WHILE STARTING A BUSINESS is always, in a word, well, challenging, there are a few common challenges that we see travel across the entire spectrum of starting a business, in virtually every type of startup, regardless of the field or medium. By identifying these common challenges, you can plan for them ahead of time, hopefully coasting over them like speed bumps when they arrive, not crashing into them like an invisible mountain in the fog.

Most commonly, when you are in the very early stages of starting a business, you will find that you act as every single employee and thus, have every single job to do. In short, you have to do everything yourself; from balancing the books to the creative design, from coming up with an initial marketing initiative to seeking out sources of funding. These areas may not always be your strongest, so be prepared to ask for help.

When starting a new business, time is always of the essence because time is money. Not just making it, but also spending it. As such, be prepared to learn a lot of new things, and learn them quickly. The quicker you learn, the faster your growth will be, and the faster your first real paycheck will arrive. As most salty entrepreneurs have come to realize, most things never go as planned. In business, you are constantly affected by outside sources--customers, consultants, the weather, etc. The bad news is that you typically can’t control any of those things, so keeping your cash flow under control is huge. Before you even get your first customer, you’ll have to purchase supplies, incur government paperwork fees, initial marketing and logo design, etc. Be ready for these things and don’t be shocked if you have to pay a few bills before your first customer arrives.

While I’ve mentioned it briefly, this next point deserved as much clarity as I can muster: time management. I’ll say it again: time management. When you’re starting a small business, time management is everything.  It is the foundation of everything. Without good time management, you can’t possibly do everything yourself, you will inevitably learn everything slowly, and your cash flow will fly out the window faster than a frightened parakeet on speed. Compartmentalize your tasks and don’t be a scatter-brain. Finish a project before you move on to the next one. The only appropriate deviation from this plan is if you rely on outside resources and you have to pause a plan in the middle to wait for someone else’s addition, whether it be a design conversion, a lawyer’s signature, etc., before you can continue.

Finally, stay focused and maintain balance. Once you’ve compartmentalized--prioritize! Don’t waste your time going to buy excess pens when you have a deadline pending or you can’t launch a new product until you think of a name or finish the design! When you’re starting a business, your greatest priority is to finish the revenue-bearing projects first. The only time that you should chase that goal directly is if you have to temporarily deviate to pursue action that will achieve your goal of bringing in the revenue better and/or faster.