There is a saying in business: “Revenue cures all.” In many cases this is true — if a business generates more revenue it can plug holes, fill gaps, pivot direction, or expand and grow. Yes, money is magical. However, eventually woe comes to the entrepreneur who is blinded by the belief that only cash in — from revenue or deep pockets — solves all business problems.
Sometimes, to fix a business you need to delve deeper into the things that are right in front of you. A river of money won’t solve structural problems. The challenge is seeing them.
Now, before you glance this over and tell yourself you “already know” these things, ask yourself if you’ve been pouring money — whether investment dollars, actual revenue, or both — into a business and not seeing results. If you have, you need to look at the basics you “already know” with greater scrutiny.
Here are some structural considerations to review and possibly change if extra revenue or other cash isn’t fixing what’s wrong.
No, a combo barbeque wing/tanning salon business is not a good idea, to say nothing about hygiene! It’s easier to see a glaring mismatch than a less obvious one. This is especially true if you hold the belief that “your kind” of business or industry “needs” to offer product X or service Y.
Is that serving you? Are the additional costs to support this “necessary” product or service dragging down your overall profitability? Cut ruthlessly. Simplifying and streamlining your offerings “back to basics” almost always strengthens a business.
“Execution” is the catch-all for all the ways your business actually does business. Are you delivering consistent results? Are you projecting a consistent brand image? If you are a sole proprietor, are you carefully communicating what you do in less formal situations, like social media, where you and your business are viewed as one in the same? Do you have a reward system for loyal customers, such as coupon deals or after-hours events? Last, but certainly not least, is your pricing correct?
The right location can mean the difference between a business’ success and failure. However, location can also be the easy excuse for business malaise and underperformance, too. If you have a terrible location — and presumably cannot move anytime soon — you’ll need to overcompensate for this liability in every other facet: sales, marketing, customer service, etc.
You can’t change a bad location, but you can outthink it and outwork it to your advantage. The problem is that this takes additional hard work. More people would rather blame a bad location than do the work necessary to overcome a bad location. Give people what they want and they will find you, bad location or not.
Personality defects and “bad people skills” can wreck a business faster than anything. So, too, can a mismatched business partnership behind the scenes. Be ready to cut key players who do more harm than good — sooner than later. These are difficult conversations. However, they become harder — and do more potential damage — the longer you wait.
Don’t allow one person to ruin your business because they are the wrong fit. This is especially true if you’re dealing with good friends or family. If you must let them go, respect them enough to avoid telling them, “It’s only business,” because it’s not. Business is always personal. Tread carefully with the goal of preserving these relationships, but be willing to cut ties if necessary.
Look very closely at all of these areas of your business. Revenue does cure a lot, but you can save yourself time, money, and stress by carefully reviewing all the structural aspects of your business, too.
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Katie McCaskey is a small business owner in Staunton, Virginia, and a freelance journalist writing for Vistaprint, a leading provider of marketing products and services to small businesses worldwide. Katie has covered small business and marketing topics for over 10 years.