Managing cash flow. Keeping the lights on during a natural disaster. Maintaining the right level of staffing. Finding the right business partners.
On the surface level, these seem like very different operational challenges. But they all point to one overriding concern shared by all small-business owners – how to properly manage growth in a persistently uncertain economy.
“People’s spending habits fluctuate so much and are based on many things that don’t make sense,” says Eric Faust, owner of Duluth Coffee Company, a wholesale and retail operation in Minnesota with six employees. “It is really hard to manage cash flow in an economy that is so sporadic.”
For hair salon Nelund-Minton in Midland Park, N.J., predicting revenue has been particularly challenging. In the past 14 months, the area has been hit with three extreme weather events that distracted many regulars, including superstorm Sandy just before Halloween, which knocked out the power for at least a week.
“It has been extremely difficult, because we have long-term personal relationships with our clients, and a number of them suffered a lot of damage to their homes,” says owner Iain Foster. “We had to walk a fine line between providing a haven where our clients could share their stories and needing to get our own business back on track.”
Of course, figuring out how to handle positive growth can be just as nerve-wracking.
For Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus, a purveyor of natural desserts and ice cream distributed via mobile food trucks in cities such as New York and Austin, it has been finding the right grocery store partners to expand distribution.
“I’d say the hardest part of 2012 was working to find the best corporate fits to really move forward with our brand,” she says. “We really wanted to make sure we had the perfect team to execute our very ambitious goals.
IT services company Atrion Networking in Warwick, R.I., which has grown revenue more than 80 percent in the past three years, faces a similar quandary.
“We have had a realization organizationally that ‘what got us here won’t get us to where we want to go,’ ” says CEO Tim Hebert. “Our leadership has had to learn to become more strategic and leading, versus being ‘doers.’ ”
What management concerns present a particular challenge for your business as you leave 2012 behind? Share your opinions in this brief, Intuit-sponsored survey. We’ll share the results in an upcoming post.