Do you have a business that doesn’t seem to be working? You’re trying a few things, but they don’t seem to stick. Your experiments aren’t giving you the results you were hoping for and you’re running out of momentum. If all this sounds familiar to you, and you’re at a loss for what to do next, Tom & Mike are here to help.
If you are in a rush, here are the key takeaways from this article:
- Change & adapt your business
- Do a thorough audit of your business
- Look for signs of repeatability
- Avoid the global talk
- Get realistic about your goals & expectations
- Define your experiment timeline
- Embrace your fear
For all the juicy stories that Tom and Mike have never shared before, click on the topics above or keep scrolling.
7 Actionable Tips for a Successful Business
Change & adapt your business
As the famous saying that was misattributed to Einstein goes: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It sounds blindingly obvious, but if your business isn’t doing well and you’re hoping for change, then things can’t stay the same in terms of how you run your business. Most people have ambitions and anticipate growth even though they’ve plateaued because they’re doing the same thing over and over again. They don’t try new things, mix it up or drop what isn’t working.
To see positive results, you must double down on what is working and explore new strategies.
You can map this to most areas of life: for instance, there are people who pursue various diets for many years but fail miserably. Similarly, it can feel pretty miserable when you’re in that spot with your business.
Say you have a big pile of cash under your mattress. In 30 years, it will be half of what it used to be. To put it simply, if you are sticking your money in a mattress, you are losing money every single day because your money is not growing in an investment vehicle. With inflation, your cost of living increases, and thereby, you begin to lose money. If you are stagnant and putting your business in a mattress where it’s protected, but not growing, you are falling behind in the race to success. And unfortunately, this happens faster in businesses.
Ask yourself: What is happening in the business world right now? What is happening in the industry? What is your business or agency positioned to do? Do you still fit in with what’s going on? How can you get your name out there? For many years, Mike experimented with marketing and sales strategies for his agency. He ran magazine ads, trade shows, sales rep and more. The need for experimentation was at the forefront of his mind. To keep his business going, he continued to tweak the dials.
“If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back.” This quote resonates deeply with Tom. He believes that if you keep doing things the same way, you will not only plateau, but also move backwards because the rest of the market will be moving forward. When you’re stationary, chances are your competitors will surpass you. While the thought of change might feel stressful, it also forces you to adapt and iterate. After all, don’t we all want innovation? Can you imagine still being stuck in the stone age?
Tom pivoted his business: When Tom’s company Design Cuts first started, they were offering bundle deals. They entered the marketplace and dominated with deals every two weeks. However, after a while, it got saturated because they had one new competitor every week for the same market. As much as his audience appreciated the value of these bundles, they became somewhat fatigued because they saw thousands of bundles every day. Tom recognised what was happening, and decided to pivot their entire business model into launching a marketplace, which then became their dominant vehicle. If they had continued to do bundles, it would’ve been very problematic. This is perhaps the biggest example in Tom’s career of not making small changes, but pivoting to something entirely new.
Mike had to completely transform his business: For the first five-six years, 80-90% of Mike and his agency’s revenue came from online games made in Flash and brochure websites. Many of them were made for TV instead of movies with theatrical releases. In 2008, the recession hit and social media started gaining a lot of momentum. It was around then that Apple made the announcement that they were going to kill Flash and that it wasn’t going to be supported by their smartphones. This nearly killed the online game industry. Simultaneously, Squarespace and Wiv came out, giving customers the opportunity to design things themselves. So Mike’s entire business model fell through because of this series of events. As a result, he had to completely transform his business. They started doing more enterprise-level websites, design development and database-driven functions. They changed their offering to fit the need of the hour. If they hadn’t, they would’ve died within a year.
This is the reality of the business world. You are simply a talented person with a set of skills that you can use for many things. If your industry got turned upside down tomorrow, you could re-deploy the skillset of your team and adapt your business into something that is viable for the current market.
Do a thorough audit of your business
Many people experience this mental funk where they feel like nothing is working in their favour, and they end up on this vicious cycle of self-criticism. Quit that cycle and attach actual numbers to your work and business.
For instance, look into your marketing effort and see what numbers it generated. Suppose it yielded x number of something, narrow it down to what it was: it could be the number of followers, leads, or sales. A lot of the time, people believe that what they’re doing is not working, while in reality, when they look at the numbers, they might see a different story than the one they’ve concocted in their fear-based imagination.
Sometimes just analysing the numbers can help you notice the micro-improvements that are already happening and allow you to identify things that actually worked for you. So attach numbers and start digging, chances are you’ll find some successful formulas. And if the numbers don’t substantiate the effort you’re putting into a task, abandon the idea and start looking for something new.
For example: Let’s say you have 5000 people on your mailing list, out of which you might get a 5% click rate, which is actually a very good click rate in 2020; those 250 people land on your website. If it is a sales mail and you want them to make a purchase, they might convert at a healthy 5%. That means you are most likely going to have 12.5 people convert to sales. It’s very easy to look at that number and wonder why it isn’t working or if it’s broken. But you’re actually hitting above-average with both click-through rate and sale conversion. So for every person who thinks that their model is completely broken, analyse the numbers for your industry and business.
