In case no one has told you recently: it’s okay to take some time to stop focusing on growing your business all the time, and just focus on maintaining what you’ve built. If you believe a lot of the “experts,” growth should be your only business goal; if you’re not growing, they’d have you believe you’re failing. The truth is, however, that 100% growth 100% of the time just isn’t sustainable – and if your business isn’t sustainable, that’s the real problem.
You may find yourself reaching the point where you’re very comfortable with your business where it is right in that moment, and you’re ready to just keep that level going. Other times, you may need to take a season or two to just hold your business where it is, because the things going on in your life outside of work need more of your attention. In any case, sustainability is a perfectly acceptable business plan. Being in a constant state of stress about your business is the thing that’s really not sustainable; if that’s where you are, it might be time to take a step back and focus on maintenance.
Questions to ask yourself when you’re evaluating the sustainability of your business:
1. Does my income meet all of my financial needs? Whether you want your business to supplement a household income or pay every bill, is it able to do that every month with consistency?
2. Am I happy with my income? Do you feel good about what you make, and do you feel it’s worth the amount of time and effort you’re putting into your business in order to earn that income?
3. Am I able to maintain my desired lifestyle? Remember, YOU get to decide what success looks like in your business, so now it’s time to decide: do you feel successful with the income you’re earning?
4. Am I working a schedule I’m comfortable maintaining in the long term? Does your business schedule suit your lifestyle? Are you working a reasonable amount of hours, or working yourself to death? Can you keep up with your current pace over the next several years?
5. Am I happy with the people I work with? This includes your clients or customers, employees, contractors, colleagues, and mentors. Are you surrounded by people who light your enthusiasm from within? Do you enjoy the people you communicate with in order to run your business?
6. Am I confident and content with the actual work I do? Think about the daily tasks you have to complete in your business as well as the services you offer your clients. Do you actually enjoy doing those things, day in and day out? Would you be happy doing them for the next five or ten years?
7. If I lost a client or customer, could I replace that income? The thing about sustainability is that it does require some growth; however, instead of growing bigger each year, you’re just growing to replace anything that changes or is lost. If you are able to replace clients when you lose them, then you have a sustainable business.
Once you can say “YES” to the questions above, then you’ve got a sustainable business. It’s time to just keep doing the work you’ve been doing, growing to replace or replenish rather than to increase and expand. Make sure to check in regularly with your measurable outcomes so that you know you actually are sustaining your current level of business, and you’re good to keep going for the next season or all the seasons to come, whatever you choose to do.
If you’re not quite able to confidently answer those questions, I’d love to help! Click here to schedule a call and see if for the Operations Engine, a group coaching program where we will work on fixing any misaligned GEARS in your small business. We’ll figure out where you need to make any necessary changes in order to get your business to full sustainability, and also identify the areas that are already working exactly how they should be.
Once your business reaches a certain level, two things have to happen:
- Get very clear about what you sell.
- Set up a model that is ready for sustainability or scalability, depending on your goals.
Today I’m going to help you do just that! Sitting around thinking about your business isn’t going to get you where you want to go, so it’s time to take action.
Step 1: Get very clear about what you sell.
If you’ve hit a plateau of growth in your business, chances are it’s because you’ve been trying to make your business a custom fit for every client or customer. You change your offerings to suit everyone’s needs, and you’ve probably gotten very good at doing this, which is why people keep hiring you. The problem is that you will have a hard time maintaining that pace, and you will definitely have trouble growing your business, if you keep offering custom tailored solutions for every client.
So it’s time to narrow it down: what do you ACTUALLY sell in your business? What do you provide for your clients that nobody else provides exactly the same way? Out of everything people have paid you to do in the past, what is the strongest offering you have that also aligns most closely with your area of expertise?
In your business, what is it you REALLY want to offer your clients, with consistent quality, every single time? Going forward, that’s your offer.
Want an example?
When I talked to my business advisor about my own offering, we came to the conclusion that what I provide for my clients is accountability. Other coaches and consultants provide big-picture planning, goal-setting, and idea-generating. What I offer is the accountability for you to take the action your business needs so that you can accomplish those big-picture goals and ideas.
Step 2: Set yourself up for sustainability or scalability.
You may be focused on “growing your business,” but have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you really WANT to grow any more? A successful business does not have to mean that it’s always growing larger – a successful business can be one that is sustainable at a certain level indefinitely. Once you know what you want, you can set your business up to be that for you.
One scenario of a successful business could be that you are able to keep going for years, doing what you’ve been doing. You may change or tweak things here or there, but for the most part you keep consistent income, consistent working time & effort, and you provide consistent results for your clients. In a sustainable model, your business runs smoothly and effectively so that you can afford the time, energy, and finances it requires to keep it running at an even level over a desired length of time.
A lot of business owners find comfort in the routine of a sustainable business, and if that’s your goal, then you just have to make sure that what you’re offering for your clients is something you can keep offering for as long as you have your business. If you’re confident that you can maintain the number of hours you’ve been working, the current pace your workday takes on, the financial situation of your business, and the services you’ve been offering your clients, then you are good to go. If any of these areas doesn’t feel sustainable for the long-term, then that’s where you need to put your focus for improvement and streamlining.
Maybe you do actually want to grow your business larger. What you’re earning isn’t enough for you, or you want to serve more people, or have a larger impact on your industry. Whatever the reason, wanting to grow your business is an admirable goal; however, it has to be one that is backed by a solid structure that can support that growth.
Take a look at your business operations. Are there ways that you can scale up your offering? Are you in a position to hire one or more employees to take on some of the workload? Do you see a path toward being able to take on more clients, serve larger groups of people, or increase the price of your offering? Can you take yourself out of some of the day-to-day operations of your business in order to perform more of the CEO duties, and hire others to replace you in those operations? If so, then great! You’re on your way to growing your business. If not, that’s okay, too – at least now you know what you need to work on. Take stock of the areas of your business that are hindering your growth, and focus your energy on streamlining and strengthening those areas.
Step 3: Get help along the way.
Whether you want a business that sustains itself in the long term or scales to a bigger level, it can help to have another person figuring it out with you. As I said before, my specialty is accountability; you already know your big goals, and my job is to help you figure out the action you need to take to reach them, and then also hold you accountable for taking that action. Your business can absolutely be ready to sustain your income or grow it, but you will need to streamline your operations and take the steps toward reaching the level you want for your business. If you’d like some help to do that, I’d love to help you build a business that suits your needs and meets your goals.
I would love to be the person to help you find your way. Click here to set up a time to talk.