My big fear as a businessman over the last 30 years is of losing control of the situation, particularly when it is in an area that I don’t fully understand. Not because I couldn’t understand the issue; it just happens to be something that hasn’t happened before and that therefore I don’t have any experience of.
I know I’m not alone in this. Anyone who has taken the plunge to start or invest in a business wants to stay in control. Unfortunately problems have a habit of coming along from time to time, often through no fault of your own, and can often be issues in areas where you have the least expertise. In this situation, it’s easy to ignore the problem. You can’t deal with it yourself and you don’t know someone that you trust enough that can deal with it for you.
But that is the very worst thing you can do. Below are five key warning signs that your business could be heading into trouble. Are you experiencing any of them?
- Sales pipeline looking increasingly thin
- Losing key customers
- Time increasingly spent dealing with cash flow issues
- Behind with PAYE and VAT
- Problem with the finance provider
It can be very difficult to look at the bigger picture when you are in the middle of running your business. If you were instrumental in developing what was a successful business model five years ago, it may be hard to recognise that this isn’t the best model today.
It also isn’t easy keeping up with what is happening in the broader environment that we all work in, other than maybe catching up on the TV news when you get in from work. If you just take the global economy and technology alone, they have changed beyond all recognition in the last five years.
But the first step in dealing with any issue is recognising that it exists. So, the one thing you have to do when you think there is a problem with your business is this: Do Something!
Make it a priority to take some time, step back and maybe get away from the business for a day or so. Take a long hard look at all the issues and how they have affected your existing model. Consider how the market has changed and how you can adjust your offering to be of value to customers, both now, and in the future
And, as in all areas of life, obstacles can be opportunities. Dealing with an issue head-on can lead to any number of changes that will not only solve that problem, but will also improve your business.
So, don’t be afraid to address the issues head on. If you want to ensure your business survives and has a sustainable future, remember these points:
- Don’t bury your head in the sand
- Take a pro-active look at your business and the environment you’re operating in
- Use the problem as a springboard; reorganise to not only rescue and stabilise your business in the short term, but also to improve your profitability and to build a sustainable future
- Find out where you can obtain trusted support and advice; getting an impartial look at the issues allows you to stay in control.
Remember there is no shame in seeking help with a problem, only in ignoring it.
Have you got any advice about addressing business problems early on? We’d be delighted to hear your comments below.