One of the great frustrations of running your own business is feeling like you’re on a treadmill, or stuck at your current level of growth. Of course, this happens to everyone from time to time but if you’ve been stuck for a while and want to start moving forward again, here are some ideas to kick-start the process.
When you’re in the thick of it, everything seems urgent and important. In my experience, this is never actually the case. Small, baby steps can make a huge difference to both how your business functions and your perception of progress. Yet it often seems that when you’re lost in the fog, taking even one small, baby step can feel like a huge waste of time. In this situation it usually feels like there are some big projects that need completing before things can change. Your internal dialogue will normally go something along the lines of:
“If only I can get that [insert big project here] done, everything will be better.”
This line of reasoning is a dangerous and unproductive way to think, it’s also not true. The real issue here is focus: what are you focusing your attention on? By all means, make a list of the things that need doing in your business, but then prioritise and pick one (just one), to focus on. If that one task feels overwhelming, then break it down even further, until it feels doable. When that one task is completed, move on to the next one. It helps to order your list from the most difficult to the easiest thing to fix. Then, work in reverse, starting with the easiest tasks first. Focussing on and fixing one small thing can make the most amazing difference to your business. Every small, easy job you fix creates a little more time and space for thinking more clearly about the bigger, more complex issues.
Take The Long Term View
The second mental roadblock many firms face is only focussing on the short term. Some business issues are constantly deferred in the mistaken belief that you need to stay focused on producing income this week/month/quarter. My recommendation is to make all decisions based on what is right in the long term. By making long term decisions, you will be focussed on the foundations for your future growth and success.
For example, in the short term it often feels ‘right’ to keep an under-performing staff member. However, the truth is the under-performer acts as a huge distraction for everyone else on the team, especially the business owner. Other people have to pick up the slack left by someone who can’t or won’t do their job to the level required, which affects productivity and staff morale. If the issue with the under-performing staff member is a lack of skills and experience, you need to decide whether you want to invest in the training required to bring them up to speed. If you do make that call, you need to acknowledge that it is a long term decision and you will (hopefully) begin to see an improvement over the following months.
However, if the issue is the staff member’s lack of ability or motivation, you may need to simply bite the bullet and replace them. Often an extreme decision like this one will be deferred, because of the pain and disruption involved in the short term.
However, failing to tackle the issue will just see you in the same situation a year down the track, as you continue to try and work around the problem. You’ll also notice that this will cause all sorts of other flow-on problems and you could even lose other, valuable staff members who are fed up with carrying the load. In this case, keeping the under-performing staff member is a short-term decision with long-term consequences.
As the leader/owner of your business, it’s crucial that you keep your focus on the right issues, take the long-term view and guide your team to do the same.
By Brett Davidson