How to Lead My Business and Team When Revenue is Down

Nov 13, 2023

It’s time for real talk. Revenue is down for many businesses. That’s the reality but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions. But we have to face the facts of what’s happening and go through the process of running through potential solutions to get the results that we want.

As we go through ups and downs in our businesses, having doom and gloom about it isn’t helpful. But neither is the (sometimes fake) “Everything is great” persona that can often permeate entrepreneurial circles. I’d rather be real with each other and focus on what we can do to fix things. So let’s talk about how to lead when revenue trends are dipping.

“We don’t always get the solutions we want but we do get solutions that we are willing to consider.” – Kris Plachy

What You’ll Learn

  • Pandemic bubble burst
  • Smart numbers evaluation
  • Talking to your team
  • Reasonable goals
  • Doing what you haven’t done before
  • Where are you headed
  • Look at the world

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

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Hello. How are you? Welcome to the podcast today. I'm so glad you're tuning in. This is Kris Plachy. We're going to talk about revenue and when it's down. Your favorite topic. Let's go.

If you tune into this podcast regularly, you know I talk all things Leadership is Feminine. And all of the women that I work with are women, and 98 percent of them are female entrepreneurs. This year, there's a little bit of an interesting phenomenon happening, not for everybody, but certainly for a handful of people. And I don't think we talk about this a lot. I think, especially in entrepreneurial circles, everybody always talks about how great things are and all this stuff. And I just want to have a- let's just have a little real talk about some things that are going on that I know is affecting my clients.

Ironically, I just watched a video on Instagram of this woman who made a video about how they're just not making any money anymore. And so they're selling all their stuff. And anyway, I think we have to talk about it. And I want to talk about it in a way that isn't like doomy gloomy kind of stuff, because I don't think that's useful. I just want to do what I always do, which is let's just talk about the truth. And I think whenever you land in the truth, once you start solving a problem from the real truth - not the pretty one, not the scary one, not the one that your brother's sister's uncle told you about, but just the one that's real that you're looking at today - you can find a solution.

You may not like the solution, but that's not the point of a solution all the time. We don't always get the solutions we want, but we do get solutions that we are willing to consider and evaluate and run through a process and the facts of that process to get us to a reasonable outcome or what we're trying to create.

So just, in my little world, I've had quite a few - I would say not a lot, but several - clients who, most of whom are newer to me, but even clients that I've worked with for a while who are seeing a trend change in their revenue. And these are clients who run across industry, right? So service business, professional services, retail, e-commerce, in person, you know, brick and mortar, and they're seeing a dip in revenue and are alarmed, right?

So the general feeling is a lot of things. "I'm doing it wrong." "This is scary." You know, everywhere from there to like, "The business is going to fall apart and I won't have a business anymore." We entrepreneurs, we love to catastrophize. And I think that we have to be very thoughtful about the evidence we're using when we're making decisions to believe that things aren't great.

And so when a client comes to me and says, "I don't really know what to do. My revenue is kind of down, and how do I talk to the team?" That's usually how that presents itself in my calls. And so I want to talk to you about that. And then I also just want to talk to you about how I coach a client through a revenue being down, and that's measurable. We're not just talking about our feelings about revenue being down. This is when it's actually measurable.

So I want to talk about that part first. So the first thing about revenue is for sure over the past three years, after COVID and even before COVID, but COVID I think in many cases sort of created even more of this once in a lifetime random bubble. We have seen an explosive nature of businesses, right? Honestly, it's why so many women sought out working with me because they built these businesses, and then all of a sudden they were on the fast track and they were making all this money and they had to hire people and they don't know what they're doing.

And so we've been living in this bubble of the pandemic, and a captured audience and, an audience that's not traveling. An audience that's looking at their phone all day. And right, like, you name it audience that wants to do everything online. They want to shop online. They don't want to go out into the world. To now, we have a market and an audience of people who do. They go out in the world, they travel, they're spending their money on different things. They're not just buying household goods, design stuff for their house, or clothes - because that's what they would do, right? - or things for their kids, or education even, like their own personal development.

And so we're seeing a shift in what people are purchasing because the way that we are all living is different than it was two years ago, three years ago. Not surprisingly, what seems to also be the case for a lot of the people, a lot of the businesses that are also seeing a little bit of a movement in the sort of downward in their business, is that they also never really had to market and they benefited from the surge.

