The first sign of a struggling business is one that only the owner can see. A business should be a two-way street. The owner serves the business, and the business serves the owner. If things become one side, where the owner is serving the business and getting nothing in return, that is a major red flag. No one goes into business dreaming of 80 hour work weeks. If a business starts stealing time from other important matters, that is a sign of a dangerous imbalance.
Every business has cycles. Some businesses are slow in the winter and busy in the summer. Others have low sales on certain days of the week. Over time, a business owner starts to understand the normal cycle of business. When slow periods start to lengthen or fall outside of these usual dips, this is a sign that revenue is not sustainable. Perhaps, the business has lost key clients that make up a large portion of the revenue. Has a major demographic group of customers stopped using the business' products or services?
Business owners are abreast of what is going on in their industries. Are there disruptors popping up that could threaten the long-term success of your business? Can you compete with those disruptors, or will they force you to close?
If the other signs are not heeded, there is one that is impossible to ignore—finances. When paying bills and payroll becomes difficult or even questionable, it is time to consider the best way of closing. If the business's credit card balance is higher than the balance of the operating account, take decisive action.