When you open a small business and it takes off, the feeling can be exhilarating. “I did it!” you might think, as the orders roll in and you build your customer base. And if what you’re doing is working, there’s no need to change anything. If it’s not broken, why fix it, right?
However, that attitude can actually lead to your business being broken — or at least, stuck in a pretty deep rut. Even when your business is successful, it’s important to keep setting and working toward goals. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that the company will ever grow, your employees are likely to become unmotivated and disenchanted, and you’ll be left behind by the competition.
Every business can have slow periods and won’t always be on an upward trajectory.
However, if you see any of these signs in your company, it’s likely that you have run out of steam (or are on the verge of doing so) and it’s time to make some changes.
1. Growth Is Flat
You have loyal customers, and they are creating enough revenue for your business to stay afloat. You can pay your bills, and you’re comfortable. But you aren’t seeing any real change in the numbers. Your customers aren’t increasing their investment with you, and you aren’t seeing many new customers on the books.
While you might be happy that your sales stay the same year after year, that’s not a good sign for your business. It’s actually a bad sign that you are stuck in a rut, and you need to be doing more to grow your company. Stagnant sales mean you need to set new goals and push harder, whether that means upselling your existing customers, putting more effort into reaching new ones, introducing new products, or offering incentives for more referrals. Whatever it takes, you want to see consistent growth from year to year, or eventually, your business will no longer be viable.
2. You Avoid New Technology
New technology can be expensive, no doubt. It can also be surprisingly affordable — and when you make the right choices, it can improve your bottom line. Surprisingly, though, cost isn’t the primary reason that businesses resist using new technologies. The most common reason for not investing in new technology is attitude: The sense that as long as the existing tools and technologies are still working, then there is no reason to change them. There is also a little bit of fear in there; you might be afraid that you won’t be able to use new tools or that you will make mistakes.
However, most of those fears are unfounded, and new tools for digital marketing, payment acceptance, and CRM are quite easy to use, and they can streamline your business. Not to mention, you can gain new insights that will help you better serve your customers, helping your business grow.
3. You’re Losing Business to Competitors
Competition is an unavoidable part of business. You should expect at least some attrition to competitors, just as you can expect to gain some of their customers. However, if you’re losing more customers than you’re gaining, and you are seeing a higher than average number of customers going elsewhere, then it’s time to reconsider your business strategy and see where you’re failing to meet expectations. Do some research to determine what your competitors are doing differently, or better than you are, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
4. Your Plans Stall
You have big dreams for your business. You have a vision: multiple locations, a larger staff, new products, more time off for yourself. Yet those plans never seem to get off the ground, due to a lack of cash, motivation, or other factors. Things can happen that disrupt even the best-laid plans, but if you always have an excuse as to why your plans seem to stall out, then it’s likely that the problem is that your business is caught in a rut, and until you make some major changes, you’ll never go anywhere.
5. You’re Doing More Work Than Ever for Less Money
Owning a business is not for the faint of heart, and you’re always going to have to work to keep it running successfully. If your hours have increased, but the payoffs haven’t, it’s possible that you’re just spinning your wheels. In the early days of your business, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll have to work hard for every penny. In time, though, it should become easier. If this sounds familiar, you need to rethink your approach and inject some energy back into the right places.
Nearly every business goes through periods where it feels like the wheels have come off. It’s how you deal with them, though, that can make the difference between a successful endeavor and a failed one. Be alert to the signs, and act before your company becomes a lost cause.