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Top Challenges That Mentors Suggest Businesses Address

Written by Joe Hinton on .

Business person playing Jenga

Here at UK Business Mentoring, we are often asked what key challenges business owners face and what they seek help with from their mentors. Whilst specific issues may be different for each individual business, there are a number of areas that we commonly provide support and guidance for:

1. Financial Control

There can be numerous issues around the finances of a business, but the main areas we are asked for help with are how to increase profitability (see no. 2 below) and how to improve the working capital of the business (see no. 3 below). Our usual findings here are that there is inadequate financial reporting and the key performance indicators (KPIs) of the business are not being managed effectively enough.

2. Unprofitable or Insufficient Profit

This will generally be caused by insufficient sales (what is the marketing strategy/plan?) or poor pricing. In our experience, business owners are reluctant to increase their prices for fear of losing customers. Our advice is to look at the competition (research them, or even better - mystery shop them) and see what they charge, then compare your service/product offering to theirs and ask yourself ‘Does our price reflect what we offer?”

3. Poor Cash Flow

Always running low or short of cash can be a reflection of one or more factors. If the business is not profitable month-on-month, then every month that goes by, you are making a loss on your cash flow, making survival harder and harder. It could be that you are profitable but still short of cash, this could be caused by delays in getting invoices paid, too much credit given to customers or an inadequate debtor collection process.

4. Growing the Business

For businesses struggling to grow sales/turnover, we commonly find that there is no strategy or plan to scale the business and no goals or objectives. Quite simply, if you don’t know what the goal is, it’s highly unlikely you will achieve it. We also find that a business without any kind of plan will usually have no marketing plan or strategy (see no. 11).

5. People Issues

Businesses don’t succeed without good people and that includes good managers and leaders. Any issues around the team need to be addressed promptly, otherwise, as the business grows, so does the problem. Typical causes include staff not having the skills, or sometimes the right attitude. This can be the result of poor management (which affects staff retention) but also sometimes poor recruitment.

6. Owner Pressure

Many business owners work long hours, but too many hours and high levels of stress can begin to have an impact on personal life and mental well-being. In fact, a survey by NatWest at the end of last year found that:

  • 77% of business leaders admitted to regularly losing sleep in their role
  • 39% often find themselves working beyond normal working hours
  • 34% have to take work calls at the weekend

We help a lot of business owners around this area, typically assisting them in putting a robust structure in place, enabling effective delegation, planning and prioritisation.

7. Increasing Operating Costs

2023 was a particularly difficult year for business in terms of price increases. We saw inflation peak at over 11%, which resulted in increased costs of supplies and staffing. Utility bills increased to levels we never thought was possible and many other industries, like insurance, jumped onto the bandwagon and hiked their prices. When prices increase, the most important thing is working out what the implications are for your business. The increased cost of sales affects your gross profit margin and increased fixed costs will mean the amount you need to sell each month will increase. Knowing how to work out your “Sales Break-Even Figure” is vital, and a simple way to do this is to divide your monthly fixed costs by your Gross Profit Margin %, which will give you the amount of sales required to break even.

8. Poor Processes

As a business grows, its processes need to be robust, documented and ideally - where possible - driven by technology. Depending on the industry there is normally great software available to streamline and ‘human proof’ important processes.

9. Supply Chain Issues

Now at the risk of getting political, we cannot ignore it - despite what the government might say, Brexit has not helped British businesses with international trade. Jacob Rees-Mogg is probably - to this day - still looking for the Brexit benefits. The red tape brought about by Brexit has, for many industries, been a major hurdle. Businesses that are reliant on one supplier can be at high risk, and we only need to look at some of the big names that have folded recently to warn us, as far as you can spread your supply chain.

10. Over Reliance on One Client

Getting large orders from one client can be exciting and profitable, and create new jobs, growth and confidence. But remember, a simple change of stakeholder at that company can mean you lose that contract, so always try to keep no more than 10% of your turnover with any one business. Eggs and baskets come to mind.

11. No Marketing Plan

Nine out of ten businesses we work with have no marketing plan or if they do have one - it’s sitting in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. Having a marketing plan should be a given, and undertaking regular, consistent marketing activities must become the norm. We call it having a ‘Marketing Rhythm’.

12. No Exit Strategy

Last but by no means least, know your exit strategy, because one day - one way or another - we all leave our business. Having a clearly defined goal for when and how you will exit the business also means you can work towards ensuring that it will give you what you want post-exit / in retirement. Don’t forget to also give some thought and planning to what you will do once you exit. If you currently work 50/60 hours a week in your business, what will you do with that time when you don’t have to go to work? Just hanging around the house may not be what your partner wants!

How do Business Mentors Identify Challenges?

For us at UKBM, our engagement with a client will normally start with a full review of the business.

This involves the mentor looking at every area of the business, from marketing and sales through to people and processes, etc. Time is spent with the Owners/Directors to learn more about the business and their own goals/aspirations/frustrations.

We will also speak, as much as we can, with every member of staff to glean their thoughts on what goes well and what could be improved. The review is then presented back to the owner(s) in the form of a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) model; Green being an area of strength, Amber needing improvement and Red highlighting a risk to the business that needs urgent attention.

Following the review, the mentor will support the owner in putting together a prioritised, concise action plan to address the issues identified in the review. Going forward, mentoring helps the business owner to implement the plan and discuss hurdles/ challenges along the journey.

Are you looking for help to overcome any of the challenges described above?

All of the mentors at UKBM are working with clients to help them with a range of challenges on a daily basis. These things are not new to us and we are confident that we will be able to help you navigate these challenges and successfully grow your business and achieve its full potential. We offer a complimentary mentoring session to discuss your current challenges/frustrations and to give you the opportunity to experience how mentoring would benefit you. We are so confident that we can help you that we offer a money-back pledge; if anything we do for your business does not add value then you are not expected to pay. Additionally, there is no long contract to enter into as we do business on the shake of a hand, meaning you can use us for as long as we add value to you and your business. Some of our clients have been with us for 12+ years now, and our client testimonials are, we believe, second to none – take a look here:

Client Testimonials

If you would like to take up the offer of a complimentary mentoring session please get in touch online, give us a call at 0845 680 3634 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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