Doing A Business Reboot

Sometimes even the best thought out plans that you execute to the best of your ability don’t really work out.  In business this happens way more than 50% of the time – someone gets a great idea, they invest time, energy and money into the business and despite their best efforts, the effort fails.

But what happens when you have a partial failure?  Elements of your business seem to be trending the right way, but there’s something just not quite right.  Maybe the broken parts are actually identifiable, but not correctable within the current context of how you’re running your business.

I can tell you from experience, this is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to you when running your business.  You sit there knowing that everything “should” work but it isn’t and you’ve done the hard yards but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

So what do you do?

You do a reboot of your business.

I’m not talking about the kind of reboot you do on your computer when Windows acts like Windows and you turn it off and on again in the vain hope that whatever computer gremlins have invaded it will vanish.

No, I’m talking about a Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan style reboot of Batman.

You go back to first principles of your existing business and you work out what are the elements that are working and you want to maintain.  Then you look at the things that maybe aren’t firing correctly or are problematic and you think about how you can revise them.

In fact, I’d say you toss away the things that aren’t working and start again from scratch on them so that you get a different outcome.

One problem most of have is that we become attached to things we’ve built and we want to fix them.  We invest more time tinkering with a loser idea and ultimately end up compounding the problem.  Things actually get worse.

That’s where a business reboot is great.  You go into it knowing that the parts of your business that aren’t working are going to just go away.

Going back to my Batman analogy, when Christopher Nolan took over the franchise, he knew he could throw away George Clooney and never have to see Bat Nipples again.  He was able to toss away the tainted legacy and start again.

And this allows you to peel things back so that you build around and on top of your successes.  The parts of your business that shine can be accentuated further and made the centrepiece of what you’re doing.  You can add in new elements to replace the failed parts that you throw away.

The other aspect of a good business reboot is that you can take on a whole new mindset as you do it.  You’ve learned your lessons, probably the hard way and now you’re starting afresh.

You’re looking forward.

That’s a really important part of this reboot process.  I don’t talk much about mindset and “woo woo” type stuff, but I’m a big believer in drawing a line under something and moving on which is a big part the reboot.  You’ve come to terms with the fact that you need to make serious changes in your business, so now you get on with it.

I’ve done a few of these reboots over the years particularly in my online businesses and later this year, I’ll probably start another one.

A few years ago we had all of our discreet marketing services business in their own domains, with their own websites and their own product offerings.  We drove traffic to each of them and our customers were pretty siloed into just one of two of our product offerings.

We had RapidAction Writing for our content business, RapidAction SEO for our SEO and Search Marketing business and we had RapidAction Central as the place where people could get blog posts, but also things like coaching and some other services we offered.

The thing was, we started to see our marketing services business skew away from an online transactional model, to a more traditional referral type business model.  This really suited us because the client values were higher and it required less marketing.

We made the decision to simplify everything, collapse all the brands down to RapidAction Central and not worry about online lead generation as much.

That model worked for us to a degree.  It certainly simplified everything and it allowed us to focus on servicing our existing clients because we weren’t’ constantly focusing on lead generation.  We’re still doing well from these businesses but there’s a bit of stagnation that has crept in and we’re not doing anything innovative.

So why is that a problem?

Simple answer, when you’re not innovating or keeping up with innovation in the marketplace you’re falling behind.  That may not catch up with you today, or tomorrow, or next week, but at some point in the future you’re going to get caught out.  In technology projects we refer to it as “tech debt” – when you take a shortcut or MacGyver something to get it to work, you’re accruing a debt that will have to be eventually repaid.  Same with innovation in your business, when you don’t innovate yourself or keep up with innovation, eventually you will have to write that cheque.

To fix this, I’m looking at doing a reboot in this part of the business later this year.  I’m not sure what that will ultimately look like, but we will be shaking things up.

Our core businesses are very strong – our writing business does excellent work, the quality is really very high and our SEO business gets good results for clients, so as part of the reboot, those things will be the centrepiece.  Some of the other things we do in that business will be chopped away and we’ll start again on those ideas from scratch.

Another big part of the reboot will be how we market that business.  We’ve pretty much stopped marketing it, so there needs to be a rethink there – I’m leaning towards doing more paid traffic, but we need to get the products and the offers right before I go too far down that path of thinking.

Now, before you ask, let me just say that Casual Marketer will be unaffected by this reboot because it’s an entirely separate line of business for me.  It’s off to the side, doing its own thing with its own business plan, P&L and metrics.  This reboot will just be for our marketing services business.

The last thing I’d say about a business reboot is it’s pretty exciting, it re-invigorates you and the way you think about your business.  It’s like you’re giving yourself permissions to write off your failures or missteps and celebrate your victories by making those the hero of your revitalised business going forward.

If you feel like your business is stuck in neutral or you’ve maybe lost a bit of the spark for it, then I encourage you to sit down and think, “If I were to reboot this business, what would I keep, what would I throw away, what would I rebuild and what would I add?”  Then just get a whiteboard or a piece of paper and flesh it out, I bet you’ll come up with some incredibly powerful new ways of thinking about what you do!

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