Once you have audited the numbers, brainstorm strategies to make changes in your business. Write every task you’re doing and rank it as one, two or three. Rank One are terrible ideas that are not working at all, rank two and three are for ideas that might work, or are working. Once you have a list prepared, eliminate the ones that aren’t working. Try doing more tasks that ranked at two and three. Once you have that, make another list of strategies to implement these ideas and start brainstorming the best practices. When you do this, you are preparing your subconscious brain to come up with ideas and solutions. They could come to you while you’re in the shower, at the gym, taking a walk, or when you are laying in bed at night.
You’ve to experiment to a certain degree to conclude that nothing really is working. And the fact is, is that it is very unlikely that none of your experiments is going to be working enough to keep you motivated.
Look for signs of repeatability
Perhaps the greatest indicator when you’re trying to grow a business at any scale, especially in its early phases is repeatability: if you keep doing X, Y is going to continue to happen. As soon as you tune into the things that are working, lean into them more. Without this, all your formulas can seem random. The key here is to try and get as much repeatability as possible. Then you can actually predict and carve out your own growth.
For example: One of Tom’s coaching students niched into the world of cats and cat illustrations. After two years of consistent posting, she had 200 followers. She barely got any traction. So as a part of her repeatable process, she began to leave a hundred comments a day on other accounts that had cats or an interest in cats. As a result, she would get roughly 20-30 followers in a day, which is a great conversion. And so from this one act, she was getting an average of 500 followers a month. This also gave her so much motivation and confidence to continue this outreach and grow her audience.
If you keep doing X, Y is going to continue to happen. So, when you repeat a successful formula, you are pretty much always guaranteed an outcome.
Avoid the global talk
Avoid talking globally about your business. Don’t continuously tell yourself nothing is working because the reality is something, somewhere probably is: maybe it’s the services you offer, the excellent quality of your work, a great team you have in place or the way you price your work. Chances are, there are some things that are working for your business, else you wouldn’t have a business at all.
Start with specifics and begin to outline things that are not working for you: Is it your sales strategy? The kind of marketing you do? Your positioning and touchpoints? Or is it that you aren’t able to generate the quality of work you hope for with your team? Identify your problem areas: What are the things that aren’t generating you any leads, followers or sales? Audit, figure out what is working and what isn’t and find ways to adapt. But avoid talking in global terms, because it is unlikely that absolutely nothing is working in favour of your business and isn’t going to help you forge a new direction.
For example: Tom has decided to start creating a lot more video content on top of his existing content. If he is able to post a video every day, he is going to be able to continuously audit if it works for him.
Get realistic about your goals & expectations
When people say nothing is working, it’s important to understand that for things to work and take shape, you need to give them some time and have patience.
Two months of trying is not enough to deem your business a failure.
Another thing to remember is input vs. output. For instance, if you have four kids and a day job and you can only commit 45 minutes a day because you are running on two hours of sleep, it will take your business exponentially longer to grow because you have only a finite amount of time to invest into your business. You need to scale back your expectations and not guilt trip or beat yourself up unnecessarily.
For example: On Instagram, if you are looking at a person who is 100x bigger than you, even your above-average comments and engagement will feel small in comparison. But the fact is, you should be stoked if you have 13 or 19 people commenting on your posts with the number of followers you have. This will make you realise that you’re not doing so badly and you’re growing at a reasonable pace.
Educate yourself on how long it takes to grow a business and find traction. Educate yourself on the workload you might have to put in. If you are unable to put in the amount of work expected from you because of a personal situation, rein back your expectations and get realistic about the numbers of your business instead of deeming yourself as a failure.
Define your experiment timeline
Decide how long you’re going to run this experiment. Assess your cash flow and the money you have in the bank in relation to the number of projects you’re going to build over a specific amount of time.
For Mike, three months is usually the number he has to work with. With this knowledge, you can figure out how much runway you have to experiment with new ideas. If you have a week to decide, then you have to crack the whip and get that horse moving.
Work with the ideas you have with a set deadline. But if it isn’t working, abandon it. However long you decide to give yourself, it is important to draw a line in the sand for the future.
Embrace your fear
A scary moment in your business is when you realise that nothing is working. No matter how hard you try, you aren’t getting the momentum or traction you need – this is where fear comes in.
Fear is one of life’s greatest motivators, embrace it and make it a catalyst for change in your business. Most people are afraid of change, allow fear to motivate you to make changes.
And finally, take advantage of the abundant information around you.
While Tom and Mike had to go through the trial-and-error process of figuring things out, you don’t have to. There are plenty of channels out there with excellent information to consume and implement. Don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result. Do your research, audit your ideas, implement the ones that stick, give yourself a timeline, experiment as much as possible and observe the magic it does for your business.