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Top 5 challenges for small business owners and how to overcome them



Anastasia Massouras

Small Business

By Anastasia Massouras

Remember those feelings of excitement, achievement and growth when you first started your business? Now, it’s likely they have become buried among those of isolation, fatigue and ongoing financial stress.

Statistics from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman show that 97% of Australia’s economy is made up of small business with no more than twenty employees. Yet more than 60% of these fail within their first three years, and the odds are stacked against those that continue.

This is a real issue and something that only can be addressed when we know what is stacked against us. Here are 5 key challenges for small business owners, like yourself, with advice for how to overcome them.

  1. Working long hours

Running your own small business is a 24/7 activity, which is why it’s so easy to get stuck on the treadmill. There is always more to do, always another form to fill out, another client to call, always more, more, more. This impacts our home life, especially when we have to tell our partner why we won’t make it back for dinner or to kiss the kids goodnight, again.

It’s easy to forget that we actually achieve more when we do less. Slowing down, carving out space and time for ourselves and what we enjoy, creating distance from our work helps with perspective. When we have a clearer head, when we’re not trying so hard, then we create the mental space to solve complex problems and to respond to events instead of reacting to them.

  1. Struggling with finances

Ask any business owner what their biggest stressor is, and the majority will reply, ‘money’.

As leader of your company, it is impossible to have all the answers for all the problems, which is why the right support and education is key. Identifying areas for growth, then connecting with the right professionals to fill those gaps will accelerate your success, as well as make you feel supported and confident.

Ask yourself: Who are my tribe (personal and professional), and who will support me to get there? What other education, tools or resources do I need? Who can mentor me from where I am now to where I need to be? Take steps to address those gaps.

  1. Managing staff issues

When you first started your business, it was probably pretty easy. The only person you had to manage was you! Now 90% of your time is likely spent managing the everyday challenges that your team brings into the workplace, as they too are human.

It seems counter-intuitive (“They are the problem!”),but you can’t manage anyone else unless you are managing yourself first. When you don’t feel safe, neither do your staff. They are not immune to the fallout from your insecurity, stress and changes. You need to take them along on the journey with you, to connect with them and to keep them aligned with your vision and mission. So managing this issue, starts with managing yourself.

  1. Maintaining health and wellbeing

Research shows that one in five working Australians report experiencing mental illness, with evidence suggesting psychological distress is most acute for sole traders. This is cause for real concern.

There will always be pressure, setbacks and failures running your own show: it will never go away (sorry). This is why it is crucial to be mentally healthy, fit and strong.

Making conscious choices each day about what to eat, when to exercise, and how to switch off from work and on for home is the recipe for success and stamina in small business. Practising gratitude in the morning, meditating, walking in nature and being mindful of your thoughts, feeling and experiences are ways we can interrupt negative patterns and influence positive ones.

  1. Keeping quiet

While you may have people around you all the time, it’s easy to feel like no one truly gets it. So instead of confiding in those closest to you about challenge, you isolate yourself more and more. This only exacerbates what you are experiencing, as you internalise what is happening.

Your mindset plays a huge role in changing this situation. It helps you move from talking about what you wish for to actually making steps, and asking for the help that will make a difference to your life.

Hence, extending your hand for help is the biggest step towards gaining a sense of control over your environment. Knowingyou can change yourself, your business and your lifeis crucial: not just to survive, but to thrive.


Anastasia Massouras is a leader, facilitator and coach helping small business owners and teams to overcome barriers that prevent growth and success. She is the CEO of Work Happy, which provides wellbeing and employee assistance programs and tailored advice for corporates, as well as the founder and CEO of Pure Insights, a consultancy specialising in mental health intervention.

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