The sobering truth: how many small businesses fail

Understanding the statistics: Small business failure rates

Small business failure rates

Starting and running a small business can be challenging and rewarding, but it comes with its own set of risks. One of the risks is the high rate of small business failure. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, and only about 50% survive past their fifth year.

There are many reasons why small businesses fail, such as lack of funding, poor management, or insufficient marketing, to name a few. However, understanding the statistics of small business failure rates can help you prepare your business for success. Let’s take a closer look at these statistics and what they mean for small business owners.

The first year of business is critical for small businesses. As mentioned before, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year. This is often due to the lack of experience, poor management, and underestimating the challenges of running a business. To increase your chances of success, it is crucial to have a solid business plan, market research, and a deep understanding of your target audience.

Another significant factor contributing to small business failure is a lack of funding. Many small businesses struggle to secure funding or underestimate the amount of capital required to start and run a successful business. This can lead to cash flow problems, difficulty paying bills or employees, and eventually, the business may need to close its doors. To avoid this, it is essential to have a realistic financial plan and secure enough funding to cover your business costs for several months.

In addition to the first-year failure rate, the 50% failure rate for small businesses by their fifth year is concerning. This is often due to competition, changes in the market, or poor management. Even the most successful businesses can face market disruptions, which can lead to a loss of revenue or even failure. To prevent this from happening, it is crucial to stay up-to-date on changes in your industry, monitor your competitors, and have a flexible business plan to adapt to unexpected changes.

Furthermore, the failure rate varies by industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certain industries have a higher rate of failure than others. For instance, the construction industry has a 47% failure rate in the first four years, while the healthcare industry has a 25% failure rate. Understanding the industry’s failure rate can help you make informed decisions about whether to start a business in that industry or not.

Finally, it’s important to note that the failure rate doesn’t always mean the end of a business. Many successful entrepreneurs have failed multiple times before succeeding. Failure can be a learning experience, and it can help you identify areas for improvement and what not to do in the future. So, if your business fails, it’s essential to learn from your mistakes and use that knowledge to do better next time.

In conclusion, understanding the small business failure rate statistics is crucial for anyone considering starting or running a small business. While the statistics can seem daunting, they also serve as a reminder to be prepared and proactive in managing your business. By having a solid business plan, securing enough funding, staying up-to-date on industry changes, and learning from your mistakes, you can increase your chances of success and thrive in the competitive world of small business.

Top reasons why small businesses fail

failing small businesses

Small businesses, as the name suggests, have fewer resources and smaller budgets compared to their larger counterparts. Due to this disadvantage, many small businesses fail within the first five years of their inception. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only about 50% of small businesses survive beyond the five-year mark. Below are some of the top reasons why small businesses fail.

Poor Management Skills

Poor management skills are one of the most common reasons why small businesses fail. Running a successful business requires a wide range of skillsets such as financial management, marketing, and recruitment. A lack of experience and knowledge in these areas can cause small business owners to make mistakes that could cost them their entire business. For example, if the business owner does not know how to market their product or service effectively, they will struggle to attract customers and ultimately generate revenue. In addition, poor financial management can lead to cash flow problems, which can cause delays in paying bills and suppliers. Ultimately, poor management can lead to poor decision-making, which can result in business failure.

Lack of Funds

A lack of funds is another common reason why small businesses fail. Starting a business takes more than just an idea; it requires a lot of capital. Small business owners often underestimate the costs associated with starting and running a business. As a result, they do not have sufficient funds to sustain their business in the long-run. This can lead to cash flow problems, lower profits, and in some cases, the business closing down altogether. Small business owners should be realistic and develop a comprehensive business plan that includes financial projections based on accurate market research.

Not Keeping Up with the Competition

In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s essential to keep up with the competition. Failing to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and advancements can have severe implications for small businesses. Customers are always looking for newer and better products and services, and if your business fails to keep up with their changing needs, you may lose them to your competitors. Small business owners should constantly monitor their competitors’ activities and invest in research and development to stay ahead of the curve.


