The #1 Challenge Facing Small Businesses

is not what you think


There’s no shortage of advice on running your business. Some experts will point to your online presence, how well you use social media or reach your target market, business sense when it comes to bookkeeping and the consistency of your products or services.

While these are all important, building your strength in these ways typically grows along with the business. And none of these alone spells disaster for a small business in the way this one failing can: Trust.

The number one challenge I’ve seen repeatedly facing small business owners across all industries is lack of trust in those they hired. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the employee reviews for any company on Glassdoor and see for yourself what the common threads are.

Business is intrinsically collaborative—we work with clients and customers, accountants, attorneys, electricians, vendors, employees, etc., etc. A satisfied employee can be an invaluable asset to the business and the best advertising imaginable. Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman told Fast Company, “Nothing tells you more about a company than how they treat their employees, during good—and hard—times.”

The number one challenge I’ve seen repeatedly facing small business owners across all industries is lack of trust in those they hired.

I know it sounds simple and seems counterintuitive—you spend weeks or months deliberating the sort of help needed, writing the ad, reviewing applicant resumes and interviewing prospects, choosing the best of the best based on skills and qualifications. Surely you trust your own judgment.

Chances are, you brought in help because you realized you needed someone who could specialize in an aspect of your business that may not come naturally to you due to lacking interest, time or training on your part. No shame in that; knowing our capabilities is a strength.

But how much do you trust your employees when it comes to implementing the work?  Do you resist change, choosing to do what you’ve always done? Do you inform yourself of what it takes for your employees to do the job you want them to do? Do you trust them to do it to the best of their ability? Do you micromanage? Are you on autopilot thinking it’s your business, so you must know best?

Or do you hear them when they tell you what matters to your customers? Do you listen to their feedback about growing your business and working in new ways? Maybe you do. If so, you are in the minority and your business is already poised to succeed. You should stop reading now, pat yourself on the back and go get a cup of coffee.

But for many business owners, the lack of trust is subtle. To be sure, our culture puts much more emphasis on protecting yourself from being had than on looking for signs we’re in a successful collaboration. There’s a sucker born every minute, right? No one wants to be that sucker.

To put it in perspective, working for a company is a significant investment of time, trust, and commitment on an employee’s part–especially for a full-time or in-house employee. Yes, you pay them but they don’t have to be there. They choose to, often because they believe in your product or concept and truly want to help in the best ways they know. Do you let them?

It’s never too late to start. All working relationships include building and maintaining trust. How sad to have a trustworthy relationship damaged, one that could’ve contributed to our success, all because we simply didn’t acknowledge it as such. Looked at in another way, you brought in employees so your business can be more effective. Are you making most effective use of your own time if you don’t allow them to make most effective use of theirs?

If you don’t like your answers to any of the questions above, only you can change that for the good of your business. Trust your employees do their job so you can do yours.

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer, Creative Commons