How to Avoid Business Plateau Syndrome

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” “It takes a village.” Or my favorite, “You don’t sharpen a knife against a sponge.” All of which is meant to say, if you want a successful business, don’t go it alone.

plateauI learned this the hard way.  For years I thought having a more senior business partner would be the key to success for my law firm.  Not so.  I didn’t realize that providing good services didn’t automatically translate into running a successful business that provided good services.  Running the business took an entirely different set of skills, talents, and abilities … and my law partner and I were too “in the weeds” to see it.  Without a team, our business plateaued at the limits of our capabilities. It took forming an outside advisory team to provide the strategic guidance I needed to succeed.

How do you build this team?  Here are my recommendations:

  • Mind the gaps.  You want team members who add new perspectives, not duplicate yours.  As Rocky Balboa said, “We got gaps.” Look for people who have expertise you lack.  Maybe you’re good with numbers but not so good with marketing.  Maybe you need legal advice or manufacturing know-how.  Decide what you need and look for those who fill the void.
  • Look inside and outside.  Fellow travelers on your same path have the wisdom of similar experience. Those from other industries have best practices insights that you can apply to innovate your business—not just replicate prior success.
  • Make it easy.  People will be more willing to help if you make it easy for them to contribute.  For example, they may prefer communicating by phone or email rather than in-person meetings.  Be open to their suggestions of what has worked well for others in the past.
  • Be prepared.  You are asking for time from busy, successful people – don’t waste it.  Have all of the necessary facts at hand and quickly get to the point.  Succinctly define your business goals and challenges and know what advice you seek.
  • Expect and embrace criticism.  You don’t need a bunch of “yes men” (or gal pals) stroking your ego.  Any advisors worth their salt would balk at that role any way.  Seek out the “tough love” provides real value.

Tip:  Pay it forward.  Offer your advice and opinion to others and you will be rewarded in return.

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