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Updated: December 6, 2023 Ask ACE

Ask ACE: How do I address recurring issues?

Q: Do some issues crop up again and again for startup businesses? How do I address them?

ACE advises: I have worked with dozens of startups trying to get to the next level. While some face unique issues, there are a few common issues that cut across all industries and companies.

The first issue: Not having a strong system in place to manage the company’s financial information. If a company’s financial records do not capture the right information, or are inaccurate, the company’s financial reports will not provide the information needed to guide management decisions. Bad books can be affirmatively misleading. A clean set of books guides decisions at all levels and time horizons and focuses short term efforts.

The second issue: Not focusing marketing efforts on the customer. A company must understand its customers. That understanding is the foundation of the company’s marketing efforts. While it would be great if everybody wanted what a company has to sell, reality dictates that the company’s focus needs to be on identifying customers who need the company’s product or service and convincing them that it will solve their problems.

The third issue: Not getting enough help to drive the company forward. Companies do not have enough capital, they do not hire soon enough, and they do not get the expertise or resources they need.

Maine offers many resources to assist Maine businesses. Free resources include SCORE, the Small Business Development Centers, Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s advisor programs and New Ventures. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurs has a series of fee-based programs, such as its signature TopGun accelerator, providing participants with ongoing access to mentors in a variety of fields worth far more than the price of admission. So does Dirigo Labs. The Maine Technology Institute and CEI provide funding such as grants, loans and investment.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of these organizations is that they open the door to Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

ACE President Terry Johnson is a principal of Practical Decisions. He is a product development and business process professional with over 30 years of experience in senior leadership positions. He also manages MCE’s Maine Mentor network. He can be reached at or

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