Situation Critical: How To Cope When Your Business Is Overwhelmed

question marksThere are many feelings that you will experience as a business owner. There are the highs, of course– the delight at new contracts, at hitting your profit targets, at achieving everything you set out to do. Then there are the lows– the doubt, the concern about the future, the flutterings of anxiety when you contemplate the business finances.

All of the above emotions are entirely normal, and should be considered part and parcel of the experience of running a business. They can be dealt with in the usual ways; learning to compartmentalize, planning ahead, and always keeping one eye on the bottom line.

There is, however, one emotion that should be concerned a giant warning sign for the health of your business: the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Why is being overwhelmed such a bad sign for a business?

First, consider the reasons that a business is overwhelmed. Often, the reason is actually positive: a business has more work than they can handle. Sometimes the reasons are more troublesome, such as projects lagging behind or issues implementing new software leading to backlogs, but realistically, being overwhelmed just doesn’t seem like that much of an emergency. It is, after all, far better for a business to be busy with tasks than sitting around with nothing to do due to a lack of clients.

However, if a business — and you specifically as the business owner — are overwhelmed, then a number of negative situations can develop:

  • When your business is overwhelmed, you’re going to feel an extreme amount of stress. It will feel like there are simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things you want to do. When you are stressed, you are prone to making bad decisions.
  • A business that is overwhelmed will also struggle to present itself correctly to clients. If you’re running behind or struggling with excess workload, your communication response time will inevitably fall, which can irritate customers to the point they no longer want to work with you.
  • If your customers or clients get the feeling that your business is overwhelmed — either due to the above or intuiting it from your behavior — then they will judge you for getting to that point. Management of tasks is an essential aspect of any business, and if you seem to be struggling to keep up with demand or running behind on projects, that does not reflect well on your business.

Due to the above, it is imperative that a feeling of being overwhelmed is directly dealt with and addressed. Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing just that.

STEP ONE: Identify the cause

Take a moment to think about the cause of why you are overwhelmed. You want to be able to sum the issue up into a single sentence, so you can move to resolve the issue with a firm clarity in mind. Here’s a few examples:

  • “The business is overwhelmed as we have received a sudden influx of new business.”
  • “The business is overwhelmed because we have delays in implementing new software.”
  • “The business is overwhelmed because employees are not performing their designated duties on time.”

When you have got your clear, concise statement, you can begin to address it.

STEP TWO: Identify the help you need

For every reason for being overwhelmed, there’s a way to improve the situation. You just have to know where to look for it. Using the examples above, here are a few solutions to consider:

  • An influx of new customers can be dealt with by putting a temporary restriction on accepting new orders. Many business owners are loath to do this, as they don’t want to miss out on business, but it is actually a good thing. Such a measure gives you the time to deal with your backlog, and makes your business appear in demand. You can set up a waiting list for customers or clients who are happy to wait their turn.
  • Delays when dealing with software are a common reason for a business to be overwhelmed; technology is wonderful and beneficial, but it can also be finicky. If your in-house team is struggling with these issues, and your business is running behind because of it, then bringing in members of a software development company on a managed team extension basis can help fix the problem once and for all.
  • Employee productivity issues can be addressed in one of two ways: you can speak to the employee in question and issue a direct warning, or you can implement performance management software to monitor their output remotely.

Even if the reason your business is overwhelmed is not solved using one of these examples, they show the route to finding your solution: go straight to the heart of the matter and find the simplest, most effective way to getting back on track.

STEP THREE: Manage the recovery process

When recovering from a period of being overwhelmed, you will need to be rigorous in terms of scheduling– this applies to your employees as well as to yourself. Stick to rigid plans of what needs to happen when, and if meeting those goals means people need to slip into overtime, then so be it. Build a schedule that will get you back on track as quickly as possible, then stick to it and enforce it rigorously.

STEP FOUR: Give yourself breathing room

Finally, when the overwhelming circumstance begins to ease, don’t rush back into accepting new orders or plowing ahead with new business developments. Give yourself a few weeks to check that everything genuinely is back to where it needs to be before you proceed with any further changes or accept new business.

In conclusion

The clinical approach as described above helps to find the exact cause of why your business is overwhelmed and strategize to eliminate it. There is little point in just hoping things will get better when a feeling of being overwhelmed hits: instead, focus on a clear, concise solution that can get you back to where you need to be.

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