Most business owners know they need to change, because they operate in a constant state of overwhelm because but they don’t know how to change and where to start. Does that sound familiar to you?
In my experience, the way out of overwhelm and towards “Fun” (that deep sense of reward and satisfaction you get as a result of building a business that hums along like a well-oiled machine) is primarily about knowing what step to take next and feeling confident about your ability to carry out the task, whatever it may be.
Consistency is Key
There’s a famous Chinese saying that tells us “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step” and although this is obviously true, we sometimes forget that we have to take the second, third and fourth steps as well. I, just like every other human on this planet, am guilty of making this mistake, and when we make this mistake we don’t change and neither does our business change.
Consistency is the key to progress. It is the one thing that makes everything come together in the end. Just as the only way to get fitter is to exercise more today, tomorrow and the day after, consistently, you will only achieve your goals in business if you practice consistency too.
Consistency is Hard
Consistency is hard for everyone, but it is especially difficult for small business owners because you are all alone out there. One of the things I hear most often from new business owners is how surprised they are about all the little things that eat their time. They talk about how tough it is to get anything done because of the endless list of small and big things that need doing. There is no one else to do them and no one else to talk to.
As a business owner, there is no one to keep you accountable. No one will pull you into line or keep you focused on the things that are important in the medium and long term. There is no one to brainstorm with and no one to help keep you steady when the floor under your feet starts to wobble. Friends, family, partners and staff cannot give you this kind of support.
Every client I’ve ever had the pleasure of helping initially comes to me with feelings of loneliness and overwhelm. It is an entrepreneurial epidemic! Yet you know as well as I do that anyone who operates on their own, in this troubling state, simply doesn’t function as well as they can. Their brains don’t operate at anywhere near optimum capacity.
Building a Support System
For some reason, many business owners believe they need to do it all themselves and, if they can’t, it means they have failed some mythical test of entrepreneurship. Believe me: nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is, almost every business owner needs external support to build a Fun Business that sustains them for years to come. This assistance can come in many forms, such as a mentor, a board of advisers (formal or informal) or someone like me.
The bottom line: if you want to finally start enjoying your business (and your life!), then I urge you to go out and find some kind of external support. After all, two heads are better than one.
Whether you reach out to me or someone else, let me assure you: if you truly want to build a business that sustains you for years to come, it is so much more Fun when you don’t try to do it all on your own. I promise you.
Next Month, I’ll start a new series about the 7 Habits of Highly Chilled small business owners
Everybody’s very happy and the girls are gorgeous and cute and they’re eating as if the world’s running out of food soon.
These are my first grandchildren and the experience is really interesting… but more about that later.
Another thing that happened is that I just finished reading a book by Dan Pink: “To Sell is Human”. The book is all about selling (in all its forms) in today’s world and how to do it well.
Coincidentally I found myself working with a client who employs a number of consultants. The development of my client’s business is hampered by the fact that many of his consultants are challenged in the area of sales. My client is a great sales person and has always been able to make sales and now finds it very challenging to work out how best to manage and coach his consultants to improve their sales performance. The consultants are mostly very willing and excited, but they experience all sorts of fears and anxieties in the area of sales and would rather poke their own eyes out with a blunt stick than to “ask for the business” at the right moment.
So what is the connection between my grandfather-hood, the book by Dan Pink and my client’s consultants?
Vincent and the Captain
In a recent article I wrote about Change and the Comfort Zone, (Read the article here: https://www.newperspectives.com.au/archives/change-why/ ) I told a story from my recent past. I’d come to realise that a self-belief and self-image I had was no longer serving me and that it was time to change. I had come to the realisation that my self-image of being a ”Struggling Artist”, Vincent, had to be replaced by that of a “Captain”, Captain Roland.
What I didn’t write about was the process I went through, and the experience I had while replacing Vincent with the Captain.
The process was quite tough, but also really powerful.
Famous management consultant and author William Bridges explains that any change process must go through three stages or transition.
