You Can Overcome a Growth Roadblock…Or Let It Define You
We’ve all run into roadblocks, in life, and business. Roadblocks stop us from getting to where we want to go. They prevent us from moving in the direction we were headed, and in your small business, that means the growth track you were on. But like with highway roadblocks, you have a choice. You can find an alternative route around the roadblock…or you could just not proceed until the roadblock is removed.
We most always think of roadblocks as external, like the highway roadblock brought about by nature or others. Essentially, out of our control. Yet, many of the really impactful roadblocks in our lives and business are brought about by our own actions.
In business, roadblocks can be either external or internal. Either way, you need to identify and resolve the roadblocks that you have to overcome or remove them to effect the changes necessary to get back on or stay on your growth track.
First, let’s talk about external roadblocks.
External roadblocks are things that occur in the environment around your business that seriously impact or even stop the normal conduct of commerce. They can be big issues like we’ve experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic. They can be somewhat lesser things like weather-related issues, snowstorms, or hurricanes, but still very impactful to your business.
- You can’t control external roadblocks. But you do have to identify and acknowledge them. Then you have a couple of choices. You can let them control you, or you can determine how you work around them or leverage them to your advantage.
- Keep your team “in the loop.” Communicate constantly. They will know that the external roadblocks exist and will wonder how it will impact them for the short- or long-term? Or, worst case if they’ll still have a job? Even if you don’t have a plan early on, you have to get one together and keep communicating with them. That will always pay dividends later.
- Have a short-term plan. There’s no way you can just do nothing. That’s letting the roadblock control you and your business. Can you leverage the roadblock? Fill a need that was caused by the roadblock and didn’t exist before it. For example, in the days of early COVID, businesses that were anywhere near the fashion or clothing business switched gears and began manufacturing personal protective equipment that was sorely lacking. Others in the electronics business started building ventilators that were in short supply.
- Have a long-term plan. Figure that your business will never be the same. With the pandemic, we learned how to work, virtually, way better. Use that to your advantage in your culture; how you interact with employees, customers, and suppliers taking this “new normal” into consideration.
Internal roadblocks are of our own making. Things that we specifically do (or don’t do). Something that we ignore until it becomes a crisis. Or things that just seem to exist – “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” All of which, in some way, create roadblocks to our progress and our growth.
- Do an honest assessment. Identify what are the biggest roadblocks holding you back. You can’t solve a problem until you define it. And you can’t define it until you get to the bottom of why the problem exists in the first place – i.e., what caused it or allowed it to exist? Otherwise, you’re treating the symptom, not the disease.
- Is the roadblock a culture that's just "going through the motions?" Value statements hung on the wall aren't enough. You have to live it every day, and that starts right at the desk of the owner/CEO. If you don’t put it into practice every day, it’s not a culture. It’s merely an idea for one. And the culture has to be believed and lived by everyone in the organization…every day!
- Is the roadblock accountability? Accountability starts by defining roles and responsibilities for everybody in the business. It extends to providing the authority to carry out those roles and responsibilities. And that authority cannot be “on a string,” where a manager or the owner/CEO can pull it back for certain situations. It has to be complete. Once those two things are in place, only then can there be true accountability. And accountability does not mean people can’t make mistakes with their authority. It means mistakes become teachable moments. Accountability is a fundamental foundation for growth.
- Is the roadblock people or processes (or both) that are past their expiration date? As a company grows, not all of its employees grow with it. Some remember and long for the “good old days,” when it was just “the golden few” who were there at the beginning. They long for the days when you didn’t have to document or follow processes or procedures, that drove results. You just made decisions based on who the customer or supplier was. But these same people could have become roadblocks now that you’re trying to effectively and consistently grow.
“The Entrepreneur’s Yoda” knows these things. He’s been there. May success be with you!