5 Ways to Get Your Business Out of a Rut

There comes a time in the lifecycle of every business when the growth slows and work becomes less energizing. Maybe it happens after a year, maybe it happens after 20 years, but it’s bound to happen.

And when it does, you can be ready with these 5 tips. They’ll help you take charge and make your entrepreneurial adventure more exciting again.

1. Stop Working (and see what happens)

Seriously, take a break. It won’t kill you to take some time off every now and then.

Aside from giving you a fresh perspective and recharging your batteries, stepping away from your business is helpful in the bigger picture.

You’ll find out one of two things:

  • Either the business goes on without you (good)
  • Or, it grinds to a screeching halt (bad)

If your business stops when you stop, I hate to break it to you, but you have a job. And worse than that, you have a job that comes with all the added stresses of being the owner of that job. It may look and taste like entrepreneurship, but you’re still basically trading hours for dollars. The only difference is you sign your own paycheck.

And if you’re fine with that, then it’s ok.

But if you want to be able to stop working and have your business keep running without you, you’ll have to put some people and processes in place. It goes back to the old adage of working on your business rather than in it.

2. Get Help (and some new ideas)

No one can do it all themselves. Sometimes it’s a good idea to look for some unbiased outside advice. People within your company can have the blinders on when it comes to new opportunities because they’re so focused on their day-to-day tasks.

Here are some free places to get business advice:

  • Small Business Administration. The sole purpose of the SBA is to encourage small business growth. To that end, they often offer free counseling sessions with volunteer business leaders.
  • Local Networking Events. Check meetup.com or your chamber of commerce and see what kind of events are going on in your area. These can be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and get new perspectives on your business.
  • Local College. My personal favorite. Connect with a business school professor at the local university. They’re always looking for meaningful projects for their students and the students are hungry for “real-world” experience.

Those are some great ways to get useful insights without having to pay for a high-priced consultant.

3. Engage with Customers (and find the truth)

Call up (or email) a handful of random customers out the blue. Play doctor: ask them where it hurts. You might be surprised the kind of answers you get.

We tend to think we know our customers, but how often do we really engage with them? Doing this religiously can lead to new product improvements and streamlined operations. It can also lead to cost savings if it turns out customers really don’t care about the new feature you wanted to build.

4. Follow the Leader (and then zag)

There’s no shame in imitation, but you have to hustle and make improvements. In fact, some of the greatest businesses weren’t original ideas. Google wasn’t the first search engine. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. Yet each was able to stand on the shoulders of those that came before them and make a great leap ahead. You can do the same.

Track the competition and even unrelated companies. If a best-practice can be applied in one business, some facet of it can probably be applied to yours. Be careful to maintain a strong point of differentiation though; otherwise you risk a race to the bottom in pricing.

5. Name the Destination (and map it out)

What does success look like in your mind? Maybe it’s a specific revenue target or a market share number. Maybe it’s selling out to a bigger company or making an IPO. Or maybe it’s a shorter work week so you have more time for your family.

But if you don’t define the destination, how will you know what road to take? It’s just like driving a car. I mean if you don’t know where you’re going, how the heck are you going to get there?

6. A Bonus – Smile!

Have fun! You’re living the entrepreneurial dream! Everyone says they want to start their own company someday, but so few actually do it. In that sense, you’re miles ahead of average.

A positive attitude is critical to your success and your ability to rally those around you. You’ll experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. Nobody said it was going to be bottomless margaritas on the beach. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it, right?