A year ago, had you asked small business owners what 5 things could put them out of business?, I would have bet a pandemic would not have been on their top 10 let alone their top 50 things. But a lot has changed in just over a year. According to the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses), it is estimated that 1 in 6 small businesses won’t survive because of Covid-19. The UK is also predicting hundreds of thousands of failures with the US expecting that number to exceed 1 million according to McKinsey.

Assuming the 1 in 6 estimate to be true, that means that approximately 83% of small businesses will survive. Most certainly won’t flourish and it’ll take a long time to recover, but they will survive. Unfortunately, with the ongoing lockdowns, just surviving is incredibly stressful, to say nothing about how exhausting it can be.

What 3 things could put you out of business?

5 areas that require every owners attention

Managing the work-from-home environment is not easy for most small business owners. For many, current technology has made it possible to continue, but only after a number of implementation headaches and costs. The learning curve has been steep. Because for many, technology is just something they’ve never understood.

What we need to understand, is that most small businesses are run in an impromptu or spontaneous manner. The owners have been so busy trying grow their businesses prior to the pandemic, that the majority lacked formal processes. Most just spent their days acting, or more accurately, reacting to whatever the day had instore for them. They are more like fire fighters directing their staff on a moment to moment basis depending what fire was burning the most brightly.

To be sure this pandemic has forced a few owners to get better organized in how they structure their working days, but for many it has become quite the challenge in keeping everyone focused, productive and motivated. In episode #93 Pivot, I discussed the whole concept of pivoting, which is far more difficult than people are led to believe, but so is changing the way a company operates.

So this brings me to my question – What 3 things would put you out of business? Well if you are surviving, you can scratch off pandemic. Sadly, because so many entrepreneurs are so focused in the moment, they don’t realize there are a whole host of issues that can kill their
businesses in a heart beat. The following is a primer list of 5 pretty common areas that require every owners attention, in order to safeguard their business’s future.





“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Edward Stanley, former Prime Minister of the UK

#1 Your health

Unfortunately, most of us don’t even consider what would happen to their life’s work if they were suddenly struck with an injury or worse a life threatening illness. What would happen to the business if you were laid up? Would it survive? If not, what would you do for income? How would you handle the debt? How would it affect your family? This is serious stuff and requires your attention. Contrary to what we think, we are not invincible.

The following are few of solutions that you can minimize the impact of a health problem.

First off, you should investigate disability insurance. Yes, it can be expensive and yes, it usually pays out less than you’re currently earning. But something is better than nothing.

Secondly, many health related issues are self inflicted by our lifestyle. Making time for some form of exercise should be mandatory for every owner. It can range from taking a daily walk to a full on cross-fit workout at the gym. Something is better than nothing. There’s a wonderful saying that kind of drives the point home and it is from Edward Stanley, former Prime Minister of the UK that says:

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

An additional item that should be mandatory in every small business and that is delegate. By delegating absolutely everything you can to your existing staff, this will certainly relieve some of the pressure. That way, there’s a good chance that the business will survive, while you are laid up. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest things to get entrepreneurs to do. (See Small Business Minute #18 Delegating is easier than you think)

#2 Key staff quits.

Having your key staff member quit can really ruin a perfectly good day and for some people it can take their business down.

People leave companies for a lot of reasons and sometimes there is nothing you can have do to prevent it. From career changes, to better opportunities to relocations, sometimes it’s just out of your hands. But in many cases it’s not. One of the top reasons employees leave is the lack of recognition and this is something you can control. An occasional pat on the back or some other form appreciation goes a long way. It can be as simple as a thank you for their efforts.

However, if a key employee leaves, what’s your plan? If you’re like most you don’t have one and chances are you don’t have a deep bench of trained people ready to assume that position.

Therefore one of the best things you can do is to cross train individuals. The secondary person doesn’t have to be as well versed as the key person, but they should have been given enough exposure that they could perform the job being vacated even though they may be less efficient.

Additionally, creating in depth documented processes for all positions, allows other personnel to perform those functions until such time as you can find a replacement. This will go a long way to ensure that your company will survive. (see SBM #34 Processes- Shampoo, Rinse and Repeat)

#3 Business interruption

Covid-19 aside, there are lots of things that can cause business interruptions. A flood, a fire, even vandalism can shut your business down for weeks, if not months. A closed business can’t generate cashflow, yet bills still need to be paid.

It is estimated that over 80% of small businesses have no form of business interruption insurance that would pay out a set dollar amount in the event of a catastrophe. This is different than typical commercial/business insurance, whereby the physical damage to your business is repaired. Business Interruption on the other hand can cover Gross Earnings, Profits, Extra Expenses. Certainly worth considering.

#4 Competition

What would happen if a new competitor came into your market, how would you deal with it? Being so focused on the here and now, is a great way to get caught off guard. As I’ve stated before, too many entrepreneurs are so busy just handling the daily priorities, they never have time to lift their heads up to see what going.

Inevitably, they are not even aware of that a competitor has set up shop until they start stealing your customers. By the time they do realize what’s happening that trickle of desertions turns into a flood and is hard to reverse.

One of the best ways to avoid getting sideswiped is to stay in touch with all your customers on a regular basis. Too often the only time business owners talk with their customers is when they call in an order. The thought is, “they know where we are if they need us and I don’t want to bother them.”

What 3 things could put you out of business?


Staying in regular contact with customers signals that they are important to your business and can also provide you with competitive intelligence. Most customer don’t change on a whim unless you’ve treated them poorly. So, by staying in touch the fact that a competitor is circling is often shared, thereby giving you time to react. (See SBM #76 Pick up the phone)

#5 Bad debt

This one item alone has contributed to the demise of many small businesses. Aside from not being diligent in collecting receivables, having one customer represent more than 15% of your business can be potential fatal if they close their doors or refuse to pay.

When you consider that many small businesses have net incomes of less than 10%, taking a hit from a major customer can be devastating. For example if a client reneges on a $20,000 invoice and you only net 10%, you’ll need to generate $200,000 in additional revenue just to recover that loss.

When you think about it, most small business are not flush with spare cash, missing out a major payment means you can’t cover payroll, rent or suppliers.

If you do find yourself with a client that represents more than 15%, you have two choices. First grow your business to get them below that threshold or alternatively collect early and often. Don’t forget you can set the rules, so don’t be shy about protecting your company. (See SBM #20 Cash Flow, the Breath of Life).

These are just 5 areas that should get you thinking, but every business has it’s Achilles heel. Spending some time thinking about “What 3 things would put you out of business?” certainly deserves your attention. Then pick the #1 item on your list and make a plan.

Let me know your thought sand ideas in the comment section.

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.