Gabe’s Corner – What to Do When Your Business Feels “Stuck”

Few people are as loathed to change as business owners. We like control. We want to know what to do, how to do it, and when is the best time to do it. So, when the regular ways aren’t working, it’s not surprising for us to feel like our business is hopelessly stuck in mud. No matter how fast we spin our tires, we just can’t get unstuck. Well, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that if we want to get back on the road, we are going to need to be creative in our approach. In the same way, if our business feels “stuck,” we are going to need to be willing to try things or take an approach that might be different from what we are used to. Stagnation is nothing new to business owners, and there are steps you can take to get your business back on the road.

1)     Conduct an analysis of your company. If your tires are deep in the mud, before hitting the gas and making the problem worse, get out and look at the situation so you know exactly what you are dealing with. In the same way, if your business growth has hit a snag, it’s time to look at your numbers. How do they compare with last year? Are there things that have occurred that might be affecting your profitability? Has your overhead increased without raising your prices to compensate? If you have employees, is their dollar per manhour rate the same, or has it decreased? Has your market changed, and now do you need to adjust to the changing needs in your area? Looking at your business with a fresh set of eyes might help you to identify problems before things get too deep and you need to call a financial tow truck.


2)     Reconnect with your customer base. Sometimes, adding large rocks or branches into the mud allows the tires to gain traction. Just a little bit of solid matter in the mud is often enough to get the vehicle moving once again. How might you help your business to gain traction again? Getting back in touch with your customer base. When you first started and were on every job, you had an opportunity to form relationships with your clients. They had a vested interest in your success because they knew you as a person. Now that you’ve grown, maybe it’s time to reconnect with those who helped you get to where you are. A phone call to check and make sure that they were satisfied with the work of the technician you sent over can go a long way. Sending cards and gifts to long-time loyal customers shows that they are still important to you and that you are thinking of them. Also, scheduling a visit, whether part of a paid job or just dropping by in your free time, to chat with them and catch up can reinforce that relationship and mean so much to them. They are, after all, your biggest cheerleaders.


3)     Identify inefficiencies. One of the methods to get a vehicle unstuck is to be efficient with what you have. If you deflate the tires, you might expand the contact area of the tread enough to have enough traction to drive out. You might also shift the weight in the vehicle to lighten the load on the side that is stuck. Making slight adjustments to your vehicle can make a huge difference. Similarly, making some tweaks to how you run your business can often make a huge difference. Is that two-person crew really the best way to be profitable? Sometimes, running two one-man crews makes more fiscal sense when there is a lot of driving between jobs. Is your process for making estimates due for some updates? Might you be shorting your company on the bids simply because you haven’t taken the time to review your process critically? There are numerous ways to look for inefficiencies in your business. Make time for it, and don’t be afraid to let some air out of the tires if you need to.


4)     Rely on your team. In some cases, the tires are so stuck you must gather a group of people together to push your vehicle out of the mud. Again, it may take a few tries and some strategic rocking, but eventually, with enough manpower, you can make your escape from the mud. Likewise, your problem is that you try to do everything yourself, and you need to empower your employees to take some of the load off your shoulders. Especially if you have a solid team, look for which ones could handle more responsibility. Could someone be trained to make estimates so you can be freed up for other things? If you tend to micromanage your employees, could you practice allowing some to make decisions without your input? Are there employees that have strengths that you are under-utilizing? It might take some time to figure out how to put your team to their best use, but don’t let that stop you from letting them help you get your business moving again.


No one ever likes getting stuck, yet it has happened to most of us. If you manage to stay in business long enough, you will run into a muddy plateau that you might feel will never end. Take courage in knowing that most of the business owners and entrepreneurs you know have all been there. Take a thoughtful approach, try some of the suggestions above, and be determined to continue going down that muddy trail. Your destination is further out, and you’re going to love the view.

Gabriel Gutierrez