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10 Alarming Signs that Your Business is in Trouble

10 Alarming Signs that Your Business is in Trouble

My grandfather delivered milk by horse and cart. Clopping hooves, the clink of bottles and the promise of daily delivered fresh milk is now but a faint memory. It was his life and business.

Large supermarket chains have claimed his job.

Waiting to have your film developed was part of the holiday ritual. It also sometimes meant discovering two weeks after the event that they were overexposed or were so dark they were useless. Taking photos was restricted to a roll of a 24 or 36 shot film canister.

Kodak’s reign is over .

The city newspapers still deliver our news in print but billions in business assets and even survival is under threat as information distribution moves online. Bloggers, Twitter and technology have changed the game.

So what are some indicators that you are becoming irrelevant in a tsunami of change and  what can you do about it? Here are 10 signs that your business is in trouble.

#1. Technology is an afterthought

Sometimes the key difference between continuing to be relevant and business extinction is technology. I don’t mean upgrading your photocopier, but taking a long hard look at trends in your industry that are promising disruption. E-commerce is not just about buying on the web it is commerce driven by technology that offers better service, speed to market and global reach.

Invest in technology until it hurts.

#2. The content is light and fluffy

Ever visited a company website and found nothing but froth, fluff and corporate speak. There is often no blog and if there is, it all about them. No content to educate, inspire or entertain. They are afraid to give away their knowledge.

Add value to your customers and prospects. Online that is the only way they know you are an expert and thought leader in your industry.

Source, create and publish the best content you can. Every day!

#3. Can’t spell SEO

SEO is an acronym and it is only 3 letters long. Many CEO’s still can’t spell it despite having a degree and years of experience in writing and grammar. Not being found in search can be a death sentence.

Investing the time and effort in making sure that you rank high in search engines is not an option unless you think Google is going away soon.

#4. Forgotten about the rest of the world

How many of you buy a product from the other side of the world?  Book, software or fashion. Your competitors can be in Hong Kong, New York or London. Often delivery is faster than the corner store.

Relevance today means global thinking.

#5. No continuous learning

So you have been to university or college. Your education is done. You can sit back and bask in the glow of the framed degree on the wall. I know doctors like that and they are dangerous!

Read blogs in your industry, attend conferences and read till your eyes bleed.

A fast changing world means yesterday’s degree is just a piece of paper.

#6. Passion and purpose is missing

A person with no passion and a company with a flapping purpose is ripe for disruption. A company on a mission means they will do what it takes to keep up to date. They invest in their people, culture and  education. Maintaining the status quo doesn’t cut it. Dead people walking is a sign that life is ebbing away.

Make sure you have a clear mojo.

#7. Ignoring your young people

Grey hair, suits and shiny shoes are all good. If that means that you are doing the same things from 20 years ago and the results are static or diminishing then you may need an injection of new blood. Your 20 and 30 year olds are the future and they know what works on a social and mobile web.

Young and crazy is sometimes sensible.

#8. Buying is complicated

Ever bought an ebook on Amazon. It is one click! Do you put obstacles in the way of your customers. Do you make them jump through hoops.

According to Ev Williams, the founder of Blogger and Twitter.

Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company. Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

So the thinking should be when building a successful online business is “how can I take out the steps?

Companies such as Selz, with quick and easy set-up of online payments for bloggers and business and Canva, who makes design as simple as find, drop and drag know that. They understand the beauty and importance of simplicity

Jack Dorsey is doing that with Square that makes buying easy using a mobile. Started in 2010 it now has 600 employees.

#9. Mobile isn’t mentioned

Finding information, checking the weather and buying products is no longer a desk job. Reading emails and making purchases are done on the bus, the beach and in the cafe.

Companies that are ignoring the smartphone revolution need to design their business and technologies for a mobile world.

