For entrepreneurs, it is the perpetual conundrum; what to do when your business isn’t growing. It might not even be failing but with stagnation comes the ever-present threat of negative growth, a danger which can put an enormous amount of pressure on the unwitting entrepreneur.
It’s a situation which cannot be allowed to fester. The longer you allow your business to remain stationary, the harder it will become to pull yourself back into a position of growth.
If you find yourself in such a situation, the key thing that you need to bear in mind is that your business is not entirely at the mercy of external influences, outside of your control. The potential is there to reverse your current lack of growth, but it will take a determined, critical, and sustained effort on your part as well as those employed within the business.
Of course every business is unique and it would be impossible to prescribe a fail-safe procedure for renewed growth, but generally speaking there are a few unusual steps that you can take to help get things back on track.
Take stock and evaluate
If you are working as hard as ever, but your growth is flat lining, then clearly you are doing something wrong. Begin by making an appraisal of the activities you are undertaking on a day-to-day basis, and be ruthless in your evaluation of their performance.
One of the dangers of self-employment is that you become unable to distinguish between the things which are actively contributing to your growth, and those which are merely wasting your time. You can become so established in the rhythm of your work that you complete some activities merely out of habit, rather than considering what the actual value of them is.
Take a ‘slash and burn’ approach to this process, ruthlessly pruning those things which aren't delivering results to make room for those that will.
Crank up your pricing
It’s really easy to be the cheapest… it's much more difficult to offer a great service.
Startups and SMEs sometimes feel as though they are backed into a corner. They believe that the ‘little guy’ must be cheaper than their larger competitors in order to gather some traction within the market. For some this is indeed the case, but it’s certainly not a universal rule. What’s more, when you factor in the financial pressures of running a fledgling business, many entrepreneurs are tempted to fall well below comfortable pricing, rather than lose out on potential business.
Superior quality and reliability count for a lot, and people are willing to pay more for a service which delivers against their expectations. Failing to identify this can leave you overstretched, under paid, and without the breathing space to make meaningful and worthwhile changes to your operations.
Rather than simply increasing your prices and hoping for the best, try coming up with some ways that you can improve the service you are offering in ways that will justify an increased price point, without putting you under an undue level of pressure.
Don’t be a chameleon
When you began your business, you were full of excitement, ideas, and the determination that you and your business we're going to stand out from the crowd.
But over time your idealistic vision has begun to fail, and you have faded ever more into the background, allowing the daily humdrum of running a business to dull your aspirations.
You are in effect now a business chameleon.
Harsh words I know, but it is an entrepreneurial tale that repeats itself over and over again.
To encourage a reinvigoration of growth, you need to find some new and engaging ways to make your business stand out from the crowd again. This is of course, much easier said than done, but the general idea is to inject something into your business that makes a clear distinction between you and all of the others offering the same thing.
Fresh new branding is often a good way to achieve this, but don’t neglect to revaluate the business on a more grassroots level. Undertake some new market research, and particularly make some investigations into your competitors.
Most entrepreneurs are great at analysing the competition when they first launch, but as time marches on, they become less and less engaged with the shifting standards of their industry.
Getting back to basics in this way can really help to contextualise your position within the marketplace, and help you to identify the ways you can reinvigorate your business.
Fail, fail, and fail some more
The statement I am about to make cause your brain gears to screech a little, but bear with me.
Failure is one of the best things that you can do to help your business grow. If you are not failing, but your business isn’t growing, then you really are failing. Conversely if you are failing and your business isn’t growing, then you are succeeding.
Think about it… it really does make sense.
When you fail consistently (rather than perpetually) it means that you are really trying; you are attempting to find new ways to encourage business growth, and that is a very good thing. The chances are, the more you try and fail, the more you will learn, and the more likely it will become that one day you will hit upon something that turns the business into a success.
Ironically it is the fear of failure which stops many business owners from trying, thus almost ensuring long-term failure.
Shrink your business
Oftentimes the issue with a business that isn’t growing is that it has become too generalised… it is the proverbial ‘jack of all trades and master of none’.
It is easy to see why this development occurs; when starting a new business it feels natural to create as many revenue streams as you possibly can, but this can leave you with much too broad a remit to position yourself effectively within the market. As much as it may pain you, you need to take a ruthless approach to cutting away the unnecessary, and focus on the things which have the potential to deliver the best return, and hopefully contribute to the overall growth of the business.
This doesn’t mean that you are simply abandoning certain elements of the business, but merely putting them on hold until you are in a better position to truly do them justice.
Eoin O'Hara is a business developer at Startacus.net. He has a background combining arts and culture with strategic business development. Follow them at @Iamstartacus