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Weathering Your Business's Midlife Crisis

(August 2006) posted on Sun Sep 10, 2006

Learn how to avoid common missteps during the most critical times.

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By Gordon Roberts

So you've moved out of the garage and have decided that you are really going to make a go of this screen-printing thing. This is the point in your journey where statistics say that you are in another make-or-break maneuver. You need to purchase the right presses for your needs, convince the bank to lend you the money for the purchases, and then figure out a way to make your customers stay with you and not be seduced by the guy that took your place in his garage. You are employing more staff, increasing payroll, dealing with personnel problems, and the list goes on. If you're skilled and lucky, you'll emerge from this period with a successful business. Soon enough, you are at the next challenging moment in your business life.

Maintain a manageable level of growth

Too many businesses fail at this point. How many times have you heard someone tell you that a company failed because it grew too fast? The trick to surviving through the growth patch is to take it slow, keep a cool head, and don't try to take every order you can find. I will address this particular period in a later column or two. Such is the wealth of lessons to be learned at this stage. What interests me the most in the Department of Commerce survey is the next phase.

The midlife crisis

By now your business is established. The years of hard work have paid off, your customers are loyal, you own the best presses, your staff is highly trained, and every day you are getting closer to paying off the mortgage on your building. Time for you to sit back and reap the benefits, right?

But wait—the days of double-digit growth are over. Your piece of the business that's available to you is close to being maxed out, and every day your overhead increases due to inflation, employee raises, and the cost of gas and electricity, to name a few. Slowly but surely your profits are being whittled away, and nothing on the horizon will make up the difference.


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