times get tough?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How can you best provide value to these individuals?
  • What will it take for you to achieve success in the long run?
  • How do you want your business to make an impact on the world?

Although there are many reasons why your business might be failing, be sure that lack of preparation is not one of them.


2. No Proper Market Research

Do you know who your customers are? Do you understand their needs and how they behave? Before starting a new business, it’s critical to do some market research. By doing so, you’ll gain valuable insights about your target audience, allowing you to better serve them in the future and ensure customer satisfaction.

It is important that you first find the business idea that is right for you and your skillset. Just picking an business without an in-depth research phase will ultimately lead to problems in the future. Take your time and research different niches as well as sectors to find out if your business makes sense for you.


3. No Marketing Plan

Customer satisfaction is everything, but without marketing, it’s not going to happen. Without a proper marketing plan in place (that includes the various channels you’ll use), you won’t be able to get your business off the ground and make the impact you want. You need to create a marketing plan and then immediately implement it.

Answer the following questions BEFORE starting your business:

  • Do you understand the sales funnel, aka how people will find out about your product or service?
  • What’s the best way to promote your company and encourage interested customers to buy from you?
  • How can you stand out from competitors to be unique and offer added value to your customers?
  • How will you get more people to share your content (blog posts, infographics, etc.)?
  • What’s the best way for you to generate leads (via social media channels, email marketing, paid advertising) to move qualified prospects to buyers or clients?


4. Not Being Flexible

Lack of flexibility can severely hinder a small business’s growth and success. Businesses need to adapt to changing market conditions, customer demands, and evolving technologies. An inflexible business that resists change may find itself stuck with outdated practices, products, or services, leaving it unable to compete effectively with more adaptable rivals. Lack of flexibility can also make it difficult to respond to unforeseen challenges, such as supply chain disruptions, market fluctuations, or new competition.

Additionally, in an era where customer expectations are continually evolving, a business that can’t tailor its offerings to meet individual needs may lose customers to more agile competitors. Also, inflexibility can stifle innovation within the company. There have been many really successful companies that have failed due to lack of innovation. If larger companies fail due to their inflexibility, small businesses should also be cautious of falling into that trap.

If your business isn’t open to new ideas, it can limit its growth potential and the opportunity to diversify or improve its product or service offerings. For a small business to survive and thrive in today’s business environment, flexibility is not just desirable, it’s essential.

A business needs to be able to change and adapt with the times. While having a set plan is crucial, you should remain flexible if things don’t turn out as expected and frequently won’t. If your company is not prepared to go with the flow, you’ll never succeed.


5. Not Having a Realistic Budget In place

When starting a new business, the first thing is to develop a budget for both the short term and long term (including profit goals). You should also create some cash flow projections based on your monthly expenses, as well as the capacity of your business to grow. It’s impossible to determine how much inventory and other resources you may need at any given time if you don’t have a budget in place.

Answer the following questions BEFORE starting your business:

  • What capital are you going to invest in this business?
  • Where will it come from (savings, credit cards, loans), and how much can you spend per month?
  • Can you cover all your overhead costs with cash flow alone, or will you need additional financing along the way?
  • What’s the best way for you to generate monthly income (via existing customers, repeat business, new customers) during the start-up phase?
  • What is the best way to scale this business so that you can generate even more money long term?


6. Not Having the Necessary Skills and Expertise

The success of your business will depend on how well your team can work together. Part of being a leader is knowing which skills and expertise your team doesn’t have (or needs to improve). Having a successful business will be difficult, if not impossible, without the right people with the necessary skills.

7. Not Staying Connected with Your Customers

You need to understand your customer’s needs and preferences if you expect to have satisfied customers. You also need to listen to all of the feedback you get online through customer surveys, forums, and social media websites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). This will allow you to know what they like about your company and how you can improve your services in the future.

Staying connected to customers is crucial for any small business. It enables businesses to understand their needs, preferences, and expectations, helping to design products, services, and marketing strategies that resonate with them.

An isolated business that does not maintain this connection may miss essential feedback, making it difficult to adapt to changing customer demands or market trends. Customers value being heard and appreciated; therefore, not engaging with them could lead to a sense of neglect.

This can cause them to switch to competitors who provide better customer engagement. A strong customer relationship also fosters loyalty, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth, vital growth drivers for small businesses. Furthermore, staying connected allows businesses to handle complaints effectively, turning potential negative experiences into opportunities for demonstrating commitment to customer satisfaction.

This connection also helps businesses anticipate market shifts, as changes in customer behavior often signal broader industry trends. Consequently, not staying connected to customers can lead to a disconnect between the business’s offerings and the market’s needs, negatively impacting the business’s relevance and survival.

8. Not Taking Care of Yourself

The process of starting a business can be mentally and physically draining. It is essential that you eat a healthy diet, work in an ergonomic environment, and exercise regularly. Not taking care of your own physical and mental needs leads to poor health affecting your performance at work.

When starting a small business, it’s important to know what you’re doing (or at least know where to find the information). Otherwise, your dreams will never come true. The key to success lies in planning and working smarter, not harder. It all starts with proper market research and ends when you’ve achieved your goals.


This article was first published in 2022 but has been updated and expanded

Kendra Burgess
Staff Writer: Kendra Sette is a marketing strategist with a passion for helping businesses gain a competitive advantage in their market. Her motto "Build Trust and Drive Sales" can be found on her company's website with five key points to achieve this goal: content development, strategic planning for online visibility, search engine optimization (SEO), social media management strategy & execution along with email marketing campaigns that deliver results.

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Staff Writer: Kendra Sette is a marketing strategist with a passion for helping businesses gain a competitive advantage in their market. Her motto "Build Trust and Drive Sales" can be found on her company's website with five key points to achieve this goal: content development, strategic planning for online visibility, search engine optimization (SEO), social media management strategy & execution along with email marketing campaigns that deliver results.

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