It happens to every small business owner. There’s a day, a week, a month, even longer, when you’re just disillusioned by your business. It can come from a streak of no sales, a customer returning a product, a bad review, a poor investment, and sometimes it can even come from not being able to keep up with the demand. Disillusionment strikes when something about your business just isn’t as you expected it to be.
If you’re starting – or have been – feeling this way, there are a few steps you can take to reinvigorate your love of your business:
- Step back for a while. I know this may seem counterintuitive, but taking some much-needed time off from your business can be exactly what you need for a fresh perspective, to avoid burn-out, and just rejuvenate.
- DO NOT FEAR CHANGE. One of Albert Einstein’s many famous quotes is: “The definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviors and expecting different outcomes.” This philosophy absolutely needs to apply to your business. Analyze and evaluate what needs to change – and your guts will usually guide you – then take small steps to move in that direction. Let me not kid you, change is tough (I’ll write about that in another blog), but, like the phoenix, we must rise from our ashes to begin again.
- Check your timing and environment. If you’re not making the sales you want, or the customers seem to be walking by, consider the planning of your activities. When are you sending out newsletters? When are you running sales? Are you choosing fairs after the holiday season? Reevaluate when people spend money on your products and vow to give it your full juice during that time period. Also evaluate the fairs you’re vending – are they serving your market? Is it well advertised?
- Reevaluate your product line. As a small business, we’re not the big guys in blue – your goal is probably not to be a one-stop-shop for everything. Slim down your product line to make managing your inventory easier and focusing on your target market a clearer objective. Offering too many products can be overwhelming for customers, as well.
- Invest in better marketing. This is not the same as taking out ads. I’m talking about quality packaging, professional photos, a beautiful and coordinated display, shelf-talkers, post-cards. You want materials that people walk away with and are “wowed” by. Get yourself some cool brand swag, and even grab some swag to give away!
- Survey your customers. We can’t always see what’s right in front of us when we’re so personally invested in our business, which is why I recommend creating a survey for your current customers. Ask them their opinions about your products, your service, your marketing – offer them an incentive like a discount or free gift to get people to take the time to take the survey. Use this new information to make changes to your business.
- Be your own customer for a day. Go through the whole process of introducing your brand to yourself through making a purchase. What is your elevator pitch? What problem are you solving? What is your brand story? How easy is it to navigate a purchase? Shipping? Customer service? You will be your own harshest critic and you can use this information to make your business run smoothly.
- Find the passion in your brand. Whether you’re selling caskets or vacations to Disney World, you must have a passion for your brand in order to truly sell it to someone else. Think back to why you originally started in your business – was it a favorite product you used or made? A mission that the company has (whether it’s your company or a direct sales company)? The empowerment you feel by owning a small business? Find your passion, write it down, and look at it every day.
- Be honest about your presentation. Check your social media presence, your website, your blog – is everything going well and aesthetically how you want it to be? Are you using hashtags to attract your customers? Are you participating in groups that will better serve your needs?
- Check yourself. Are you projecting your disappointment to new customers? Do you sit during fairs and not engage customers? Are you not listening to the needs of your current customers? When you’re not enjoying that business, sometimes we allow that to trickle down. We have to have “dog-mind” when it comes to customers, meaning we need to live in the present moment and not bring in our own baggage to the table. Keep your whining to yourself (or your business network). One great way to make OTHER people disillusioned by your business is to complain about your business. Yes it’s hard, yes it takes work, yes it’s exhausting, but showing that face to the world just makes you less appealing to purchase from.
- Too much, too soon? Did you start your business a few months ago and you’re expecting thousands of dollars in sales? At my first fair, I barely made back my $150 table. I was so disappointed, but I knew I was the new kid on the block and no one had heard of me before. Keep pushing forward, touch base with any contacts you made and forge ahead.
- Build your network. Whether it’s expanding your customer base or signing up for a business network, building a business lies greatly in who you know. Your friends and family will only go so far, but once you get your name recognized by other people in a network, they will spread that information. Invest some time and some money by joining local and product-based networks. At the very least, you will have a sounding board of people who are in the same boat.
- Ask for help. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is thinking they can do everything themselves. You can’t or you will burn out. Whether you need to outsource for help, or you need someone to give you honest criticism, ask for the help and listen to sound advice from people with expertise.
- Know when to call it quits. This may be an extremely tough decision, and one that should certainly come with lots of thought, but if nothing is invigorating you for your business again, then start planning an exit strategy. This should be a slow process that informs your customers, gives you time to sell off your inventory and materials, and either pass on the reigns to a buyer or close completely. Do not make this decision lightly, and be sure you have given it your best shot first – a successful small business doesn’t happen overnight (just think of all the people on ABC’s Shark Tank).