In my work with small to medium businesses over the years, my work has been couched in terms of helping teams maximize performance, helping them excel, being the best they can be, and so on. It’s a positive message that resonates well: everybody likes to see themselves successful.
However, to some degree stated or unstated, the feeling across the leadership team is much more pointed. It’s the bottom of the 7th inning. The game definitely isn’t over but we’re worn out from pitching. We’re already a couple runs down, and we’re not sure what to throw next. If we don’t get this game figured out – and soon – we’re going to lose.
We can’t lose.
The term “turnaround” doesn’t always fit because my clients aren’t usually on their last legs, deep in debt, and struggling to breathe. “Pivot” is a better word. We’re not looking to pivot the entire business model, but we definitely need to have a watershed moment in the business. We have to discover whatever it is that’s “wrong” and “make it right” so that it’s easier to make a buck and once again more fun to get out of the bed in the morning.
Here are the five fastest, most impactful ways I get my clients over that line.
Ask the Customers
You’ve heard the old saying, “In real estate, it’s location, location, location.” But that’s only partly true. It’s really “price, price, price.” It doesn’t matter what you think the price should be. It only matters what the market things the price should be.
Also, it seldom matters what you think your customers need, should pay, or will want. It only matters what you think. Almost none of the businesses I work with have an established channel / forum / mechanism / pick-your-word for a way to communicate with their customers to discover their most critical needs and how to solve them.
I focus an entire module of effort on this question as it is so critical to flipping the script from a relationship where you’re chasing elusive customers to creating a space where clients trust you, seek you out, and ask more of you.
Kill the Demons
“Business isn’t personal.” Lies, and more damn lies. It’s very personal, and it’s a mental game. How are you at it as a mental game? Be honest for a moment about your internal (or external… you know who you are…) monologue?
If I were to challenge you to count your positive vs. negative thoughts, statement, and actions, do you think your balance would be 80% positive to no more than 20% negative? I’ll be the first to admit that’s really hard to maintain! But I ask that goal not because I’m some Pollyannish tree hugger, but because our thoughts tie out to actual brain chemistry that impact critical thinking, creativity, relationship management and much more that is so critical in business.
So, how do we get there? I cover specific techniques in other articles and in my work, but for the moment…
Focus. Really Focus
Pop quiz. What is your method for cleaning out a milk jug? I mean getting it really super duper extra clean and free of soap?
Add a little soap, hot water, swish and dump? Yeah, that’s not going to work. You can’t get all the soap out through multiple rinses. Go try – I’ll wait.
The only way to truly get all the soap out is to keep adding water until the jug overflows and flushes every last bit of soap out.
Are you picturing this milk jug? The water is focus and positive thoughts. This milk jug is your brain on focus and positive thoughts. Any questions? (Ok, I’m no Nancy Reagan but hopefully you got the 1980s reference…)
It is so critical that you have a clear, crystalized focus in front of you at all times so that you can “fill yourself back up” with that whenever challenges do arise.
Kick it Up a Notch
So what does that look like? You need to kick it up a notch. I mean WAY up.
The clients I work with rarely believe when we begin how serious I am about how specific we’re going to get.
I want to see a really specific picture of what you’re building. Some people call that a “vision.” But I’m not interested in “vision statements.” I’m interested in precisely what are you building, what phase are you in, how much are you going to sell, to whom, etc. Really specific.
I’m also interested in your execution plan. What are you going to do this week? Next week? This month?
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of method I use to make it easy to break a business down into bite-sized 1-week and 2-week action plans that doesn’t fit well in an article like this. But if you can create a task list like that for yourself, you will be amazed at just how much more “doable” your business feels.
Find an Outside Partner
Having a partner is like striking gold. The diversity of thought and experience you gain is incredible.
This can be a professional like an attorney, an accountant / CPA, or a business consultant like me. It can also be an experienced and trusted business owner or leader in a non-competitive space who may have experience to lend.
The key to success here is to have a partner who, through their insight is able to lift you up and help you along through the challenging times. It also provides a sense of accountability to meet, review, and take action when things aren’t going well.
I can – and often do! – go on about how to help teams rapidly turn around their performance and business ventures as there are lots of options. However, these are truly some of the five most common that I lean on with my clients.
Let me know what you found valuable about these tips.