Just as dieters reach a weight plateau, so too can the entrepreneur feel that his or her efforts have reached a peak. What should you do if you know you want to reach higher and achieve more in your business? Here are my tips for breaking free of those plateaus:
Look at your vision. Is it still as clear as it originally was? Has it gotten muddied by past successes or failures? Have you changed from your core business competency?
Are you making the most of your business contacts? Have you been networking and meeting others? You can’t work or grow your business in a vacuum.
How succinct is your marketing message? If you haven’t looked at your elevator speech recently, now might be the time. The more succinct you are, the more clear your network partners will be on what it is you do and how they can help you grow.
What steps can you do to break through the plateau?
It happens to everyone; you’re buzzing right along in your business then you hit a road block a cobweb in your plans and you have to step back and regroup.
How can you wipe away the cobwebs and continue moving forward:
Take an action, any action. Inertia feeds inertia. Take a small step toward chipping away at a larger goal will make it seem more manageable and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for having worked on it — even if it’s only 15 minutes at a time.
Do you lack confidence in either making a decision or moving a project forward? If so, call on the help or advice of an expert. Ask for support for those items that stump you.
Is there information you’re missing to make an informed decision? If you need more information, do some research or ask for clarification.
Do you make promises to your clients and then fail to deliver? This is a pitfall that some business owners fall into — they think they can “do it all” and perhaps they can, but they don’t set a realistic timeline for completion. If you’re working with a client and are offered a task, take a step back and consider how long it will truly take you and how many other projects you have in the works. You need to be realistic when setting deadlines.
Here are some tips on over-delivering on promises made to your clients:
As mentioned, set realistic deadlines. If you can deliver a product prior to a set deadline then that’s great. It’s better to be early on a deadline than to miss it or to have to go back and ask for an extension.
Is a client asking you to do something or provide a service that is outside of your realm of expertise? If so, you need to determine whether it’s worth it for you to take on this project or if you have a trusted business partner with whom you can share this task. Don’t say ‘yes’ just because your client asks, especially if you can’t deliver a high quality product.
Bottom line: Go above and beyond for your clients and they will thank you for your attention to detail as well as your willingness to help them solve their problems.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to taking the leap into being an entrepreneur but there are some steps you can take to avoid some of the pitfalls that have befallen those that have gone before you.
In my talking and working with those with the entrepreneurial spirit, there are a few “sins” I have uncovered during my conversations:
They lack customer focus. You can’t rely on the idea that if you build something or offer a service that people will just flock to it. You need to focus on your ideal customer prior to even deciding to make the leap into business ownership. Who is your ideal client and what do they need… ie, what problem do they have that you can solve?
The money in your bank account — especially if it’s borrowed or on credit cards — isn’t a measure of success. Yes, making money is great and will help you achieve other goals in your life, but if you’re leveraged to the hilt, and that is the reason you have money in the bank, you could be putting your business in a precarious position.
Going it alone. Even if you don’t have the funds from the get-go to hire staff, you should at least have a “board of advisors” that you can bounce ideas off of. Individuals whose business savvy you trust and whose advice you may be willing to follow if you’re steering off course.
Not making the investment in a good attorney and an accountant. While you may think you can’t afford to pay for legal advice or hand your books off to an accountant, you truly can’t afford not to have these advisors working for you. They can steer you away from risky investments and help keep your legal dealings in order.
What lessons have you learned on your road to entrepreneurship?