Be True To Yourself
What do you want? Really... it's that simple. But as the years stacked on, you've likely moved away from what you wanted and allowed the marketplace to dictate what your business was to become. The sad fact is that this has likely been the success behind your business (at least, that is if you're like most SMB entrepeneurs). But, every now and then, it's good to do a little soul-searching and to determine if your current path is, indeed the one you should be on. We certainly wouldn't volunteer ourselves to bring down something that's working, but if you're a disgruntled captain, steering your ship for the sake of keeping it going, then that's not exactly a thriving enterprise, is it? Instead, we are going to encourage a bit of healthy skepticism with regard to your current "pace of affairs" and be the good friend that asks... are you being true to your mission statement from years back - are you being true to yourself?
Let The Math Tell Its Story
The past can (and does) often paint a rosie picture and you'd do well not to get lost in the romantic hay-days of an optimally-run business venture. But, if there was indeed a time when your operation was running smooth, allowing for the perfect balance between life and success for the entire team, then there's a certain amount of obligation to look back through the books and see where things went amiss. We'll get into that later, but for this early stage of reflection, what's important is that you're being honest with the numbers. Dig into the math and you might find that while the emotions were up, the numbers were headed down, or, that there existed certain factors (such as a partner or employee at the time) that may not be in place anymore. This is all okay - right now, you're looking for hard facts that might dissuade you from adjusting your course.
Staying The Course
Now, if you do find that the math doesn't add up (or that it doesn't add up anymore for your needs now), then the excersize is still worth the effort. Sometimes inaction (staying the course) is your best option. This is why we insist that you be honest with yourself here. If what you have is indeed working and working well, then don't break it for nestalgia's sake. But assuming that your effort in digging up all those old numbers has bore some fruit, it'll then be a matter of figuring out where and what you might be able to gleen and incorporate into your current operation. That is to say, it may not be an entire shift that you have to make in order to arrive at the thing that made your busisness such a joy to run, rather a few factors you can implement (or remove) that bring about the peace or success you once cherished.
Small Course Corrections
So, let's assume you did find some lost treasure from years past... some practice or lack thereof that truly made your SMB a delight at some point. And let's also assume that you've noted these factors and have decided to go ahead and implement these findings into your operation now (with the hope of bringing back that "ole time feelin"). This being the case, you'll nevertheless want to make small changes towards your goal of retro-grading your operation. We can't emphasize enough that even small changes can have a big affect. But if... if... you can bring the best of all worlds into your operation and reinvigorate the purpose behind your enterprise to begin with, then yeah... we're all for that. So, keep track of the small things, break them down and see where they can fit in your current operation. Prioritize them by ease of implementation and synergy with your current offerings (and go slowly).
Observe & Adjust
There's no undo button in life, but you can (and should) document your successes along the way. Because if you're not seeing success (or if you're seeing the "wrong kind" of success), then you're going to want to find out quickly so that you can adjust without too much damage. What is the wrong kind of success? Well, in short, that could be additional threads of opportunity. So, you're already retro-grading and the last thing you need to do is further fragment a blue-sky session by side-stepping into even more waters and new-found opportunities. If this happens, document it and evaulate it later. These are gold, but don't let them weigh you down. Right now, you're on a mission to implement what brought you happiness and/or success in your business' years past. Observe what's working, what isn't and adjust to your liking while staying mindful of your current momentum.
Then & Now
Sometimes, the past can be rosie. If it's not working anymore, it may have just been a brief period of success or some other fator that isn't worth revisiting. But, as we mentioned earlier, if there are elements that you may have passed up, left behind in previous "upgrades" to your products/services or just forgot about entirely... then it's a healthy excersize to, when possible, revisit those periods in your business that propelled you forward (or at very least made the whole thing tollerable). =) As technologists, we often find that the best innovations in technology are not pulled from the future, but are instead pulled from the past. It's in these sorts of activities, where we pick up dropped toys and examine them (or systems, procedures and methodologies for you) that we can find the gems that motivate us forward. That said, enjoy the exercise and don't be afraid to draw from that entrepeneurial adventurism once again. After all... it's your greatest asset.
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