Get Your Business Out of Its Midlife Crisis
At some point in the life of every company, the pace slows, activities become mundane, and owners may start to feel like they’re just going through the motions. The trick is to recognize your lapse in motivation — and take steps to overcome it.
Here are some tried-and-true techniques to help you and your small business through its midlife crisis.
1. Take a break. What if you just walked away for a day or two? This may seem like a frightening prospect, but it’s also a useful reality check. If you’re concerned that the enterprise will crumble to pieces without you at the helm, this may be a good time to see what actually happens in your absence. This means you’ll need to delegate more duties. Allowing trusted team members to assume control not only gives them the opportunity to prove their value to the business, but also frees you up to think strategically about where you’re headed. There’s even a chance you might relax a little.
2. Go back to square one. Once you’re caught up in day-to-day operations, it’s easy to lose sight of why you got into the business in the first place. Do you remember what your original drive was? Did you see a need for a product or service that no one else saw? Did you set out to achieve a specific goal? Whatever the reason, reflect upon whether your initial passion still holds. If not, you can certainly reinvigorate your business by changing your vision and focus. Think about where you want your company to be one year and five years from now. Maybe it’s time to reframe your vision, based on changing market conditions in your industry and in the economy in general. Consider creating a new product or branching out into a new area. A new goal can bring excitement and focus to your life.
3. Talk with customers. One way to generate ideas for new products or markets is to touch base with your customers. Conduct mail or online surveys to ask customers questions that will spur your thinking: How can I improve the service I’m providing you? Is there something else you want or need from my business? You might not like hearing everything your customers have to say, but their responses are likely to surprise and enlighten you.
4. Talk with peers. Soliciting unbiased, third-party advice or meeting new people can renew your enthusiasm. Look for upcoming trade shows, industry conferences, and chamber of commerce events. Seek out fellow entrepreneurs and ask how they’re handling their midlife crises. People are often more willing to share their opinions than you might think. It also feels good to offer some insights of your own.
5. Change your daily routine. Perhaps it’s time to establish some new patterns. Change what you wear. Find a different way to go to work. Do something spontaneous in the middle of the day. Most importantly, if you’re not exercising or eating right, adopt healthy lifestyle habits: There’s no quicker or more positive way to get out of a rut!
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.