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Startups Aren’t Totally Sure What They’re Doing

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Just wing it. That’s how entrepreneurs tend to approach their businesses — at least, that’s how they feel they do — according to a new report from U.K. business telco Plusnet.

According to the research, 85 percent of small business owners feel like they’re just “winging it” when it comes to running their business at least part of the time, with more than 30 percent reporting that they feel this way either “often” or “very often.” Considering SMEs are the bedrock of an economy, entrepreneurs’ lack of direction and self-confidence may be cause for concern.

But the results also highlight the need for small businesses to access external resources, Plusnet said, noting that it used the findings of the survey to create its Plusnet Pioneers program to help mentor entrepreneurs. It’s an effort to address some of the concerns and frustrations that small business owners told surveyors that they’re facing today.

For instance, the research found, many small businesses feel their main competitors are larger, more established companies. A lack of business experience plays a key role in this lack of self-assuredness, researchers said. As business owners age, they feel more confident: 39 percent of small business owners over the age of 49 said they have never felt like they were just “winging it” as some of the younger small business owners have.

Meanwhile, the youngest of startups feel the least secure about their capabilities. Nearly half of the business owners that say they were winging it “very often” are those that had only been around for a year.

Across the board, though, there are concerns weighing on the minds of U.K. entrepreneurs.

For instance, 71 percent of small businesses say finding new customers is their largest concern, far more than the 8 percent that pointed to marketing budgets and the 21 percent that said understanding digital marketing.

When it comes to finance, 68 percent cited having enough cash as their largest worry — again, far greater than the 15 percent that said paying suppliers and the 18 percent that said securing new funding were their top concerns. Finally, the majority — 68 percent — of small businesses said keeping customers happy is their top concern over team leadership and maintaining good people on their staff.

Researchers at Plusnet added a roundtable discussion to their analysis and found that financial issues are perhaps some of the most burdensome for small business owners.

“When you know you can’t do payroll at the end of the month, it’s the worst feeling, and you know you’ve got so many people depending on you,” one entrepreneur said, adding that running out of money “is probably one of the worst feelings that you can ever have in your life.”

The survey found that 43 percent of these professionals have found it “hard or very hard” to secure investment in their businesses, and 63 percent said they felt alternative finance sources, like supplier financing and crowdfunding, weren’t accessible to them.

Plusnet added that it is working with Startups.co.uk to provide assistance to these small business owners struggling to manage cash, retain good talent and ensure that their businesses succeed.

“The campaign will focus on key challenges facing small businesses and will provide free services to help conquer these challenges, including workshops and video tutorials on issues like finance and talent, as well as mentoring and access to face-to-face consultancy sessions,” the company said.

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