How to Regroup When You've Lost Your Way
Everyone loves the business stories of the new CEO who came in and saved the company or the innovative startup founder who took a gamble and came up flush. It's far more awkward to face the music when you look at your team, your financial records and the totality of your business and realize: Your business is not doing well. You've lost your way.
When your business is not doing well, it's not anyone's favorite topic to talk about. But if you want to turn things around, here's how you can start:
1. Understand your stress patterns.
People have a default behavior that they turn to when they feel the strain of a crisis. Some people want to hide out. Others go into overwork mode. Some people blame themselves, while others blame everyone else. It's critical to be aware of fear-driven patterns that might hold sway over your behavior and keep you from being able to make sound decisions about what to do next.
2. Know why things took a dip -- and look beneath the surface.
It's easy to pinpoint the most recent business decision that you made, such as hiring an additional employee or losing a client contract, as the reason why your business started to go south.
The most recent decisions only reflect one portion of your business, however. In the same way that a marriage doesn't crumble because of one argument, a business that's stable shouldn't falter because of one poor decision. Look at long-term issues that haven't been addressed.
3. Take decisive action now.
As soon as you're clear on why things took a dip, don't waffle on taking action. If you can't afford to keep an employee, as much as you might wish to, you've got to let that person go. If the only way to pay your bills next month is to take client work that isn't totally your favorite type, it's time to do that (while also giving serious attention to bringing in the customers that you're excited to work with).
4. Don't get lost in fatalistic thinking.
Fatalistic thinking is the "it's always going to be this way" type of hopelessness that's easy to indulge in when the chips are down. But that type of thinking is exhausting and does absolutely nothing for you other than making you feel like a victim. Just because you might be making a hard decision now to save your company, that's not how it's always going to be. Keep your eye on making things better, not getting bogged down in the challenge.
5. Refuse to succumb to more debt.
Far too many companies, whether solopreneur limited liability companies or large enterprises, find that one little thing has kept them from executing a solid strategy for turning things around: they Rather they get into such a big hole of debt that they can't climb out. Ensuring that your business doesn't take on more debt might mean not buying new equipment, moving out of an office space to a co-working space, having employees work from home or letting go of employees and hiring contractors.
These are tough decisions to make, but you'd rather make them now, with your current debt load, rather than when the debt load has grown several months bigger. Keep things lean and build up a savings account for emergencies before adding cost factors back in.
6. Return to the company's vision.
When you started your company, you probably had a focused vision for exactly whom you wanted to serve and the problems you wanted to solve. Chances are good that when a company isn't thriving, it fell away from its initial vision. When you stay connected to what inspired you to start out in the beginning, you can find the energy to turn things around.
The truth is that every company hits hard places. The businesses that thrive are the ones that end up learning from those bumps and turning things around in service to the inspired vision that first spurred the company on. Take a realistic look at where your business is and take action rather than hiding out. You absolutely can bring the company back to a place of thriving as long as you're willing to step into leadership.
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