Entrepreneur_Obstacles_body.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.

Entrepreneurs have a reputation for being brash and bold innovators. And yet a successful company is built on more than a great idea. We asked a small business coach and a longtime business owner to identify some of the most common roadblocks to success, and share tips for clearing the obstacles.

Undefined goals

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? That’s what business coach Jennifer Martin of San Francisco-based Zest Business Consulting asks her clients.

Martin says every small business owner must start with clearly defined, written goals. But some entrepreneurs skip this step in their eagerness to get to market. “They don’t actually take time to create a vision,” Martin says. Her solution: Create a two-year outline of everything you want to achieve, from a client base to market share to revenue.

Too many to-dos

With goals in place, it’s time to begin work in earnest. But Martin says many small business owners pile up the action items without prioritizing their to-do lists. They risk becoming overwhelmed because it seems like everything is a priority that has to be accomplished now.

That’s almost never the case, Martin says. “What they really need to be doing is focusing on the action that will get them traction,” she says. Make your own determination about where to put your resources. Devoting hours a week to promoting your business on social media, she says, may not bring you the same return as developing referral partners among other businesses who serve your ideal client or customer.

Entrepreneur_Obstacles_PQ.jpgRushing the process

One of the most important skills small business owners can cultivate is learning how to run their company at the right pace, says Karen Fichthorn, a founder of Fichthorn Brand Development in Sanibel, Florida. Try breaking a large task into smaller ones, especially if you’re still working another job while you get your business off the ground. “Achieve just one thing per day,” Fichthorn says. For example, if your list item is “Establish a trademark,” start by researching attorneys one day, then making an appointment the next. In a year, you’ll have achieved about 200 tasks on the one-a-day plan.

Fear of failure

On the contrary, an entrepreneur must be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Martin says many business owners were fantastic employees, but they struggle with setting their own structure and being generous with themselves when something goes wrong. Instead of fixating on what went wrong, the experts say small business owners need to rally in order to find the lesson in the misstep or failure and keep moving forward.


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