What do you do when your revenue goes flat … AND NOTHING YOU TRY WORKS?
After 6 startups and 33 years as a serial entrepreneur, with the past 16 years leading small business turnarounds, I have watched a familiar pattern repeat itself. What I’m about to share with you is through the lens of fellow CEO and through the heart of a marketplace Pastor. Connecting the dots between business, purpose, success and faith is my calling, and while I spend one day of the week in the pulpit, the rest of my time is spent in trenches of the marketplace doing battle together with CEOs.
You’ve worked really hard to build your company and are now enjoying some of the well deserved rewards of success like having the resources to do more for your employees (the other family), the ability to build your business and personal cash reserves, buying that nice house for your family, going on better vacations, funding a college education or two for your kids, and perhaps you’ve even treated yourself to some stuff you didn’t need but always wanted. And why not … you deserve the rewards … isn’t it after all why you started your company? The risks vs. rewards thing.
Enter TROUBLE. The trouble with trouble is that it is inevitable. We’re always in one of three life stages:
- In a crisis.
- Coming out of a crisis.
- Everything is just fine, but unbeknownst to you, you are headed right for a crisis.
Trouble comes in many flavors, but in business, a biggie is flat revenue. It all starts with a bad month. No problem you’ve had them before, right? As the fearless leader you give your team the “we can do better” speech. Then it happens again. And then again. You get a gut feeling that something is very wrong but you don’t know what. Then you pull out your “you’d better do better speech … or else”. You’ve shared the worry, everyone is officially freaked out.
First slowly and then suddenly … your revenue stalls out. FULL PANIC MODE.
It’s at this stage of stuck when I most often get introduced to the CEO of the troubled company. Like a doctor, I specialize. Fixing revenue is my thing. I love it. The cause is predictable, a broken customer acquisition system. When sales revenue falls flat … the responsible culprit is rarely a single source, rather it’s a symphony of marketing/sales funnel cogs that must be identified, redeveloped and reset. Four big connected areas are digital marketing, sales, talent and technology.
When something that was working stops working, the cause is almost always due to technology and buyer journey shifts. A client of mine calls it the “amazon effect”.
Leading turnarounds is not for everyone. People tend to be pretty cranky under to the weight of thin margins or operating in the red. Until the problem is fixed, we’re burning through shrinking resources. Not good. We are pressed by all sides. Egos, turfs and identities are threatened. Bombs continue to explode while we are at work. Shrapnel hits everywhere and everyone. All hands on deck. It’s 24/7 war … and I love it. I was made for this.
I like the pressure. The risk. The challenge. All of it. This is literally my calling.
I am the Co-Founder/CEO of a faith-based entrepreneurial accelerator in Los Angeles called CanaGlobal. Our mission is to activate marketplace influencers and changemakers into their purpose by connecting the dots between business, purpose success and faith.
For me the turnaround is spiritual. God brings me a CEO that He is getting ready to do something with. God has allowed some adverse circumstances to manifest at the CEO’s business to capture his/her attention. When life gets uncomfortable, people start looking for a comforter. That’s not me, I’m only the sherpa (the guide).
The Predictable Turnaround
For me, creating predictable revenue is less art and more science. In a turnaround the mission is clear:
- Expose and eradicate the problem sources.
- Develop and execute a strategy to grow efficient, predictable revenue, FAST.
Let’s start with the two problems I focus on:
- The Big Problem in the industry that you are out to solve.
- And then the problem inside your business that is preventing you from solving the industry’s Big Problem.
Most likely your biggest industry problem/solution has evolved, but your solution and entire customer acquisition system has not. So you’re getting left behind. What’s changed? Technology shifts have affected what solutions buyers want, AND how they want to buy (the buyer journey). If you don’t adjust to the shift, your revenue dips severely.
So why don’t you just adjust?
The “old way” baggage is embedded deep into every nook and cranny of marketing and sales thinking. And it is very difficult to eradicate even when exposed. Too many sacred cows when egos, turfs and identities are threatened. Beyond reason, people still love “how they like to sell” even when customers “no longer like to buy that way”.
This requires a BIG shift in thinking AND IF the CEO doesn’t adjust his/her thinking, neither will the team responsible for the doing.
The Valley of Innovation
Yea though I walk through the valley of … Innovation. In EVERY valley that I have ever experienced in my own companies and with clients … opportunities arise. Miss them and God has a way of allowing a repeat class. Yikes.
Faith Innovation: Whether you know it or not, God has big plans for CEOs. He has a plan and purpose for you, right where you are, right now. So easy to miss this! The question is, if you are stuck and God’s offering help, would you take it? It’s in these seasons, the valleys, that I have seen so many CEOs get activated into a deeper purpose. Many are surprised to learn that God knows more about their business and industry than they do. Creativity and innovation come from God. In EVERY business I have founded and EVERY turnaround that I have led, it is God that has given me the ideas that produced the solution. When I get stuck, it’s God that gives me the ideas and solutions to innovate and grow. For many years I never gave God credit. I was embarrassed to tell other business people that my best ideas came from God. This is Biblical promise that I’ve tapped into many times. Obviously I grown past being shy about my faith.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
Business Innovation: Every problem is really an opportunity for innovation. I see the problem as a flashing warning light that it’s time innovate and grow. I have a business principle that I live by, TDR. It stands for Think. Do. Results. — let me break it down.
- Think — we all have a way of thinking, good or bad.
- Do — our current thinking produces a way of doing, good or bad.
- Results — our doing produces a result, good or bad.
When my results fail me, I know it’s time to innovate my thinking. For whatever reason (pride and ego) CEOs aren’t quick to do this. I’ve been stubborn about this many times. But when I’ve had enough failure … I give in.
Think about this … if your VERY BEST THINKING has produced unacceptable results, why continue to defend it. Innovate.
Rethink. Reset. Relaunch.