It’s an unpleasant question, but one that any small business owner must consider: will my business fail? While the threat of failure is often not enough to extinguish one’s entrepreneurial fire, it must be regarded as a possible outcome — being aware of the possibility of failure can help you make informed decisions to avoid it.
When looking at small business failure rates, it is essential to realize that business owners control their destiny. For example, the foodservice industry has a 30% failure rate; this does not mean opening a restaurant is like betting on black at the roulette table. Instead, it indicates that a business owner must make better, more informed business decisions to avoid becoming another statistic. Typically, these business decisions are proactive and data-driven, focusing on controllable factors, such as tax compliance, budget allocation, and supply-chain management, while also attempting to mitigate variables outside of this realm of control, such as large-scale economic trends.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has been devastating to small businesses, with 200,000 additional closures in 2020. In non-pandemic times, however, the failure rates remain consistent year to year; even in years of poor economic performance, the failure rate varies little. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 20% of small businesses will fail within their first year of operation. By year two, just over 30% will have shuttered. After five years, only half will still be in business. And by the decade mark, two-thirds of small businesses will have ceased operations.
As the statistics show, a small business’s first year is its most treacherous — and as a business survives each year, its likelihood to survive the next increases. Interestingly, this pattern holds regardless of industry; barring extraordinary circumstances (like a global pandemic), there are no industry-specific survival bottlenecks.
While the survival pattern is consistent across industries, upon analyzing the Census Bureau’s Business Dynamics Statistics, it is clear that the actual survival rates can vary significantly between sectors.
Related Reading: Small Business Tax Preparation
Let’s take a look at some industry failure rates:
Consisting of many different sub-industries, including information products, information services, information devices, and information distribution, the information industry features a constantly shifting business landscape that necessitates a highly proactive approach to managing business operations. While potentially lucrative, the information industry’s 5-year failure rate stands at a whopping 63%.
Despite the constant demand for new builds, the high overhead, lack of cash flow security, and the ongoing battle for new contracts make the construction industry especially brutal for newcomers. While a plucky business owner can overcome the odds with the help of a sharp accounting team, the 5-year failure rate for fledgling construction businesses tops 64%.
A broad and highly varied industry, many variables come into play when operating a manufacturing business — some of which lie outside of your control. For manufacturing business owners, staying on top of global and local economic and supply-chain trends coupled with impeccable financial reporting is crucial for informing business decisions. Nevertheless, 51% of new manufacturing businesses shut their doors within five years of commencing operations.
Despite the ever-prevalent notion that food service is high-attrition and cutthroat, opening a food establishment is one of the less risky business ventures on this list. In addition, it is one of the most merit-friendly industries around — although possessing good business acumen is still essential for success. After five years, about 50% of new restaurants and bars can expect to remain in business.
While most industries’ closure rates are somewhat unaffected by economic downturns, the same cannot be said for finance and real estate. Businesses in this sector provide ample opportunity for massive earnings and easy scalability, but at a cost — no business owner can control the markets. And when the markets dip, portfolios can go belly-up. The five-year outlook for new finance and real estate businesses is risky — just under 60% will fail.
While somewhat challenging to break into, the healthcare and social services industry couples decent stability with ample room for growth — the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s projected 21% growth rate leads all other industries. As far as failing — well, it’s a definite possibility. However, the healthcare and social services industry is incredibly immune to macroeconomic struggles. As is the case in any industry, survival is contingent on proactive, data-driven business decisions. Still, the five-year outlook is pretty good: only 40% of new healthcare and social services businesses are projected to fail before the half-decade mark.
There are a plethora of reasons why a small business might fail. Some fall on the owner’s shoulders, while others can be attributed to strokes of bad luck. According to a study by CB insights analyzing failed companies, the primary causes of failure could be attributed to
Put simply, there is no single factor that can make a company fail — it is often a nexus of many different factors, both within and outside a business owner’s realm of control. And while there is no silver bullet in business, many of the aforementioned downfalls can be mitigated — or entirely circumvented — by employing a dedicated team of accounting and bookkeeping professionals. Dedicated small business accountants, such as the experts at FinancePal, utilize data-driven analysis to inform proactive, effective business decisions.
Meanwhile, specialized small business bookkeepers can ensure that your business has high-quality financial data to use as a roadmap. Together, specialized accountants and bookkeepers can help your business avoid cash flow, price point, and business model-related issues while enhancing your company’s ability to compete in the marketplace.
Contact us today to learn more about your free trial!
By entering your phone number and clicking the "Get Custom Quote" button, you provide your electronic signature and consent for FinancePal to contact you with information and offers at the phone number provided using an automated system, pre-recorded messages, and/or text messages. Consent is not required as a condition of purchase. Message and data rates may apply.
By entering your phone number and clicking the “Get Started” button, you provide your electronic signature and consent for FinancePal to contact you with information and offers at the phone number provided using an automated system, pre-recorded messages, and/or text messages. Consent is not required as a condition of purchase. Message and data rates may apply.