PMP’s “Marketing Matters” columnist offers reasons for, and solutions to, this common industry problem.
Many years ago, when I first began writing for this magazine, one of my first columns was titled, “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.” These days, many of the questions I receive for my monthly Q&A column still relate to how to get from point A to point B. Therefore, I will focus once again on a question I am often asked, but can’t answer in detail in my monthly Q&A column due to space limitations. That question is, “Why isn’t my business growing?”
The question is simple. The answer, not so much. What follow are 15 common growth pitfalls and how to overcome them.
1. You don’t have a business and marketing plan.
Operating without a written plan is a prescription for maintaining the status quo, or worse. A lack of planning is your competitor’s best friend — and a major reason for growth stagnation. While your competition is projecting, analyzing and preparing, you are worrying and trying to figure out what went wrong and why.
Sustained growth, budgeting, cost containment, increased profitability, market penetration, and efficient and productive advertising all require planning.
Without planning, predicting the future is left entirely to chance. Running your business “by the seat of your pants” does not work. If that’s how you continue to operate, stop complaining. Stop blaming the business climate, the weather, competitors and everything else for your failure to get ahead. The reason is you.
2. You’re not systematized.
Systems save time and allow you to monitor the different facets of your business. To facilitate growth, a growing business needs systems in place that:
⦁ Track weekly, monthly and quarterly production and revenue (broken down by technician).
⦁ Compare production, production and sales goals, and performance with data from prior years.
⦁ Develop an advertising and marketing budget, and track its performance.
⦁ Track leads and closure rates.
⦁ Track customer cancellation and retention rates.
⦁ Screen prospective employees to help predict their success.
⦁ Monitor customer satisfaction levels.
3. You fail to differentiate yourself from the competition.
If you or your employees can’t answer the question, “How are we different from our competitors?” then you have just uncovered a major reason why you’re not growing.
Take time to come up with the answer to that question and then drum it into your staff. The answer should be automatic. It’s key to selling value over price and closing that elusive big account.
4. You’re not budgeting enough on advertising and marketing.
It takes money to make money. However, many small- to medium-size companies underspend when it comes to advertising and marketing. The growth of your business is directly related to how much you allocate in this area. Seven to nine percent of projected annual revenue is what small- to medium-size pest management companies should spend.
5. You’re not staffed sufficiently.
You say, “I don’t have enough money to hire help.” I say, “You will never have enough money to hire help if you don’t take a risk and get help with duties that distract you from growing your company.” Without enough staff support, you’ll remain stuck.
6. You procrastinate.
When procrastination impedes forward progress, meeting your goals can be difficult, if not impossible. Often, procrastination is the accomplice of perfectionism. Waiting until the last minute gives perfectionists the ideal excuse: They just didn’t have enough time. You can tell yourself that putting off one step in a long process is merely a deviation, but this behavior becomes the rule rather than the exception, and the project is never finished.
7. You are complacent.
Inertia can be deadly to a business. Let me give you one example: Your search engine optimization (SEO) company is not producing a good return on your investment (ROI), yet you are afraid to switch because you fear doing so could produce even worse results. Failure to act is the foundation of preserving the status quo. I recently recommended to a client that they make this change. Initially they resisted, but eventually decided to make the switch. They are now getting a 4:1 ROI on their SEO vs. the 1.5 to 1 return they were receiving.
8. Your accounts receivable (A/R) is overdue.
Start reminding your customers of their past-due status at 30 days. This includes commercial accounts. Put a structured program into place that begins the dunning process ASAP. After 60 days, the likelihood of collection dramatically decreases. Consider putting a mandatory credit-card-on-file billing system in place.
9. You don’t delegate.
People don’t delegate because it takes a lot of up-front effort. By doing the work yourself, however, you’re failing to make best use of your time. Meaningfully involving other people in a project allows you to develop your employees’ skills and abilities. This means that next time a similar project comes along, you can delegate the task with confidence it will be done well, with less involvement from you.
10. You lie to yourself.
When organizations stop growing, leaders start blaming and telling themselves, “We don’t really want to grow any more than this.” The reality is that you are the problem. Outgrowing leadership is common, and when it happens we should just admit it. Quit lying to yourself about why your company isn’t growing. Look in the mirror and say, “This has outgrown my capabilities and leadership, but I’m going to hire someone who can help me grow.” If you keep blaming, you’ll remain stuck.
11. You’re not leading.
Growth and leadership go hand-in-hand. Companies that grow have strong leaders at the helm. If you run your company with an iron fist, chances are your employees are efficient, but not necessarily effective. Leaders inspire their staff. Companies with strong leadership have low employee and customer turnover. Consequently, they have greater growth and profitability.
12. You’re not grasping today’s market.
Today’s consumers are multi-generational and require an in-depth understanding of their buying habits. Yesteryear’s sales techniques, once used across the board, are ineffective on Gen Xers and Millennials. If you’re still using a one-size-fits-all sales approach, you’re missing the majority of your market. Do you know which customers prefer a phone call, which favor email and which would rather text?
13. You’re not investing enough in your business.
Whether it’s for additional inventory, new technology, more employees or extra equipment, growing companies suck up more cash than non-growing companies. Getting this cash may require borrowing money or using up whatever funds are on hand. Some owners tire of the financial demands and decide to slow down the investments — and that slows down growth.
14. You’re not making good hiring decisions.
You cannot build a company without the right people. You need a great hiring protocol and the stomach to make the changes that become necessary as the company grows. This is easier said than done, especially when it turns out that people who were “right” for their roles in the beginning are no longer “right” in those roles as the company grows. If you want to grow, hire smart and let go of those who are dragging you down.
15. Your turnover rates are undermining your success.
Employee turnover and customer turnover are directly related. Your employees are your greatest asset. Although salary and benefits play an important role in keeping employees happy, they’re not the deciding factor whether an employee stays or leaves. Employees’ primary reason for leaving is the lack of feeling valued or appreciated. Today’s generation is motivated less by money and more by quality of life. Remember to say “thank you” often. It’s a great motivator. Happy employees mean happy customers.
Finally, if you’re business isn’t growing, don’t simply maintain the status quo. This is what is referred to as insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. A course-correction in growth occurs when you alter what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. It is almost impossible to maintain the status quo. You either grow or wither.
3 keys to successful delegation
Sometimes it’s difficult to trust someone else with an important task. But delegating duties to your employees can be critical to company growth. Here are three steps to ensure success:
- Assign the right task to the right person.
- Provide clear and concise communication.
- Provide supervision (more so in the beginning).
You can reach Harvey Goldglantz, president of Pest Control Marketing Co. and author of Marketing Matters, at firstname.lastname@example.org.