Feeling Stagnant in your business? Here’s what NOT to do…

I talked with two different business owners last week and both remarked that they were feeling like they were stuck. Things in the business were fine, but it all felt very similar to last year… and the year before… and in general they were starting to feel like they were just going through the motions.  And to make matters worse, they were both working really long hours.

It’s a rough combination – you have a business that’s stagnant AND you’re working really hard and putting in way too many hours for that outcome.  There’s no excitement, nothing fresh or new, just an ongoing, seemingly never-ending slog of one day after another.

That sounds like a great formula for burnout to me.

Here’s what not to do if you feel like you’ve hit some kind of plateau with your business…

You cannot just put your head down and vow to work through it.  If you’re like most entrepreneurs, that’s going to be your goto approach when you run into a challenge.  You’re going to want to roll up your sleeves and work even harder.  The problem with that approach, in this case, is you’re likely to make things worse – burn out even more quickly than you might otherwise.

If you just keep doing what you’ve been doing, assuming you can find a way to do more of it, you’re going to continue to get the same results.

If you want different results, then you need to take different actions – a simple idea, but not easy, especially when you’re locked into behaviors that helped you build your business in the first place.


How to break the stagnation…

If more of the same is what not to do, then what should you be doing?

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy, one-size-fits-all kind of answer.  It really depends on what you want – let’s look at a couple of likely possibilities:


Scenario #1 – I really want a lot more growth:

If your business has plateaued for a period of time and you really want to aggressively grow it, then it’s time to take a step back and rechart your course.  As already mentioned, doing more of the same isn’t going to get you where you want to go, so you have to make some significant changes to get a different outcome.

  1. Schedule a 1/2 day or full day planning session – involve your leadership team and consider getting some outside support to help shake up your thinking.
  2. Go into the process with a mindset of exponential growth – how could we grow by 10X (rather than 10% to 20%)?  Your thinking will change because you’re fundamentally trying to solve a different problem as opposed to just doing more of what you’re currently doing.
  3. Spend time looking for the biggest constraint in your business model.  What aspect of your business is currently your limiting factor. That’s probably going to be a good place to start.
  4. Pick 1 or 2 significant things to change (no more) and develop a plan to make meaningful progress in the next year and 90 days.

Change, and growth doesn’t happen overnight – but it also doesn’t happen unless you’re consciously trying to make it happen.  The key is focus and consistency.


Scenario #2 – I really want to free up my time:

Maybe you’re relatively content with how much money you’re making or how much business you’re doing, you’re just really tired from all the long days and not getting much time off.  Again, the first step is to carve out some time and do some planning – it’s going to take some big changes to free you up, but it is possible if you’re willing to let go.

  1. Schedule that 1/2 day or full day planning session – again, some kind of outside support will really help you with a different perspective.
  2. Go into the process with a focus on freeing up your time.  Come up with a target of where you’d like to be in the next year (i.e. working in the business only 3 days a week…).
  3. Create an Organizational Accountability chart. This is different than a typical org chart. The focus is on identifying the key activities that have to occur for your business to run and to then identify who really ‘owns’ making each of those activities happen.  Hint – when most business owners do this exercise for the first time, their name is in the majority of the boxes – which is why they can’t leave the office…
  4. Start identifying key activities that you currently ‘own’ that you could hand off to others (could be employees or maybe it could be something you could outsource like payroll or accounting). Then start actually handing them off…!

This process also can take a long time – you might need to promote someone and train them, you might need to hire or you might need to find an outside resource.  All of those will take time, and again the key is to focus on the most important or most impactful and be consistent with the changes.


The other scenario you might consider if you’re really feeling stagnant is that it might be time to move on to a new challenge.  What would it take to exit your business?  What’s it worth?  Could you sell it?  What kind of timeframe would work for you?  Sometimes just having a clear direction and idea of what you want to do will help recharge your batteries.  If you think this is even a remote possibility – we would also strongly recommend that you take the Value Builder Assessment it won’t cost you anything but a few minutes to fill out and it will give you a lot of great insight into how healthy your business is from a potential buyer’s perspective.


What do you think?  Are you dealing with some low-level burnout?  Are you stagnating in your business or know someone who is?  Maybe it’s time to shake things up. As always, we’d love to hear from you – leave us a comment or contact us.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach