Breaking Through Revenue Plateaus: “Why is the next level so hard?”Aug 09, 2023
I first met Bill at a breakfast seminar, following a session I led on building revenue growth systems. He owned a parts manufacturing company, and he was frustrated. He asked me a simple and sincere question: “Why is the next level so hard?”
As he spoke, I could see the angst he was feeling, and I knew exactly what he was referring to.
What Bill was describing was “the revenue plateau” – This is one of the hardest places to find yourself as a business owner. Like Bill, you’ve already achieved a measure of growth and success, but things have stalled. Not “going out of business” stalling - but “next level growth” stalling.
And if you’re an owner that still wants to expand your horizons and success - this can be grindingly frustrating!
(I’m glad to say from that question, Bill became (and still is) a long-time client of mine at Value Prop. We’ve helped Bill see his business from a more strategic POV - and gotten his marketing and sales programs “untangled” so that he could ignite growth again.)
Tired of Spinning Tires?
You might know what the dreaded plateau looks like: Marketing hasn’t gained much traction. Sales are starting to strike out more often. Your operations are stable but starting to show some cracks. You may have been stuck at the same revenue level for a few months… a year… a few years.
Something is keeping you from breaking through and continuing the climb.
This is the dreaded revenue plateau. How do we move past it?
This is where many of our clients - like Bill - find us, and these are a few of the strategies we use to help them.
The Learning Curve that Every Owner-led Business Faces
Every business has unique challenges and opportunities they need to tackle. That’s a given.
That being said, in my experience helping business owners, there is a common factor in every single one that drives the revenue plateau.
Their problems are almost always strategic, but they’re trying to solve them like they’re one-offs.
One-off fires to put out. One-off marketing campaigns to launch. One-off hiring your next salesperson.
The truth is, now that you’ve reached this level of success and structure, strategy is the key that unlocks your next level of growth. It eliminates wasted time and money and aligns your solutions to work together towards the right goals. You can’t piecemeal your problem-solving.
Owner-led businesses face this challenge frequently. Why is that? You, the owner, may have fueled the early growth, but now this is much bigger than you.
You need to become the leader your company needs, establishing a vision and crafting your strategy.
This looks different for each owner, but here are my top 3 recommendations to help you make the needed shift.
Learn Enough to Manage, not Master
Early growth is usually grown by your mastery of a skill or topic, but the future of your growth will depend on your ability to manage instead of master.
In many areas, you may already be doing this. I haven’t met many owners that WANT to master SEO. Still, I’ve talked to plenty of owners who felt swindled by an SEO firm that used fancy jargon but didn’t get results.
You don’t need to become an expert, but you do need to learn enough to manage an expert well.
What does “enough to manage” mean? Here are three ideas to focus on:
- Know enough to have a gut feeling on what works conceptually
- Know enough to ask good questions
- Know enough to clearly define what KPIs + success looks like
I do this personally for my business. I keep a steady diet of podcasts, newsletters, and other expert voices that keep me in the loop while I delegate to team members.
If it’s stuck on my desk, it might never get done. I need to focus on the highest priorities. But if I know enough to make a good handoff, my team is in a better position to help me succeed.
A Shared Solution Beats a “Told” Solution
Owner-led businesses have a tendency to become dependent on the owner for too many things. It’s the feeling of “Do I have to do everything around her?”
I’ll tell you what though, while I sympathize with the feeling, I have learned a hard truth by experience…
This is usually caused by the owner’s style of leadership.
Yes, it’s true that hard work is hard to find, but often, closely-held businesses are closely-held operationally too. You want others to step up, but your vision might rule the day a little too much.
If you want to get your team to take more ownership of their role, you need to give them more ownership.
It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s worth it. Here are a few ideas to help this handoff go well.
- Pick your people intentionally. Picking the right person for the right task is the cornerstone of successful delegation.
- Always brainstorm early. Create a shared vision of the goal before they start crafting plans.
- Know when to outsource. Don’t have an expert in-house? Don’t need a full-time expert? Look outside your four walls for an external one.
- Be clear on timelines and goals. Your team doesn’t like wondering if they’re doing a good job. Clear parameters help them know where they need to end up.
- Focus on guidance, not execution. A key part of the handoff is not taking back as much as possible. Your learning curve is how to support. Their’s is how to execute.
Your Network is Your Best Shortcut to Solutions
Very few challenges are new challenges. When you have been stuck trying to figure out the same solution for way too long, make sure you have good people in your network that are qualified and willing to help you identify a solution.
Sometimes, this is peers who are in the same boat and working on it together.
Other times, this cultivates relationships with experts you can call on professionally for their support.
In my work as a business coach, most of my clients got to know me outside of a sales environment. It was at a conference or through our podcast.
They were able to build their own measure of trust in our process, leading them to work with us.
So be intentional – keep an eye out for people who encourage you with new ideas and solutions. Cultivate 1-on-1 relationships that you can lean on when you come across challenges like the revenue plateau.
Despite my intense dislike for spam, there are a few people I liked so much that I signed up for their newsletters – on purpose!
Every owner needs a steady diet of ideas and encouragement. Make sure you make time for your own connections and development.
Something You Can Do TODAY to Spark New Growth
These three recommendations are invaluable for helping you get out of the weeds and focus on strategy. If you can become a master strategist, your business can re-find its edge and start working with more efficiency and more success.
Another resource to check out – Ten Ways to Re-ignite Sales Growth.
This is my favorite resource I recommend to owners looking for a quick win to help spark meaningful momentum.
Each one is an actionable idea that you can use to get out of first gear with your sales.
No new hires, no contractors, no re-inventing the wheel. Like a lever, I think you’ll find it pulls more than its weight.