Business Rut

Dear M&M:  I feel like I am in a business rut.  What can I do to break out of it?

– Sam

Dear Sam: 

A business rut for you may mean you’re not bringing in new customers, that your employees no longer seem excited about their jobs or that you’ve become bored with “business as usual.” Like any rut you face in life, climbing out of a business rut involves making a plan and seeing it through. You may not want to reinvent your business every year, but small changes can make a business feel fresh.

Step 1: Revisit your goals. You likely had specific goals for yourself and your business when you first opened your doors. Your goals may have included more time with your family, to make a ton of money, to fill a niche in the community or to build relationships with customers. Now that you feel as though you’re in a rut, take a fresh look at those goals and decide whether your reasons for operating the business have changed. For example, if your goal was once to spend more time with your children but your children are now grown, decide whether what you want to focus on from this point forward is growing the business. The point of revisiting your goals is to find a fresh reason to love what you’re doing.

Step 2: Figure out what inspires you. You might be especially excited up about your business after visiting other businesses like yours. If you’re part of a franchise, it may be that going to corporate meetings gives you a dose of enthusiasm. If your business is in a rut, you’re in a rut as well. Assess what gets you excited about your company.

Step 3: Look at the business through your customers’ eyes. Because you’re in charge of the day-to-day operations of your business, it can be easy to focus on what you need from the business and how it can best serve you. If you want a fresh outlook, try to see the business through the eyes of those who spend money there. Ask yourself if the specials and coupons you’re offering are benefiting them. Consider whether your hours of operation make it easy for customers to swing by after work or early on a Saturday morning. Be honest about whether customers utilizing your business are receiving the best value for their dollar.

Step 4: Ask for input. As well as you know your business, it’s your customers who know what they’re looking for. Provide surveys customers can fill out anonymously, telling you what they like about your business and what they’d like to see changed. Ask them to tell you what you do well and how you might improve. Anonymous feedback may sting, but it can provide interesting insight.

Step 5: Get brutal about your weaknesses. If you have a likable employee who is consistently late to work or a salesperson who’s not cut out for the job, consider whether they should be working for you. If the physical setup of your business is not aiding operations, change it. While you are identifying the soft spots in your business, you’re sure to identify your strengths. Those strengths are the things you should focus on.

– M&M

To ask your questions: Call the Small Business Development Center(SBDC) at Cochise College (520)-515-5478 or email schmittm@cochise.edu or contact the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation(EDF) at 520-458-6948 or email  hollism@svedf.org

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