One of the least understood aspects of entrepreneurship is why small businesses fail, and there’s a simple reason for the confusion: Most of the evidence comes from the entrepreneurs themselves.
I have had a close-up view of numerous business failures — including a few start-ups of my own. And from my observation, the reasons for failure cited by the owners are frequently off-point, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. If the owners really knew what they were doing wrong, they might have been able to fix the problem. Often, it’s simply a matter of denial or of not knowing what you don’t know.
In many cases, the customers — or, I should say, ex-customers — have a better understanding than the owners of what wasn’t working. The usual suspects that the owners tend to blame are the bank, the government, or the idiot partner. Rarely does the owner’s finger point at the owner. Of course, there are cases where something out of the owner’s control has gone terribly wrong, but I have found those instances to be in the minority. What follows — based on my own experiences and observations — are my top 10 reasons small businesses fail. The list is not pretty, it is not simple, and it does not contain any of those usual suspects (although they might come in at Nos. 11, 12 and 13).