Stuck in Neutral? Get Off the Revenue and Profit Plateau

Do you wake up and think “what do I have to do today?” or do you jump out of bed, eager to make a difference? This week’s ideas are for those who want to make a difference.After 6, 10, 15 years or more, your company is solid. And yet, it is likely stuck on a revenue and profit plateau–you know, the top and bottom lines that don’t budge year after year. You’ve got steady and reliable clients and customers, your operations are working well, your finances are solid. So, what can you do that will push sales and profits up and get you off the plateau?

What Causes Plateaus?

There are three primary causes of plateaus. Before you can climb you need to recognize these in your businesses.

  1. Your expertise. After all these years, you’ve built up a huge body of knowledge, and you know how to keep track of changes in the industry or in relevant regulations. It has become a habit, a part of your identity, and it’s hard to imagine not keeping it up.
  2. Knowing your customers. By the time you hit the plateau, you’ve had many clients and customers for a long time. They seem to you to stay the same, and you have confidence that you know them completely.
  3. Working in your business. Owners with many years of experience are no different than those with only a few; they still have a hard time not working in the day-to-day nitty gritty that keeps a company going. They have meetings with various departments, read reports and financials, respond to the more challenging customers issues and needs, and talk to bankers, CPAs and lawyers. Even with delegating, the day-to-day consumes your attention.

These three closely related causes lead to one result: nothing new comes in, or is created, or goes out, because everything is focused on what you’re currently doing. If you don’t do anything new or different, you won’t get new and different results.

Why Do They Cause Plateaus?

Not talking to customers and clients: When you think you know your customers—really know them—you stop wondering what you don’t know. What has changed, what’s more important than it used to be, what are they fed up with and how could you help?

I’ve seen vastly different companies make assumptions about customers and clients, rather than actually talking to them and asking them what else is going on. What’s important to them, what would make a difference in their experiences, or the value of the services they purchase? Clients and customers experience life changes just like everyone else does and talking to them from time to time is business development of the best kind.

Expertise overwhelms imagination and creativity. Expertise certainly gives you credibility and reassures your clients and customers. It is expected. It’s easy for an expert to gain more expertise. It’s your “sweet-spot” and feels solid and meaningful. But when expertise overwhelms imagination and creativity, you find yourself living completely within those boundaries. Nothing new gets in or out. Thus, the plateau.

While imagination and creativity are the paths to getting off the plateau, it can be uncomfortable. It definitely takes more time and energy. It means you won’t have expertise to rely on. But that’s where growth comes from! Take small chances (Tinker) and look around you, outside your industry, to adapt or adopt other practices and ideas.

Letting go feels very risky. Remember when you started your company? You had an idea and weren’t sure if anyone would buy it. You knew your subject but didn’t know much about running a business. You worried about money, about getting everything done and still having a life. That was risky! At 6, 10 or 15 years, you’ve minimized or are managing most of your risks.

Getting off the plateau and making your primary responsibility about the future is not risky. It requires a change of habits and of mindset, yes. Those are not risks either. You can figure it out.

If You Want to Make a Difference

I often advise owners to tackle the causes of plateaus, one at a time. Try broadening your expertise or talking to your customers and clients or making an absolute commitment to get one daily management task off your schedule. Each one could take a month or three. That’s fine if you track your actions and keep moving forward. No backtracking!

Getting off the plateau is critical to increasing the value of your company and your owner wealth. Do you know that two of the three key factors in company valuations are earnings and growth? Plateaus bring the value down. Climbing revenues and profits drive the value up. Which would you like to see?

If you’re ready to get off the plateau and know you really won’t do it yourself, give us a call. We’ll talk about your goals and what makes sense for your company. We can do as little as a simple plan to get you started, or as much work with you as needed to write and execute a complete plan for growth. 703-801-0345.

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