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The testimonial I most often hear is, “I wish I met you sooner.” This tells me business owners wait too long to ask for help. 

Per the Small Business Administration, 85% of all new startups fail before year five in business. Many times I wonder if this number has not changed in over two decades because business owners cannot recognize the signs of potential upcoming failure.

Here are the top ten signs your business is ready to flatline:

  1. Your business begins to experience cash flow problems. Once your business is managed cash received from week to week sales without any savings, begin to search for the root cause.
  2. Sales begin to become stagnant or slightly decline. If your business cannot explain why there is a reduction in sales, begin to search for why customers are not buying from you.
  3. Employees begin to ignore or neglect to follow simple rules. There could be a variety of reasons why employees or contractors are not living up to your expectations. If you as the business owner cannot determine the cause of this problem, begin termination and replacement processes.
  4.  As CEO of your business are you spending more time in the business rather than on the business? Most business owners do not know the difference between these two processes. As an owner, you should spend time on strategy, growth, and exit plans for your business. If you are not, get help immediately.
  5.  You begin to experience too much downtime. If you are in a services industry and notice your sales and marketing activity time stalls, please ask yourself, “why?”
  6.  Your business becomes top-heavy. There are more partners and senior employees than worker bees. Work with a good advisor to determine what ratios work best in your industry.
  7.  Are you as the primary owner beginning to put our more and more small fires? Entrepreneurs become experts at putting out small fires before they become raging forest fires. But how often does this happen? What is the basis for this problem?
  8.  Do your marketing activities and business model keep changing directions? Are you chasing every piece of business that comes your way? If this happens to you, get help creating an updated strategic plan. One that shows you a roadmap of where your business is today and the goals you plan to reach in the future.
  9.  Are you throwing spaghetti on the wall? That is, are you trying various sales activities to see which process sticks and generates some income. Starting a business without solid market research could be a disaster. Don’t wait to start the process of determining how your business has a niche compared to your competition.
  10.  Do you have a good handle on your company’s financials? Many business owners approach me not knowing how to read their financial statements. Knowing how to measure success in your business is key to longevity. Know exactly how many sales/customers you need within each week, month, quarter, and year to not only survive but also grow and thrive.

If you are struggling with more than one of the above tips in your business, get ready for financial challenges. Each of these issues can creep up and harm your business so quickly that you begin to struggle without knowing it.

Unfortunately, there is no 911 service for entrepreneurs. Know when to hire an advisor and verify they’ve been through the business challenges that you can learn from. Don’t wait until your business is on life support to call for help.

Written by Darlene Ziebell 

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