How to Turn Your Business Decline Upside Down

By Kevin Huhn

Your business has hit a plateau or worse started to decline. What is going on?

For months and probably even years, revenues have been great. Profits are healthy. The culture is fun, easy going and people are committed. Then all of a sudden there is a lull. You notice sales start to level off. One month, two months a whole quarter goes by. You don’t panic. But you start to have inquisitive conversations with your management team. Then another quarter comes and goes but now you notice a decline. Tension begins. And finally the third quarter numbers show the decline continues. What is going on?

During my time coaching hockey teams, I knew we were in a slump once we lost three games consecutively. I remember this one season back in 1991-92, my first year coaching junior hockey. The team was a new franchise in the league. We started off with an 8 wins and 2 losses record. Then we lost the next three games. It was like an avalanche hit us. Tension among the players began and my staff was questioning some of our work. Even our president stepped in, questioning what was going on.

It is no different in business. When there are negative trending figures, the work gets scrutinized. You look at how your team is doing things. You began to look at each other differently. Tension begins to rise and staff begins to second guess what is being done and how it is being done.

So what can you do? How do you make the necessary changes to end the lows and make progress to achieve the highs? Is it even possible?

To really dig deep in this topic I met up with a friend of mine, Kelly Wayling, Director of Sales, Marketing and Events at the Angus Glen Golf Course in Markham, Ontario, north of Toronto.

When Wayling started over 20 years ago, Angus Glen was new and there was so much growth on the horizon. They were given the rights to two Canadian Opens which help set them among the top golf courses in Canada.

Then all of a sudden 10 years into their existence, the bottom fell out.

“Courses had been popping up all around us and then the recession hit,” he begins to tell me. “Things we were taken for granted went away. Golf tournaments for companies were not the thing to do anymore. We now saw a rise in competition around our area, other golf courses offering similar membership and tournament golf.”

When there is a change in your business, it does not take much analysis to determine if the issue is your own doing or on the outside. In the case of Angus Glen, it was all on the outside.

“We had to change to survive,” Wayling begins. “Time is one of the most precious commodities we have. People did not want to be out golfing for five to six hours anymore. Companies immediately began to do fewer golf tournaments. And those that still held them were faced with the problem of reduced budgets. In some cases sponsors would back out and their golf tournament leaving the coordinator unsure what to do to raise money for their charities as they had done in previous years.”

The areas of focus Angus Glen identified that would stop the decline and begin momentum in a positive direction are the same that every business can identify with: quality of delivering service; supplier relations and agreements and how you conduct business.

“Managing a calendar of events is the backbone of our business. We looked at ways to better planning our core products – events, membership and public tee times,” Wayling explains. “The result was astounding. We improved our sales process and created a whole new offering, including the addition of a 3rd party’s online booking of tee times, which was more convenient for our customer and removed manual labour for us.

“We also came up with an offering that allowed people to still play golf but for a shorter amount of time. We came up with a program ‘Shorter faster fun’, where we modified the course with a few shorter holes on one of the courses, allowing people to play 12 holes in a convenient time within three hours.”

Almost every business in today’s marketplace has their attention on revenue and the delivery to the customer. For Angus Glen, it is no different. “We have to continue with our wow factor, increase annually and have our clients want to have us,” Wayling says. “It is pretty simple, get people’s interest and then make sure we help them right way.”

Turning the Curve Around

No matter what the business, when you hit a plateau or start a downward curve, now is the best time to start to take action. Here are the three steps Wayling shared to begin the process of turning the curve around.

Look inwardly: “We conducted a company audit. We asked, ‘how did we do things?’. If it made sense to change we did. We cut things out if they did not work. We wanted to know if the change would affect how we did things.”

Brainstorming sessions: “We involved all groups in the business. We asked, ‘What can we do?’ One ground rule was, no idea was silly. If the decision was your department’s then you would invoke your team’s input. Collaboration made this work.”

Unbiased approach: “We hired a 3rd party to listen and bring an unbiased position for review. What is identified or overlooked by your own team, can be prominent to the outside party. We brought things to the forefront. We told the marketplace about things we could do that they did not know, like hosting of meetings and weddings.”

Wayling’s final words were ones that resonated so well with me because whether it is business or sports they deliver the message if you want to excel, you must always work on improvement.

“Never rest on your heels, always be on your toes. Competitors are talking to your clients all the time,” he said. “One of my favourite hockey coaches told me, ‘Don’t let your head get too big. Things can change on your next shift’.”

Kevin Huhn is the Founder of Be Your Best Today and through its mission wants to help business owners reinvent their brand with proven systems, programs and products that engage, empower and enlighten in order to impact their rate of success. To learn more visit

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