Adaptability and Entrepreneurship: Tips for Small Bussiness Success

In 2021, surveyed entrepreneurs in order to help small business owners learn from each other. Before publishing the findings of the survey, we examined tools for success, the importance of outsourcing, and valuable tips for conquering bad advice in three preview posts that you can catch up on here:

After publishing the full report of the 2021 Entrepreneurial Insights Survey, which established funding as a universal pain point for entrepreneurs, dug further into the nitty-gritty with content focusing on what motivates entrepreneurs to start their businesses, how entrepreneurs stay up-to-date on changing regulations, and different financing avenues for small businesses. In this post, we will wrap up with an overview of the struggles entrepreneurs face and explore tips for entrepreneurs and small business success that are all underwritten by the same crucial trait: adaptability.

Common obstacles for small business owners and entrepreneurs

If you’re a small business owner, you know that obstacles come in all shapes and sizes. We have established that nearly all entrepreneurs will struggle in some way with funding. Other distractions and disruptions to productivity and business growth, however, are contingent on factors such as the industry you are operating in and even your identity. In recounting what she would have done differently in launching her business, Kelly Ashlen made note of the challenges that female entrepreneurs still face and how women can work to overcome them:

“It is difficult for a female entrepreneur to succeed but we are much stronger and more resilient than we think we are. Being surrounded with a business network of other females helped give me the confidence that I was on the right path to success.”

Just as women in business face unique struggles such as difficulty obtaining mentors or maintaining a balance between their personal and professional lives, plenty of authorities have chronicled the disproportionate difficulties of small business owners of color, especially as they work to access federal relief and navigate funding programs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some entrepreneurs may be forced to tackle disproportionate or unordinary growing pains, small business owners have more that unites them than divides them in their determination to find success.

Many entrepreneurs rely on different networking avenues to help them decrease learning curves and educate themselves, but almost 20% of those surveyed in the 2021 Entrepreneurial Insights Survey said that vendors and financial planners/accountants were the assets that had been most helpful to them. In reflecting on what he would have done differently when starting his business, entrepreneur Andrew Ng (Trusted Malaysia) offers a tip on finding the right external resources:

“I would have invested more in finding the right personnel to help with managing the [web]site.”

Relying on others who have specialized knowledge and expertise can also aid in overcoming another challenge common to small business owners and entrepreneurs: the desire to do everything yourself, which can lead to unhealthy business practices and stress. Alex Mastin (Home Grounds) weighs in on the importance of delegating:

“If I could start again, I would suppress my desire to perform every task; it is easy to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.”

More granular challenges for entrepreneurs abound, including developing sales strategies, maintaining budgets, and managing time. (Outlets such as Indeed and The Blueprint have tackled some of these.) While these hurdles are often prescribed specific remedies, such as testing organization tactics or adjusting necessary funds to ready your business for change, the characteristic that entrepreneurs have identified as making it possible to take these issues on is adaptability, which we will now consider in more detail.

Using adaptability to ensure small business success

The range of obstacles discussed above show clearly that starting and operating a business is anything but stable. As the world seems to shift from minute to minute, entrepreneurs across industries and communities are constantly forced to adapt in order to meet new needs.

Words like “adaptability” and “resilience” have long been used in writing about entrepreneurial and small business success. In 2019, Forbes added its take to the mix, citing Dr. Tony Alessandra’s two-part definition of “resilience,” which combines an attitude of willingness to adapt with the ability to adapt. Being able to handle changes and cultivate meaningful relationships and empathy, they note, makes challenges easier to overcome via strategic adjustments.

Previous posts and the earlier discussion of common obstacles have considered discrete elements of entrepreneurial success, such as the importance of seeking outside expertise, but a willingness and ability to adapt is often the force that catalyzes the technical actions that increase your capacity for change and make your business stronger. Consider the importance of adaptability to Shawn Richards (Ultimate Kilimanjaro) as he recounts the rocky nature of his industry in his success story:

“The Mt. Kilimanjaro experience has its ups and downs, and not just from a hiking point of view. Climate change has become a pertinent issue as global warming has resulted in a significant reduction in the snow cover on the mountain. Working with agencies that are tackling the climate issue has become a major part of the business. In collaboration with the indigenous communities around the mountain has created a wonderful business model rooted in promoting the cultural and geographic uniqueness of the region.”

Aspects of this strategy are incredibly industry-specific. (Not everyone makes their living arranging hikes on the highest free-standing mountain on Earth!) But the willingness to do what it takes to navigate an unpredictable climate and join forces with indigenous communities offers a crucial lesson in adaptability that all small business owners and entrepreneurs can benefit from. Likewise, Josefin Bjorklund (Topp Casino Bonus) notes how outsourcing legal services benefited her business:

“Hiring an attorney helped me obtain various necessary permits for the smooth workflow of my business.”

As you can tell, dealing with problems like the need for external resources and network building is not as simple as finding an attorney or hiring an accountant. A successful business will be prepared to be flexible in adapting and reacting to the advice you receive.

Even if you can’t afford to spend money on making sure every facet of your business is ready to make changes, having small goals and focusing on developing adaptability can help ensure that you and your business are prepared to take on whatever is thrown at you. But don’t take it from us:

“Going from the Katy, TX farmers market to a best seller on Amazon with my mom and business partner has had a lot of twists and turns,” says John Terry of Ketonia. “At the end of the day there is no one thing that will make someone successful. It’s a combination of determination and adaptability.”

“Location, location, location” may be the mantra of real estate, but “adapt, adapt, adapt” may be more apt for entrepreneurship. As fortune favors the adaptable, it pays for small business owners to strengthen their companies’ ability to change quickly.

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