Top 10 Worst Businesses You Could Ever Buy

14 Min Read

Buying a business is a significant decision one can make on their entrepreneurial journey. A quick Google search may provide you with some suitable candidates for purchase, but it’s crucial to conduct extensive research before getting involved in a transaction. Acquiring an ongoing business can serve as a shortcut to success, but picking the wrong venture can lead to short-lived joy followed by years of agitation and financial drain.

The allure of owning a business is often found in the revenue and profit it generates. Profitability is essential and determines whether a business will survive, expand, or fail in the ongoing market. But it’s not only about the numbers, certain industries are inherently unprofitable, plagued by a series of challenges that can limit your profit potential. Recognizing these threats require an understanding of the industry, the prevailing competition, market saturation, and customer behaviour.

Top 10 worst businesses you could ever buy

Top 10 worst businesses you could ever buy

Certain business types consistently show signs of instability and lack of long-term profitability. Here are ten examples of such businesses:

Hospitality Industry: Motels, B&Bs

The prospect of venturing into the hospitality industry can often appear to be an enticing and rewarding career path. However, the operational reality of managing a motel or a bed and breakfast is fraught with a plethora of distinct challenges. One of the primary hurdles faced by these establishments is the seasonal nature of the industry, which can lead to significant fluctuations in occupancy rates and, consequently, revenue. During off-peak seasons, motels and B&Bs may struggle to maintain profitability due to a dramatic drop in clientele.

Moreover, these businesses are frequently confronted with high operational costs. These expenses encompass a range of necessities, from maintenance and utilities to marketing and inventory. Furthermore, there is the persistent issue of high staff turnover, which is endemic in the hospitality sector. Recruiting and training new employees on a regular basis can be both costly and time-consuming, potentially detracting from the overall customer experience.

In addition to these internal challenges, motels and bed and breakfasts are operating in an increasingly competitive landscape. This competition is not only from other traditional lodgings but also from innovative and unconventional players such as Airbnb. These alternatives often provide a wider range of options and amenities at competitive prices, making it difficult for traditional motels and B&Bs to retain their market share.


Venturing into the restaurant business is recognized as being particularly formidable. One reason for this is the inherently unstable profit margins that these businesses tend to exhibit. This instability is compounded by the notoriously demanding working hours required to operate a restaurant successfully. Such demands can place a significant strain on owners and employees alike, potentially affecting the quality of service and customer satisfaction.

Even restaurants that enjoy a measure of success are not immune to the financial pressures of the industry. A significant factor contributing to these pressures is the high overhead costs associated with running a dining establishment. Rent, utilities, payroll, and other expenses can accumulate quickly, requiring a steady and robust income to offset them.

Additionally, food waste represents a serious concern for restaurateurs. Managing inventory effectively to minimize waste while ensuring the freshness and quality of ingredients is a delicate balancing act that can impact the bottom line. Moreover, the dependency on consumers’ discretionary spending means that economic downturns and shifts in consumer spending habits can have immediate and severe repercussions for a restaurant’s revenue.

Fitness Centers

When it comes to fitness centers, the initial barrier to entry can be daunting due to the high startup costs involved. Establishing a fully equipped, modern fitness facility requires a substantial investment in fitness equipment, premises, and qualified staff. This initial outlay can be a significant hurdle for prospective entrepreneurs in the fitness industry.

Once operational, fitness centers are not out of the woods, as they find themselves navigating an incredibly competitive market. The industry is known for being saturated, with numerous gyms and fitness clubs vying for the same clientele. Establishing and maintaining customer loyalty is an ongoing battle, as it can be alarmingly easy for members to switch allegiances to the newest or most convenient facility.

Compounding the issue, fitness trends evolve rapidly, and today’s in-demand workout regimen can quickly become yesterday’s news as customers flock to the next fitness craze. This constant flux can lead to a volatile customer base, and fitness centers must be adept at adapting to these changes to capture and retain their market share. The end result is a business environment where a steady revenue stream is not just desired but essential for survival in a fiercely competitive market.

Retail Stores

The Evolution of Retail and its Challenges

In recent years, brick-and-mortar retail stores have been grappling with a significant challenge, primarily due to the rise and expansion of online marketplaces. These virtual shopping platforms have fundamentally altered consumer behavior. They offer unparalleled convenience, allowing shoppers to browse and purchase products from the comfort of their homes. The varied selection available online surpasses what most physical stores can offer, catering to a wider range of tastes and needs. Additionally, the competitive pricing found in online shopping, often due to lower overhead costs, has further enticed customers away from traditional retail outlets.

