You simply can’t grow if you don’t change. Status quo is the enemy of growth, And change is more than a new coat of paint, re-arranging the office, or implementing a new vacation policy. If you’re a small business and your growth has been stalled, you need to understand why. And it’s, usually, complacency with the status quo. What worked to get you success, won’t necessarily work in continuing that success. It’s easy to get “fat, dumb and happy,” and then one day you wake up and growth has stopped. You really need to continually change to continually grow.
But it’s not that easy to change, and growth is not automatic even if you do. You need to understand what caused the growth to stall, and why and how you got complacent with status quo, and truly understand how to make the changes you need to make to get your business back on the growth track.
Let’s take a look at five key steps that should help get your business out of status quo, really changing and then really growing:
- Assessment – Answer two important questions. What are the roadblocks holding back your growth? What’s causing the complacency with status quo? Define the roadblocks in as much detail as you can. That’s what needs to be changed. And then, second, why did it happen? And this is critical and can’t be just some surface questions. You must get “inside the belly of the beast” and better understand how your business drifted in ways you never realized. But the good news is that once you know why the problems or roadblocks exist, then you’re on the way to fixing them. You can begin to develop a real plan to address them, and the plan should show you how to avoid them and status quo in the future.
- Plan – Develop objectives and timelines to fix what is holding you back and keep those as short as possible. The issues didn’t appear overnight, and you can’t expect them to be solved overnight. This should be a team effort. You’re telling your team what needs change, what needs to be fixed and asking them to help tell you how to do it. And believe me, they have seen the problems. They lived with them while you or the management team might have simply overlooked them, underestimated them, or worse, ignored them through complacency. They will give you real input (because, at the end of the day, it will make their lives…and probably your customers’ lives, easier). And, of course, describe the tasks, assign responsibilities, and develop milestones that make for an executable plan (more about that later).
- Commitment to change – Having a plan and making that plan happen, of course, is about execution, but frankly, it starts with you, the owner. Without your commitment and the commitment of your team to make it happen, it won’t. And I don’t mean just mouthing the words. It’s about “walking the talk” and making this the “most important plan we ever put together,” where the very survival of the business could be at stake. It must have that level of commitment and importance. Otherwise, you will simply slide back into status quo!
- Execution – Assign one of your “key managers” – maybe not even your most senior, but rather one who can solidify his/her place in the company with its successful execution – maybe an up and coming “star.” Give them the authority to make the plan happen, reporting directly to you. How they navigate and negotiate through their peers and senior managers will show you how good they are. If they can’t handle it, always have a backup, a more senior person to pick it up if it is going sideways.
- Tracking – Develop a way to track the plan progress and a continual feedback mechanism that tells you what is working, what is not. And don’t be afraid to tweak it along the way. If a particular change isn’t happening the way you want it to or expect it to, you need to re-think or re-direct the change, modifying tasks and milestones.
And, remember, the project should have a finite end, as described by its objectives. When it is completed, it should provide you the basis for creating a longer-term strategic and operating plan.
Status quo is the enemy of growth. You can’t grow if you don’t change. And the change has to be substantive by changing the way you do business in certain key areas. It’s fixing problems that have been there, probably for months, if not years, that just evolved, and then once growth stopped, nobody knew why. Define those roadblocks with your team (because they live with them every day) and determine why they exist and how to fix them, and you’re on your way to moving out of status quo and on to real growth.
“The Entrepreneur’s Yoda” knows these things. He’s been there. May success be with you!