Learn how to avoid a common mistake growing businesses often make.

Dead Man’s Curve, it’s no place to play
Dead Man’s Curve, you best keep away
Dead Man’s Curve, I can hear ’em say
Won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve

Jan and Dean, Dead Man’s Curve

There is a pattern I have seen repeated with one business after another. Things are going very well ? too well, you might say. Sales are up, way up. Never has the demand for the product been higher. The competition is lagging behind, revenues are climbing, and now the only problem seems to be how to keep up with all the orders. What a great position to be in, after all those years of hard work. This is the upward trend of the curve.

The problem with this scenario is that it’s got a down side. While it’s true that demand is up, it got that way for a reason. No business thrives by just having a good product. Nor does it grow only because of stellar customer service, clever marketing, or convenience features like easy online ordering. A combination of all of these factors and more is what got you there in the first place, and every one of these is now threatened.

I call this Dead Man’s Curve, and here’s how it works: let’s say your business makes waffle cones for ice cream. You make really good ones, using the finest, freshest ingredients. Your chocolate-dipped cones use the finest Belgian dark chocolate and high quality nuts for just the right flavor. Your cones have become very popular among many ice cream shops, and business is booming amongst soaring summer temperatures. So you make more cones more quickly, and your staff is working overtime. Quality starts to dip along with the cones, and some products slip through that previously never would have passed muster. Everyone knows this is happening, but no real quality control tracking is possible with so many orders to get out the door. Speaking of which, those orders are starting to go out just a bit late, and customers are starting to complain. And complain they do, but who has time to look up the orders with all of those that are already late? Your overworked staff is now madly trying to juggle peeved customers, a chronically late delivery schedule, and lagging quality. You try throwing more bodies at the problem, but adding untrained workers into the mix is not very helpful, not to mention the expense.

This describes the downward trend in the curve. But unlike the Jan and Dean song, you can come back from Dead Man’s Curve. A quality business system can give you better control over your sales, orders, production, and delivery systems. With the right software, those orders are making it out the door more quickly; your staff can easily look up orders and answer customer questions and concerns; delivery systems are streamlined, and management has better visibility into the entire supply chain.

It’s unfortunate that most businesses approach us when they are already heading for the most dangerous part of Dead Man’s Curve, because the additional overhead of working to design, learn and test new software only makes things more difficult. While this is not an insurmountable challenge, it’s much easier to be successful at the very start of that upward curve, before things get out of hand.

Your business may never have to face Dead Man’s Curve, but in my experience, many do. The most successful businesses plan for it and never lose traction. When the rubber meets the road, don’t waffle.