About 5, maybe 6 times a week I head over to my local gym, about a 10 minute walk from my apartment. The gym is located in a large building with a grocery store, bank, and a few other retail establishments. Just before I head up the stairs to jump on the elliptical trainer, I pass by a little shop – it’s just some shelves and a guy sitting there with a cash register, so I even hesitate to call it a shop.

It is called The Mixed Bag and I smile at the name every time I see it; the reference is to the products on sale – bags, wallets, a few other odds and ends. Frayed placards are on the wall behind the shop, screaming “50% off Sale!” in infomercial-like fashion.

And every day, 5-6 days a week, for over a year I’ve walked past this shop, and the poor wee man running it. He looks tired, like those placards. Uncomfortable in his chair. He looks a bit sad, except whens someone passes by that he knows.

And not once have I seen anyone even looking at the products, let along buying anything. Not once. Not even at 50% off.

You could say something about my timing and perhaps all the customers are coming in late afternoon, but I’d point to the layer of dust and grime around much of the bags and cases, indicating most of the product has been there quite some time.

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

I kind of feel like a lot of entrepreneurs run around like this. They aren’t happy, they aren’t making sales, and they’re doing nothing about it.

Is your business a mixed bag? (Sorry, couldn’t resist the doulbe-entendre.)

What to do when you don’t know what to do?

In the past few years, I’ve found myself in a “shit, what do I do now” situation more often than I’d like to admit. (This, like many things I write about, applies to both personal and business. Life is strange that way.)

I’ve found a 3-step approach that always seems to help me find that next step. It sure beats sitting there and looking miserable.

  • Stop doing everything you can stop doing.Force yourself to look at tasks that are taking time, money, and strain away from you, and stop. Just stop. If you stop everything that is stoppable, you’ll really quickly start to see what’s adding value and what’s fluff. Of course, don’t stop things that have been promised to clients, etc.
  • Seek a 3rd party perspective.You should always have people in your life that will either tell you what you need to hear, or tell you what nobody else is telling you. Get some perspective – that can be either a person you know that is familiar (or distant) enough from the situation to shed some light. Or pay for the expertise if you need it.
  • What does your gut say? Most of the time, your gut is right. Sometimes, it is damn near impossible to hear what it’s saying. But if you’ve stopped some things (step 1) to make some white space, and you’ve gotten a little bit of outside perspective (step 2), then hopefully you’ll find that you need.

Don’t just sit there hoping for things to change. While yes, life and business are a mixed bag,

Inaction rarely brings desired results.