If your business is stuck and your performance has stalled in terms of sales and profit, or worse if things have turned down, you need to take action.
The first thing to ask is…
Do You Know Why Your Business Is Stuck?
In detail? Meaning you have identified specific causes?
Or have you made an assumption based on gut instinct. If so, beware. These attributions are often wrong.
Do You Know What To Do And How To Do It?
For change to happen, you need three things:
- To know what to do.
- To know how to do it.
- To have the commitment to take the necessary actions.
Working with a business coach or advisor can help with each of these factors if you’re not able to give a strong and determined Yes to each point.
What To Do
This depends on an accurate analysis of the symptoms and how they trace back to the underlying disease. If you get the diagnosis wrong, the prescribed solution will also be wrong.
The doctor and patient analogy is very suitable although you’re acting as both parties unless you get outside help.
When a patient goes to see a doctor about a problem, the doctor will ask her to describe the symptoms. As the patient talks, the doctor is looking for patterns which will help towards identifying a diagnosis.
A + B+ C suggests X.
A + B + Not C + D suggests Y.
Perhaps, there is a drug that will help solve X or Y in which case, it’s a clear prescription.
Perhaps, more tests are needed but another drug will help relieve the distress of the symptoms whilst waiting for further diagnostic actions.
Perhaps, the patient describes herself suffering from A + B + C + E. That might suggest a different underlying health problem or the patient may suffer from X plus something else.
Doctors will admit that diagnosis is rarely black or white but shades of grey. The most probably underlying cause will be treated and a follow-up appointment either scheduled straight away or the patient will be told to come back in 7 days if the problem hasn’t been cured.
A business advisor or coach can help you to make an accurate diagnosis precisely because they don’t know your business intimately. Just like the doctor, they can ask for your symptoms and push you to clarify precisely what you mean or to expand the symptom list beyond the most irritating causes of stress.
How To Do It
It’s one thing knowing what to do but it’s another knowing how to do it.
Business books can be a great support for guiding you towards actions and they will outline how to do it in general.
But there’s a problem going from general best practice to what will work in your business.
Again a business coach or advisor will help you to tailor these ideas to the needs of your business and your customers.
Have you ever been in the situation where you know what to do and how to do it, but you haven’t done it?
It’s often a matter of commitment and determination but you might have been held back by some inner block that needed to be released.
A business coach can help in two ways. First in giving you the encouragement and confidence to take action and secondly, in holding you accountable to your commitments.
When To Do It
If we return to the medical example of having a problem and getting it diagnosis and a solution prescribed, there is a clear lesson.
Men are much worse than women in going to the doctors an seeking medical help.
And this risks the problem being much worse and the day can have serious consequences.
The same issue of delaying corrective action, potentially past the point where it becomes too late also applies in business.
The diagram above shows three businesses who had a performance dip, as measured by profit.
- Company A (blue) took early action which at first stopped the decline and the led to recovery.
- Company B (yellow) delayed taking action and the problem got much worse. The management team finally acted but the prescribed treatment was brutal and painful but was ultimately successful.
- Company C (red) delayed taking action despite the warning signs. It couldn’t face up to the problems and then it was too late. Time ran out when the cash ran out as the business was unable to pay its staff their salaries or manage suppliers well enough to keep supplies flowing.
To keep the diagram simple, I kept the yellow and red lines separate but they could have overlapped until company B (yellow) made the right decisions.
The best time to take action is “yesterday”. To anticipate the problem in advance and take whatever action is necessary to stop it happening.
The next best time is early when the symptoms first appear. At that stage, you have time for analysis, for extra tests, to try one solution and then another.
But, as each day passes when the problem isn’t being cured or the management team isn’t at least learning more about what’s happening, the clock that determines business viability is ticking.
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