As an entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to realize that your business growth has become static, to feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
Feeling stuck in a business is a pretty normal thing that all entrepreneurs go through, and usually the most immediate instinct is to try and ride this feeling out, or simply ignore it and hope things somehow fall in place.
Well, sometimes this mundane and idle strategy might just work, as your business could be suffering from seasonal market trends, some of which might have temporary effects. But then sometimes the problem doesn’t go away, and you can’t afford to not acknowledge it and react.
If I had adopted an unresponsive mindset when my online business, FounderJar, seemed to be out of gas just a month ago, or the several other times my businesses got stuck, I probably wouldn’t be in the best frame or position to share this information with you today.
Determining if your business is stuck can in itself be an uncertainty. Are you barely making enough annual sales to keep functioning? The lowest annual sales for small businesses in the U.S is set below $25,000.
Source: Business KnowHow
Or are you simply at a point where you’ve hit a desired milestone and you’re not sure of your next move? It’s quite easy to end up lacking motivation and fall into stagnancy at this point.
Whatever the situation, you must accept and consciously admit the fact that things are not okay and you must take action. Like I said earlier, it’s easy to want to ignore non-growth as long as you’re not bankrupt and you can still pay your bills.
But staying stagnant for too long will eventually lead to your company incurring losses, both in the short term and long term.
If you’re ready to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and figure out how to get your business unstuck, here are the 5 steps you must take:
1. Reevaluate Your Commitments and Metrics
So you’ve hit a plateau, and like at the end of every race, you stoop down to take deep breaths of relief. You’ve finally done it. Your mind is finally relaxed, and it seems like you’ve accomplished all you can.
Now that’s where the problem begins, the feeling that you’ve accomplished a major goal and can afford to step back.
Business isn’t a one time race, and your competitors won’t rest for too long, they prepare for the next race. There’s always a new race. This is why you need to change your goals and reevaluate your company’s dynamics.
If you’ve gotten to the point where it feels like you’re in a rut and are barely just able to make your numbers by the month or year’s end, then a review of your current methods and commitments is in order.
Your current strategies are getting you the results they were primed to deliver at first implementation, but things would have changed since then. The market is fluid, things get more expensive, your competitors have improved and consumers want to go for new and better.
When I had the non-growth issue with FounderJar, we went straight back to the drawing board, trying to figure out what went wrong. We had to nail down our business metrics and assess our reports. And as it turns out with most companies that suffer from lack of growth, we had to rework our strategy and focus on new ideas to improve those metrics.
I quickly realized that we were a growing company, not a “grown company”. Even “grown” companies have to develop new kicks to keep on growing.
Assessing your business’ data should give you an insight on which areas are stagnant and need to be improved, and sometimes you just need to double down on your efforts and increase your work ethic, but more often than not, you have to spy on your competitors and conduct market and consumer research to develop a fresh perspective.
2. Get in Touch with the Market and Consumers
Consumers are the reason you exist. And it’s truly dumbfounding that some businesses fail to be perpetually and righteously aware of this.
Sometimes it’s easy to become so engrossed in managing the business and completing daily tasks that you forget about the nucleus: the consumers.
Of course, if you follow tip #1 well, you would arrive at this point. Consumers are the foundation of your metrics.
Depending on the nature of your business, you need to investigate the market to discover the industry leading practices. What’s the hot stuff? What are consumers gunning after?
If budget or resources don’t permit you to implement in this situation, then do your own customer research. Conduct consumer satisfaction surveys and use reviews to identify areas in which you need to improve your product or service. And as a reminder, optimize your customer service.
If you can keep your consumers happy, or better still, amaze them, then they’re more likely to recommend you to others. That’s mouth-to-mouth marketing, and it’s an unbeatable catalyst for business growth.
Good market research would let you know which tools and platforms you’re outdated on. You’ll also get updated on cost effective resources you can adopt to help run your business efficiently.
