As an entrepreneur, there’s nothing better than seeing your small business grow into an unstoppable force.
Your ideas are resonating with your audiences. Your marketing campaigns are drawing more customers in. And because of this, you’re smashing past your sales targets each month.
Naturally, you want to keep this going for as long as you can. Whatever is in place now seems to be the best recipe for success, so why change things?
Yet, we often hear stories of booming startups suddenly losing steam and failing.
While it’s undesirable, hitting a wall is common for startups growing into companies. This is known as a business plateau, which means that progress is stagnant. It is neither moving forward nor declining.
Some small business owners are content with plateauing. This means they are satisfied with merely being stable. They don’t feel any pressure to innovate or switch up what they offer. As long as things remain the same, they are happy to simply survive.
But this is a dangerous perspective, as change is constant in business.
Any sense of stability they feel now can shift in an instant. When employees leave, the economy changes, and new technology impacts the market, they’re forced to adapt.
In the words of Alexa Von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, “If you’re not failing, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough.” Business leaders may think that a slowing business is a step closer to its end, but it’s actually a challenge they can take on.
Plateaus are an indicator that a company is prime for a new level of growth, and what was once working needs to be modified or adjusted. The right response is key to overcoming it in its early stages, and everything centers on identifying the areas that are stifling growth.
Recognising a business plateau
There are three common recognisable signs of a business plateau that you should be on the lookout for.
- An outdated business model
The way you imagined operations to flow may not be how it’s turning out. It isn’t sustainable to constantly be adjusting your day-to-day processes, because you won’t be able to focus on other things that need your attention. This will also lead to micromanagement.
- A drop in employee efficiency
Your business is only as good as your employees. Despite new technology, sufficient training, and enough staff members, productivity may still drop. And this is usually because business owners become too results-driven that they aren’t keeping track of the welfare of their personnel.
- Customer engagement has dropped
If you’ve noticed that your customers have stopped interacting with your business, it probably means you aren’t giving them valuable content to consume. Capturing an audience means giving them a reason to want to get involved with your business. When you don’t give them a reason to reach out to you, it’s likely that your marketing strategies need a revamp.
7 ways to avoid business fatigue and respond to it
Failure to recognise a business plateau will lead to losses for a company. Sadly, there are some business leaders who think that pressuring their employees to perform ‘optimally’ will produce better numbers. But this only intensifies staff fatigue.
Instead of demanding more from your team, consider how to improve your current workflow.
1. Review your business plan
No one knows your business idea as well as you do. Even so, the goals you had for your company when you first started may not be the same today. And that’s why reviewing your business plan is important when you hit a plateau.
You want everything you do to reflect the objectives you want to accomplish. Revisiting your business plan lets you track your progress and gives you a chance to improve or build on your ideas from before. By updating your plans, you enhance profitability over time. You get to apply changes to your operational framework based on how you have been doing business over the last few years. This ensures that your tactics and processes are efficiently generating the results you want.
2. Talk to your team
As a leader, the importance of listening to your employees should go without saying.
Communication is paramount to maintaining good employee rapport. It’s not enough to reassess your business strategies. You need your people to achieve those numbers.
Knowing what’s going on with people at your company is vital for building loyalty. According to Salesforce Research, an employee that feels heard is 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their abilities.
So, set aside time to hear them out. Ask about what’s not working for them. Don’t get too defensive when they start sharing the issues they have with the current procedures in place. Instead, use this time to involve them in coming up with solutions that work for them and benefit your company.
3. Look into your stats and finances
One obvious indicator of a business plateau is when the incoming cash flow is insufficient to meet the outgoing needs of your business.
According to a U.S. bank survey, 82% of businesses fail as a result of bad cash flow problems.
An accountant plays a vital role in avoiding this common pitfall. Since they have your financial records, they can do an extensive review of your spending. Some businesses spend too much on things that do not actually benefit them.
Sometimes, all you really need is a conscious effort to spend less. The savings you get might be the amount you need to reach your projected growth numbers to stay afloat.
It’s essential to work with your accountant to identify what you’re doing wrong. This way, you can come up with a strategy to bounce back.
4. Invest in SEO and content marketing
Marketing is an ever-evolving facet of running a business because of how rapidly trends change. Many companies don’t adapt to what’s happening in the market and often get left behind. They don’t realise that their decisions have such a huge impact on their growth.
In today’s competitive digital landscape, SEO and content marketing are more important than ever.
SEO is the technical process of increasing website traffic through the use of keywords. This allows your content to rank higher on search engines. Content marketing is focused on identifying relevant content that people will want to read. This way, they will see the value of what you have to say and will trust your brand more.
They work hand-in-hand in distributing your content to your desired audience. Without one of them, your content will fail to make an impact or inspire action.
To succeed at SEO, you need certain techniques in formatting, interlinking, and keyword usage. It’s a tedious process, but it has the ability to generate more leads for your business to convert into sales.
5. Check out your competitors
A competitive analysis is a critical part of strengthening your marketing plan. When you evaluate your competitors, you establish how to stand out better and attract your target market.
This isn’t a one-time activity. Running regular competitor checks is essential to keeping in touch with what’s happening in your industry.
When you approach your competitor analysis, you want to put yourself in the shoes of your customer. How will they perceive your brand when compared to others? What makes you brand easy or difficult to trust?
This lets you examine how you fall short in delivering a compelling brand pitch that makes your clients choose you over others. It’s an opportunity for you to rethink how you present yourself and your unique selling proposition.
6. Build strategic partnerships
Forming strategic partnerships is key to growing your business and avoiding stagnancy. And it’s because collaboration opens your company to new opportunities.
When you tap into the expertise and knowledge of other industry leaders and their brands, it makes you a more formidable presence in your marketplace. It lets you develop new skills and improve existing capabilities.
Some business owners hesitate when it comes to sharing valuable intellectual property. But a strategic collaboration means that you trust each other to work towards common goals. So, you want to be able to work only with those whom you can truly trust.
7. Survey your customers
Listening to your customers is crucial to learning how you can serve them better and meet their needs. And one of the best ways to get into their minds is to survey them.
Surveys let you tune into what they like and dislike about your brand. You want to gather feedback at different points in time (e.g. yearly, quarterly, or if you launch a new product). The data you gather will let you assess if any changes had a positive or negative impact.
They are also a simple yet effective tool for customer engagement. When you reach out with a survey, you show that you are willing to listen. And this will make your customers feel valued. The more they engage with you, the more trust is developed.
Plateaus are a part of every company’s development. But the most successful companies know how to deal with them.
The secret? They never lose focus on how to encourage internal growth so that it will reflect in the work they do. They also involve themselves in the financial aspects of their company so they can forecast if they are approaching a plateau.
By working with an accountant, you can come up with an action plan to avoid stagnancy. If you need assistance in identifying areas to improve your finances, reach out to us.