One of my favorite actors of all time is Bill Murray.
Why do I love him so much?
In addition to making me laugh time and again in some of his most classic movies like “Meatballs,” “Caddyshack,” and “Stripes,” I had the great pleasure of meeting him as a teenager at a Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA” concert in 1985 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
While mostly being known as a “goofball” comedic actor, there has always been a certain depth to the characters he portrays. Just beneath the exterior of his silly performances lies the weight of a man wrestling with great difficulties.
His characters exude the detached melancholy of a man that is searching for greater meaning through life’s struggle.
And as entrepreneurs we all know the meaning of STRUGGLE.
It’s here that Bill Murray has much to teach us on how we can overcome obstacles and build a better business.
For example, nowhere is this more evident than the classic 1993 comedy movie “Groundhog Day.”
That Sense of Deja Vu
In the movie Groundhog Day, Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself caught in a time loop repeating the same day again and again and again.
Much like Murray’s character, as business owners, we can find ourselves stuck in a similar scenario without really knowing we’re stuck.
One of those situations that any business can get itself caught up in is a feast or famine cycle. Feast or famine is a repetitive cycle of behavior that keeps a business stuck between trying to grow company sales, while at the same time trying to deliver service.
For many business owners, marketing and production become an either/or proposition.
So what does this look like?
Here’s an example.
You notice that you don’t have any sales prospects for the foreseeable future, so you roll up the shirt sleeves and get to work.
You devote a great deal of focus and energy on business marketing activities. After a period of time, this renewed energy and focused business development activity bears fruit and you generate new sales
Now that you have generated these new business sales, you MUST DELIVER. So you get swept up in activities necessary to produce for your new clients.
Meanwhile, because you are now so busy, you don’t have time to keep up the marketing activities that generated that new business in the first place. So, in a few months when you complete the delivery of your projects, you must start the marketing process all over again.
And, you find that history continues to repeat itself over and over and over again. Many of you can relate to this up and down cycle as the flow of how you do business.
The reality of the situation is that you are STUCK, just like Phil Connors.
And if you don’t change your behavior, you may be permanently stuck in the same cycle for a LONG PERIOD OF TIME.
And without knowing it, you are damaging your business in the process.
Feast or famine is not specific to any industry, although service-oriented businesses seem to have this particular affliction more than others.
Feast or Famine Consequences
Businesses may not even realize that they are in this type of cycle until it repeats itself a few times, and there may be some unintended consequences along the way.
Here are some examples of how feast or famine may be damaging your business
- You never generate positive momentum or business growth. You keep jumping back and forth between intense periods of business development and heavy "production" periods, wherein you are fulfilling the work you secured in your last round of business development.
- Your cash flow becomes very unpredictable, since it spikes up and down with this feast or famine cycle.
- Because of the unpredictable cash flow, you're now afraid of hiring more operational help to fulfill the work you have because you aren't sure you can count on the sales volume to make that a smart decision.
- Because you don't have the help to handle the work and you are pulled back into producing your service offering, which takes you away from your business development activities.
- Because you have such a wide cycle of cash flow, you don't feel confident to hire the full-time sales and marketing help you would need to keep a consistent business development push going.
As a result of all of this you remain stuck in a vicious cycle, and the health of your business suffers.
The Solution – Break the Cycle with Consistent Marketing
For those struggling in the feast or famine cycle, it’s easy to give in to the emotions of living in this type of repetitive loop. Our own self-limitations and emotions can set in and keep us stuck in this cycle permanently.
We rationalize and accept this as a NORMAL way of conducting business.
But, we can take a lesson from our hero Phil Connors, and breakthrough our repetitive cycle by LEARNING and CHANGING OUR BEHAVIOR to create a new outcome.
You see Phil is stuck in the same place and same time. He is the only one that is aware of what's going on. He can change his behavior without repurcussions. At first it's exciting and allows him to get away with being the perfect jerk that he is. But as time goes on, the excitement wears off and he realizes his dilemma.
His old ways simply do not work (JUST LIKE OUR WAYS), and depression sets in. He realizes that he is doomed to repeat this cycle.
During this time, Phil learns to really see himself for the first time, and to see Rita his co-worker played by Andie McDowell in the film. He learns see that he loves her, and to strive to deserve her love. He astonishingly wants to become a good man. He then goes about making the changes necessary to earn her love.
As business owners how does this correlate?
While we are not striving for love, we are, however, looking to develop and deepen relationships with our clients. We must make the changes necessary to build a better business. This includes both the service(s) that we offer and how we message them.
Here's the Key.
To break through feast or famine cycles, you MUST find a way to keep your business development activities going, at least to a baseline level, even as you are wrapped up focusing on doing the production work of your business.
By doing this, you level off the drops in sales volume. This has the dual benefit of stabilizing your cash flow, AND allowing you to make intelligent, rational decisions to bring on new production staff in a smart way.
This can mean you hire more full-time production people, or incrementally grow your capacity by tapping into full or part-time outside subcontractors to shore up your spike in demand.How can you systematize your baseline business development efforts?
One way to accomplish this is through inbound marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is an online, systematic way to generate enough leads for your business to hit your revenue goals month in and month out.
The secret to inbound lead generation lies within the content you create to convert your website visitors into actual leads.
A true inbound marketing program will turn your company website into a lead generation machine that works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.
This article breaks down inbound marketing in greater detail.
When you study today's prospect behavior, it becomes more obvious. People are spending a lot of time doing the research they require to become comfortable with their purchase decision, and LESS time meeting with salespeople to become educated about products and services.
They might visit your website three or four times before they rule your company in or out as a viable option for their needs.
By having your website doing your baseline marketing for you, you can concentrate your efforts where it counts, and break the feast or famine cycle forever.
By implementing an inbound marketing program, you may wake up like Phil Connors to the dawn of a new day………..and realize that you have finally broken the cycle and end up with a better business than you had the day before.
David, a HubSpot Certified Inbound Marketer is the Chief Content Creator for InTouch Marketing and its clients.