3. Focus on Your Marketing
This should be a no-brainer, but then again, businesses tend to lose touch with the basics.
Consumers won’t come looking for you, they don’t know you exist, and in this digitally obsessed age, digital marketing is the way to go. Digital marketing is now far less expensive and more effective than traditional marketing.
Source: LYFE Marketing
The following fundamentals are all basics you should familiarize yourself with to get started on digital marketing:
- Owning a website
- Selling through online stores
- Using SEO to promote your website
- Using E-commerce platforms to optimize your online store
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Paid Digital ads
4. Check the People You Work With
The growth of a business depends largely on the people who work together to run it, their cohesiveness and contributions. Quality of personnel is the biggest challenge for growing businesses. If your roster is not reliable, then your business being stuck is just the beginning of an inevitable downturn.
You just might need to sit back and take a critical evaluation of the partners and key employees of your company. It could be that ideas aren’t flowing where they used to again, or effectiveness levels have reduced. It might turn out some key personnel are not even doing what they’re supposed to again. Or perhaps it’s the company culture, cooperation and team spirit are floundering.
A practical reaction is to hold meetings or report sessions where commitment levels and results are reviewed and use these to find out which of your charges are performing optimally.
This is where you need to show a firm hand and make hard decisions. You can set probation periods to keep your employees on their feet, or even, if necessary, make removals or changes to personnel. It might seem a cruel and really heavy thing to do, but if that’s what it takes for your business to survive, then you have to do what’s necessary.
Sometimes you don’t have to fire anybody, all you might just need is fresh talent in key positions you hadn’t considered before. Since growth is what you’re looking for, you might need brains that can apply new perspectives or simply, just more hands to generate more productivity.
5. Help Yourself
You should check yourself too. The problem or some of it might lie with you. Are you as productive as you used to be? Are you capable of keeping up with new changes? If it’s necessary that you go back to school and freshen your mind and skills, then by all means do so. Ideally, you should be at the forefront of advancement, always familiarizing yourself with new industry trends and knowledge.
Remember that to be at the top of your game, you need to be healthy, both mentally and physically. Overworking simply wouldn’t help you, especially in the long term. Research has shown that stressed people are likely to be less productive than mentally relaxed counterparts.
You may burn out or feel overwhelmed at periods you least expect. You may find yourself losing focus momentarily and overlooking minor sub-optimal results because you’re just so tired. None of these are good for your business.
You want to find a good balance between work and your personal life. Devote time to your personal health and emotional balance. Spend quality time with family and friends.
Exercise, eat healthy, free some time to clear your mind and ease your thoughts.
These habits will keep you feeling recharged and continuously productive. You should encourage your employees to follow this process too, as you’re not the only one who would perform below par or eventually become unreliable if over-stressed.
Then you might be the type of person that suffers from cold feet when it comes to taking action or working on new ideas. You would rather stay comfortably idle, spending too much unnecessary time on “planning” the idea or trying to “avoid mistakes”. It’s even possible this might be your business’ main issue, your tendency to stall on new projects.
You need to understand that your business would slowly, silently fall into irrelevance if you don’t grab your opportunities and get things done. It’s great and all to be adequately prepared for a project, but sometimes you just have to start with something, or the idea would become irrelevant over time. It would end up forgotten, a waste of time and effort. It’s better to improve on something, than not have anything to improve on.
Now this one might be a hard pill to take, but if you feel you’re simply past it or are just certain your commitment could never again match the required levels, then you may just have to hand over your leadership role.
That might sound cold but you should understand that your business has grown a life of its own, and you must do what you have to if you want It to thrive.
So being an entrepreneur is never a smooth ride. There are bumps, hold-ups, abrupt holes, and even crashes on the way. But like every successful entrepreneur that has grown a dynamic, sustainable business, you need to inform yourself, and be able to identify, change and implement key priorities when needed. Cheers to getting unstuck in your business.