Do you ever find yourself in a horrible place, where life not only feels flat, it looks flat? Everything seems to have levelled off. It’s known as the dreaded plateau.
You may have come across it while on a diet. You’ve cut the calories. You’re doing your 10,000 steps a day. You’ve eaten more fruit than a monkey. And yet, when you step on the scales the needle appears to be stuck. Your weight isn’t going anywhere. You’ve plateaued.
One of the places where the flattening out most commonly occurs is in business. You’ve set up your company. You’re full of hope and good intentions. Things seem to be going along quite nicely, when all of a sudden, you find yourself on flat terrain, and no matter how hard you work, you can’t seem to get off it. It’s not a terrible place to be, but having said that, it’s not where you want to be. Certainly not for a long time. You want to be going up, not along.
Plateaus can appear at any time in the life of a business. But the longer they go on the more frustrating they become. They stop you achieving your goals. They allow the competition to steal a march. Your business becomes less attractive to investors. The morale of you and your employees begins to drop. You want to get moving, but your business is becalmed. You’re not going anywhere.
So what’s gone wrong? You had a successful formula. One that got you on to a certain level, so why won’t it move you on? The reason is that different rules apply at different stages of your business. To use the diet analogy, the approach that lost you two pounds one week, won’t necessarily do the same next week. That’s because, having lost weight, the body adapts by slowing the metabolism and increasing hunger. Things aren’t as simple as they look. You may have to work a lot harder or adopt another approach to reach your goal.
Getting off the plateau.
So, in business, how do you go from a growth chart that looks like Table Mountain to one more like the Himalayas? It’s all too easy to blame the current economic climate, the competition, your customers, exchange rates, Brexit, the fact that you once walked under a ladder. Excuses are a comfort blanket, but they’re not a solution. Whatever business you’re in you’ll find people who are bucking the trend, growing their business, moving upwards. Other people have managed to get off the plateau, why haven’t you? How do you become like them?
To move forward in a meaningful way, you need a meaningful strategy, one that looks at every area of your business, that explores the features that make you unique, and that looks at the steps you must take to go forward. A strategy that is clear, simple, and understood by everyone who works for you. A strategy that is bespoke to your business, and built around the market that you’re in. A strategy that guides you, informs you. A strategy that gives you clear actions in both the good times and the bad. A strategy designed to get you off the plateau.
Let’s explore this meaningful strategy in a bit more depth. To begin with you need to look at the key areas of your business- Marketing, Sales, Operations, Cash, Talent. Now ask yourself- are the engines running smoothly in each one? The fact that you’ve read this far suggests not. All it takes is one of these to be malfunctioning to affect the other areas and keep you firmly rooted to the spot.
A common cause of plateauing is an inability to attract new talent. It makes sense. How can you grow without the key people around you to make this happen? But too often, businesses find their hands tied by that elusive thing known as cash. As the owner you find yourself working harder and harder, but you haven’t the money to attract the talent you need to take the heat off. Catch 22. Or is it?
If you go back to basics, and look at strategy, you’ll discover where the pinch points are, the reasons you’re not generating the cash you need. The answers to this can be many and varied- your marketing’s not working properly; your product is outdated; your customers aren’t so keen on your offering; you’re in too crowded a market place; your operations are outdated; prices are going up; you’re not converting sales. Whatever your particular problem, there will be a solution.
You’ve not only got to find this problem quickly, you’ve got to be prepared to fix it. And this is the hard bit. Like the dieter who wants to lose weight but isn’t prepared to cut out certain foods, you’ve not only got to take action, you’ve to take advice, and yes, even criticism. That’s not easy when it’s your company, your baby. But unless you’re prepared to listen and act differently the plateau will go on and on. And it could eventually lead to decline.
One way to get things moving is to see what’s happening in your business right now. You can take a five minute test called the Certainty Scorecard. It looks at all areas of your business to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. It won’t solve your problems overnight, but what it will do is shine a light on those areas you need to work on to get you off the flat terrain you find yourself on. You can then get all areas of your business working together. You can look forward with certainty. You can begin to look upwards.
Take your Certainty Score test now. It will take you about 3 minutes to complete and you will receive your report immediately.