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Business Plateaus. Are you seeing the signs?

It’s the start of the new year. What are your thoughts?

  • “I’m excited! I love the new year.”
  • “It came so fast.”
  • “Ugh. A new year. Here we go again.”
  • “I hope this year is better for my business than last year.”
  • “I know this year will be better for my business than last year.”

All of these are valid depending on how las year was for you and your business. I typically feel a little bit of each. The last one is my favorite, though. It has optimism instead of hope, which implies that you will be taking action to ensure this year is better than last. That might mean last year was not so great or you have no where to go but up. Or it might mean that business was good last year and this year it’s going to be great. Either way, you don’t plan to be in a plateau.

Let’s clarify the difference between a few key terms used regarding pause-points in business:

  • Stagnate – cease developing
  • Stall – stop making progress
  • Plateau – reach a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress

Has it been a while since you’ve made progress or seen development? Or were you seeing progress and for some reason it has slowed down or stopped? Sometimes it’s obvious that you are in a plateau and sometimes you just know something is “wrong,” but you can’t put your finger on it. Sometimes you have to open up your eyes and see the sign (#AceOfBase).

Here are some warning signs that you are in or nearing a plateau.

  1. Increased frequency of problems and fires
    • It’s natural to have a fire from time to time, but an increase in frequency and duration may mean that your current business systems are hitting a limit, and that a plateau may not be far.
  2. Routine or common things are falling through the cracks
    • An occasional bump in the road or an “oopsie,” is human. But are you and the team beginning to see an increased frequency in missing deadlines, dropping the ball on client communications, not converting the same number of sales leads, loosing touch with key partners? When a leader begins to see one of these patterns in the team it’s time to take a look at process and or performance. One or both of these may need a boost.
  3. Increased customer complaints
    • Words of gratitude and shoutouts should be common and complaints very few. On one hand complaints shine a light on where we can improve, but on the other complaints (especially made public) hurt your business. A rise in complaints should be a wake up call.
  4. Turning away business
    • By turning away business, I specifically mean good business. Turning away what would be a good customer because you have reached capacity means you should make a change. Turning away new clients is not only an obvious loss in new revenue, but it also a loss in ongoing revenue through customer retention. And if this was a referral that came your way, you could also damage the relationship with customer or partner who sent them your way. (If you are just not getting any new customers at all is a bit more of an obvious sign).
  5. Working more but getting nowhere
    • You are constantly playing catch up with “your list” rather than staying on top of or ahead of it. Your days start and end with stress and frustration because you are not getting the things done that you want or need to. This is a slippery slope to increasing your work hours, questioning if your team is underperforming, and having a very full “back burner” that you will have a hard time clearing.

If you are starting to have a “gut feeling” that your business has reached a plateau, you need to take the time to pause and look for pieces of evidence and open up your eyes for the signs (yep). Avoid being complacent with the state of slow decline because suddenly (not so suddenly) you are at the bottom. It is much easier to climb out of a ditch than a canyon.  Get the facts and evaluate your business strategy.

Ask yourself: How will you be kick starting 2022? How will you be actively working to know that this year will be better than the last?

Think you may be in or near a plateau and unsure how to move past it? I can help. Let’s begin with an Assessment Call where I will focus on listening to your concerns and asking the questions you need to be asking yourself. From our discussion I will let you know right away if we are the right solution for your challenges:


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