By Eric Dickmann

June 7, 2023


Running a business can be challenging, and there are times when things just don't seem to work out. Perhaps you're not getting enough sales, or your marketing efforts aren't generating the desired results. Whatever the case may be, it's essential to identify the root causes of your struggles and take the necessary steps to fix them.

In this article, we'll explore the top reasons why businesses struggle and provide actionable tips to help you turn things around. From poor cash flow management to outdated marketing strategies, we'll cover the most common issues that can hold your business back and provide practical solutions to overcome them. So, whether you're a new startup or an established company, read on to discover how you can overcome the most significant challenges and take your business to the next level.

Why Businesses Often Struggle to Make a Profit

A business is an effort to make a profit. Profitability is important for bank financing, investor attraction, and sustainability. If a business isn't making enough money, it's crucial to understand why. Profit is necessary for survival. Unfortunately, many new businesses fail within five years due to profit struggles. Over half of new businesses don't make it, according to statistics. Here are a few common reasons why:

Wrong Pricing Strategy

Pricing a product is crucial for profitability. Knowing where the product stands in the market is important, whether it's a premium product with higher prices or a lower-priced option to win on volume. Understanding margins is essential. What are the production, marketing, and selling costs, and what is the profit? Some companies price their products too low, thinking it will increase sales, but end up not covering costs.

  • How to fix it: It's important to be aware of your business expenses and target revenue. From there, it's crucial to carefully consider your margins. Don't hesitate to charge more for quality. If you provide a superior product and offer genuine value, customers will be willing to pay the higher price.

Too Much Overhead

Most entrepreneurs lack a finance background and prioritize sales and customer service when starting a business. Record-keeping and financial planning can be neglected as a result. Overhead costs, also known as operating expenses, are necessary for a business to operate regardless of its success level. Companies often struggle to reduce these costs as everything may feel essential.

According to Business Encyclopedia "Overhead costs, often referred to as overhead or operating expenses, refer to those expenses associated with running a business that can’t be linked to creating or producing a product or service. They are the expenses the business incurs to stay in business, regardless of its success level."

  • How to fix it: To remain competitive, it's important to minimize overhead costs. This can be achieved by carefully evaluating the need for new hires and monitoring expenses. Encourage a culture of thriftiness among employees, as they generally prefer to avoid wastefulness. Participating in cost-saving initiatives can be a helpful way to achieve this. Developing a habit of cost-effectiveness will create room for growth for your company.

Hidden Costs

Operating a business is a costly and challenging endeavor. Beyond the standard expenses, there are numerous unseen expenses to consider. For instance, you may have calculated your employees' salaries, but overlooked taxes, benefits, and perks. Additionally, unforeseen expenses such as emergency repairs or major equipment replacements can throw off even the most solid expense plan. These seemingly small surprises can accumulate and lead to significant expense overruns.

  • How to fix it: When creating a budget plan, it's important to factor in taxes, benefits, and perks. It's also wise to have a contingency fund set aside for unexpected expenses and repairs. To account for these hidden costs, estimate an additional 25% in your budget.

Tough Competition

Your expenses may be in order, but the market competition may be tough. Your product might be too expensive or not perceived as superior to your competitors' offerings. It can be challenging to get noticed, particularly when competing with strong rivals. Understanding the marketplace dynamics can strengthen your company and products, provided you're agile and can adapt quickly.

  • How to fix it: Consider pivoting to validate a better business idea that addresses a market need more effectively. If your audience is not buying your product, create a product for them instead. Reverse your strategy and design a product that suits your engaged followers perfectly. To understand their underserved needs, conduct customer interviews. This will help you improve your offerings and serve them better.

Lack of Awareness

Building your brand can be challenging due to a lack of market awareness. Your solution may be drowned out by stiff competition or an ineffective marketing strategy. Even if your product is priced ideally, lack of awareness may prevent it from generating a profit.

  • How to fix it: Consumer engagement should be the foundation of your brand. Establish a presence where your customers are active. Utilize social media as a means for customers to ask questions. Encourage your team to interact with them to gain valuable insights. Research the most effective channels to gain attention for your brand. Invest in a well-planned marketing strategy, which may require an upfront cost but can yield significant returns.

To boost brand awareness and increase revenue, hiring a fractional CMO may be worth considering. These professionals have extensive marketing experience and work part-time at a lower cost than a full-time marketing leader. They can help your business build a solid marketing strategy.

Hiring a Fractional CMO to Build Awareness

Understands Your Vision

Have a big vision for growth? A fractional CMO will explore how you'll get from here to there and what steps are necessary to grow your business. There are no cookie-cutter plans. Each business is unique, and a comprehensive strategy only works with a detailed understanding of where you want your business to go.

Creates a Strategic Plan

An effective marketing strategy can be crafted and executed efficiently with market-based insights. A fractional CMO will collaborate with you and your team to determine areas of opportunity and how to build a plan to capitalize on market potential. A fractional CMO brings the best ideas, within or outside your industry, to deliver results. This executive-as-a-service model lets you engage the best marketing minds in a cost-effective manner. Time is money, and a fractional CMO gets your strategy underway quickly.

Executes, Measures, and Optimizes

A strategy is only as good as the results it produces. To that end, using the right tools to execute tactics, measure results, and analyze outcomes is critical to an effective marking plan. A fractional CMO knows the tools, metrics, and resources needed to help your company get the best ROI for its marketing investments.


Inconsistency is more prevalent in younger companies. During the early stages, owners are preoccupied with many things, and establishing policies is often neglected. Pay scales may lack structure and expenses may fluctuate significantly. Sales team performance can also be unpredictable. This inconsistency can cause problems that the business cannot afford. Budget planning is particularly challenging in an environment where income and expenses vary greatly from month to month.

  • How to fix: To maintain consistency, businesses should establish policies early on. These policies can be adjusted later, but they provide a framework for handling situations. Any inconsistencies should be addressed promptly. Tracking and analyzing business data and metrics can help avoid surprises. Consistency is crucial for reliable profits.

Inability to Track Cash Flow

Business owners can face challenges in managing both customer service and business growth. Financial management may be a struggle, as they may lack knowledge on income statements or cash flow monitoring. Profit may be misunderstood as simply cash flow. However, it is possible to have a positive income with negative cash flow.

  • How to fix it: Understanding both your cash flow and income is essential for paying bills and employees. Update your cash flow and income statement weekly, ideally on Mondays. This provides an idea of the targets you need to achieve for the week. Consider hiring an accountant to maintain the books and ensure accurate financial records.


If your business is struggling to make a profit, don't panic. Take a step back, assess the situation, and start implementing changes. By identifying the root causes of the problem and taking action to address them, you can turn your business around and start seeing the success you've been working so hard to achieve. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow. Keep pushing forward!

It's time to grow your company!

Learn how a fractional CMO can help your business grow!

Contact us today to learn more about our Virtual CMO advisory service.

Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.

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