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How to Get Out of a Small Business Groundhog Day

A picture of an alarm clock
Casey Shull

As a small business owner, do the opening bars of "I Got You Babe" send you into a mental tailspin? Do you feel like each day is the same as the last? Do you fantasize about letting a groundhog take the wheel just to see what happens?

One of the most challenging situations for businesses to overcome is becoming stagnant. There’s a lack of growth and change when that happens, and each day feels like the last. Before long, you risk coming to the conclusion, very much like Phil Conners, that there’s no tomorrow for your business because there’s wasn’t today.

Here are the top four ways to get out of a stagnant state and avoid your business seeing its shadow.


Reevaluate Your Re-Entry

In what can only be described as a clever yet creepy way to win the heart of one TV producer, Phil Conners uses multiple first attempts to ask Rita out, each time gathering more data about her to use later.

Rita, for her part, has various reactions to Phil’s attempts ranging from aww to ummm? However, there’s merit in Phil’s scheme to get the girl. So how can you apply it to your business to get out (or avoid) stagnation? It’s all in the first attempt approach, reviewing the outcome, and reintroducing the product, service, or, in this case, charming Rita.

No matter how long you’ve been in business, consider what would happen if you introduced your product or service to the market now rather than back when you initially did. Would you see the same success? Or would you change or modify anything to meet today’s consumer needs?

Unless you invented slice bread (thank you) or sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist, you would most likely make some changes. Think about what those would be and consider making them.

Stand Out from the Punxsutawney Crowd

Like Phil having to compete with various news crews to get the best spot near the groundhog, your business is constantly competing with your competitors.

If you’re in a stagnant state, it’s time to start doing some research. Do you need to be as diligent as Phil planning a coin-bag-stealing heist? When it comes to studying your competition, the answer is yes. Performing competitive research will help you narrow down what your competitors are and aren’t doing and help you shape what you can do to stand out from the crowd.

Whether it’s serving flapjacks in the middle of the night or providing “deja vu” from the kitchen, you need to pinpoint what you can add, change, or highlight about your company.

Keep in mind not every company relies on a product or service to stand out. Many companies use emotion to appeal to their target audience. Your uniqueness can come in the form of giving or selling experiences rather than things. Shoe company TOMS is well-known for giving a needy child a pair of shoes for each one sold. Or Patagonia brings to mind adventure and exploration rather than ski jackets and hiking shoes. What shouldn’t you do? Run after people on main street selling health insurance yelling “Bing” every few minutes.

You have a lot of options ahead of you. The main goal is to highlight your product value, provide a unique experience, and stand out from the competitive crowd.

Encourage Other Opinions

Pre February 2, if Phil couldn’t handle one thing, it was his cameraman Larry having an opinion. From thoughts about the upcoming blizzard to whether or not Phil can honk his van horn, the weatherman doesn’t want to hear it.

However, as Phil begins to learn to shift his perspective and start bettering himself, he begins to understand the value of Larry’s opinion. Even going so far as to invite him to weigh in on moving to a different spot to film the groundhog event.

As a business owner, if you’re having trouble growing your business, you need to start walking the halls, listening up in zoom, and hanging out at the water cooler. Why? Because you need to make sure you’re not hearing anyone say phrases like, ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘we can’t because we don’t do that here,’ and especially, “‘I’m a god, but I’m not the God, I don’t think.”

If anything hinders growth more, it's not valuing healthy conflicting conversations and different opinions. There’s a reason you surround yourself with a high-performing team, but if you don’t let them bring up new ideas, even if they conflict with old ones, you’re stumping yourself not only from growth but employee retention.

Companies that encourage all their employees to speak up with ideas and contribute to company growth feel valued and develop more of an investment in seeing the company succeed.

Be Aware of Upcoming Blizzards

The final strategy to pulling yourself out of business stagnation is paying attention to external factors. Although it may come as a surprise, outside influences such as competitive, social, political, and economic climate can play a role in how your business is doing.

Change is inevitable unless you’re Phil Conners, and your company needs to have its ear to the ground. If you’re caught unaware, your business may suffer from it. For political factors, pay attention to any new regulations that may affect your business, such as employee benefits or sick leave. Social changes include opinions on your products or services or employees work  preference such as a hybrid schedule.

Economic changes will affect consumers' ability to shop with your business. Your prices may be too high or too low in an economic change compared to competitive prices. As mentioned earlier, competition will always play a role in how you conduct your business. Unlike a groundhog who spends their time buried, you need to be up and alert with changes in all capacities.

It doesn’t take mastering French, becoming proficient at piano, or gaining the ability to carve Andie MacDowell’s face in a block of ice to pull yourself out of business stagnation. Incorporating these four strategies and utilizing a full-funnel marketing plan from Scorpion will help your business grow quicker than Phil’s list of admirers.

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