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How to Get Out of Your Own Way

How to Get Out of Your Own Way
Image credit: onewithnow.com

From issues of cash flow to audience apathy, from poor sales to personnel matters, business problems usually start as you problems. There are three situations guaranteed to land you and your business in the mud. The only way to get out is to see these problems for what they are and move forward. Ready?

Stop being so damn nice. Thanks to an internal censor button frozen in the "on" position, you've stopped speaking up about issues with your employees or clients. Maybe you're afraid you'll come across as a jerk if you tell people you're not happy with the way things are going. It's time to embrace honesty and start speaking your mind.

Take, for example, that regular customer who treats your employees like crap. Enough. Stop smiling and pretending it's OK. Your business won't fold just because you give one customer the what-for. When you fire a rude customer--or, fingers crossed, get him to change his behavior--it's a win for team morale. Great businesses thrive in part because the people powering them have the confidence to engage in tough conversations about uncomfortable topics.

Stop apologizing. You can't please everybody, but if you're so afraid of offending people or hurting their feelings that you apologize for every decision you make or opinion you have, you end up looking weak--and that doesn't do you or your business any good.

Your vendor screwed up? Don't temper your "What happened?" with a "Sorry." Have a hankering to write that blog post about a controversial issue, knowing full well some folks won't agree? Write it anyway. Businesses are powered by people, and people have opinions. You don't need an excuse to speak your mind on issues that matter to you and your customers. And trust me, that blog post will draw eyeballs--which is the whole point, isn't it?

Stop ignoring the big problems. Don't procrastinate on finding real solutions to your business problems by focusing on the tiny fixes. If your sales have slowed, don't offer a discount to drum up buyers. Instead, focus on the deeper issues with your product or marketing strategy, starting with soliciting feedback from customers.

Still need some help figuring out the real problems? Ask for it. Consultants and mentor groups can offer you the insight you may need to see your business clearly and can ask the tough questions you need to answer to push things forward.

It all comes down to this: When your business is stuck, you're the only one who can push yourself out of the muck.

Erika Napoletano is the head redhead at RHW Media, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that solves hard marketing problems and gets people unstuck and on their way to being awesome.

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This article was originally published in the September 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Stop It!.

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