So you did it…started that business your ex told you wouldn’t amount to much. Three months into implementing that business idea, you’re getting congratulatory messages from all corners, friends calling you on the phone saying things like “ you that you’re now a big woman”. Your envelope is the fattest at the Thanksgiving service in church
Everything is going well with your business, despite warnings of the economic crunch in the country you seem to be earning the kind of money your 9am-5pm job could never give. Then, boom… a year later, or even less, something is wrong. There is a decline in sales, the phone calls are reducing and it’s becoming very difficult to keep running this business. I thought this was it! I thought this was the business that will finally get me on Forbes and CNN. What is happening?
This is exactly what happened to a friend of mine, and after conversing with a few entrepreneurs over the weekend, I realized that a lot of us face this problem and need advice on the necessary steps to take to ensure we rebound from business setbacks.
1: Admit that a problem exists
Often times we are scared to face failure and this stops us from doing things that can move us forward to achieve our goals. We forget that failure is a matter of perspective. Although this is one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do, admitting that your business is suffering from a setback will enable you leap into the recovery stage quicker than those still in denial.
I cannot tell you how satisfying it is, as a consultant, to have a client admit that indeed there is a problem. To me it’s a sign of hope. As I learnt over the years, most people will only fix what they agree is broken.
How you choose to admit that there is a problem in your business should be on your terms. You may want to talk to a trusted mentor, consultant, employee or write it down on a paper e.t.c.
Admitting is usually the recommended first step to any kind of recovery. Abandoning a problem does not help or heal it. Relax! No, seriously relax. Everything is going to be fine and in no time you’ll be back to dropping that fat thanksgiving offering at the altar in church on Sunday.
2: Address the problem
Whenever I write on general subjects that almost all businesses can relate to, I recommend research as the first antidote to business problems. A background research will enable companies discover the root of their problems.
Research exposes the areas that need to be fixed: whether marketing, customer service, operations or simply because the product no longer satisfies consumers wants and needs.
Research will differentiate your problems from your symptoms, as a big mistake people make is attempting to fix symptoms instead of problems. The symptoms are indications that a problem exists.
Every time I speak to entrepreneurs with business problems I ask a lot of questions. It is those questions that reveal the root of their problems. A research method I use very often is the ‘5-Whys’ technique.
The 5-whys is an iterative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. So list all possible symptoms. Ask “why” after a symptom is found, get the answer and then ask why again… till you come up with the real root cause of a problem.
This will, sometimes, reveal that the most obvious symptoms are not the only cause of the problems.
The beauty of research is that it gives a deeper level of understanding your industry, employee perspective, consumer perception etc. You need to have an open mind during this process, as you might be surprised that you may even be the cause of the business setback e.g. spending habits, leadership style, customer relations etc.
3. Have a plan
After the cause of your business setback has been revealed, the next thing on your agenda should be creating an action plan, which will be used in eradicating the problem.
Do you want to hire a professional to fix this problem? Can you afford to do that? When do you want to start implementing solutions? How long will it take? What effects will this have on employees and customers? Should you consider change management? Cost of implementing solutions?
In step 3, you may want to consider setting goals. Set goals to motivate you and ensure that you are moving in the right direction. Your goals can be short term or long term depending on the weight of the problem you have to solve and the size of your business. Bishop TD Jakes didn’t lie when he said the higher the level, the greater the devil.
Finding solutions is very crucial, because you want any solution implemented to be long lasting and efficient. Some solutions may be implemented in stages depending the size and context of the problem found – as they may require coaching, change in procedure, installing hardware’s or systems etc. All these should be considered in your plan. Don’t fake it till you make it, make it till you make it!
Take advice and hints from successors, or even other industries.
4: Fix the problem
So you’ve made your plan, the next thing is to start fixing the problem. Whether you’ve decided to employ a business consultant
such as myself to assist in fixing the problem; you’ve decided that employees can work this out, or you’ve decided that as the visionaries you can solve your identified business problems on your own – the major key to all this is to begin!
Start immediately. The sooner solutions are implemented the better for yourself, employees and customers.
If you know that people may be affected by the ongoing changes in the business, feel free to communicate early on in the change process.
Seek new opportunities in this process. This is the secret of successful entrepreneurs, they work smart. They grow and seek opportunities even in stumbling blocks. As entrepreneurs, you must understand the importance of working your way back to the top after every hitch.
Feel free to contact me for assistance or if you have any questions I am happy to help.