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Productivity / Growth

Beware the plateaus, embrace the hills

When you get to a place in your business life where you’re just cruising along it might seem like a nice place to be. But plateaus contain hidden dangers and the only way to avoid them is to get out of your comfort zone.

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Much like the travels that you may have taken as a wide-eyed backpacker fresh out of school or university, your business journey has likely had many ups and downs; moments of pure exhilaration interspersed with times where you’ve been so tired you didn’t think you could go on. If that business journey was an actual hike, it’s likely that at one point you’d have screamed to yourself “not another hill!” as you gazed up at a lofty peak unsure as to whether your weary legs could carry you any further.

Although the comparisons between the worldly adventures of youth and the relatively less physically taxing pursuits of running a business might seem a bit abstract in one sense, they contain a truism that I’ve seen time and time again. That is: “The greatest rewards come from the journey itself”. Or, perhaps more precisely, from within the extra effort required to drag yourself up and over the “hill”.

Over my 18 years in business I can’t tell you how often the simple question “How’s business?” has been met with responses like “we’re cruising along OK” or “it’s a bit quiet right now” or even “it’s OK but would be a lot better if the government would…”.

"The plateau is a place where complacency rules, where creativity drains away and where your competitors smell metaphorical blood."

Seems to me those businesses may be meandering comfortably along a plateau – a place from which, unless proactive measures are taken, the most likely direction is downhill. The plateau is a place where complacency rules, where creativity drains away and where your competitors smell metaphorical blood.

If you have the sense that your business may be plateauing then it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and take action. In other words, search out and embrace your own personal hill. What the heck, why not make it a mountain!!

Want more articles like this? Check out the growth section.

A few ideas that might help

  1. Shake things up! As the owner of the business, you are in the driver’s seat. It’s time to work on your own mindset as that will have direct flow-on effects for your business. Read a positive book, take up yoga – do anything that improves your headspace!
  2. Keep learning. Study a short course, join your local Toastmasters club or a networking group. Challenge yourself.
  3. Get a plan – once you’ve recognised that you have plateaued, you need a plan to move forward. If planning isn’t your forte, seek out the input of experienced people who have been there and done it themselves (even if you have to pay for the advice).
  4. Set a stretch target – whether it be a sales target or an activity target, aim for a result that is marginally beyond what ‘normal’ looks like for you. Then, let your creative juices flow in coming up with ways to achieve it. What we are looking for is to develop a culture of winning – one small win after another.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people – I’ve heard it said that your attitude is the average of those of the five people you spend the most time with. Your attitude is one of the most vital ingredients of success in business. Protect it!

And I’ll see you on top of that hill.

What do you think? Is a plateau a nice place to be in business? Or is it a sign of a dangerous dip to come?

Geoff Daniel

is the Principal Consultant at Thexton Armstrong Daniel in Melbourne. He specialises in hands-on, practical steps to business success. When it comes to business, two heads are better than one! Connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+

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