Life is great when you can just kick back, relax, take one day at a time, and let the chips fall as they may. In business, that almost never works. In business, if you want anything good to happen, you pretty much have to make it happen.
Sure, luck is a factor, but you can't count on it. Besides, successful business owners make their own luck by constantly seeking to improve their situation. They know that day-to-day inertia, the status quo, is the enemy of business.
In fact, lots of big famous companies were once small businesses just like yours. I bet you didn't know that McDonald's started as a hot dog stand called The Airdrome. Or that Sony began as a radio repair shop. Or that James L. Kraft sold cheese door to door.
One thing's for sure. They didn't become successful by sitting around waiting for good things to happen. They made them happen. Here are seven ways to get you started on that. Find one that resonates with you and give it a try. You never know where it might take you.
Make it a turnaround. We tend to think of turnarounds as bad things when, in reality, they're the first step to better things. When you work too hard just to keep things running, you're not likely to change anything unless it's absolutely necessary. So make it necessary. If you keep putting it off, the only thing that's going to change is that things will keep getting worse.
Ask. You're too close to your business. All business owners are. So ask your employees for new ideas or what you need to do to improve. Ask your customers. Ask your spouse, your kids, your friends. Ask anyone who will tell you and then listen. Don't be defensive and don't take it personally. Just listen with an open mind. How else do expect to learn anything new about your business?
Run the numbers. Lots of business owners just aren't that into business, at least not the financial side of it. They love doing what they do, but numbers and spreadsheets give them a headache. If you're one of those people, what can I say, that's a recipe for disaster. If you're no good with numbers, then hire someone who is. Even if it's just a one-time consultant, I bet you'll be surprised at what you learn.
Take a break. Somewhere in the back of your mind, in the deep dark recesses of your subconscious, are things you know you'd like to do or should do, but you suppress them because you're afraid to change or you just don't want to do the work. After all, the status quo is easy. So is sitting quietly by while your business goes down the drain. Don't let that happen. Go ahead: take your first day off in ten years. Go off somewhere quiet, relax, and see what pops into your mind. It's called perspective. Get some.
Get a partner. Just about every great company I know started with partners. I assume that has something to do with having someone to bounce ideas off of. Or maybe it's about sharing the work, the burden, the stress, that sort of thing. All I know is it works. But don't take it lightly. Partnerships are tricky and somewhat risky. Chemistry is the key.
Fix up the place. If you have one or more storefronts, take a good hard look around. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a place and walked right back out because it was dirty, dingy, disorganized, old, whatever. If you have an online business, then do the same thing--virtually. People make buy decisions for lots of reasons, not least of which is because they feel good about doing business there.
Outsource. Yeah, I know, outsourcing has a bad rep these days. If you want to let that stand in the way of improving your business, be my guest. The truth is that doing in-house what someone else can do for you for less is just plain dumb. If you focus on what you're best at and outsource the rest, that's smart business.
This column originally appeared on Inc.com.
Steve Tobak is a Silicon Valley-based strategy consultant and former senior executive of the technology industry.