You Cannot Push the River

By Steve Michaels

This summer, our family and friends decided to float down one of the many beautiful rivers located here in Montana. It was not the Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon but had its share of diversity between the white water and the calm sections that just lazily flowed by.

When we reached the white water portion of the river, we all got excited. Working as a team, we coordinated right and left paddles to keep us afloat as we headed straight through the rapids. We grew tired and got wet but were exhilarated as we moved through the fast, churning water. When we finally made it through this particular set of rapids and the river became calmer, we took a break. We did a little swimming and floated while enjoying the scenery and all that the river had to offer.

Floating along with us was another group of younger kids who really “had a ball” going through the rapids. However this group was now getting bored as we were merely crawling through this slower stretch of the river. So they started paddling harder and harder trying to propel their craft to move faster down the stream. They would first go in one direction and then the other because they were not working as a team. After a while they just gave up. Eventually, we floated by them without any effort at all.

The day was a nice balance of extremes with the excitement of white water mixed in with a slow, lazy float on the river. It was just right to make for a very enjoyable day.

Similarly in business, there will be times when your service is just hopping and everyone is pitching in with his or her oars in the water to get through the rapids or busy times. But you have to realize that like the river, there are times when your business slows down and just calmly flows along. This is not a time to panic or endeavor to push the raft or your business to a faster pace. Realize instead that this is just part of a cycle and take advantage of it. Use this time to catch up on your paperwork; boost your advertising and make sure it is current; research upgrades for your equipment; reassess your marketing strategy and overhaul anything in your business that may need fixing so that you are ready for the next set of rapids or influx of business.

It is a contemplative time enabling you to step back from your business and plan new goals and directions. The kids next to us wanted to go faster. They expended a lot of energy going in circles getting nowhere because they did not have a plan. In the end, they were at the same point in the stream as we were. But we had taken advantage of this slow time to swim, talk, get some sun, and just relax so that we were ready for the next set of rapids and the challenge it afforded us.

I know that when your business slows down sometimes it is hard to keep your perspective and patience when the bottom line seems to be shrinking. But try to imagine your business as a boulder that is rolling down a hill. Once started in motion, it is next to impossible to stop. You have started this ball or business rolling with advertising, a competent staff, equipment, and a service that will always be needed, and it is not about to stop dead in its tracks. Put your negative worrying about your business on a back burner, and become productive in the other areas of your company. When business starts to pick up again, you will not be going in circles but will be relaxed and ready for the inflow of additional traffic with a well thought-out plan.

Steve Michaels and TAS Marketing have been serving the TAS industry in the mergers and acquisitions arena for over 23 years with over 220 businesses sold. His years of experience have widened his scope and experience in buying and selling businesses nationwide. He may be contacted at 800-369-6126,, or visit

[From Connection MagazineSept/Oct 2002]

Learn more about the Telephone Answering Service Industry.

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PdH
Get the latest info in the book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.
%d bloggers like this: