In business, as in life, at some point, many of us hit a plateau. You might start strong, building an audience, making sales and doing well. If you’ve expected to make a loss in the firs3t few years, any early success might come as a very welcome surprise. But, unfortunately, success, however much of it you may have, doesn’t automatically last.
It’s like going on a diet. When you first change your eating habits or increase your activity, you lose weight quickly. It’s new, it’s different, and your body responds well to the changes. But, in time, your body adjusts and reaches a plateau. It gets used to what you are eating and your new activity levels, and the results slow, or even stop. If you want to lose more weight or to increase your fitness levels further, you need to make more changes, to push harder and to challenge yourself.
In business, if you keep doing the same things, you won’t necessarily get the same results. After the early success, you may find that things plateau, or even start to move backwards. If you want to continue to grow your business, to reach new heights and successes, and to carry on doing well, you need to push harder, try new things, and challenge yourself. Here are some ideas which may help.
Practice continuous improvement
This guide to continuous improvement describes in greater detail how the practice works, and what you need to do. But in short, continuous improvement is the practice of finding ways to continuously improve, instead of maintaining success or staying the same. You should only be doing things to improve your business, even slightly, and never be doing anything that does the opposite. This can help you to push past a plateau, avoid others and focus on the big picture.
Set short and long-term goals
Sometimes we sit still because we don’t know what we are aiming for. Long-term goals are great, because they give you something to work towards, and in every decision, you can ask yourself if your action will push you toward your goal. But it can be hard to stay on track when your target is so big or so far away. Shorter-term goals, and even daily and weekly goals can help you to get there. Hitting your goals, even the tiny ones, can help to keep morale up too.
Assess performance to date
What has worked so far? What didn’t go so well? If something, perhaps online content, or a marketing campaign, has gone well, could the idea be reused, improved or repurposed? Spend some time assessing how you’ve done so far, and what you can improve upon.
If you employ staff, they are a big part of your success or your failure. Take time to sit with them for a staff appraisal. Be honest about how things are going, how they could improve, and ask them what they need from you, to help them to do their jobs well. Investing time in your team will make your life much easier, both now and in the future.
Prioritise customer service
Whether you are growing, struggling or sitting still, your loyal customers are crucial. They’ll be the people that keep coming back, that keep spending money and that tell their friends about your business. If things aren’t progressing as you’d like, commit more time to providing excellent customer service. Give your customers more of your time, get to know them and go the extra mile.
Don’t be scared to try new things
Playing it safe is so tempting, especially when you are worried about the future of your business. But sometimes you need to do something bold. Don’t be scared to take some risks with your products and services and your marketing campaigns.
If your business isn’t growing as you’d like, ask yourself if you could add extra value to what you are already offering. This could be online content, free delivery, tips and advice, freebies or anything else that is more than your crucial service.
Review your business plan
This can be a good time to ask yourself if you are moving in the right direction. Take the time to review your business plan, asking yourself if it still fits the needs of your business. Write a new plan if you need to.
Remember, a plateau is normal, and it certainly doesn’t mean failure or that you should give up. In many cases, the best thing that you could do is just carry on. But, if you aren’t happy waiting for things to pass, try these ideas to kickstart your business.