But I would also couple this with businesses that I know who used to be really successful using Facebook, social media advertising ads. Not necessarily influencing reels, all that stuff, but just ads. And they're also seeing changes in buyer behavior and the effectiveness of those ads. And so what we're seeing now is a lot of entrepreneurs who have been quite successful at building two, three, eight, 10 plus million dollar businesses, but they've never once had to market. They've had to sell, but not market. And there's a difference.

And that's the first thing I asked my clients when they say to me, "Revenue's kind of down." Well, that's not true. The first thing I ask is down, based on what? Down based on your projection? Down based on last year? What are we talking about? So let's make sure we're always clear. And I'll expound upon that in a second. And then I ask, "Okay, and what is the marketing like in your company?"

And the typical answer is, "I've never really had to do that."

That's not true for everybody, but that is true for a lot of businesses who have had this this whole blow up thing. It's like, it just took off like all of a sudden, right? We had this and this and this and this and this happened and we just kept having customers. We got a lot of referrals. We just haven't had to actually market.

And I'm a product of the 80's and I got my first job in 1993 and I went to work for a startup that was new in its space and really commanded all the space. And I worked in a company that, from the time I started there in 1993 to the time that I left, which was in the 2012, which is when I started my company, the change in year over year growth was dramatic, over the course of those years. And in the first years, it was insane. The amount of growth, right? 50%, 40%, just insane. And then the IPO, and then everybody got rich.

But then, you know, it wasn't like that. And the leadership panics. Because they get so used to, I think in these environments, their personal bonus, but they also get so used to this trajectory that they think that that's normal 20% year over year, 30% year over year. And when- that isn't necessarily normal, y'all. Now, if that's your business and that's what you think is possible and you have the market share, you have potential to grow and you know, you can get that done, I think it's great to have it.

But I certainly want you to be very thoughtful, because the majority of the women that I coach who are like, "Oh my gosh, my revenue's down." It's down based on their projection, but it's not down based on what they've already been able to earn. A lot of them are going to do what they did last year, but last year was the best year they've ever had. I'm like, are we going to make this a problem? I mean, sure, it would be cool to make more, but let's look at profit. Let's look at your operating expenses. How is the business running in general? Is it healthy?

Because if the answer is yes, let's not get into scarcity. You don't make good decisions as a leader when you are coming from scarcity. You start switching it up. You start being desperate in what you're trying to achieve. You overuse people on the team. You don't take good care. Like, there's lots of things we do when we start panicking, especially entrepreneurs. So if you are that person right now, and you're looking at your revenue and it's mid-November at this point, and you're like, "Um, yeah. I've got what? Six weeks left. I'm not where we think we could have been."

What are the facts? Know your numbers. What are your expenses? How does your expense line compare year over year? How does your revenue line compare year over year? How does your profit compare year over year? One of the things that I've encouraged my clients to do, that we did, is we looked at like for this year, our revenue's down a little bit, but that was, I planned on that because I changed my whole program. I knew that. We went four months and didn't sell anything. That was intentional. I did it on purpose.

But you know, what's super cool is our revenue line is down. Our profit's the same, which is good, but we've tripled the number of new customers, new clients. Which, what that speaks to is a pipeline, right? This time last year, we were celebrating like one of the highest revenue years we've ever had, but our new client number had dropped. Dramatically. And I knew that was not a good number to see go down, right? So you've got to be smart about your numbers.

Y'all, you can't just look at revenue. There are some years where you're going to make a lot of revenue. You're not going to feel like you make any money. Why? Because you built the team. So your payroll went up. Or maybe you had to buy- embrace new equipment or new technology. So we can't just look at the top line.

Now, if you see that your revenue is down, And you're, you say, "Okay, but I've never really marketed." Guess what time it is. It's time to embrace marketing. And there are a ka-mun-ja-nya million ideas when it comes to marketing. But really, the way we sell is we talk to the people who will buy. The way we market is we get what we do in front of the people who need it most, so that they know we're the people who can solve that problem. And if you've benefited, and you have really strong referral pipeline, but you've never actually like leveraged it try that. Build a plan.

You recall last week I talked about, you know, you say you really want something, but have you actually become an expert? Have you actually become qualified to achieve the thing that you say that you want? And I think there's a lot of people who are, you know, one to four million, one to five million operating leaders. They run this business they created, but they haven't really become qualified to lead the enterprise. They've become qualified to create a product, to find great customers, to deliver a product and package it.