Location is another factor that can significantly impact the success or failure of a small business. A business located in a remote area or an unpopular location may struggle to attract customers. Similarly, if another business offering the same product or service is located nearby, it may be challenging for the business to gain a foothold in the market. Small business owners should research potential locations thoroughly, paying attention to demographic data and foot traffic to ensure that they are in the right place to attract customers.

Lack of Planning

A lack of planning is another significant reason why small businesses fail. Without proper planning, small business owners may struggle to set goals, develop strategies, and make informed decisions. Planning should be built into every aspect of the business and should cover everything from marketing and recruitment to financial forecasting and risk management. Small business owners should take the time to develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines their goals, strategies, and plans for growth.

In conclusion, small businesses face a range of challenges that can impact their success or failure. By developing strong management skills, ensuring sufficient funding, keeping up with the competition, selecting the right location, and engaging in comprehensive planning, small business owners can reduce the risk of failure and improve their chances of long-term success.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small business failures

Small Business Failure during Covid-19 Pandemic

Small businesses have always struggled to keep up with large corporations, but the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on small businesses in a way that no one could have predicted. As a result, many small businesses have been forced to close their doors for good. Here are three ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted small business failures:

1. Reduced consumer spending

Reduced Consumer Spending Small Businesses

One of the most significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses is the reduced consumer spending. Many people have been furloughed or have lost their jobs, which means they have less money to spend. Additionally, people are hesitant to go out and spend money in public places for fear of contracting the virus. As a result, small businesses that rely on foot traffic and in-store purchasing have found it challenging to stay afloat. Without consistent revenue, many small businesses are unable to pay their expenses, including rent, utilities, and employee salaries, which has led to closures.

In response, many small businesses have pivoted to online sales, curbside pickup, or delivery; however, these options require additional resources and investment, which many small businesses do not have.

2. Supply chain disruptions

Supply Chain Disruptions Small Business

The COVID-19 pandemic has created supply chain disruptions, which have impacted small businesses. Many small businesses rely on overseas manufacturers for their products. However, the pandemic has disrupted international shipping and trade, which has made it difficult for small businesses to source the products they need. This has resulted in delayed shipments, increased costs, and reduced inventory, which has made it challenging for small businesses to meet customer demand.

3. Restrictions on operations

Restrictions on Small Businesses Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced small businesses to operate under strict restrictions. Various states and local governments have mandated business closures, operate under limited capacity, and have enforced strict social distancing guidelines. These restrictions have disproportionately affected small businesses that rely on in-person interactions, including restaurants, salons, and gyms. Even small businesses that can operate remotely, such as professional services firms and software developers, have found it challenging to communicate with clients effectively and maintain productivity without in-person interactions. These restrictions have led to decreased revenues and increased expenses, making it difficult for many small businesses to survive.

In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on small businesses. As a result of reduced consumer spending, supply chain disruptions, and restrictions on operations, many small businesses have been forced to close their doors permanently. It is essential for communities, governments, and individuals to offer support and resources to small businesses in these unprecedented times.

How to Mitigate the Risk of Small Business Failure

Small Business Failure Mitigation

Small businesses have a high tendency to fail due to lack of resources, poor planning, market competition, and unfavorable economic conditions. However, there are steps that small business owners can take to minimize the risk of failure and increase their chances of success.

1. Develop a Solid Business Plan

Business plan

A detailed business plan is the foundation of every successful business. It should outline the company’s objectives, target market, financial projections, marketing strategy, and any potential challenges. It is essential to regularly review and update the business plan to stay on track and adjust to any changing circumstances. This will help to ensure that the business is operating efficiently and has a better chance of success.

2. Manage Finances Effectively

Managing finances

Financial mismanagement is a common reason why small businesses fail. Owners need to have a good understanding of their finances, including cash flow, expenses, and revenue. It is essential to monitor income and expenses regularly and plan accordingly. In addition, businesses should have an emergency fund to help address any unexpected costs or challenges that may arise.

