Starting a business for the first time is no mean feat. After you overcome the initial inertia that comes with starting out, you're still faced with lots of initial and recurring challenges. Maybe overcoming them will leave you wiser and more confident.
But, in the long run, othing really prepares you for dealing with a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. Or else, maybe you're not quite hitting the heights you expected. Or, perhaps you're not even hitting any heights at all.
Like a sputtering vehicle, your business may not be quite ready to get out on the road. You'll have to look under the hood first, to check to whether (to quote the Song of Solomon 2:15) any of these little foxes are spoiling your vine:
1. You have good speed of delivery but not such good quality.
I once received a package I had ordered; because it had arrived in record time, I was elated. I was gushing over the delivery and praising the company right up until I opened up the package. Talk about "underwhelming."
There is often a real battle raging among small businesses that have to invest in either speed or quality, but not both. The dilemma is easily solved iusing the discoveries reported by some studies. Generally, customers prefer quality to speed, and this is what you should focus your investment on, if you have to choose.
2. You have high business standards and poor control systems.
It’s not enough to have high standards without the control systems that should be put in place to ensure that those standards are met. Without these quality controls, you will have bad results in spite of your good intentions. Few things are as dangerous to a business as over-promising and under-delivering.
Your customers aren’t concerned with what you meant to do, but what you actually do. If you are going to commit to quality, first you must define exactly what quality is and find a way to properly define this to your staff, especially management staff. Then, take time out to teach them the “why” behind the what. This way, you can push and maintain quality.
3. You've just been stubborn.
Stubbornness many times implies your deciding to hold on to your “winning formula” even when it is not quite so winning anymore. One of the greatest assets a business can have is the ability to adapt to change, to get to that much-romanticized next level. And to grow, you must learn to adapt.
Some policies and strategies may have worked when you had five employees but they may not be ideal now that you have 15. Or maybe you are like some of the businesses in the U.K. that don’t know about the apprenticeship levy and may be affected negatively simply because they don’t know how it works. Or possibly you are using the same accounting methods you used in 2005 simply because they worked back then.
The truth is that the "next level" you dream about is many changes away, and you must be willing to continually change until you get there.
4. You haven’t quite gotten the hang of technology.
As a small business, you have to be willing to embrace technological innovations. Presently, there are many productivity tools available online and they may just be what your business needs to scale that height.
But beyond your willingness to use them, you need to know how to maximize them, because the little things matter more than the big things for small businesses. It is not enough, for instance, to have a business website; you need to know how to make your website stand out and be attractive so that your visitors will want to return. A little investment in technological know-how may be all you need to stabilize your business.
5. You're haunted by negative customer perceptions.
Until you know what your customers' current perceptions are, you can't know what you need to change. You need to gather customer feedback by every means possible if you want to change a negative perception.
Then you have to identify your business touchpoints and work on passing the right message through them.
In the words of Olyvia Williams, Showbox CEO, “Your touchpoints are the interactions between you and your customers, whether via phone conversations, face-to-face meetings or meetings with a sales rep -- or perhaps even the sights and sounds customers experience at your location. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to influence perception. And when you can identify them, you can intentionally relay a message through these touchpoints: a message that will renew confidence in your business.”
In conclusion, if you walk the walk well, your business will get back onto the right path. Word travels fast, and confidence in businesses can be regained with the right strategy. As a growing entrepreneur, you may not always be concerned with the big things. The little things, after all, are what could be making your business sputter. You have to consistently change the oil and look beneath the hood before you can get that vehicle out on the road.