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"There Are Three Red Flags That Stop Your Business From Growing

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Part 2 of 3

The red flags are similar to a doctor looking for symptoms to guide diagnosis of what’s really going on - the problem that is causing the symptoms.

“The red flags”, I explained, “are the surface symptoms of issues that lie deeper in your business.

The outward signs of a deeper issue preventing growth.

Every business encounters red flags. They are a fact of business life.

And just like a health problem, you may have one or many symptoms.”

Peter was getting impatient.

“But how do I know which red flag is hurting my business?”, he asked, “I just want to get moving again!”

“Hang on a moment”, I continued.

"Entrepreneurs are often in such a hurry to take action that they skim the surface. They are in such a rush, they don’t notice what’s really happening.

Or worse, they jump at the first solution and make things worse, not better.

The irony is the rushing keeps them stuck for longer.

Since your business has been stuck for some time, a few moments more to get this right won't hold you back any worse, will they?”

Peter laughed, “OK, I get this. Without a good diagnosis, the doctor can’t make the patient well again.”

He playfully added, “Tell me what’s wrong, doc!”

🚩 Flag 1 - The Flat-Out Business

“The Red Flags are things you will have noticed about your business. They are visible problems.

So, for example, the first Red Flag is a Flat-Out Business, which shows up in two ways…

It’s either a struggle to get the work out on time...

or…

You get the work done, but there’s no time left to grow the business.

Basically you are running flat-out to stand still.

This happens when your business gradually asks more and more from you as it grows.

Eventually, you have nothing left to give.

Instead of the business carrying you, things switch around so that are carrying the business.

Like a hamster on a wheel, you spend all day running as fast as you can just to keep up.

And just like the hamster, your business feels like a cage you can’t escape. You’re stuck on a wheel, going nowhere.

It tires you out.

Get in early. Work late. Take the bookkeeping and paperwork home.

Run little hamster, run.

It eats your life. Chews up a little more every day.

It is relentless.

And the kick in the pants is that even if it pays well, you have no time to enjoy it.

You take a holiday and things grind to a halt without you.

So you get constant messages and calls with questions and priorities…

Decisions that only you can make.

The Flat-Out business is a nonstop grindstone that wears you down.

Your business owns you. You are in servitude to the business you built to serve you.

You daydream about closing the door on it, because it steals so much from you.

You fantasise about a normal job and a normal life. You crave more work/life balance.

Do you recognise any of that in your business, Peter?”, I ask.

He is quiet for a moment.

“We get busy every now and again, but no, that’s not my big problem. But it does sound like George, an old buddy of mine.

We used to play golf a lot, until he got too busy for it. Haven’t seen him in ages.”

He paused a moment…

“I heard his wife left him last year. She said he was never home - like his business was a mistress.

He was never there for his kids either. He always missed the nativity plays and parents evenings. His wife would turn up on her own. She was always embarrassed, because he’d said he would be there, end not show up.

He was never there to watch them play sports at school, thinking about it.

Bloody hell! I had no idea. I thought he was work obsessed - but I think his business stole his life. Poor bloke.

And that’s just one red flag?

I think I’d better hear the next one.”

🚩 Flag 2 - The Flat-Broke Business

“The next Red Flag is the Flat-Broke business.

In this kind of business you’ll be busy doing great work for customers.

But you hide a dark and uncomfortable secret that preys on your mind all of the time.

You’re not making any money and have no idea why.

Despite being busy, money doesn’t stay in the bank for long.

You might even yo-yo between being overdrawn and in the black.

You hate looking at bank statements because you might see red.

You don’t sleep well anymore.

It feels like you need financial life-support.

It is not doing enough to reliably pay the bills every month.

So you find yourself juggling the money - paying whoever shouts loudest.

Ignoring the rest. Feeling sick in the pit of your stomach about the situation.

You go home and can’t relax properly. You limit going out with your mates because of the cost.

You work the hardest and the longest.

You earn the least.

It’s… Wrong… Ridiculous, even.

Too embarrassed to tell anybody, you feel small. A failure.

Everybody wins from your business, but you always lose.

Some days you’re depressed and fed up. Other days you’re angry and fed up.

You crave the security of a job with regular pay.

Being in business was meant to make you the master of your own destiny.

Not the victim of a cruel financial joke.

Does any of that sound like your business at all, Peter?”, I ask.

This time he is quick to answer…

“No - we’ve had the odd slow-paying customer, but financially the business is pretty strong.

But it does remind me of Phil.

Phil’s another buddy at the golf club.

I was chatting with him recently during a game. He told me that despite his business turning over £1.3 million, there are some months where can’t pay himself at all.

He’s had to put money into his business and it’s draining his savings.

He seemed a bit numb from it all, really. Like there was nothing he could do to change things.

So the second red flag is a business that steals your money? That makes a lot of sense”

“It is…”, I responded, “It is. And the reality is that my clients use step-by-step blueprints to fix this sort of thing really fast - often within a matter of weeks, depending on the underlying problem.”

Peter mentioned he would tell his friend, and we moved onto the final red flag…

🚩 Flag 3 - The Flat-Line Business

“The final red flag is the Flat-Line business.

For growth, the obvious truth is that you need more sales.

With the flat line, what drove your growth to current levels has run out of steam.

Your growth engine is stuck in the steam age. You need to replace it with a jet engine.

And everybody is trying to sell you a new way to get customers, so which way do you turn?

There are so many flavour of the month training course that promise to ‘create a flood of sales’, ‘explode your business’ and other exaggerated nonsense.

They manipulate your emotions with the words they use to create excitement and a fear of missing out or failure if you don’t buy their newest product.

You get caught up in it.

You buy training courses, go to seminars, sit in front of your computer studying.

But nothing quite fits your business the way you need.

Money is thrown into the deep dark pit of desperation for growth.

You’re coasting along on a sales plateau without growth.

Depressing mediocrity.

You’re better than this. You expect more of yourself. You have a point to prove.

You want to stick two fingers up at those who said you couldn’t do it.

But you’re stuck in limbo.

You know you are better than this.

And that, Peter, is the Flat-Line.” I said.

Without hesitation, he said, “This is my red flag.” he said.

“I grew the business with some traditional advertising and lots of work with a few contacts I made.

I spent a lot of time on the telephone myself chasing sales, too, but it’s not working the way it used to. People have less time for you.

I’m still looking for something better.  I've tried it all...

A few years ago it was all SEO and Adwords. Now it’s all Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Youtube. I’ve bought all the courses.

Nothing seems to work for me.

I’m not ready to give up, but I'm sick of doing things that don't work.

How do I fix this?”

[Click here for Part 3/3]

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