Groundhog Day

“I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney,

and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

– Phil Connors (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day

So many small business owners are like Bill Murray in that fantastic movie. They are stuck, doing the same thing and making the same mistakes over and over again, and thinking there is nothing they can do about it.

But the good news is, like Phil Connors, there actually is something you can do about it.

You have to learn your lessons.

There are all sorts of things that business people do that get and keep them stuck in a time loop, but also, ways to get out of it:

Not changing up your marketing:

Typically, when someone starts a business, they learn a few marketing tricks. It could be a Facebook ad campaign, or a stall at the local Saturday Market, or attending a regular networking event, etc.

Whatever the case, discovering a strategy that works is marketing gold because it allows you to live the dream.

Until it doesn’t.

What Phil Connors learned, and what we must learn too, is that doing the same thing again gets stale. Not only do you as the marketer get bored, but more importantly, so do your customers and potential customers.

Marketing campaigns have a shelf life, and woe to small businesses who waits too long to realize it. In that case, their customers will be like “Phil, Phil Connors?” when he sees Ned Ryerson for the 119th day in a row.

Not firing employees . . . or customers:

Yes, we all have people in our business lives who are, shall we say, challenging. And yes, loyalty is good. But again, until it is not.

Employees who don’t pull their weight can end up costing you a lot in terms of not only profit, but even customers. Bored and under-achieving teammates are a drag on the business and shouldn’t be the norm if they create a negative time loop.

By the same token, we all know the customer who demands too much time and who takes too much effort. Yes, we like their business, but the truth is, it often far better to cut ties with the cumbersome client.

But fret not; like the universe, business abhors a vacuum and the time you free up will be taken up by more useful ventures.

Not getting rid of the clutter:

Aside from troubling clients and employees, there is other deadwood that too many of us get attached to that doesn’t really serve us.

  • That room full of stuff
  • That perpetually messy desk

Clutter, in whatever form it takes, is a sign that fresh ideas are needed.

Sticking with old systems:

Yes, we all get used to doing things a certain way, but one of the joys of having a small business these days is that there are just so many great tools out there designed to make our business lives easier, to help small businesses look and act big.

The culprit could be

  • Some analogue filing or inventory system from another century, or
  • A computer or software system that is way out of date

Whatever the perpetrator, it is wise to reboot and update.

So, while yes, Groundhog Day the movie is very funny, highly entertaining, and profound, Groundhog Day the life is not. The good news is that learning a few lessons and making a few simple changes can get you out of the loop. The bad news is that you won’t end up with the charming Andie McDowell at your side, but hey, at least you won’t be doing the time warp again (or mixing your metaphors!)

Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is the senior small business columnist at USA TODAY, the Editor-in-Chief here at Small Business Connection, a speaker and spokesperson. He can be reached at

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