A Flat Business Is a Failing Business – What Shape Is Yours?


If your business is flat it won’t stay that way. “Great, it’ll start to grow.” You may exclaim. Well…yes it might. But it’ll only do that if you purposefully do something to make that happen.

Now to make that something happen you must first know why your business is flat. What turned a growing business into a flat business? And more importantly, what will stop that flat business from becoming a shrinking business?

Herein lies the challenge – if you don’t know why your business is flat then how will you turn the “flat” back into a “rise”? And if identifying the problem wasn’t a tough enough challenge you need to then find the solution and find it quickly before “flat” becomes “drop”.

But why should a business that is flat become a business that is falling? Why can’t it stay flat until the growth solution is found and implemented?

Well…because a business plateaus for 2 reasons.

  1. It was done purposefully and as part of an overall growth strategy. Or,
  2. It occurred despite your best efforts to keep your business growing.

Now, if the former reason, then you already have your strategy in place that will take your business from the plateau to another period of growth. In which case, this post will not help you so please read no further.

If the latter reason, then your business is heading for a drop because the laws of physics guarantee that this will happen. In which case, this post will help you so please do read on.

Two laws of physics will guarantee your flat business will start to fall.

  • Entropy will ensure that, like an untended garden will grow weeds or an untended house will fall into disrepair, your business will fall instead of rise.
  • And Newton’s 1st Law of Motion will make it harder to change whatever it is you need to change to have your business growing again – whether that’s overcoming inertia or changing its momentum.

This post will explain these laws and their effect on your business in more detail.

Just like the peak of a roller coaster is followed by a steep drop or a ball thrown into the air will stop for an instant before falling back to earth, if your business is unintentionally flat then, without intervention, it will at some point turn downwards.

To turn a flat business back into a growing business your challenge is three-fold.

  1. You have to identify how it became flat in the first place. In other words you have to identify what you did wrong or what you should have done but didn’t.
  2. Then you have to change what isn’t working – you have to overcome the inertia that is holding back your business or change its direction (momentum).
  3. And to do this you have to be able to step away from your business and for your business to continue running without you in it on a daily basis.

Leave it too late and your business will start to fall and your efforts to turn it around will become inexorably more difficult. Your time, effort and resources will become focused on halting the fall of your business and not on growing it.

Once you’ve halted the fall your business will be flat again, which you still then have to turn into a rise. Only now you’ll be doing it from a lower position that you may have previously held years ago and from where your business is weaker and more vulnerable to things like competition and changing market forces.

Regardless of their size, most businesses find turning an unintended plateau into a rise hard and a fall even harder. Large corporations like Xerox, Nokia and Kodak have struggled to do this and only survive because of the vast assets they, at the time, possessed and often because a change in leadership and senior management has managed to change the culture and thinking in time.

But most businesses don’t have these vast reserves and assets and they don’t survive. The few that do, do so because they have a strong leader who sees what’s happening and has the courage to change the course that the business is on.

But if they themselves had set the course, how do they change it? They seek help. They bring in people who aren’t blinded by the culture and the way things have always been done. They bring in fresh eyes – people who can help them see the wood for the trees.

They do what it takes to get their business growing again before the plateau turns naturally into a fall.

If your business is flat and you don’t do something to turn it into a business that is growing once more then the one certainty is that it will, at some point, start to fall.

The next certainty is that when it does, your job to turn it around will become that much harder.

A flat business is a failing business.

If your business is flat, don’t wait. Get your business growing again as soon as possible and if you’re not sure how then get help.

I talk more about this is an article called, “How Healthy Does Your Business Look?”. You can find this in the library of free resource.

Photo Credit: Jordi Payà at Flickr