Biggest Challeneges for Entrepreneurs

When I saw the January issue of Entrepreneur Magazine I was thrilled. Cover copy had a teaser on it to the effect that entrepreneurs had been surveyed and inside were their answers. I was certain that, finally, someone was paying attention to entrepreneurs who were striving for a successful business. It was time to hear from us little guys!

I can’t tell you how surprised I was as I began to read the article. Their idea of an “entrepreneur” and mine were as different as night and day. I always classified an entrepreneur as someone like the “Mom and Pop” coffee shop around the corner, the family run produce market in town, or the 18 to 24 year old who had come up with a fantastic “gizmo” and was scooped up into a corporation as their newest genius. Let me give you a quote from the article that will clue you into its idea of an “entrepreneur”.

To explain the method used for the survey they state, “Entrepreneur magazine and PricewaterhouseCoopers “Entrepreneurial Challenges Survey” is an annual telephone survey of more than 300 CEOs of privately held, U.S.-based businesses recognized for their sustained, rapid growth. They average $31.5 million in annual revenue with an average of 185 employees, and have an ongoing annual growth rate of more than 23 percent……”

That definitely was not my picture of an entrepreneur. I don’t know too many entrepreneurs who average $31.5 million annually, or employ 185 people. To me, that’s a pretty successful company on its way to being a corporation. We should all be such entrepreneurs!

At any rate, I continued reading and I must say the information was worth the read, and the business of doing business can apply to those of us who aren’t quite making that $31.5 million per year yet. Here’s what the survey discovered.

What were considered their biggest challenges for 2006?
73% – Retention of key workers
38% – Developing new products/services
36% – Expansion to domestic markets
35% – Increased productivity
28% – Upgrading technology
23% – Creating business alliances
21% – Better management of cash flow
14% – Expansion outside the U.S.
13% – Improving risk management
11% – Finding new financing
11% – Buying another company or launching a spinoff
7% – Preparing company for sale
2% – Going public

Now when you stop and think about it, that’s pretty much what most entrepreneurs think about each year. Maybe not to the extent of expanding to foreign markets or launching a spinoff, but to keep your business perking along the road of improvement – all the rest are considered.

The next part of the survey was interesting because entrepreneurs were given a list of several “wild-card” factors that could affect business in 2006. When asked which three would be most harmful to their business, here’s what they said:
47% – Unstable U.S. economy
43% – Rising health-care costs
41% – Shortage of qualified workers
40% – Weak market demand
24% – Rising oil/energy costs
24% – Rising interest rates
22% – New government regulations
18% – Weaker capital spending
14% – Weakening world economy
12% – Increased global competition
11% – Decreased access to capital
10% – Sudden drop in U.S. real estate market
10% – Tax increases
9% – Inflation

So maybe my entrepreneurs and those surveyed are not really that much different in thinking. The outlook of most entrepreneurs is probably optimistic, or will be unless more unforeseen disasters strike.

Even after the huge devastation of 9/11, within two quarters we were back to the same level of optimism as we had before. People get used to dealing with tough circumstances and factor them in, but are not swayed by them. When you really think about it; isn’t that what most entrepreneurs are like?

If they’re not, then they aren’t entrepreneurs by my way of thinking.