Did Your Professional Services Business Hit a Plateau? Get Back Into Growth Mode

7-Sep 2022
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Chelsea Williams COPYWRITER

Ups and downs are part of life — most of us accept that. And at least change, for good or bad, involves movement. It’s when you’re not going anywhere that things get frustrating.

Hitting a slump is common, though, especially in a business context.

Let’s explore how your business may have landed in this plateau and some ways to ignite growth and start hitting your targets again.

Why Plateaus Happen

In a service business, your primary focus is your clients. Giving them your attention is important for generating revenue and developing a solid reputation in your industry, but it can also be a distraction from your goals and larger plans. 

You could be trapped in the classic “feast or famine” cycle, diving deeply into client work while failing to fill your sales pipeline, then struggling to find new business once those projects are over. Things are great when invoices come due, but if that work isn’t recurring, you’ll have to hop to the other side of the seesaw and start all over again. This instability will show up as low margins.

Not only is this cycle not profitable, but it’s incredibly stressful. 

It can also be a sign of a bigger problem. Something about your current structure or processes is holding your business back. Chances are, a combination of factors brought you here.

Common plateau-inducing patterns include:

  • Trying to serve everyone instead of narrowing your market and client base
  • Being uncomfortable with delegation or unwilling to seek third-party help
  • Holding onto too many employees who do non-billable administrative work
  • Neglecting to develop and maintain appropriate workflows
  • Spending too much when you have periods of increased cash flow
  • Keeping your prices too low — for too long
  • Losing your passion or vision for the business 

While awareness is critical, there’s no need to continue worrying about what you may have done wrong in the past. A plateau doesn’t have to be a scary stage. Through a slightly different lens, you might also see it as a necessary resting place to notice what needs to change and prepare for your next move. 

With some reflection and strategic planning, you can get your business’s wheels turning.

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back.”

Sam Waterston

How To Get Moving Again

External factors, e.g., a pandemic or high inflation, can certainly impact your business’s trajectory, but they’re no match for the entrepreneurial drive to forge ahead. Still, mindset and willingness must be accompanied by action to deliver results. 

There may be avenues you haven’t considered because you’re enmeshed in your day-to-day operations and committed to keeping your clients happy. Here’s how to shake the inertia.

Evaluate Competitor Strategies

Thinking about competitors when you’re in stagnant mode could either be intimidating or inspiring. We recommend consciously choosing the latter.

Consider your strongest direct competitors, the ones who are noticeably ahead of you in terms of market share. What are they doing that you may have previously thought of as too “out there?” You probably don’t have access to their behind-the-scenes happenings, but you may be able to tell what’s landing in terms of marketing, pricing strategy and service offerings by scouring their websites, social media accounts and customer reviews.

And if you haven’t completed a formal competitor analysis yet, start there. Looking outside the four walls of your own business can spark new ideas. If you engage in healthy comparison, you may open your creative floodgates. 

Find Opportunities to Pivot

We all know the classic adage: If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. Shifting the types of services you provide or clients you serve could pull your business out of its rut.

Maybe it’s time for:

  • A new round of market research
  • Client surveys or focus groups
  • Refreshed buyer personas
  • Packaged offerings
  • A streamlined client base

PRO TIP: Involve your whole team! To discover growth renewal strategies that will work for your business, tap into your most valuable resource: your people. 

Consolidate and Invest in Tech

When you’re caught in a plateau and eager to scale, it may be tempting to slash your tech stack. Cutting costs will increase profits, right?

That’s potentially true in the short term, and it’s certainly helpful to review underutilized software tools for opportunities to save, but rampant cutbacks with no clear direction won’t be sustainable. Eventually, you’ll end up back where you started, drowning in costly app subscriptions and platforms that don’t work well with each other.

A period of immobility is a great time to take a calculated risk on something new. If you’re honest about what your business needs, it’s probably a significant change. Some of the most impactful changes can come from new forms of digital collaboration and customized uses for automation.

Transitioning to one robust client work management platform is worth the hassle of letting go of several mediocre single-function applications. Accelo may be just the partner your business needs to see growth again.

Schedule a demo to learn more.

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