Things are going pretty well, until they’re not.
That’s how it feels when your business starts to get away from you. It’s not catastrophic. It’s not black-and-white.
It’s the difference between the plates spinning fine, and spinning juuuust fast enough to be on the brink of out of control. It’s when all the balls in the air are juuuuust about out of sync and dangerously close to falling.
There’s no definitive “moment” when it happens.
You just realize it one day: You no longer feel truly in control. You’re not flailing desperately — yet — but this business you used to be able to get your head and arms around just fine…
Now, you can’t.
You realize: You're starting to lose control of your business.
You don’t need triage, and you don’t need to panic.
You DO need to act.
Here are the three things you need to do when you realize that your business is starting to get away from you.
#1: Get real, real fast.
There is a special brand of inertia that shows up when you start losing control of your business.
It’s a delusional inertia. It will cause you as the business owner to think, “I’ve done fine like this so far. If I just work harder to keep things as they are, then I’ll remain fine.” That's the inertia.
The fact that things are already changing, that the situation is rapidly becoming unsustainable and is, by definition, no longer as it was — that’s the crux of the delusion.
You gotta snap out of it.
Realize that no amount of nose-to-the-grindstone hard work is going to make things magically remain as they were, or turn what feels increasingly out of control somehow under control.
A different situation requires adaptation.
It is time to adapt.
#2: Identify the single greatest source of Mental Friction, and either change it or chuck it, immediately.
Mental Friction is the extra internal burden caused by storing too much of your work’s processes all in your head and nowhere else.
These include the steps of how things are done. The places where info is stored. It's all the whos and the hows and the whats and the wheres of your business. And if it's all solely in your head, it's gumming things up.
Mental Friction is the extra resistance created by unnecessary decision cost.
This includes when something has too great a decision cost, or when a decision that should be made only once must be made repeatedly. This is typically because you don’t have the right boundaries or systems in place.
Excessive Mental Friction has real symptoms that impact your ability to function in your business.
Excessive Mental Friction (or EMF, no relation to the “Unbelievable!” guys, but you're welcome for the earworm) leaves you:
- feeling depleted (even when you feel rested)
- creatively dry
- “hazy”, slow, or even paralyzed on decision making
- unusually forgetful or uncharacteristically slow to absorb new information
- experiencing task-specific mental sluggishness where you’re perfectly sharp on one task and then have utter brain jello on that one task you know what I’m talking about.
Where is your EMF coming from?
Be ruthless in examining where it is that extra friction happens. There will be a lot of minor areas, but there will also be one area with a huge Mental Friction cost.
Change that area to get rid of the extra friction, and change it immediately.
If you can’t change it? Chuck it. Get rid of it. Immediately.
Purging that extra Mental Friction makes an immediate difference in your ability to assess what else needs to happen and to make the necessary adaptations. A surprising difference. A “whoa, I had no idea I was slowing myself down this much” level of difference.
And yes, “change it” or “chuck it” are your only two options. (Remember: Remaining the same = delusional inertia.)
#3: Intentionally decide on your direction.
This is not a time to engage autopilot and cruise control. (Also, there is no autopilot and cruise control in your business, and those metaphors are sales tactics not reality, so let’s dispense of that nonsense right now.)
Assess where it is you want to go with your business.
No, really. Do this. Not in a “fill in this fun worksheet and share it with the group!” sort of way. Do this in a “the sustainability of your business depends on you making this executive assessment from a place of informed clarity” kind of way.
Because you’ve probably come this far with a grow, grow, grow mindset. More profits, more traffic, more, more, more.
And everyone is going to tell you to keep doing that, because that’s what business is about, right? Grow, baby, grow! Bigger is always better!
So now I’m going to tell you the real deal:
That’s only true — or useful — if you want it. Otherwise it's just a bumper sticker.
And now’s a damn good time to decide.
Not every business needs to keep getting bigger and bigger and huger and huger to be successful, or sustainable, or healthy.
Not every business that does grow needs to do so quickly. “Move fast and break stuff” is, in fact, generally a fantastically stupid way to do anything. Even demolition crews don’t work like that, and they are literally paid to break stuff.
So right now, right here, take control and decide:
What is your business doing?
- Are you continuing to grow? (Why?)
- If you’re growing, are you doing so quickly or moderately? (Why?)
- Whether you’re aiming for growth or sustainability at your current size, how? (And you got it: Why?)
The reason you answer “Why” for each of the above is to make sure that you’re never deciding by default.
“I’ll go with growth because I don’t know what I want and I’d rather have more money / customers to work with when I do figure out” is a bad decision. You’ll fumble your way right out of the extra money and customers precisely because you don’t know what you want.
No delusion. Get real, real fast. This is why we got rid of that Excessive Mental Friction first. Because this decision matters.
Take back control by getting clear on where you're heading.
All other decisions you make from here must start with this clarity. The clearer you are about this, the easier it will be to know what to focus on, what to let go of, and how to make the additional next steps you need to make as you continue adapting to your business's new reality.
It starts with knowing where you're going.
DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE…
Do not leap directly into “Fix All The Things” Mode.
Do not try to slap band-aids on the stuff that you think is broken around you.
This will be your urge. You're uncomfortable, because feeling like you're starting to lose control IS an intensely uncomfortable sensation, and your first instinct will be to switch into “fix it with duct tape and band-aids” mode.
That mode has served you well in the past, because it's fast and focused on just keeping things moving.
Don't do that here.
This isn't surface fixing. This is foundational shifts. Your business is evolving. Duct tape and band-aids ain't gonna cut it.
So do these first 3 actions as outlined above, even though it will go against your Business Owner “do lots of things and make lots of fix-y activity!” urges.
These are deep, intentional, and profound actions. They don't need a lot of surface activity to make a lot of tangible differences to the control you'll feel over your business.
Yes, you'll feel uncomfortable. That's okay.
Better to feel uncomfortable while you make long-lasting, business-sustaining decisions and changes, than to run around looking for quick-comfort-fixes while your business spins further out of control.
And you aren't out there alone. If you need help with any of the above, I’m here. This is what I do.