SCORE

What’s holding your small business back from growth? According to a survey of small business owners by Hiscox, 31 percent of entrepreneurs are hampered by government regulations, 23 percent cite a lack of available funding or support, 12 percent have trouble finding the right employees and 8 percent have been held back by natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods.

Legal issues plague other entrepreneurs—13 percent have been sued by an employee, vendor or customer. Almost half of those say the lawsuit hurt their businesses financially (29 percent), caused the loss of customers (13 percent) or hurt their reputation (12 percent).

Surprisingly, given recent headlines about data breaches and hacking, just 4 percent of the small business owners surveyed are concerned about data or security breaches potentially exposing their data or hurting their sales.

How can small business owners get around these obstacles?

Make your voice heard. Learn who your state and local representatives are, and make your views known to them. Join and support small business organizations that share your views and work for change. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Explore your financing options. The time to look into finding financing is before you need it—not when you’re in a cash crunch. Talk to your business banker regularly about growth plans, how much capital they’ll require and how the bank can help you.

Cast a wider net. If you can’t find employees with the skills you need, tap into local colleges, universities and adult education programs. Consider hiring virtual employees or outsourcing to independent contractors. Reach out to all your contacts—professional and personal, online and offline.

Plan for disasters. Develop a disaster plan so you’re prepared for emergencies big and small. Ready.gov is a great resource for this.

Protect your business. Insurance can protect your business against lawsuits, disasters, theft and more, but only if you’ve got the insurance you need. Make insurance a financial priority, and meet with your insurance agent annually to review and update your coverage.

Protect your data. If a security breach can happen to a huge corporation like Target, it can certainly happen to your small business. Put processes and systems in place to secure your company’s and customers’ key data and make sure that employees understand and follow those rules. There’s even specialized insurance available to protect against data breaches too.

Challenges aren’t dampening small business owners’ spirits, though. In spite of the obstacles they face, 93 percent of entrepreneurs in the survey say confidence is key to helping them succeed.

Meeting with a SCORE mentor can boost your business confidence by giving you the foundation you need to succeed. Don’t have a mentor? Visit www.score.org to get matched with one today.