A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report revealed nearly half of all small businesses fail within the first four years of their existence. While there are many proven causes, including owner incompetence, inexperience, fraud and neglect, one killer culprit often flies under the radar: stagnation.
Indeed, losing momentum — with respect to revenues, market share and other mission critical indicators — is one sure fire sign that an entrepreneurial endeavor is in grave trouble. The good news is that a stagnated organization can take proactive tactical measures (many fairly easily instituted) to turn the tide, spur change and, in doing so, kick the growth engine back into gear.
Moving beyond stagnation
Beginning on the next page are six such strategies that entrepreneurs can employ now to spark short-term progress, all of which are also highly effective within the framework of a long-term strategy for sustained growth.
Related: Infusing future into your strategy
Hold internal weekly brainstorming sessions with staffers for creating and collaborating on innovative ideas such as streamlining processes. (Photo: Thinkstock)
1. Promote ingenuity with immediate impacts
Ask employees, customers, partners and vendors this question: “What three things would you change right now that would impact the company this month or quarter?” No group is too “unimportant” or insignificant to offer valuable advice, opinions and perspective.
Hold internal weekly brainstorming sessions with staffers for creating and collaborating on innovative ideas such as streamlining processes for speed and efficiency. Create a task force to document, analyze, prioritize and take tactical action on those ideas you feel will have an immediate impact on the business and then segue to those where the benefit will be realized longer term. When things stabilize, continue to do this once a month or quarter at the least.
If staff performance does not improve, it’s time for an accountability conversation. (Photo: Thinkstock)
2. Be a stickler for staff accountability
As a business owner, it’s important to continually challenge your team and hold them accountable for activities resulting in measurable growth. Once you have set clear expectations and provided training and coaching, step back and give staffers the autonomy needed to perform the clearly articulated duties expected of them.
Don’t micro-manage but do require regular progress reports so you can recalibrate as needed and remain proactive rather than reactive. If performance does not improve, it’s time for an accountability conversation. Have this conversation sooner rather than later, as the longer you take to expect improvement, the worse the situation will become for you and your team.
Work to resolve those inevitable workplace conflicts so the company can come out stronger on the other side. (Photo: Thinkstock)
3. Identify and resolve conflicts and unsavory politics.
Conflicts, whether they are among personnel, staff and vendors or within the supply chain, can directly affect your company’s bottom line. Work to resolve those inevitable workplace conflicts so the company can come out stronger on the other side.
Don’t forget: Everyone is watching what you, as a leader, will do or, as importantly, not do. Taking a “wait and see” approach or hoping a situation will just pass is not a solution, but rather is more likely to foster a toxic work environment, often perpetuated by low performers, which can cause high performers to seek employment elsewhere.
Always give credit where it’s due: Create a formal monthly honors or rewards program that recognizes employees company-wide. (Photo: iStock)
4. Even during hard times, give praise and rewards
When things are not going as well as expected, going out of your way to recognize and reward even small successes can re-invigorate key players and the team at large, fostering a renewed fighting spirit. Rewards don’t have to cost money.
It could be an extended lunch hour, thank you email or word of encouragement. Employees get nervous when things are tough, but if you increase your communication during those tough times, it will ease some of the tension.
Always give credit where it’s due: Create a formal monthly honors or rewards program that recognizes employees company-wide, at any level, for developing ideas and solutions that have a tangible beneficial impact on the bottom line.
The ideation, energy and optimism that comes from high-caliber staffers can be contagious and give the entire company a boost. (Photo: Thinkstock)
5. Invest in top talent
According to research compiled from 3,800 small business leaders and conducted by Salesforce.com, growing small businesses prioritize talent retention at a much higher rate than large enterprise. As a business owner, surround yourself with the smartest and best talent possible to propel your company to the next level. Invest the time to find those superstars — even in a part time consultative or contract capacity if you can’t afford to hire them on full time. The ideation, energy and optimism that comes from high-caliber staffers can be contagious and give the entire company a boost.
Related: 5 key ideas for new insurance agents
As the business owner, take an active role in the community through pro bono work on boards and committees. (Photo: Thinkstock)
6. Pay it forward
As the business owner, take an active role in the community through pro bono work on boards and committees. Such activities often proffer new networking opportunities, enhance the image of the company and its figurehead, and drive good publicity — all of which can reinvigorate revenues.
Sometimes when you pull yourself away from the business and serve someone else, it helps to clear your mind. Giving always has a way of coming back to you.
Take action now
If your company is stuck in a rut, don’t wait another day to change course with the hope that somehow things will turn around without serious intervention. Taking immediate action and implementing growth acceleration strategies like those above will reinvigorate your business, strengthen your team and help ensure your business maintains forward momentum.
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