Like, there's lots of things. Like, I'm really good at coaching, right? But I've had to learn how to run a company. And there have been a lot of things that I did not want to have to do. I know you would say the same thing. But in order to feel like a qualified CEO, to feel like the woman who's running this thing in a way that she knows what she's doing, I've had to gain a level of expertise that I never really wanted to have in certain things.

But you've got to have a checklist, a diagnostic process for when the revenue's down. Okay. But that doesn't mean anything. And if you're using that as a reason to be scared, the first thing I would do with you is like, let's look at the whole thing. Can we look at the full picture? Not just this one line.

And the last thing that's acceptable is for you to become helpless and a victim in this. Cause I can hear you all, as you have me on, in your head or in your car or wherever you are, there's people who will say, "Yeah, but Kris, you don't understand. I can't- you don't know- if you- I just don't know how to, you know."

I could hear it. Who cares? Do you want this business to grow? Do you want it to thrive? It's a question. You can make excuses and find reasons that it's going to be hard or that you don't know how, or that it'll cost too much or that, it's just not, or that the, right? Or, you could just decide, no, I'm going to figure it out. I need help. I need an advisor who understands my industry. I need an advisor who understands my product. I need to get with other people who work in this space and find out what they're doing.

There's so many things we can do, but sitting and fear is not the one I would choose. It doesn't get you what you want, if you really want it. And when we're dealing with a team - and that's the question, right? The revenue's down. Well, how do I talk to my team? You talk to your team in the language of a team. Which is goals, results, plans, strategy, ideating. I don't necessarily think it's the entire team's responsibility or business for you to walk in and say, "We're not hitting our revenue goals. You all need..."

I don't think that's useful. I think it makes people be scared. Scared employees don't work well because now they're afraid they're going to lose their job. And guess what people who are afraid they're going to lose their job do? They look for a new one. Even if you're not even close to closing, people freak out, right? Working for a small business is a little less secure in people's minds than working for a big company. I don't necessarily think that's true, but that's what people think, right? That's what we've been taught to believe.

So when you have a revenue gap that you want to tighten through the course of the year, let's have fun with it. Let's be playful. Let's say, "All right, y'all. It would be really great. Let's focus on getting $300, 000 more in this, this, and this, by the end of the year. Here's what we've talked about as far as goals. We'd love your opinions. What kind of resources do you need? You're the team that's going to do it. We're going to do this when we accomplish it. We're going to have this celebration."

Like, if you make this an experience that they can all be a part of, but it's not like, "Woe is us. Fear, fear, fear." but if it's "fear, fear, fear", you get that in their performance. Just remember that you really do get that in their performance.

So all of us have years where the revenue is down. There's not an entrepreneur on this planet that I know would tell you different. And if they are, they're lying to you. Revenue being down is not the end of the world. If you're here, this is what I said to one of my clients recently. And she said, it really helped her. I said, you've had this business for, I don't know, 12, 15 years, something like that. You're in this for the long game. No? Or are you just in it for this year?

So let's use this year as evidence. Let's evaluate it. Let's understand it. The year and the results that you have, they're giving you feedback. Let's use it. Let's understand it. Let's let it speak to us. Let's get it to tell us a story so that as we think about next year, we can be thoughtful.

And I think all of us need to evaluate if you've been doubling every year. Let's look at that. Is that reasonable? Is the market that you operate in is the current climate in the world that we're in? Is that a reasonable ambition right now? Is that a reasonable way to set up your business right now? It doesn't mean you can't have great goals, but what you're building, the business, the goals that you build the business around, you've got to be thoughtful about it.

So there's a difference between me sitting in my room thinking, Ooh, I want this to be our goal. Right? And I write it up somewhere for me and I work with my leadership team and we have a strategy. I'm like, Ooh, this could be fun. But the goal that the business is going to be built around - because that's how we make decisions for how we hire, what money we spend, what technology we need, what customers we attract, what marketing dollars we spend - that's where that comes from.

But when we've been so busy with achieving outrageous performance results, we do develop almost what I would call without trying to sound offensive, lazy leadership practices. Right? I had a client years ago, Stephanie, one of my favorite people. And she said, "Sales is the best lubricant for inadequate leadership."

