How to Build Business Momentum and Escape the ‘6-Figure Hamster Wheel’
You overcame the fear and launched your business. Working hard at it, you survived the dreaded first year in business. You’ve been in business for a couple of years now and the progress has been good so far.
But something seems to be going wrong.
Your growth was all okay until you got to the six-figure mark.
A slower pace now characterizes your progress. You’re not sure whether you still have a business momentum. Your employees are showing dissatisfaction and you’re getting discouraged.
Although everything is moving, you’re really not progressing.
What’s going on?
Seems like you’re riding a hamster wheel. And at the 6-figure mark, it is rightly called the 6-figure hamster wheel.
What do you do?
STEPS TO BUILDING BUSINESS MOMENTUM
Of all the ideas you may have had about your business, stalling was never one of them. It is just unthinkable.
Going by the far you have come, you can certainly avoid the infamous stagnation after considerable success.
Since there are bigger business than yours, you should be encouraged to realize that this is part of the process. Every business bigger than yours went through this stage.
You just have to know how to go past it rather than getting stuck in it.
To help you with this, here are some tips to implement in your business. You will have to implement them both at the individual and corporate levels.
1. Bring back your “WHY”.
It is very important to note that you have made it this far due to the synergy provided by various parties.
From your own belief in yourself and business idea, processes, employees and any other partnership you have formed.
And before you pull your hair off wondering how to get out of this hamster wheel, acknowledge the progress this far.
With the current success in view, ask yourself, “WHY did I start this business?”
As it happens with partnerships of any kind, there is a driving force.
There is that one thing which brings the different people together. In many cases, that is the reason the business exists in the first place.
Think about it. If someone approached you for a business partnership though you didn’t believe in his vision, would you partner with him?
Most likely you won’t.
Now that you have gotten to a point of discouraging stagnation, it’s time you checked again why you started. When things are getting tough, your reason for existence can keep you strong.
The reason why you started is the same reason that kept you going during the tough battles you fought on your way to six-figure revenues.
If you remind yourself and your employees this, then you will jump start the cold engines. Just give yourself, then your employees, the pep talk you gave at the beginning.
2. Focus on the short term.
With the reason for existence back in perspective, you need some strategy.
Your “WHY” can be referred to as your business vision and visions are normally big.
Unfortunately, a big dream can sometimes be so scary, especially in moments of low strength.
So what do you do?
Since you have come to a point of extremely slow growth (if at all there is any growth), break things down a bit.
Take that great vision and break it down. Go further than the mission statement you crafted. What you are aiming to do this time round is find out the least minimum you can do to generate some momentum.
Remember that momentum is simply movement.
But if the movement has significant strength or weight attached to it, then it becomes a massive force.
So don’t try to generate a massive force, just work on getting some movement.
If you are a car manufacturer and are stuck with no sales, have a meeting with your sales staff. Not to reprimand them for not bringing in more business, but for a change-of-strategy meeting.
What’s the big strategy change?
This may happen in different ways. One way is to stop chasing after new customers for cars and push for revenue through third parties.
Your sales and marketing teams can team up and work on creating awareness about the need for proper car maintenance.
They should market the servicing agents you have agreements with. The ones who buy parts from you.
This way, low car sales will be supplemented by high parts sale.
For your staff, the new strategy will be welcome. It will provide new motivation which will create action resulting to more revenue.
3. Check your work culture.
Obviously, the lack of growth has affected you and your staff. You may not have told them about it, but they noticed it. And they are talking about it.
The good thing about being the leader is that you have the opportunity to take charge of the situation.
If you fail to act, employees will start acting as they see fit. That can result in broken communication, less teamwork and worse end results.
One thing that is certain is that people are stressed out.
Some employees may be uncertain about the security of their jobs. Others may be getting affected by the pressures of not growing in their careers.
Such issues breed negative emotions and mindsets at the work place.
Some will be spelling doom for the company by claiming that it’s going down.
Others may lose the focus to work since they can’t see the fruit of their labor.
And the less they work, the more they will see the evidence of no fruit. Eventually, you will have a negative environment not fit for productivity.
There are at least two things you should quickly address:
- Employee attitude – the attitude of your staff will go a long way in determining how they respond to situations. With the wrong attitude, they will believe that all the effort is pretty useless. They will not see the need for it, thus do the work halfheartedly.
That is the last thing you want.
That will get you out of the hamster wheel cycle but not towards greater success. You will actually start losing all the ground you have covered this far.
Stemming this is key. Treat it as urgent and you will avoid unnecessary future firefighting.
As the leader, paint the picture in its reality. Then share a game plan for growth. You can schedule for meetings with individual departments and communicate the steps to be taken.
Remember to ask for opinions too so everyone feels that they are a part of the solution.
- Teamwork – since attitude is contagious, one person’s bad attitude will spread to others. And the worst thing about it is that it tends to divide rather than unite.
A bad attitude works like gossip. Somewhere in your business will be someone working hard to maintain a positive attitude.
And with opposing negativity around, people will be split along certain lines. You will no longer have the teamwork which brought you six-figure revenues.
Get your teams together. You can have a management meeting with your HODs and direct them to check on their teams. When everyone is reading from the same page of “we’ll get out of this together,” you have a strong force to push forward with.
This comes down to communication. Communication must be prompt before anyone starts spreading alarmist news. And it should also be fact-based.
Do not lie to your employees if things are tough. Trust them with the truth and let them participate in building the solution.
4. Find the bottleneck in your processes.
You’ve gotten your “WHY” in perspective. You’ve set smaller goals and your work culture is back in shape. It’s now time to check your business processes.
Your business is made up of systems and every system has a bottleneck. It’s just a matter of identifying it.
