You’ve been in business for a while and seem to have found your groove. Customers are responding favorably to the lines and services you’re offering, and revenues have been good. Now that things have started to stabilize and become consistent, you might find yourself feeling stagnant and looking around for the next big challenge. The key to working through this hurdle is to find ways to shake things up without derailing the train.
Here are eight things to do when your business becomes stagnant and you want create inspiration for yourself and your team:
1. Give your employees time to be creative.
Allow your employees time each week to explore the Web and to work on side projects that, potentially, could have a positive impact on their careers. Whether they are interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of your business, or perhaps working as a DJ or a performing musician, encourage them to keep on the lookout for any ideas that might have a positive impact on your store.
Any staffer, ranging from a customer service representative to a key salesperson, might stumble upon a business blind spot. When this happens, make sure he or she feels your gratitude. That person will love going to work even more when he or she feels like a valued part of the company.
2. Survey your customers.
Most stores only do this when they see a sales slump. It’s a good idea to enact a survey policy and perform them on a regular basis. Customers feel appreciated when you ask for feedback, and you’ll likely get some valuable ideas that will help you enhance many aspects of your business.
3. Do more to get your name out there.
If you have a retail store, think about PR strategies that will help get your name out in the community. For instance, what about sponsoring a local community marching band, or becoming the official provider of their accessories, sheet music or other relevant products?
If schools or installations are your focus, then find ways to create relationships where you can offer member discounts, or provide access to relevant opportunities like free clinics or training.
4. Offer value but conserve time.
Think about ways you can offer more value that won’t cost you more time. To seed your lesson program, how about creating a series of self-study video courses for beginners? Work with a few of your teachers to record beginner instructional videos and promote them through your social-media pages, YouTube channel and the new relationships that you’re creating. This one-time investment will generate new students and lesson revenue repeatedly, with very little ongoing maintenance.
5. Take a break.
Renowned for his album covers, posters and writings, designer Stefan Sagmeister famously closes his design firm once every seven years. His entire staff takes off a full year. He understands that sabbaticals provide a way to recharge so that entrepreneurs can develop their next big idea.
It’s probably unrealistic to take a full year off, but a company-wide sabbatical could be held for a week. For this to be a successful experiment, however, be sure to give employees guidelines for approaching this break as unstructured creative time that will contribute to the company’s well-being.
6. Connect with people in different industries.
If you run a music store, partner with an auto sound retailer. If you’re the founder of a music school, have a set of life coaches talk with your teachers. The point of this is to allow yourself to be curious about a different set of people than the ones with whom you normally interact. You don’t necessarily have to do something with this partnership. However, bringing together two groups of people from different industries to talk about what they do is bound to spark some inspiration.
7. Keep up with your competitors on a regular basis.
Stagnation can affect a variety of areas within your business. It’s equally important to look past your four walls and remember to keep an eye on the competition to see what they’re up to. There is nothing more disturbing than to find out that you’ve been completely out of the loop when a competitor makes a big splash in your community.
If you find yourself behind the eight ball, take the time to assess what they’ve done and how it might affect your business. Did they add similar products or services? What’s now making them more appealing to customers? What do you have to do to level the playing field? Nothing stops stagnation better than seeing the competition pass you by.
8. Use technology to your advantage.
With the abundance of Wi-Fi connections available, it’s not difficult to stay connected wherever you are. Although you might need to cover the sales floor, there will be times where it will be in your best interest to get away (see #5). Being in a different environment will ignite new ideas, refresh your attitude and, possibly, prompt you to interact with different people.
Use technology to help you stay connected and to keep abreast of trends and competitors. Things change too quickly for you just to sit there and relax. In order to succeed, you need to be constantly on your toes and remain fully aware. Use Google Alerts and Analytics to analyze which products and Web pages are doing well. This will help you tweak your business with proven information. And, best of all, it’s free.
The main advantage to incorporating new technology into your workflow is that it’ll save you time. Now, you can use those extra hours thinking about new ways to expand your business and serve your customers.
When you create a company culture that embraces thinking differently, this belief permeates every position within the business. Most of the ideas don’t cost a thing, and they could be easily implemented with some advance planning. When you take the time to pay attention to how you and your company innovate, it helps ameliorate the forces of stagnation.
David Hall is Vice President – Sales & Marketing for Cutting-Edge Solutions. Their eCommerce products, The Generator and Pro-Active Websites, are utilized by leading vendors and retailers within the music products industry. Contact him at email@example.com.