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Kenneth W. Keller: How to carry your business through a slump

Inside Business

Posted: June 16, 2009 3:18 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2009 3:16 p.m.
 

Every business owner hits a slump from time to time. You might be in one now — or you might be just emerging from one — or starting to feel one coming on. The key to dealing with it is to do so in a manner that will benefit you when you come out of it.

Sometimes a slump is caused by your actions. But slumps also can be created by forces beyond your control. Today we often use “the economy,” as the outside force responsible for what is happening. Maybe nothing has happened except that you are tired and burned out; many business owners work too long and too hard, making an effort cannot be sustained indefinitely.

A slump can develop when we grow tired — not of the work, but tired of the sameness of the job. With nothing to challenge us, nothing new and exciting, doing the mundane will slowly draw us into a period of reduced energy, lack of focus and less caring about what we do.

How do you deal with a slump? The first step is to recognize that you are in one. Many owners don’t want to look in the mirror and face the reality that things aren’t going as well as they once were, or as well as they could be.

It would be better for you if you faced the facts: Things aren’t where you want them to be. Tell yourself: “I am in a slump.” The more you say it, the more you will accept where you are, mentally and physically.

When people go into a slump, it is like being physically ill with the flu or a bad cold. You feel some symptoms, you tell yourself that you are just imagining things. Then, before you know it, you are ill beyond belief. While you might try to continue to function normally, your production is low; and in the end, probably not worth the trouble of doing. When you get this ill, it is hard to remember what it feels like to be well.

The recovery is seldom quick. It takes days, and sometimes weeks, to get back to being normal.

The help to fight a slump can come from two sources — from inside of us or from an outside agent. Most people grow tired of being a slump, decide that they will no longer be a victim of their own actions or outside forces such as the economy, and put together a plan to implement changes in what they do and how they do it.

Others need an outside agent to get jump-started. Often this force is something fearful; most people will go to great lengths to avoid pain.

Don’t fight the fact that you are in a slump; accept it for what it is: a short-term condition that will pass if you take the right course of action to turn things around. The question is, what is the right course of action?

When a ship comes out of a storm, the captain and navigator reorient the ship to determine where it currently is, and where the destination is. Knowing those two things, they make a decision about the course to take, and then they start moving in that direction.

All the while they are making sure the ship is seaworthy, the most basic element of seamanship.

And so it is with being a business owner in a slump. Go back to the basics. Start practicing the fundamentals, those things that first made your business a success. Since you already know where you are, the next logical step is to establish a destination for yourself.

Make it measurable and achievable. Work hard, but work smarter.

Kenneth Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

 

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