Impact of Operating Costs and Reduced Foot Traffic

For these physical stores, the current retail landscape has become an uphill battle. High operating costs, such as rent for prime locations and utilities, weigh heavily on their financial sustainability. This challenge is compounded by the diminishing number of shoppers who physically visit these stores, resulting in lower foot traffic. With a decrease in in-store sales and an increase in operational expenses, many brick-and-mortar businesses find themselves in a precarious situation. This combination of factors is increasingly being seen as a recipe for financial distress, if not disaster, for traditional retail stores.

Taxi Companies

The Struggle Against Ride-Sharing Services

The traditional taxi industry is undergoing a period of significant disruption, primarily due to the emergence and popularity of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. These new entrants in the transportation sector have revolutionized the way people think about and use hired vehicles. Their app-based services offer convenience, competitive pricing, and a user-friendly experience, which have collectively contributed to their widespread acceptance and use.

Regulatory Challenges for Taxis

In addition to the competition from ride-sharing services, taxi businesses are continuously navigating through a complex web of licensing and regulatory issues. These regulations, which often vary significantly from city to city, can pose considerable operational challenges. They also add to the cost of doing business, making it increasingly difficult for traditional taxi companies to compete effectively in this rapidly changing market.

Travel Agencies

Facing Online Competition

Travel agencies, once the go-to source for vacation planning, are finding themselves in a difficult position. The pressure from online travel booking platforms is intense. These platforms, with their easy-to-use interfaces and wide range of options, have attracted a large segment of travelers who would have otherwise used travel agencies. Moreover, the advent of budget airlines and the growing trend of DIY trip planning have further eroded the client base of these agencies.

Decline in Traditional Travel Planning

As more individuals turn to the internet to directly book flights, hotels, and holiday experiences, the role of traditional travel agencies has become less prominent. The accessibility, convenience, and often lower costs associated with direct online bookings have made them a preferred choice for many. This shift in consumer behavior represents a significant challenge for travel agencies, as they strive to redefine their role and value in the travel and tourism industry.

Print Media Firms

Digitization’s Impact on Print Media

The future of print media firms is increasingly under threat, primarily due to the relentless march of digitization. Online platforms have emerged as powerful competitors, offering faster and more easily accessible content. These digital mediums are frequently updated, providing readers with the latest news and information in real-time, a feat traditional print media struggles to match.

Shift in Advertising Revenue

Another major blow to print media firms comes from the gradual erosion of their advertising revenue. This revenue stream, which was once the financial backbone of many print media companies, is now crumbling. Advertisers are continuously shifting their focus and budgets towards online platforms, drawn by their wider reach and more targeted advertising capabilities. This migration of ad spend away from traditional print media to digital platforms poses a substantial challenge, threatening the very survival of many print media firms.

DVD Rentals: A Declining Market

The DVD rental industry, once a dominant force in home entertainment, is facing an uphill battle. Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+ have fundamentally changed the way consumers access movies and TV shows. These platforms offer instant access to vast libraries of content without the need to leave one’s home, driving a shift from physical to digital.

The convenience, affordability, and wide selection that streaming platforms provide makes them an attractive option for many. The dwindling demand for physical DVDs means rental shops face dwindling revenues, potentially making it an unviable business model in the digital age.

Bookstores in a Digital Age

The charm and allure of independent bookstores are undeniable, but they too are grappling with significant challenges. As more people adopt e-readers and smartphones, the digital consumption of books is on the rise. Major retailers and online behemoths like Amazon have added to this pressure by offering books at steep discounts, which smaller stores find hard to match.

Though there are bookstores that defy these odds by catering to a specific niche or by transforming their spaces into community hubs, these success stories are increasingly rare. The broader trend is that many book lovers are opting for the convenience and vast selection of digital libraries or cheaper online alternatives.

Local Grocery Stores: A Tough Competition

In many towns and cities, local grocery stores have been pillars of the community. Yet, they are finding it increasingly challenging to sustain in the shadow of large supermarket chains. These bigger stores leverage their economies of scale to offer a vast variety of products at competitive prices, drawing customers away from smaller establishments. Moreover, the advent of online grocery shopping platforms further complicates matters. Consumers now have the option to order their groceries online and get them delivered straight to their doorstep, providing unparalleled convenience. This shift means local grocery stores must innovate or risk being overshadowed by these larger entities that dominate both the offline and online grocery market.

Key Factors to Consider Before Buying a Business

Before making the investment, prospective buyers should consider certain key factors. Understanding the current market situation, potential profitability, and competitive landscape within the industry is vital. Examining the initial startup costs and ongoing operating expense estimation can provide a clearer picture of a business’s financial requirement.


This discussion is not meant to deter you from purchasing a business, but rather underscore the vital importance of comprehensive market research and thorough due diligence. A poor business pick, no matter how fervently managed, can lead to chronic challenges and regret. Be sure to analyze, understand, and prepare for the industry you desire to plunge before making the substantial commitment both financially and personally. This meticulous planning will surely increase chances of a profitable and fulfilling business venture.

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