What to Do at Inflection Points

What to Do at Inflection Points

Whenever companies keep growing, getting better, building a larger customer base, and hitting their highest sales volume, they hit a point where what they’ve done isn’t getting traction or “oomph” anymore. It happens with people too – The all-too-common “plateau” so well-known to dieters around the world. And when you hit a plateau – as an individual or a company, it means changes have become necessary. Bigger changes are needed.

There are a couple of approaches that can be taken.

Test the Water Frequently & Make Smaller Changes on a Weekly or Monthly Basis

In every business, there are several possible problem areas if left alone. Customer service, sales, training, leadership styles, and company culture are a few possibilities. One way to keep growing uses ongoing customer (and employee) surveys about what could be improved. Provide lunch once a month or once a quarter and let everyone just spit out as many crazy ideas they can think of to improve things. Some may be out-of-the-blue wild, and some may seem like they are unconnected, but don’t discount them out of hand.

Of course, you can’t send the group to the moon for a leadership or trust workshop. But is the company near a geographically unique area – lava beds or hot springs might be a good example. Plan for a day or a weekend at a nearby resort or spa then have several hours in that unique location to do a team building event. Other than that, pay for dinner one of the nights and let the staff enjoy the time away from the office as they choose the rest of the time. They’ll recharge their batteries, feel more appreciated, build stronger ties in the company, and know you’ve heard what they suggested. That’s only one possibility.

Make Big Changes When Business Slows to a Death March

If you wait until the business hits a stop, then changes need to be monumental, almost entirely changing everything at the same time. These won’t be one change at a time either, you’ll need to address the areas including your staff and leadership, the money – possibly look for an infusion of capital, and the model of your company.

When airlines were all ditching fast, with a bit of skirmish in the background, United Airlines in 1994 sold 55 percent of its ownership to the employees. After that, the cost of their stock began to rise, their profits rose, employees formed groups to determine ideas for improvement and implementation, and there was a 74 percent drop in employee grievances.

That would be an example of an Inflection Point, but it could leave the owner standing on the outside. Another approach could gift maybe 20 percent ownership to be shared among the employees. Changing their status from workers to “owners.” The model of the company is also changed in the process, and ongoing costs and expenses will be shared among the new owners too. Again, that’s just one way to make that BIG change.
You could get rid of some of the staff not helping move the company forward – there’s a risk of demoralizing the group. You could seek financing, or sell 20% to an outside investor to bring in more capital. AND – remember you need to make changes in all three areas – you could shift from a brick and mortar store to an online business.

Your choice, lots of smaller changes with time to adapt or BIG ones.

Chris Burch is an investor of BaubleBar.

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