I was having coffee with a business owner last week. He was describing some of the challenges he
was facing. He wrapped up his litany with the words, “Running my business just isn’t fun anymore.”
Many business owners know the feeling. The stress and frustration of running a business can outweigh the joy and freedom you wanted when you started your company. You feel like you’re trapped in a bad relationship. What do you do?
Some owners find a business consultant; but often they don’t fix the problem. They acknowledge you have a problem, and suggest a course of action, but the bottom line is that you have to fix it.
Before sinking a lot of money into professional help, try some of these tactics to inject fun and new energy into your business.
- Figure out what’s going on.
It can be hard to identify exactly what’s going on with your business when you’re so close to the problem. These questions may help:Has there been a drop in new customers? An increase in costs? A decrease in quality? Are more shipments late? Whatever the case, don’t blame sales or manufacturing. That will only make the problem worse because your employees will feel blamed and anxious. Fixing blame ignores the underlying issues. Instead, find the cause. You need to figure out, with the help of your people, what’s really going on.
- Accept responsibility. Chances are your problems didn’t happen overnight. Bad businesses, like good ones, are built, maintained and encouraged. To fix a problem you have to look at how you contributed to it, and then do something about it.
- Stop self-sabotage.
People are strange. And one of the strangest things we sometimes do is unknowingly ensure our own failure. We think something is “too good to be true,” so we engineer its failure to demonstrate we’re in control. When things are going well, we create problems just to liven things up. Take a step back and dare to ask yourself, “Are you the reason why business isn’t fun anymore?”
Here are some ways to change things for the better:
- Create new relationships.
Now you’re ready to add a little fun to your business again. Try creating new relationships, finding new ways to serve people you’ve worked with before, or practicing new approaches to working with people.
- Make it a brainteaser.
People who start businesses enjoy the thrill of the chase, the creative process of putting the pieces together, and the rewards that come from figuring things out.
Initiate a new program.Cut out a stagnant product line. Start a new division, or set up a satellite plant. Step away from the desk and get back in the trenches. Get out of your head—spend some work or play time doing something entirely different. Take a class or learn something new and apply it to your business.
- Make it a point to go above and beyond customer service expectations.
An example of this is was the time a Zappos customer ordered several pair of shoes for her mother. Only two pairs fit, but before the others could be returned her mother passed away. The family never got around to sending the shoes back. A couple weeks later an email arrived from Zappos asking about the shoes. A sad daughter emailed Zappos explaining that her mother had passed away and while they still had the shoes, they no longer had the return labels and would try to find them and deliver them to a UPS outlet.
Imagine her surprise the next day when a florist delivered a big basket of fragrant white lilies, roses and carnations; the card was signed “With Sympathy, Zappos”. They also sent an email saying they would send a UPS truck at no charge to the family to pick up the shoes. Think that woman ever bought shoes from anyone else? Probably not.By finding new ways to delight customers, you build life-long buyers. Show your customers you care, treat them like royalty and cater to their feelings. Give them “Moments of Magic” that they can brag about.
If none of these ideas excites you, try looking for a job in the want-ads. That should remind you of why you started your business and why working for yourself is so much better than “working for the man.”