Your bottleneck is more evident now that you are finding it difficult to achieve more productivity. It should therefore be easier to identify it compared to attempting the same when all is well.
During this period of building momentum for your business, you will have to be very involved. Maybe even in-person inspection of how the actual work is being done by the various departments.
If you are a manufacturer, the production process is a common culprit. If a retailer, check your customer service and marketing processes.
Whatever business you’re doing, check to see that there is maximum efficiency in all areas.
- Have your production machines become too old and in need of replacement? Maybe major servicing?
- Is the ERP system you’re using unable to support improved ways of doing business?
- Are your employees feeling motivated enough to give their all?
- Is your communication policy not allowing important feedback to reach top management for prompt and necessary action?
The process of identifying your bottlenecks may take some time.
Still, commit to doing it faithfully as a team. Every department should participate in this task.
Having communicated the need for moving forward as a team, everyone should consider this an opportunity for improvement.
As the feedback pours in, critically analyze it and as a team, decide on which changes should be prioritized.
Where there are replacements to be made, finances should be availed. Where it’s a matter of a change of mindset, that should be embraced.
Just keep the goal ringing in everyone’s mind: you are all moving towards success together. When it’s clear that everyone stands to benefit, it becomes easier for people to put in the required effort.
5. Are you still motivated?
Motivation is the next thing to build. And if you have followed these steps in the order listed, you may have noticed motivation levels already improving.
This comes from the reminder of what drove you to start and what made your partners (including your employees) to join you.
And with the improved work environment and bottlenecks sorted, the fuel tank is almost full.
It’s time to power up the engine.
Your motivation in anything from business to life is primarily determined by two things:
- Your desire to obtain something – when you have a strong desire to obtain something, you work towards it with all your heart. This is what passion is. You have a goal in mind and its attainment cannot be stopped by anything.
In many cases, the motivation behind work is not always money or wealth accumulation. The motivation driving you is usually bigger than that. This applies to your employees too. Here is a breakdown of some factors employees gave as motivators.
Some employees are really looking for encouragement and they will stay around in loyalty.
Others want an opportunity to satisfy customers while others just want to make a difference.
These are the same things which they seek to do every day. These are their personal goals. They may also be the goal your business seeks to achieve.
The goal may be personal or for the community.
Goals impacting the lives of many are usually stronger. However, personal goals can also generate a lot of determination.
For example, if you were brought up poor, you may be determined to become rich so as to avoid poverty.
Such a personal goal can wake you up in the night and get you thinking hard how to succeed.
When others in school were studying casually, you probably spent all your free time in the library.
This was your motivation. You were determined to become rich. And now in business, the same drive can get you working harder than everyone else.
- Your fear of losing something – this is the opposite side of the coin whose other side is the desire to achieve. In the business world, there may be more to gain than to lose since everyone is looking for more customers, revenue, expansion etc.
But taking a closer look at your business success this far, you will notice a real fear staring down at you. What is that fear? The potential loss of your customers.
The customers you have acquired so far with so much effort can be lost in no time if the competition acts before you do.
Fear by itself is a strong emotion and when you use it well, it can work for you.
If you treasure your efforts this far, then you need to protect the results of those efforts. Note that the competition is constantly looking for a way of reducing your market share.
You may have to choose what will drive your motivation.
With an understanding of your employees, you can also choose what to use in your motivation talks to them.
You can also have a mix of both desire and fear. The more powerful your choice, the better the results.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar
The fact that your team’s motivation is currently low is evidence that the above quote is true.
Motivation needs to be fanned as often as daily. Maybe even hourly since the number of distractions is always increasing.
To help staying motivated, consider doing the below three simple things:
- Affirm yourself – the best motivation is that which comes from within. This is more long-lasting since the source is under your control. It is like the renewable sources of energy which the world is seeking to turn to—the likes of solar and wind instead of coal.
But just as anything valuable comes at a price, so does this renewable source of motivation. You have to work on it by yourself. Yes, someone may affirm you.
Your colleagues, spouse, friends etc. but unless you truly believe in yourself, their affirmations may yield little.
When you get to know and value your strengths and become comfortable with who you are, you become immovable. You understand that you have what it takes to achieve what you want.
That is when your confidence gets a real boost.
If you wake up in the morning knowing you are a victor, challenges will become opportunities. Opportunities to prove to those challenges that you are bigger than they are.
And that is the spirit of an entrepreneur.
- Communicate positively – believing in yourself has a remarkable effect on you. You not only value yourself but also start valuing others. Furthermore, understanding that you need others to use their strengths to cover for your weaknesses, you’ll want to build them up.
This automatically makes you communicate with others the same way you communicate to yourself. Since affirmations are positive, you cannot be affirming yourself but putting others down.
So this is a natural result of the above step. All the same, you need to do it consciously.
Communicating positively will instantly turn you into a popular and valuable asset. Not just in your business, but also in other people’s lives.
People will love you because you make them believe in themselves and encourage them towards higher personal goals.
Specifically for the hamster wheel situation, motivated employees will put in the effort required to get things rolling towards the next level—7-figure revenues.
That is the next stage of growth you should be aiming at.
- Surround yourself with positive and motivated people – this is a must, especially when you are just started in motivating yourself to move forward. Just as your motivation can get others moving, so can others’ motivation impact you.
Do not struggle looking for great motivational speakers, though nothing is wrong with that. As long as you have a network of positive friends, they can also do.
Moreover, these will provide the benefit of face-to-face interactions.
Do not despair seeing that your business is not progressing. Just get things in order.
Remove the bottlenecks you identified.
Keep reminding yourself of the “WHY.” And with constant motivation defining your work culture, you will be on your way up.
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