Small Business Corner - Why Your Business Has Plateaued, And What To Do About It

Has your business plateaued?  Are you successful, but for whatever reason, can’t seem to “take it to the next level”?  Are you frustrated because no matter what you try, you can’t seem to build your business and make more money?  This is a common problem for business owners, especially for businesses that have been around for a while.  Here is a quick model that will explain why you are stuck, as well as what to do about it:

The Four Levels of Conflict

If you are stuck and have plateaued in your business, or any area of your life for that matter, chances are that you’ve hit one of the four levels of conflict.  In order to understand how this applies to you and your business, I’ll first define what the four levels are, and then we can apply it to your specific situation.

Level #1 – Survival

The first level of conflict is known as survival.  At survival level, you are just getting by.  This is the level where you are just barely making payroll, and have just enough revenues to cover your monthly business expenses. 

Question – What does survival look like to you in your business?

Level #2 – Stability

At level two, you’ve reached stability.  Stability is just above survival.  At stability level, you can pretty easily make payroll, you’re paying your expenses consistently and have additional revenues to reinvest in your business.  You are also paying yourself some type of salary as the owner of the business, and a fairly comfortable with where your business is at.

Question – What does stability look like to you in your business?

Level #3 – Success

At level three, you’ve reached success!  Success is defined as the level above stability.  At this level, you have plenty of revenues coming in, you pay yourself a consistent salary, you are reinvesting your profits into the business, and you are known in the community and in your industry as running a successful business.  You also are experiencing a lot of the benefits of running a successful business, such as being able to take vacations without worrying about your business, and having strong enough systems in your business so that you don’t have to work in the business, at least on a consistent basis.

Question – What does success look like to you in your business?

Level #4 – Significance

At level four, you’ve reached significance, or what I like to call “The Bill Gates Level”.  At this level, you’ve arrived!  You are at the top end of your industry, you have a highly successful business, and you’re making enough money that you no longer have to worry about money.  You are probably spending a big chunk of your time doing things outside of your business such as traveling, giving money to charities, and contributing to society at a higher level.  Very few people reach this level, so if this is where you are at, congratulations.

Question – What does significance look like to you in your business?

Now that you understand the 4 levels of conflict, where would you put yourself?  Are you in survival mode?  Maybe you are at stability or success?  Perhaps significance?   Take note of the level you are at, and read on.

The Two Keys To Understanding The Four Levels Of Conflict

Imagine for a moment that you are living at survival level, and you decide that you’re going to go out and buy a new Ferrari.  What do you think would happen?  Obviously, if you are really just getting by and living check to check, then if you actually were even able to somehow drive your new Ferrari off the sales lot, it would quickly be repossessed when you couldn’t make the payments.  This is a great example of the first key to understanding the four levels of conflict, which is that you can’t skip levels!  If you try to go from survival to success, for example, you’ll most likely come crashing down to survival level again.  The same goes for the other levels.

The second key to understanding the four levels of success is that the thought process and strategy that got you to the level you are at today, not only won’t get you to the next level, but is probably keeping you stuck at the level you are at.  If you think about it, does Bill Gates have the same thought process and strategy for his business at significance level that he did when he first started at survival level?  Of course not!  He has a radically different thought process and strategy at the level he is at now, which is the key to understanding how to get to the next level.

For example, let’s say that you own a successful accounting business.  Maybe you’ve run the business for ten years, and have a large amount of clients that you do taxes and other CPA type work for.  However, even though you’re successful, you’re frustrated as your revenues are about the same each year, and you just can’t seem to get to the next level.

The problem here is that the business model that you are using, where you are trading your time for money, has caused you to “top out”.  In order to get to the next level, you need a completely different business model, and a completely different strategy.  In fact, you most likely need to radically change how you do business.  Does that make sense?

So, if you are stuck and topped out in your business, use the four levels of conflict to identify where you are at, what the next level looks like, and take some time to ask yourself if your thought process and strategy need to change, and in fact are what’s keeping you stuck. 

Have fun going to the next level!

Tom Kelly is a Professional Business Coach that specializes in working with small business owners, entrepreneurs, and salespeople. He can be reached at (630) 964-0112, or at

Copyright © Tom Kelly, Potential In Motion, Inc.TM 2015

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