What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your business right now? Is there an area where you’re stuck, spinning your wheels, procrastinating or failing to take action?
Running a business isn’t easy – it takes a massive amount of time and effort and requires a broad range of skills to get things off the ground. It’s easy to hit a roadblock in the early days or when you need to take the next step to grow your business. Confidence starts to drop or confusion sets in, swiftly followed by overwhelm or even panic. If you’re not sure what’s holding you back, ask yourself this question:
“If I didn’t have this problem, what would I be doing differently?”
Identifying the issue is the first step to getting over, around or through the obstacle. Here are seven common reasons for business-owners to get stuck, and some solutions that will hopefully help you to get going again.
You can have the perfect idea, write the perfect business plan, build the perfect website, but if you’re not prepared to get out there and spread the word about what you do and who you do it for you’ll end up with no clients and worse, no income. Fear of the unknown can hold us back, but fear of success can be equally daunting!
Solution: Develop your confidence
It’s normal to be nervous when you’re doing something new, and it’s common to lack confidence when it comes to promoting a fledgling business. Whether it’s publishing your first blog post or going to your first networking meeting, remember, the more you do it the easier it gets. Take every opportunity to tell people about your business and what you do. Practice on the person beside you in the post-office queue, the taxi driver, your hairdresser or the other parents at the school gate – you’ll get better at describing what you do, answering questions and building relationships within your network. Always carry your business cards with you – you never know who your next client might be.
Problem: You don’t know what to do
Confusion can be a real obstacle to progress. If you’re hopping from one project to another and getting distracted by every shiny new object, you’ll find it hard to make progress with your business plans.
Solution: Get clarity
Sit down and get really, really clear on what your business is about. Who is your ideal client? What problem do you help them solve? What value do you create for them? How do you deliver your product or service? What marketing strategy are you going to follow? What income target have you set? Get clear on your business goals for the next week, month, quarter and year. Write down what you plan to achieve, what steps to follow, what resources you’ll need (time, expertise, admin support, funding). Know where you’re going and what you need to do to get there.
Problem: You don’t know how to do it
Ok, so you’ve got clear on what you need to do, but now you’re stuck on how to do it! Sometimes it’s a case of ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and sometimes it’s a case of ‘we do know, but we don’t know how’.
Solution: Improve your knowledge/skill
From my own experience of launching and running my business, there is virtually nothing I’ve needed to know that I haven’t been able to learn on the Internet. From forum Q&As to YouTube videos, if I type my problem into Google I can usually find an answer, a tutorial or a cheat-sheet to point me in the right direction. Most software, from Autoresponders to WordPress, comes with extensive tutorials. If you’re spinning your wheels and not moving forward in your business, take some time to learn and add to your knowledge base. Even if you can’t do it yourself, at least you’ll know what needs to be done and can set about finding someone to do it.
Problem: You don’t know who to use to do it
Ok, so you’ve sussed you what you need and have a good idea of how to do it, but have decided it’s outside your comfort zone or beyond your technical abilities.
Solution: Ask your network
Personally I wouldn’t try to fix my car or service my central heating boiler, I’d pay an expert to do it for me. It’s the same with your business – there are times when you’ll need to invest in the expertise to get the job done. If the problem means your business is stalling and hiring some help would get you going again, then you’re making a genuine investment to help your business grow. Reach out to the people you know to get a recommendation. Post your problem on Facebook and Twitter and ask for help – sometimes the answer is simple (and free!). But remember to use due diligence and make sure the recommendation can provide the expertise and service that’s right for your business.
Problem: You don’t have enough time to do it all
Getting any project off the ground can take a massive amount of time – when it’s your business (and possibly your only source of income) stress levels can start to build up when you feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Solution: Increase your productivity
Be ruthless with the time you have available and make sure you’re using it to do the things that move you forward, not the stuff that keeps you stuck. Eliminate all distractions (Twitter, Facebook etc) and focus on one task at a time. Explore productivity apps like Evernote and Remember the Milk. Don’t confuse being busy with making progress – you won’t be able to do everything at once, so prioritise what needs to be done. Consider outsourcing routine tasks to sites like Fiverr, or ODesk, or draft in help from family and friends. And be just as ruthless with your non-business life, especially if you’re working from home. Set a timer and give yourself 30 minutes to sort the laundry, clear the kitchen etc., and make sure other members of the household are pulling their weight when it comes to domestic chores. Oh, and if your business is really important to you, quit watching TV. Time spent getting sucked into soap opera dramas could be better spent on writing a blog post or learning a new marketing technique.
Problem: I had a great idea but someone else is already doing it
Newsflash: you don’t need a unique idea to have a successful business. Walk down any High Street and you’ll see stores selling similar if not identical merchandise. What sets them apart isn’t what they offer, but how they offer it and who they offer it too. Set yourself apart from the competition by doing what you do differently, more effectively, more efficiently, more creatively or generally better than anyone else.
Solution: Start modelling
No I don’t mean prancing about in the latest fashions. Modelling is an NLP term, and basically means finding someone who’s already doing what you want to do, and is doing it really well, and then watching how they do it. If possible, get up close, ask them questions, mystery shop them, sign up for their newsletter, become a customer – do whatever it takes to figure out how they do what they do to be successful, and then adopt and adapt to your own business idea.
Problem: Giving up before you get a result
You know the score – you put time and effort into your idea but quit because you don’t see immediate results.
Solution: Develop your courage
Most people quit just before they’re about to have success (I’m sure there’s a name for this syndrome, but lets call it ‘I’ll-quit-while-I’m-behind’ for now). Stick with your idea and keep testing and refining your approach. Ask for feedback from your current clients – or better still, ask them what they need. What problems do they have, what solutions do they need, what would save them time, money or energy? You might find that what you’re offering isn’t quite what they’re looking for, but with a quick tweak it might be perfect. I’m not advocating flogging a duff idea here, but the saying ‘test fast and fail quickly’ is a good one to keep in mind as you launch and grow your business. Keep an eye on what the economy is doing, where the market is going and how your competitors are adapting to make sure you’re ready to make the most of new opportunities.
Have you got a favourite strategy you’ve used to overcome a problem and obstacle in your business? Leave a comment below and let me know what’s worked for you.