Things in your business are good.
Actually, no, they’re not even just good—they’re great.
Your team is closing sale after sale and morale is at an all-time high.
We’re talking high-fives in the hallway and plenty of celebratory happy hours when you all finally manage to escape the mayhem in the office.
You’re riding that wave with the assumption that your company is on the up and up—things will only get better from here, right?
Then suddenly, like a bad dream, things take a drastic turn.
You lose a few major customers. The phone stops ringing. Your website stops converting. Your marketing strategy isn’t connecting. You can quite literally feel things taking a nosedive.
Where there used to be congratulatory clinking glasses and hearty pats on the back, there’s only slumped shoulders and whispers about whether or not you’re all going to make it.
Your team is blindsided and you’re all left slack-jawed, wondering what the hell just happened.
Sound familiar? You aren’t alone. Let’s face it: Business is fickle at best, and you can swing between those two extremes before you even realize what hit you.
Two Different Stories With the Exact Same Ending
There are tons of different types of startups out there.
Even as I type this, a quick search for trending startups on AngelList turns up everything from an office lunch delivery service to an Instagram marketing platform to an AI-powered administrative assistant to a cloud security tool for healthcare businesses.
But, regardless of size, industry, or anything else, they fall into one of two camps:
- Those that are rapidly growing and just trying to keep up
- Those that aren’t and are trying anything just to stay afloat
There’s really no middle ground here. Don’t believe me? Go ahead—tell me the last time you heard someone say, “Business is perfect right now! We’re not too busy, but just busy enough where we’re extremely profitable without a ton of frantic scrambling around!”
Oh, you can’t think of a single example? I told you—it’s typically one extreme or the other in business. You either have too much or too little. It’s feast or famine. Eat or be eaten. This isn’t a situation where Goldilocks would eventually find her happy medium.
But, here’s the interesting thing about both of those scenarios: In either case, you’re struggling just to keep your head above water.
It doesn’t matter if you’re scrounging just to get your next dollar through the door or you’re so overwhelmed with sales you can barely find time to run to the bathroom. In either case, the important, foundational items that keep your business running smoothly often slip to the back burner—and, eventually, off the stove top entirely.
The Curse of Too Many Sales (Yes, There’s Such a Thing)
Let’s talk about having way too many sales first. I know what you’re thinking: Are you insane? There’s no such thing! When sales are coming in, that means money is coming in. That’s the goal. Life is good.
Yep, I’m with you—this seems like an awesome problem to have. But, when you’re so busy trying to keep up with that increasing demand, it also means that nobody cares about the fact that the inner workings of your office look like a cyclone hit. The nuts and bolts things that are supposed to keep your business running like a well-oiled machine just fall apart, and nobody has time to even care.
Take hiring as just one example of many. Depending on your industry, this rapid growth and frantic pace means you’ll need to hire more:
- Sales people to get even more sales and dollars through your door
- Marketers to expand your cost per click or content marketing strategy for higher conversion rates
- Customer service representatives to handle the inevitable influx of support questions
- In many cases, all of the above
But, when you’re barely keeping up already, what does your hiring process end up looking like? I’m willing to bet it’s not something you’d broadcast proudly or display on the break room fridge.
At this point, you’re probably subscribing to the philosophy of just getting any warm body in there to carry some of the load. The quality of your hiring process—and, as a result, the quality of the actual people you hire—suffers. You don’t have the time to find the best, most qualified fit so instead you just try to get somebody (please, anybody!) into that open role.
And, what about when you actually draft that offer letter and get those people on your team? You can’t just throw them to the wolves and expect them to instantly be a huge help. There are basic tasks that need to be taken care of, including:
- Getting them setup in your system
- Equipping them with laptops and mobile devices
- Familiarizing them with your expectations and culture
- Training them on the software they’ll need to do great work in their positions
Tell me: When are you going to manage to get that stuff done? You’ve been so overwhelmed dealing with those skyrocketing sales, you haven’t had the time to streamline your software options or build a process that makes it easy to onboard those new hires without a ton of hassle and headaches.
Well, now you’ve got a real problem. You’ve not only brought on lackluster hires, but you’ve given them a haphazard training and onboarding process. What types of results do you think you can expect from those employees? Spoiler alert: not very great ones.
Is your heart racing? Are you beginning to see how too many sales can actually sabotage the foundation of your business? I told you—it really can be a bad thing.
Wait… Where the Hell Did All of Our Customers Go?
Alright, let’s switch gears and look at the other extreme for a moment. What happens when you have virtually no sales at all? What do you do when things take that drastic, horror movie-worthy turn and you’re all blindsided by the fact that your pipeline has dried up?
Surely, when you and your team have nothing to do but twiddle your thumbs, that’s when all of those core pieces of your business like people, software, and processes take the front seat and transform into that proverbial well-oiled machine, right?
Not exactly. Put yourself in those shoes for a moment (if you haven’t already been there—which, unfortunately, you probably have). When you’re concerned about how you’ll keep your business treading water, is refining the basics really the first thing you think about?
Are you going to be concerned about how to streamline your software and processes when you don’t even have any customers? Are you going to obsess over how to refine your hiring efforts when you can barely make payroll for your existing employees? Uhh, no…. probably not.
I get it. I’ve been there. You’re going to be pounding the pavement and channeling all of your energy into increasing your sales—and that’s it. Nothing else.
So, yet again, those core pieces that really do deserve your time and attention slide to the backseat.
Mastering the Balancing Act: How to Walk the Business Tightrope
Here’s the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on what side you’re on) thing about business:
The pendulum swings fast—and oftentimes without warning.
Like I said, one day you’re riding high on the thrill of tons of sales, and the next day the only sound you hear in the office is the taunting chirp of crickets.
It’s a rollercoaster ride that makes the balancing act tough. You need to rake in as much money as possible while the opportunity is there (make hay while the sun shines!), but you also need to find the time to prepare yourself for when things slow down (because, believe me, they will slow down).
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy. It’s why that old “working on your business vs. in your business” cliché resonates for so many of us. But, if you fail to prioritize the operational efficiency of your business—you know, things like hiring, processes, and software—you’ll not only be a total mess when the sales are flowing, but you won’t weather the storms when they stop.
You wouldn’t build a house on a crumbling foundation, and you know what? Your business works that very same way. Get the nuts and bolts in place so that when sales inevitably slow down, you’ll have what you need to keep your company afloat while you rework your sales strategies.
In short, no matter how good or bad your sales are, you need to focus on your internal processes. Getting your business on that solid footing will give you the peace of mind that you’ve prepared both your company and your people for whatever might be thrown at them.
And, if being in business has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.