We deal with plenty of potholes on our roads. In life too, there are some pothole strewn phases. Where things are bumpy and it’s difficult to move forward. There’s a sense of monotony and predictability to life. Motivation and productivity go steeply downhill.
While potholes in our personal life are frustrating, we pass them sooner or later. But businesses can also run into potholes. Some common potholes include stagnating sales, low employee morale, and unhappy customers. Business potholes are more difficult to pass by than personal ones. There are many more moving parts in a business- employees, customers, suppliers, banks et al. And all of them need to move in a certain direction to get you moving forward. Easier said than done. So, what should you do if you find your business stuck in a never-ending stretch of potholes? This article looks at 6 ways to pass the potholed stretch and get onto the silky-smooth highway to success.
Escape #1: Do something new, anything!
Switch things around at work. Just do something different. This could range from the trivial – going for a long walk after lunch- to the anyways important- ‘walk the floor’ and meet and talk to your employees. Action begets action and motivation.
As a wise man (no, it wasn’t Einstein!) once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Patterns, routines and habits are good. But only if they are getting you somewhere. Else, they can make your business lose its oomph. So, when it’s a bumpy period, don’t keep doing the same things. You won’t get different results.
Escape #2: Give up hope
We’ve always been told to never give up hope. Yet, that doesn’t mean that we live in a constant state of hopefulness. Hoping for the achievement of a goal. Hoping for employees that are more motivated. The problem with too much hope is that it takes us away from the present. Meeting business goals for instance is a function of what you do NOW- in the present. As Victor Frankl wisely said, “Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” If we hope too much, we lose track of the smaller things that make running a business worthwhile.
Escape #3: Recheck your beliefs
A limiting belief is an unconscious belief which prevents progress. For instance, if you sub-consciously believe that your product will not sell to a customer segment, it won’t. Your belief may be right currently. Yet, you need to keep rechecking your beliefs. Don’t keep your beliefs in a suitcase and carry them around with you. That results in self-fulfilling prophecies. Don’t believe a certain customer will buy from you? They won’t. Keep pushing your self-imposed boundaries and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Escape #4: Don’t be a martyr
There are enough impediments to blame. Tax rates are too high, regulations are too stringent. Yet, don’t continually think of yourself as a victim or martyr. You can rave and rant about the difficulty in doing business. And make representations to the government to reduce a certain tax rate or make the regulatory landscape easier. But, continue going about your business. And give it your best.
Escape #5: Reclaim your calendar
Own your time. Often, the reason for a business rut is the leader being stuck in an ‘unproductive busy’ pothole. Busy is good (mostly!), unproductive is not. Spending time signing checks is inefficient busy, analysing a report of cost and expense trends is efficient busy.
Escape #6: Look at your marketing
Though last, it’s certainly the most important. Relook at your marketing when stuck in a pothole. The business environment keeps changing, customer requirements keep changing. So, have a close look at your customer, your product and the differentiation of your product. Don’t be afraid to spend significant time on this exercise. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your business.
What gets a business onto a pothole-ridden road? Fear, in most cases. Fear that speaking candidly to non-performing employees will upset the apple cart. Fear that a decision could be wrong and hence not taking it. If fear gets us onto the bad road, it’s courage that puts us firmly back on the highway. So be brave and take those decisions. You’ll more often regret what you didn’t do, than what you did.
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