Even the most successful businesses stall sometimes. Sure, they might dress up the language a bit and call it “hitting a plateau” but no matter the nomenclature, the situation is still the same: sales–while not necessarily waning, are failing to grow at the rate they’d been growing. Your current customers seem happy but you aren’t attracting new attention. Your website traffic and social media interactions are starting to drop off a tiny bit and you? Well, you’re starting to panic.
It is easy to see the stalling, er, sorry, the plateauing of your business as a dire situation. Surely it’s only a matter of time before things stop holding steady and start to drop off, right?
A lot of small business owners, when they feel this sense of panic, they turn outward. They hire consultants to analyze their companies and product lines. They bring in contractors and freelancers and hold focus group after focus group trying to see the business through new and fresh eyes. Often, though, this isn’t the best plan. Before you spend your yearly profit margin on outside ideas, why not turn inward?
In our post “Ten Ways to Kickstart Productivity in the Workplace” one of the things we talked about was “opening the floor to suggestions.” When you ask your employees for feedback into your company you increase their productivity and help give them a sense of ownership over their work and your business. This sense of ownership motivates them to try harder, accomplish more, etc. This is just one of the reasons your employees are the first people you should turn to when you feel like your business has fallen into a rut or is starting to stagnate.
Your employees know your company at least as well as you do, but they have the added benefit of often being more objective about your product, service, etc than you are because–while they are close to the situation, they are not as emotionally invested in it’s success as you are. They might have plenty of ideas for how to jumpstart sales and engagement but were worried about overstepping their boundaries.
Or, be honest, maybe you only wanted to do things your own way.
So, how do you encourage your employees to share their feedback and ideas with you?
1. Why not just come right out and ask them?
Have an “All Hands” meeting and explain the situation to your team. Then, open up the floor for ideas and suggestions. Take every idea and suggestion seriously. You’ll be surprised at how much insight and inspiration you can gain when you build a safe and encouraging space in which your team can share their ideas.
2. Private one on ones are another way to accomplish this
You probably give your team members regular reviews, right? Why not build in time to ask your employees what they would like to change/improve about the business and how it is run? If you build this time into every review session, it won’t seem strange and your employees will be more forthcoming with their ideas.
3. Provide some anonymity
People–especially employees who are protective of their jobs–are often hesitant to share feedback–especially if it is negative feedback about someone on the team. It is really easy to build employee surveys with Infosurv and then ask your team to fill them out. The answers you get–especially if you can guarantee anonymity–might really surprise you.
4. Make it Competitive
You know how many stores put their sales people on commission? Why not set up a similar situation with your team? The person (or set of people) who bring in the most business get some kind of reward. The reward can be a simple percentage of the sales they generate or it can be something less straightforward like a party, a vacation, etc.
There are lots of ways to get your employees involved in building your company and pulling it off it’s plateau. The question isn’t whether or not you should do this but how you can do this best!