This One Mistake Could Ruin Your Business AND Your Relationship
Aaron started his company a year ago, and he’s been doing great. His small sales team knows how to sell his product, and his product is “damn good.” So it’s been working! Six months after starting, he decided to expand slightly by offering two new products. They were also useful for the same target market, but not supplementary to his first product. In other words, the same customers might like them, but they didn’t do anything to enhance the original product he was finding success with. Nonetheless, he decided it was a good idea—an early expansion. Within a few months, he realized that not only did these two new products not sell very well, but suddenly sales of his original product began to decline. He was dumbfounded because they hadn’t changed anything about the original product or their sales techniques… But of course, I saw an obvious shift that led to this decline. It’s a mistake many new business owners make. Can you guess what it is?
This mistake doesn’t just happen in business. Chris recently came to me asking advice about his relationship with his wife. They’ve been married for 10 years, and came into a rough patch about 2 years ago. They weren’t communicating well, or sleeping together regularly, or really having fun at all. Finally, after a year of couple’s therapy, they found a formula that worked to keep the fun alive, and the relationship improved across the spectrum. They designated particular times that they both committed to being with each other and doing fun activities together. And it was working! But Chris’ work schedule suddenly changed a few months ago, so they had to alter their quality time, which sometimes doesn’t line up. The regularity of their dedicated time together began declining. He didn’t want to regress to another rough patch, so Chris starting doing other extra stuff, like bringing home flowers once in a while and leaving little cards or buying presents, all to make up for the quality time they were losing. Regardless of the presents, though, Chris sensed the communication and the intimacy were once again suffering. He felt confused and slightly resentful. “I do all this nice stuff for her… Why doesn’t she appreciate it by showing me some affection?!”
Both these men were experiencing what it’s like to leave their foundation of WHAT WORKS. Many new business owners get arrogant once they start realizing a profit, with the notion that perhaps it’s time to expand. But often, it’s too soon for that. The general rule is to saturate the market to at least 80% of your capacity with the product that’s WORKING before expanding. And that’s because—and this is the shift that led to Aaron’s decline—where focus goes, energy flows. Even one minute spent selling or thinking about another product is one minute less spent thinking about, growing, and selling the original product(s). And if that original product has a proven success record, keep expanding on it until you’ve gone to 80% of your capacity in market reach before trying out new products. After only a year in business, Aaron was at 20% at best. He was far away from saturating his market and should not have even been thinking about a new product until the first had bought him a full staff, a million-person customer database, and a large research-and-development fund to “test” other products without a serious risk to covering operating costs. It’s okay to add on small supplementary items that might be supplemental upsells to the original product, but not brand new or competing products altogether. Not one minute should be taken away from the strategy that’s working until you have an abundance of cash and manpower to test new strategies. Aaron has since dropped the 2 new products and is returning to his original sales model and focus… Luckily he realized this mistake and corrected the problem before the problem overwhelmed his ability to continue operating.
The same goes for our relationships. If something is working well—if there’s a solid formula for improving and sustaining fun, trust, and intimacy in a relationship—stick to it! Chris found his wife’s—and seemingly his own—love language: quality time. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are 5 basic “love languages”—the ways we each recognize being loved. If you divert from your partner’s language (e.g. quality time) to try speaking another language (e.g. gift giving), you’re diverting energy from something that works to something that probably won’t, at least not as well. I asked Chris what the priority in his life was: his job or his wife? He answered: “My wife.” So I asked, “Then why are you willing to jeopardize your relationship for your job? I understand you have to make money, but it’s your job as a husband to figure out a way to work and earn a living that supports—not hurts—your marriage. Either work out a new schedule at work so you can get back to your quality time with Jen… Or start looking for a new job! And let Jen know your plan immediately: that you’re working on shifting your schedule in order to get your dedicated quality time back on track. Make this a priority if you want your relationship to be fun and loving again.” Chris did just that. He ended up working out a new, better schedule with his boss, and his relationship is finally fun again!
So where have you diverted from what works in your life? What formulas can you think of that, for one reason or another, aren’t being implemented anymore. Whether it be in your relationship or career, your spiritual practice or your health… Figure out what works, or what has worked in the past, discard all the ancillary paths and strategies, and start getting back on track.
If some element of life isn’t working and you don’t know what will work, then start innovating new strategies, talk to some trusted associates, and/or go to a coach to get help. It’s time to get clear and get on track. It’s time to know and use WHAT WORKS! Aren’t you worth it?