How do you detect what’s wrong in your business?

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A honeybee on an apiary, spreading feromones t...
A honeybee on an apiary, spreading feromones to ‘call back’ her colleagues, showing her nassanoff-gland.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Honeybees in the US are dying in large numbers but industry experts and scientists can’t put their finger on precisely what is killing the honeybees.

In a recent article I saw in Time the estimate was that one-third of US honeybee colonies died or disappeared during the past winter. This drop they say is a 42% increase over the previous year and well above the 10% to 15% losses beekeepers have experienced in normal winters.

What makes the mass deaths in the colonies so concerning is the potential impact on farming. The honeybee accounts for one in every three mouthfuls of food. Bees pollinate agricultural crops worth at least $15 billion in the US.

This colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been going on for the past seven years. Experts say the culprit is pesticides and neonicotinoids in particular. Yet Australia (where neonicotinoids are used) and France (where use of neonicotinoids has been restricted since 1999) have not seen these mass-scale deaths.

The problem with honeybees and the lack of a conclusive explanation and even a solution reminds me of the problems that arise in small business. It’s estimated that thousands of small-to medium-sized businesses shut down each year. Few small businesses survive after five years.

The reason for small business deaths are many and varied. Often is difficult to point to one cause because several factors could be at play.

Some of the reasons experts give for small business failures include: disappearing market demand, poor cash flow management, exorbitant cost increases and foreign competition.

In other instances the reason the business has gone belly up is because of poor management. The business owner has not kept his or her finger on the pulse, poor systems and procedures have resulted in untenable losses, or quite simply the owner/manager lacks the necessary business training and skills.

Yet there are a number of businesses that remain successful and make it way past the five-year mark. These are often run by business owners who have detected problems in their business early and have done something about it in time.

Small business owners are suspicious of outsiders who want to tell them what’s wrong in their business and what to do about it. In many instances their suspicions are correct. But often the fresh view or perspective can make the difference between dying a slow death or breathing new life into a business even though business owners hate to admit it.

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