Entrepreneur by Adam Bornstein

Q: My business stalled out in 2019. What can I do to give myself the highest likelihood of growth in 2020? — Aden, Minneapolis

The challenge of growing a business is surprisingly similar to the difficulties of losing weight. It’s something I realized after growing my first business, a fitness consultancy called Born Fitness. Each year, people set resolutions (goals, KPIs), start off strong (lots of early-year focus), get frustrated (friction from the process), plateau (return to old habits), and watch apathy set in (panic and lack of focus if goals are not met). 

Instead of searching for a magic bullet, a systematic process makes it easier to identify breaks in the system, create pathways for progress, and take aggressive bets that could lead to big successes. It works with your health, and  it works with your business.

To ensure that you don’t face the same questions next January, follow this four-step plan to adapt your business, provide clarity, and spark new growth. 

Step 1: Assess your hypocrisy.

Great leaders need to worry less about looking good and focus more energy on achieving primary goals. Outline your biggest priorities (and their intended impact), and then examine where you and your team are spending the bulk of your time. Do those projects actually align with your primary goals?

From there, it becomes easier to see where you might be misaligned. And if you are misaligned, I recommend stealing a strategy from our former client Tim Ferriss, who loves to ask: “If this were easy, what would it look like?” Use the answer to start building your new strategy.  

Step 2: Strengthen your strengths. 

When you reassess your business, the natural inclination is to focus on your weaknesses. But this might not always be the best way forward. Instead, look at what you do best. Is there an opportunity to grow even more by focusing on where you’re already succeeding?

Oftentimes, your current customers hold the keys to your future growth. When working with Four Sigmatic, a flourishing CPG brand, we found that customer satisfaction and retention were phenomenal. But our first question wasn’t “How can we get more customers like this?” Instead, it was “How can we deepen the relationship with existing power users?” That led to research that unlocked a new strategy to reward current customers, which has increased lifetime value, average order value, and referrals — a massive step forward for the business.   

Step 3: Question your weaknesses.

Every business has weaknesses, and leaders often feel required to plug those leaks immediately. But that’s not always the right move. 

You can’t do everything at once, and growth can be a by-product of going narrow on one or two areas of focus. That might mean putting your energy into your strengths. And while your gut might tell you to also immediately address your weaknesses, take stock first. If they’re not preventing your business from moving forward, the best use of your time or money (for now) may be elsewhere.   

Step 4: Take big swings.

Founders are tempted to play things safe, for fear of failure. It’s logical: Business is hard, and failure is possible! But think of it this way: Even when you play it safe, the odds are still against you. When you take bigger risks, the odds aren’t that much worse — and the rewards are exponentially higher.

As long as you are financially responsible, you can be strategically bold. That’s the best way to give yourself the highest likelihood of success.

This article was first published in Entrepreneur.