Getting Out of Your Business Rut

It's one thing when an individual gets stuck in a rut of routine, but it's something else when your entire business - along with all of the people you employ - are stuck in a rut. Being stuck in such a way is pernicious - you can't notice you're stuck until you're truly enmeshed in such a quagmire of stale routine. And by that time, it takes real effort to get yourself out of that routine.

Or does it?

It turns really doesn't. When I first sensed a real drop in the office mood, it was quite a shock. It manifested itself through poor performance and a couple of specific complaints made by staff regarding office procedures (the complaint was they were too onerous). I went from a complacent "things are ticking over" mood to that weird vertiginous feeling you get when you're quickly catching up to a whole new reality - one very different from the one you perceived only moments ago. I replied back to my staff members who made the complaints: "thank you! This is the wake-up call I need. We must sit down and discuss how we can make things a lot more efficient and enjoyable in the office". So, I invited everyone to a meeting, and we sat down...and well, nothing. We were out of ideas. Some suggestions were made, but they were truly impractical to our core business plans, so we left the meeting feeling like we were truly stuck where we were, unable to move if we'd optimised our office procedures to the max, and yet staff members were left frustrated at the amount of bureaucracy required to keep our operations going.

I explained the situation to a friend of mine who runs his own business, and he smiled and said "you made the mistake to hold the meeting in your offices. Get you and your staff out of there. Take them on a mini-vacation somewhere...doesn't have to be expensive, just take everyone to a new location not associated with work. Let them relax, get to know each other in a new setting, reward them for their work done so far...and...see how it goes".

I invited them to spend a night in a hotel in a rural setting. I chose it because there were lots of walks we could go on around the area. This wasn't going to be one of those manic "team bonding" activity weekends, it was to be something much more relaxed. I didn't set an agenda other than I knew we'd have to have "that" meeting again, in the hope a new setting would inspire all of us to come up with some new ideas for our procedures.

In fact, we didn't even need the meeting. Just in a casual conversation with one employee in the hotel bar was the key to our new, more exciting, less burdensome future. My staff member mentioned a new plugin for our accounting software that could eliminate all the data entry we were currently forced to undertake. This had come out in beta, and the staff member didn't even consider it a big deal, though I immediately understood the value it would give us. This would cut out two major tasks that my accounting team were saddled with - data collection and data entry. It freed them up to get on with much more exciting tasks that were centred on business growth - and that's exactly what my business started to do: grow.

In another group conversation in the bar, another employee proposed that the sales team could do presentations on Zoom whenever it was possible (since almost every business uses Zoom these days). This would free up their time if they didn't need to travel to meet prospective clients. In fact, it meant they could pitch to more clients on any given day - with less costs and time wasted.

The moral of this story is to be aware of these "ruts" your business can find itself getting stuck in. Get out, do something new, go to somewhere might not always work, but you get out of your rut and I'm sure sooner or later, new ideas will start to manifest...on how you can improve your business.

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