9 Major Reasons Why Businesses Fail by Year 2 and How to Avoid Them

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 30% of small businesses fail within 2 years. Here's why and how you can avoid those issues.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over thirty percent of private companies fail within two years.

Of course, there are external factors that businesses have no control over. Sadly, the COVID-19 Pandemic is a prime example of one. Since such events are unavoidable, let’s focus on internal factors that companies can act on.

9 common issues to avoid when running your business

As a new business owner, what are the traps to avoid from the start? And what can you do to stay in business? By understanding the following pitfalls you can hopefully avoid them and keep your business running smoothly for far longer than 5 years. Let’s dive in.

1. Insufficient funds due to weak forecasting

Without a doubt, poor financial forecasting is the main reason businesses fail.

It is relatively easy to plan fixed costs such as rent, payroll, utilities, hardware, etc. Entrepreneurs should vet this out extensively when writing their initial business plan.

However, it can be more challenging to forecast revenue generated from sales. Many new business owners are overoptimistic in their planning and vision. This results in an inability to amortize (pay off) an initial investment. Thus, the business fails.

Similarly, companies may be tempted to launch their product or services at a cheap price to be competitive. While it can work in the short-term, it’s not a sustainable business model. Once you start with a low price, it’s difficult to increase.

Goals should be ambitious, but attainable. And the budget should reflect accordingly.

2. The business lacks value

The success of any business hinges of its value. It might sound obvious, but it’s not that easy. As a business owner (or future), you probably think your product or service is great. But it’s not enough.

Before launching a business, always do extensive research (there is a lot of data available) on your target audience. Benchmarking and surveys are also a must.

Here are some generic survey questions to ask:

  • Would you talk about this product or service with others?
  • Have you ever heard of a similar product or service?
  • How much would you pay for this product or service?

If your product is only valuable to you or a small group, or it doesn’t offer more value than your competition, it’s time to rethink things.

3. Inadequate business plan

As mentioned in the first point, budgeting is a key element of a business plan. But it’s not the only factor within the plan that will break a business.

A good business plan should include:

  • A comprehensive description of the business
  • Workforce needs and compliance (current and future)
  • SWOT analysis
  • Budgets
  • Benchmarking Analysis
  • Marketing Plan

But a solid initial business plan isn’t enough. Business owners should review and modify it regularly to keep with the pace of the industry and assess internal goals.

Many failed businesses in this scenario end up listed on business marketplaces like UpFlip because there are entrepreneurs out there equipped to change a poor business plan.

4. No connection with the target audience

The first questions any business owner should ask are — Do I know my target audience and do I understand what they need and want?

If you can’t answer those questions, it’s time to conduct more surveys and research. Otherwise, there is a disconnect, and the business will ultimately suffer and fail. It seems like a bold statement, but the biggest part of a purchasing decision is emotion.

Your product or service may have wonderful features and even value, but if it doesn’t connect with your target audience on an emotional level, it will fail.

For example:

If you run an office furniture business, obviously, the technical aspects of your premiere desk chair would be a sales point. But sturdy wheels and a comfortable backrest won’t differentiate you from the competition. 

Yes, you sell a chair. But also sell the idea of success, professionalism, or even luxury. The target audience must connect with your product on those levels. Otherwise, the business won’t stand out.

5. Competition is too stiff

Even with a comprehensive benchmarking analysis in the initial business plan, competition can evolve quickly. In many industries, there are new players every day in their respective markets.

To avoid failure, benchmarking must be a continuous effort. If your competitors are too big, it’s in the business’s interest to find a niche or some form of added value to your products or services.

Take TOMS Shoes, for instance. They broke into the highly competitive world of mid-level shoe sales by offering a socially conscious selling point to the value of their shoes. For every purchase, they give a pair of shoes to a child.

Note how their model also connects with their target audience at an emotional level.

6. Poor management

The success of a business comes from the top down.

Small business owners are often the only managers within a company. While it may work sometimes, it’s advisable to form a proper management team or at least hire a general manager.

Business owners don’t always have the necessary skills or time to be a good manager. Poorly managing or overlooking certain aspects of the business like human resources, marketing, or accounting can have a disastrous effect.

It’s important to learn to delegate to avoid wearing too many hats.

If you don’t have the money or infrastructure to hire full-time help (or in-house), think about outsourcing certain management tasks to a qualified freelancer via Upwork or a similar platform.

Otherwise, someone who can manage the company will soon take over.

7. Lack of a company culture

There is no happy company without happy employees. You may have a great business model and entrepreneurial skills, but the success of the company also depends on the staff.

It’s key to outline and implement a strong company culture from the beginning. And make sure that the people hired align with it.

Once in place, feed and maintain the culture mentality. Otherwise, you risk issues with high turnover. This has led to the internal collapse of many businesses in a shorter time span than two years.

8. Ineffective sales funnel

Getting leads is essential for any company, but your leads are worthless if they don’t convert. Many new companies focus on collecting data and leads and fail to nurture them properly.

To avoid bloating your sales pipeline, you need an effective sales funnel from beginning to end (and beyond!). It could vary depending on the industry, but be sure to nurture your leads as long as needed to complete the sale.

In the ideal sales funnel, leads convert when ready and become ambassadors of the brand. With a quality, automated system, you can sit back and watch it happen.

Here are a few ideas on nurturing leads:

  • Send industry-related freebies (How-to Guides, Tools, White papers)
  • Share relevant blog articles based on interest (personalization)
  • Wish them a Happy Birthday! (Gift, Voucher)
  • Set up a referral program with incentives
  • Engage with leads on social media
  • Use chatbot technology to answer FAQs when unavailable
  • Newsletters (Old fashioned, but efficient!)

In other words, create and maintain a relationship even after the sale!

9. Bad marketing

In the early stages of a business, marketing is crucial. The key is to find the right balance between a reasonable budget and efficiency. Fortunately, this is possible thanks to digital marketing.

The two biggest advantages to investing in digital marketing campaigns are cost efficiency and measurable results (as opposed to traditional marketing methods such as print or tv advertising).

When setting up a marketing campaign, define the target audience, budget, and a realistic conversion rate. Again, if you need help, think about outsourcing for Google Ads or social media campaigns.

Many companies fail because of an inefficient marketing plan that allocates funds to ineffective channels or to ineffective content. And when it’s too late, it’s difficult to redirect funds to make up for the loss.

Awareness is key

As stated, some external factors that negatively affect a business are unavoidable, but there are many internal factors business owners can act upon to prevent failure. The first two years are critical to creating a perennial business.

Be aware of these reasons and don’t become a statistic!

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Jake Pool
Jake Pool
Jake Pool writes effective, practical content for small businesses. With over a decade of management experience in the foodservice industry, Jake converts his experiences in marketing, sales, and customer service into no-nonsense guidance. He has hundreds of articles under his belt and is currently writing content for UpFlip, a new concept in real estate entrepreneurship.
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