#10. Inflexible

We all have our own ideas but sometimes you need to listen and watch to what is happening around you. It’s called awareness. Resisting change doesn’t mean you don’t care. Being flexible is a way of thinking. Being open to new ideas and just plain listening means you can adapt

How do you remain relevant?

It can be summed up with a simple phrase, “Watch, listen and learn

Are you relevant or are you in danger of becoming a dinosaur?  Ecommerce, mobiles, new media and  technology are disrupting business as usual. How are you coping?

Look forward to your insights and feedback in the comments below.



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  • Alexis Humphrey

    I like your third point where you said, “Not being found in search can be a death sentence.” As a web design and internet marketing company, we can make beautifully designed websites, but if no one sees them then a company really needs to rethink the marketing they are spending their time and resources on. SEO is going to be their best option in getting people to locate their website.

    • Thanks Alexis for dropping by. The mantra should be “search, social and content”

  • Great article, it makes me think. As a matter of fact all your articles make me think about my company and how we are develaping our selfs. Always a great example of how to blog for success. Nice job MR. Bullas.

    • Thanks for the comment and your insights. I am still surprised by companies that I come across that seem to be like a frog in a slowly boiling pot. It is happening all around them but they can’t see it or feel it

  • #10 seems to be a big one, at least with the small businesses I’ve seen. And the inflexibility often leads to many of the other issues you described.

  • Kerry Townsend

    IF each small business person is THE expert, THE one to go to for all your web needs and ALL businesses come to THE expert, how will THE expert get it all done? Offshore outsourcing? Is there no room for the independent that’s really good, but not THE expert?

  • I run into so many potential clients with all of these issues. The main ones I’ve noticed are no time (no time to build your business?), I can’t get my head around SEO (like it’s going to go away) and no continuous learning (I know what I do and that’s all I need). Great post and I got a lot from it. Thanks

  • Hi Jeff. You really have put it all together here! Another alarming sign is when a brand is too dependent on technology. For example, AT&T was an issue because of their social automation backfiring. They executed their Ticket Chasers Twitter campaign for March Madness to target people who would be interested in the personalized (automated) tweets, as well as mentioned basketball or March Madness. These automation tweets ended up mentioning who weren’t followers of AT&T, and created a very spammy Twitter presence. What are your thoughts on it?

  • I love your point on number 2 Jeff. As a freelance website designer/developer myself I come across lots of websites that are far too corporate. and yes you are right about blogs, far to often it’s all about them
    In my opinion I think a blog should do 2 things. 1 help build your own business and 2 help, inspire and provide value to that sites potential clients. I run a blog myself for my business and I try to help others with regular quality content.
    I have found many new clients this way and fresh new content is great for building Google rankings!
    Epic post Jeff. Really enjoyed reading it.
    – Phillip Dews

  • dayna

    Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous job.


  • Scott

    I also concur with #2, and would add the preponderance of jargon and techno-speak I see in too many blog posts. Bless you, that you have read all the technical articles, but because your beanie-hat started to spin when you read today’s serving of techno-babble du-jour, doesn’t mean you have to parrot it!

    I agree that the CEO usually doesn’t know from SEO, but he sometimes is the guy with the checkbook. Now, does it make sense to ostracize him, or educate him and increase his comfort level?

    My wife kids me when I am cross that my SEO tripped over my CSS and broke my H1!

  • I think #5 is the most critical, especially in the technology world. If you don’t continuously learn about the latest in your field, then you’re toast.

    There is also another thing that I would like to add: not having enough time to focus on marketing. If you suddenly have too many client because of the previous marketing that you personally did, and if you’ve allocated yourself full time on client projects (that generate money), then, in the long run, your business will start shrinking because you’re not doing any marketing to gain more clients.

    If you reach a point where you can’t do any marketing, then probably it’s time to bring someone else on board.

  • Jeff great article! Thank you.

  • Guy Harel

    Hey Jeff, great article, thank you!

  • Missed the most important one. Someone needs to look after the businesses cash as if it was their own.