Disadvantages of Sole Proprietorship

What may be seen as an advantage by one person may turn out to be a disadvantage to another. The goals and talents of the individual owner are the deciding factors. For profitable businesses managed by capable owners, many of the following factors do not cause problems. On the other hand, proprietors starting out with little management experience and little money are likely to encounter many of the disadvantages.

  1. Unlimited Liability: The sole proprietor has unlimited liability in meeting the debts of the business. In other words, if the business cannot pay its creditors, the owner may be forced to use personal, non-business holdings such as a car or a home to pay off the debts. The more wealth an individual has, the greater is the advantage of unlimited liability.
  2. Limited Sources of Funds: Among the relatively few sources of money available to the sole proprietorship are a bank, friends, family, or his or her own funds. The owner’s personal financial condition, then, determines his or her credit standing. Often the only way a sole proprietor can borrow for business purposes is to pledge a car, a house, or other real estate, or other personal assets to guarantee the loan. And if the business fails, the owner may lose the personal assets as well as the business. Publically owned corporations, in contrast, can not only obtain funds from commercial banks but can sell stocks and bonds to the public to raise money. If a public company goes out of business, the owners do not lose personal assets.
  3. Limited Skills: The role proprietor must be able to perform many functions and possess skills in diverse fields such as management, marketing, finance, accounting, bookkeeping, and personnel. Although the owner can rely on specialized professionals to provide advice, he or she must make the final decision in each of these areas.
  4. Lack of Continuity: The life expectancy of a sole proprietorship is directly related to that of the owner and his or her ability to work. The serious illness of the owner could result in failure if competent help cannot be found.
  5. Lack of qualified Employees: It is usually difficult for a small sole proprietorship to match the wages and benefits offered by a large competing corporation because the proprietorship’s level of profits may not be as high. In addition, there is little room for advancement within a sole proprietorship, so the owner may have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified employees.
  6. Taxation: Although it is considered that taxation is an advantage for sole proprietorships, it can also be a disadvantage, depending on the proprietor’s income. Under current tax rates, sole proprietors pay a higher marginal tax rate than do small corporations. The tax often determines whether a sole proprietor chooses to incorporate his or her business.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.