So when we're making money hand over fist, leaders don't think they have a lot they have to do. This is so great. But the truth is, leading a million dollar enterprise, there's a lot for you to do. And there are elements that even if you haven't had to do them before, you should always start thinking about them.

So I got in a huge argument with a colleague of mine. This was several years ago because I was like, I just get referrals. I love referrals. Referrals are easy for me. And she was like, "That's amazing. You can't build a business on referrals."

I'm like, "Absolutely I can."

And I was furious about it. She and I are sitting across the boardroom together yelling at each other. And she was pounding her fist. She's like, "No, you have to learn how to market. You have to learn how to advertise."

I knew that, but I didn't want to. She was right. And I learned that. And so now I get both and it's better. Don't tell her I said that, though. She knows who she is.

Anyway, so all is not lost, love. If you're tuning into this because the title caught your attention, and maybe you've never been here before, I want you to turn this off and I want you to sit down and I want you to write down all the areas that you know that there is room for you to explore to develop potential revenue. Absolutely. Has to be done. And then we go through the process of vetting. What is the right one? What is the best one right now?

But putting our head in the sand and thinking, Oh my gosh, this is awful. My revenue's down. But when you actually are still making more money in the business than you ever have before, be careful. And let's decide if we're in it for the long game.

This is what a lot of my clients I'm really working with, especially my more tenured clients. Like, what are we doing? You built a business, you're running it. It's making a few couple hundred million dollars - well, that's an exaggeration - several million dollars. You're you've got a nice profit. You're making a good paycheck. You've got a good team. What are we doing? Are we going to sell this thing? Are you going to find someone to turn it over to you to be an absentee owner? You're just going to, is it going to just end with you? Like, what are you doing?

That lack of vision direction for the role that you will play with the business, prevents you in many ways from developing acumen that you need to accelerate and perform at a level that you want it to be. Because if you're just thinking, well, this is so cool and it's my thing that I love and I built it and now people all over the world are using it and I feel really great about it. It's so good. But you haven't really thought about, what's the end game? Where are we going?

It's not calling you to grow. It's not calling you to become more strategic, to be more informed, to develop more qualifications, to truly represent and lead a business that started in your garage, but now generates $5 million a year. And that is always, at the end of the day, when we watch a business end up folding up and closing. It's always because of a leadership gap, you guys. And I don't mean that there's something wrong with the leader. It means that there were decisions, there were things that they missed because they were too busy doing this. And that's normal. It's not like anybody's, nobody's wrong. That's not a judgmental statement. That's just, that is it.

This is the last thing I want to say. If your revenue is low, lower, have you looked at the world? What is happening in the world? And at this recording, I can tell you it's a mess. We have war in the Middle East. We have a person who is, you know, ascending to be the president again, who, in my opinion and many others, absolutely is wackadoodle. That's terrifying. So, for as many people who are excited about that guy, there's a lot of us who are not, and we're scared.

There's a lot of change happening in industry. AI is changing so much. Technology is changing so much. What used to be, you could just put a Facebook ad on Facebook and then count money. People used to call it like a slot machine. Like, I put a dollar in, I get $5 out. That isn't happening anymore. Buyer behavior is changing.

Although, for everybody who wants to tell you, the economy is terrible, more people are spending money now than they ever have. The economy here in the U S will not cool down, which is why they keep having to adjust the interest rate. It's not cooling down. . People are spending money, but what are they spending it on? Do you know? Because if that's affecting your business, you need to know.

So in a time when you might've been able to just get away with, Hey, let's put pretty pictures on Instagram and people will buy my stuff. You can't do that anymore. You have to understand your buyer in a way that you probably- Like, what's going on for her, him, them, if it's B2B, now that didn't exist three years ago, two years ago, last year. That's our responsibility as the leader of our company.

But we're so quick to be in fear about revenue that we don't do the work of becoming experts, and using all of this data, and all of what's available to us to pivot. The information in the world might tell you, "Time to pivot. Time to get out of that and start doing that. Time to stop talking to those people, and start talking to those people."

And that's painful for a lot of people. I've had so many people say to me, "I can't stop doing that. I mean, I worked so hard to create that"

I get it. But are people buying it? I appreciate you love it and you're attached to it, but that isn't how we build a company. Once you get that company to a seven figure status, that company is now its own entity. And it has to be. You're the custodian of that company. You have to take care of that company and you have to be able to fuel it. And you fuel it with revenue. You fuel it with customers. You fuel it by being a very, very studious, and thoughtful, and aware, and involved custodian. You look around.

