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Business owners know that it takes a certain drive to bootstrap a company from the ground up. That’s why milestones mean so much more to entrepreneurs: The first sale, the first hire, the first $1 million, $10 million or $100 million in revenue. Achievements like these signify progress.
But when does good become “good enough?”
It took an extreme accident for me to realize I was coasting. After spending six years growing my business, I was run over by a truck and hospitalized, making it impossible for me to resume work with my construction crews. During my recovery, I realized my role as CEO had become something more like CBO (Chief Busy Officer). As long as I was “busy,” I assumed I was growing my business.
The truth, however, was that my business had plateaued. I had fallen into “good enough” mode. I was losing my edge as competitors encroached on my territory.
At a certain point, you must be able to identify when you’re coasting. To keep revenue growing, you must understand how and why apathy sets in and how to renew your motivation. Getting in my accident wasn’t fun, but it forced me to restart. Once I realized I was coasting, I started implementing new steps to systematize growth, and my revenues accelerated again.
When not to quit
The business world thrives on competition. If you’re just going through the motions, your competitors will likely take advantage of your stagnation and eventually outwit you. This can result in a business that seems good enough quickly becoming problematic. Too often, owners in these situations choose to sell rather than take the necessary steps to improve business.
Before giving in, however, business owners should interrogate whether or not they’re actually at an endpoint. A lack of drive can often be overcome by asking yourself the right questions.
- What are three ways we can grow? For many owners, the struggle is in pruning the list down to three. The real question will be why you’re not implementing these strategies already and how to overcome those obstacles to growth.
- What would we do if we lost the top 20% of our customers? If losing the biggest revenue generators for your business would spell disaster, it’s a strong indication that you need to diversify and expand your customer base. New products or services can make this kind of reduction survivable.
- What would I do if my expenses doubled? Go through your expenses, such as your advertising fees, office rent and labor and imagine how these payments might increase. It’s much harder to be satisfied with coasting when “good enough” becomes “not nearly enough.”
- What motivated me to start? Revisiting the early days of your business can sometimes reignite motivation. You may realize you’ve been operating according to an outdated script and need to reassess and more clearly define your objectives.
Related: Why Good Enough Isn’t Nearly Enough
Why we stick with “Good Enough”
Our minds work to keep us where we are to minimize risk. This bias toward comfort is directly at odds with the entrepreneurial mindset, where some risk is necessary to achieve our goals. This issue often worsens as we become more established and have more to lose, but it’s important to keep entrepreneurial risk tolerance alive.
That’s not to say you should buck caution entirely and risk everything for its own sake. Instead, try making multiple smaller bets on new revenue streams, marketing channels, or potential cost savings. Social media is one textbook example: it costs nothing to get started on most platforms, and content creation only costs as much as you’re willing to spend. Yet, business owners are still avoiding social media entirely, simply because business is already “good enough.”
A small risk in the form of time and energy can pay dividends in the future as your follower count grows. All it takes is the willingness to put yourself out there.
Getting to great
Breaking out of “good enough” mode will look different for every company. Headcount, industry, location and dozens of other factors all play a role. Business owners can start their journey toward lasting success by focusing on the strategies that matter most:
1. Build a plan. Innovation is key. Create a list of new products or services you can offer and a schedule for testing your ideas. Make a framework for testing by utilizing dummy ads with landing pages, paid surveys, or outreach to existing clients.
2. Create and test new sales channels. One of the key hallmarks of a coasting business is an overreliance on too few marketing channels. Entrepreneurs find something that works well early, go all-in and stop expanding. Don’t abandon what works, but start making those smaller risk decisions by trying out new marketing channels as well.
As mentioned earlier, social media can be very lucrative without much upfront cost. Businesses that already rely on digital channels can consider more old-school marketing methods, such as direct mail, flyers, trade shows and even door-to-door communications. Always test new methods of marketing to avoid being left behind.
3. Implement new technology. When was the last time you fully audited your tech stack? Your company may have been at the cutting edge of innovation when you launched, but tech changes rapidly. Third-party logistics companies can help streamline your business without taking your time away from core operations. We’re currently in a gold rush era for AI tools, but you need to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Consider new manufacturing processes that can help bring down costs and delivery times.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that entrepreneurship is a series of risks and hard decisions, but through this work, we experience the true rewards. By returning to that lean and hungry mentality you had at the start, you can gain a lasting edge.