Do you watch that "Restaurant: Impossible" show, where the beefy Aussie yells at people who own failing restaurants? It's horribly predictable after a few episodes, but I noticed one thing that small businesses can learn from.
A restaurant opens, has a few people show up and eat. It's not enough people, so the restaurant adds five more dishes to the menu. That attracts a few new people, but it's still not enough. They add six new dishes. The cycle goes on and on until the menu looks like a cookbook.
In an effort to draw more audience, the owner has lost focus. Because so many dishes are offered, it takes longer and longer to make each dish, so even if the new six dishes click with patrons, it takes so long to do anything that overall sales drop.
Adding new things is no way to turn a failing restaurant into a successful one.
And this January, many of you are planning on making resolutions for your business. They sound like "I'm going to be more active on social media" or "I'm going to offer a new delivery service" or even "I'm going to offer classes on what I do."
These aren't bad ideas. The problem is that no one ended 2012 thinking that they had a lot of spare time on their hands. Adding new ideas is like adding new dishes to your menu: It seems like a good idea, but can screw up all your other business processes, lowering your ability to deliver.
I'm not just talking about time. Sometimes the thing you need to stop doing is the thing that's expensive but not driving traffic. I once worked at a company where we ran an ongoing ad in a newspaper. No one asked if we should keep doing it, or if the ad was helping. No one tried different creative or offers to see if they moved the needle. But every year, we could watch almost $10,000 fly out the door without knowing if it was doing any good. What could you do with an extra $10,000 to build your business?
So maybe your first resolution should be to stop doing something.
Get off Facebook or Pinterest (not because they don't work, but because they haven't worked for you; you are looking at the data to see if they are working, right?). Stop doing that process by hand if it's something you automate. Stop that coupon program, discount for industry people, whatever. Find the things that aren't adding as much value as they take from you and stop them. Only then can you look to new ideas. Because only then will you have the capacity to consider and execute them effectively.
James Ellis is a Chicago-area digital strategist with Google Analytics certification. Buy him coffee. He likes coffee.