3. Build a Strong Online Presence

Online presence

With the rise of e-commerce, having a strong online presence has become increasingly important for small businesses. This can include developing a website, managing social media accounts, and implementing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. By building a robust online presence, businesses can reach a wider audience, build brand awareness, and increase sales.

4. Hire the Right Team

Hiring the right team

A business is only as strong as its team. Owners should take the time to hire the right people for their business and ensure they have the necessary skills and experience. It is essential to create a positive and supportive work environment that fosters a sense of teamwork and encourages employees to take ownership of their roles. Additionally, businesses should invest in ongoing training and development programs to help their staff grow and improve.

In conclusion, small business failure is a real risk, but there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk. By creating a solid business plan, managing finances effectively, building a strong online presence, and hiring the right team, small businesses can improve their chances of success and thrive in today’s competitive marketplace.

Case studies: Learning from successful small businesses

Successful Small Businesses

Starting a small business can be an exciting but challenging experience. In fact, studies show that approximately 20 percent of small businesses don’t make it past their first year and about 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first five years. However, there are also many businesses that have been able to overcome these challenges and become highly successful. Here are some case studies of successful small businesses and what we can learn from their success.

1. Warby Parker: Revolutionizing the Eyewear Industry

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an online eyewear retailer that was founded in 2010. The company offers designer eyewear at affordable prices and has disrupted the traditional brick-and-mortar eyewear industry. One reason for Warby Parker’s success is their commitment to social responsibility. For every pair of glasses sold, the company donates a pair to someone in need. This gives customers a sense of purpose when they make a purchase and also aligns with the growing trend of conscious consumerism. Lesson learned: By promoting a socially responsible mission, a small business can stand out in a crowded market.

2. MailChimp: Connecting Small Businesses with their Customers


MailChimp is an all-in-one marketing platform that helps small businesses connect with their customers. The company was founded in 2001 and has over 17 million users worldwide. One reason for MailChimp’s success is their focus on customer experience. They’ve built an intuitive and easy-to-use platform that allows small businesses to create and send professional email newsletters, automated campaigns, and personalized messages. Lesson learned: By putting the customer first and prioritizing their needs, small businesses can create loyal and happy customers.

3. TOMS: A Company that Gives Back


TOMS is a shoe company founded in 2006 that also sells eyewear, apparel, and accessories. Like Warby Parker, TOMS has a strong social mission built into their business model. For every pair of shoes sold, the company donates a pair to a child in need. To date, TOMS has donated over 100 million pairs of shoes to children in need. Lesson learned: By building social responsibility into their business model, small businesses can create a sense of purpose and community for their customers.

4. Slack: Making Business Communication Simpler


Slack is a communication and collaboration platform designed for businesses. It was founded in 2013 and has since become one of the most popular business software platforms available. Slack helps teams stay connected by providing real-time messaging, file sharing, task management, and more. One reason for Slack’s success is their product differentiation. While there are many communication platforms available, Slack stands out by providing a unique and intuitive user experience. Lesson learned: By providing a unique and differentiated product, small businesses can stand out in a crowded market.

5. Airbnb: Changing the Hospitality Industry


Airbnb is a vacation rental platform that allows homeowners to rent out their homes or apartments to travelers. The company was founded in 2008 and has since become a globally recognized brand. One reason for Airbnb’s success is their ability to disrupt the traditional hotel industry. By providing customers with a unique and authentic travel experience, Airbnb has been able to attract a growing customer base. Lesson learned: By identifying an unmet need in the market and providing a unique solution, small businesses can create a new market and succeed.

Learning from successful small businesses is crucial for aspiring entrepreneurs. By understanding the strategies and tactics that have worked for others, small business owners can increase their chances of success while avoiding common pitfalls. However, it’s also important to remember that every small business is unique and what worked for one business may not work for another. Therefore, small business owners should always be willing to experiment and adapt in order to succeed.