Profit from the Plateau

Use the business plateau to prepare for future growth

When Business Levels Off, Take Advantage of the Inflection Point

I was speaking to a client the other day who was lamenting the fact her business had finally hit a plateau. After many years of steady growth, her business was stalled at a place where she felt that she was taking two steps forward and two steps back. The business just wasn’t getting any traction in the market.

While this is a common situation for many businesses, it was unfamiliar territory to my client. As a highly successful CEO, she was accustomed to delivering consistent growth. Being stuck in neutral was  uncomfortable, and she was anxious to get back into growth mode.

Making matters worse, lack of momentum in business can result in a crisis of confidence for leaders. Executives who are used to seeing solid results from their efforts may feel lost and indecisive, second-guessing themselves in their quest for renewed growth. In this case, my client really was not sure what steps to take to get back on track.

It’s inevitable that sooner or later every  business will be in a similar position. Growth can’t last forever, and when it levels off, you may find yourself sitting on a plateau for weeks and even months at a time.

If you’ve been in this situation, you may recognize the signs: quarterly goals are missed and employees are unhappy. You’re thinking about where to cut while wondering how to find a miracle cure for your business. It’s hard not to feel like a downward spiral is on the horizon. Before you panic, stop and consider:

How can you profit from this position?

Being on a plateau is not always a bad thing. Incessant growth can cause fatigue. Battle scarred employees make mistakes and the stress can show in relationships with customers and coworkers. Sometimes, your team needs to rest and recharge to get ready for the next big push.

Think of your present position as an opportunity. Don’t waste it fretting about what you could be doing or how things used to be better. Look at the plateau as a natural pause from the hectic pace of building the business.

Catch your breath and think about what you’ve done right and where there is room for improvement. Recognize your team for their accomplishments. Reflect and evaluate your strategy. A little operational introspection can prepare your business for the climb to the next level.

Use time on the plateau to plan for the future: Are there business opportunities right in front of you that you’ve simply been too busy to pursue? Is it time to make a strategic shift into a new market or prepare to launch a new product line? Are there aspects of your business (products, policies or processes) that have run their course and need to be retired?

Sometimes when you’re  in the fray, scrapping for every new piece of business, these issues and opportunities can be easily overlooked. Now is the time to take in the view and see what  you may have been missing. You just might find that your current vantage point exposes a path you did not see before. If so, make a plan and forge ahead when you are ready.

No one wants to sit on the plateau for long. Business is meant to be dynamic and sustained growth is crucial. Use the plateau to your advantage and instead of it becoming a dreaded flat line – or worse, the start of an endless decline – you’ll look back in a year a realize it was the perfect place to prepare for your next phase of growth.

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