Think Business — To Struggle or Not to Struggle? By Mark Richardson

Today’s business environment places many unprecedented challenges on companies as well as individuals. Are you taking the right steps to address these challenges?

Sometimes we confuse being busy as doing well. Sometimes we think when the phone is ringing that we should be happy not overwhelmed. Sometimes when we are creating great projects, we should be making money.

While all these may be true, then why are so many businesses struggling? Why are these businesses falling short on the sales targets and their gross profit margins, and are slipping dramatically on the forecasted net profit?

Every business is unique; however, there are some common denominators.


Today, the pace of business is faster than ever. If you drive a car at 40 miles per hour, you have plenty of time to react when a deer is crossing the road. On the other hand, if you are driving 80 miles per hour you have very little (if any) time to avoid an accident. The risks are much greater. Your reaction time in business today is a fraction of what it was 10 or 20 years ago.

Today, customers are more demanding than ever. This is partially a result of their stress but also the desired transparency in today’s business processes. They often know as much about your products and costs as you do, and therefore ask more and more questions, and their trust levels are less.

The talent pool is not as deep as it used to be. Not only are the experienced growers getting older, but they also have many employment options and are less loyal to you. This is resulting in more turnover, which really disrupts the process and the business.

The proliferation of products, processes and choices also adds a level of complexity to everything you do and therefore makes it more difficult.

These are just a few common denominators that I am sure hit home and therefore make things tougher out there.


As a coach and an advisor, I generally don’t like to just be a master of the obvious. The following are a few tips on how to counter some of these, so you struggle less.

  1. Know your numbers: Today, you need to really drill deep into your key metrics. Go deeper than in the past. For example, it is not enough to say, “We got 10 new leads this week.” Where did the leads come from? How does this compare to the forecast? How does this measure up to last year? How many leads resulted in an appointment? What are the lessons learned? I suggest you spend an extra hour each week really knowing all the numbers more deeply and making little adjustments based on this knowledge.
  2. Focus on your sweet spot projects/client demographic: Think of your business like a target at a shooting range. The bull’s eye is you sweet spot. Try to identify the right client demographics, the right geography, the right project/product size and type. Then make sure you eliminate or say no to the ones that are not in the sweet spot, and work hard on the ones that do meet it.
  3. This is a team sport: You are not alone. Leverage the team. When you struggle, the team dynamic and culture often break down. It is more important than ever that you focus on the culture. It is important that you listen to the distant voices and react quickly. If you are struggling, then be assured the team might be having a tough time too; so make the team a priority.

While these suggestions may be obvious, many businesses struggle, in part, because these are not a priority. When you get overwhelmed, you tend not to focus on the one thing in each area (people/process/product) that will keep you on track.

You probably are not going to be able to change the pace of life or all of the demands of customers, but you can change how you look at things and how you react to these conditions.

The skills required today in business are higher than ever, but I do believe it is a choice whether to struggle or not.

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson is an author, speaker, columnist and business growth strategist. He has written several books on business management including “How Fit Is Your Business?” and “Fit to Grow.” His latest book is “Control Your Day Before It Controls You: The 7 Steps to Mastering Your Time.” All of his books are available on He can be reached at

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