And I just know everybody I've ever talked to who's struggling to generate revenue, there is, within five minutes, we identify at least two, if not more, opportunities, ways to go forward that are so refreshing. As long as you're asking the questions, and as long as you're bringing a problem up and you're talking about it, and you're willing to find a solution, despite the fact that maybe you don't love it, but you're willing to do that, you will solve it. I do believe that. Even if that means the entire suite of products you used to sell completely changes.

You could keep the company. But see, that's the part that people don't get. So like, this person I saw on Instagram that was talking about how sad it was that her business is going out of business. Now, I'm not actually sure if it really is, or if that wasn't just an ad trying to get people to buy her stuff because she was crying. But the product that she sells, I could go by 12 of them right now down the street.

So, if that's the only product she sells, which I think it is, I looked at her website. I'm not surprised. There's lots of people selling it now. There probably weren't lots of people selling it when she started, right? I mean, that's a huge issue right now.

And coaching, just in the world that I'm in, or online training, or whatever, right? Like pick a person. Good heavens. There's so many people yelling at you all day to work with them. What, what do I have to do? What am I doing to identify what I want to do going forward, that segments me out of the noise? There is so much noise in my space. Drives me nuts, honestly. Not because I feel threatened by it, but because it bothers me to be affiliated with it all.

Honestly, I would much rather be over here. Like,"No, no. This is what I do." Which is what, which is really what we do. We work with a much more intimate and select group of women. And I love that for them, and for me, and for us.,

When I say that if a business's revenue starts slipping, and that gets to the point that the business eventually doesn't exist anymore, I firmly and will stand by always, a hundred percent, that that is a leadership issue gap decision for failure to decide. Because we can always find ways to pivot if we really want to pivot. But I think people lock down, they have their sacred cows, they have their things they don't ever want to touch and then things don't happen.

So first question, what's the reality? What's the truth? When you say revenue's down, compared to what? Your goal? Or year over year? And if it's year over year, how much are we talking about? And if this year was last year, like a really good year. And so now we're saying this year is not great, but last year was really great. So is that bad right now? Can we be excited about that? Can we still be proud? And if we're playing the long game, what's the reality? Have you assessed your market? Have you assessed your client?

Have you done all of that work? What have you not done? Have you not been marketing? Have you done any advertising? Have you relied solely on referrals from former clients, or local businesses, or vendors, or partners, or all the other things. Have you changed up your product line? Have you tried direct sales? Have you hired sales staff? What have you not done that is so available for you to try?

And then that whole landscape thing, as I just said. Do you actually understand what's going on in the world and how that's affecting what you do?

And if you are a client right now listening to this, and your business is thriving, like, you're having the best year you've ever had, because that also happens, it's, there's no consistency, then let's understand why, right now. Let's not just ride it. Let's look at, okay, wait, this is really good, but do I have a marketing strategy? Do I advertise? Do I only rely on this to generate revenue? What am I doing next year to build the organization that can sustain this performance? Am I doing the work I need to do to develop the expertise to lead the business of this size of this revenue?

Because with each of these moments in growth, it asks more of us, new things of us. Are you doing those things? So just because revenue's down does not mean it's the end of the world. So if you have that sort of feeling, that thought, and you're a little anxious about it, I hope this podcast gives you a little extra just to go off of like, okay, no, no, no, no.

Let's, let's get to the facts. Facts don't lie, people do. And then let's tell the truth about what's really going on. And then we can follow the steps and go forward. So I hope this was helpful for you. Have a wonderful rest of the day. I'll talk to you next week.

Hey, if you are a female founder, business owner, running a company and you are, you know, you've achieved some success, right? You're running over seven figures. You grow a little bit every year. Your team is growing. I know a lot about you.

And one of the things I know about you for sure is that you don't have a lot of time. And you also might be a little tired of everybody who wants to talk at you and not listen to you. So I want to encourage you to join

We're going to be putting together a pretty powerful opportunity for you to work with me exclusively in some private coaching, while also getting all of the tools and resources that you need to be better at leading your team, so your business can continue to grow. But you don't have to continue to literally expand how much you're doing all the time. So I hope you'll check it out. Add your name. More information will be available soon.

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