Stage 1: Endings (or leaving the “Comfort Zone”)
Stage 2: The “Neutral Zone” (or being in the Wilderness)
Stage 3: New Beginnings, arriving in the “New Zone” (or getting to “The Promised Land”)
Every human Change-process goes through these three stages.
And each stage is integral to the process of Change, you can’t step from stage 1, The Comfort Zone, straight into stage 3, The Promised Land, however much you might like to.
What actually happened
So when I wrote in my article that I went from seeing myself as a struggling artist to believing myself to be “The Captain”, I omitted what actually happened in between.
What actually happened was that I found myself in the Wilderness for a considerable length of time and what is more, The Wilderness was a very uncomfortable place to be. The whole process probably took 6 months and the first month especially was extremely uncomfortable, painful even, for me.
Welcome to the Wilderness
Here is what we all experience, when we embark on, or are forced into a process of Change:
When you step out of your Comfort Zone you will immediately find yourself in a strange place, where you don’t recognise the world and yourself anymore and you will you feel lost. This is the Wilderness.
Much as you’d like to, you can’t actually get to The Promised Land yet, because it simply doesn’t exist yet. You actually have to create The Promised Land before you can get to it. In other words, you have to develop the new “You” first, and the only place you can create the new “You” is in the Wilderness. It is only when we are totally free from the constraints of the Comfort Zone that we are able to develop our new “selves”.
The new You
There is no other way. The Wilderness without its boundaries is the zone of maximum resourcefulness and maximum creativity; it is where you can start to shape the new “You”, that will allow you to move ahead into the Promised Land.
This was exactly my experience when I decided to leave Vincent the struggling artist behind and set out to become “The Captain”, Captain Roland.
I did lot of soul-searching and for a number of weeks I’d get up early in the morning and sit on a park bench by the water just writing and thinking.
Slowly but surely I started seeing my way forward. I realised that I had to start by changing my look and behaviour and how I sounded. If I was going to be The Captain, I had to behave, look and sound like The Captain.
The Captain’s uniform
From that day I decided to only wear a certain kind of outfit (the Captain’s uniform). I also had a piece of jewellery made in the shape of my company logo that I wore on my lapel (the Captain’s insignia). I practiced walking into rooms differently and I wrote and rehearsed scripts for how to introduce myself. I actually even introduced myself as Captain Roland in some environments.
I can assure you this felt awkward for a while, but over time it became more comfortable and I slowly started to identify with being the Captain.
Now I’m back to becoming a grandfather a few months ago. Let me explain how that experience is connected with the story of the Captain, the conversation I had with my client and the book I read by Dan Pink.
Firstly: Dan Pink makes a number of powerful points about what it takes to sell products, services and ideas in all human contexts. Some of the main points he makes are that selling is a normal human condition, and that it is about a lot more than selling used cars; That selling isn’t only done well by “natural sales people’, everyone can learn to do it well and finally that to do it well involves fostering a new mindset… Change in other words.
Secondly: My client’s consultants have to change. They have to take on board what Dan Pink says about what it takes to sell well and they have to change their mindset about sales. In other words, they have to change their self-belief and they have to change how they see themselves, their self-image.
Thirdly: Grandfather-hood has had an interesting impact on me. It is just another change process, a transition, for me and I realised last week that I am in the middle of The Wilderness in relation to this Change in my life. Yes I do feel weird about being a grandfather, the only one amongst my friends and peers.
Looking in the mirror
I simply don’t know what it means yet for me to be a grandfather and I have trouble picturing myself as a grandfather. The classic image or archetype of a grandfather is not what I see when I look at myself in the mirror.
But that is exactly how it should be… it’s perfectly ok, I can trust that I will get out the other end of this experience and that I will work out what being a grandfather means for me. I will become clear about what I want to see when I look in the mirror, 6 months from now.
Changing all the time
We go through change all the time. As I said in the previous article, our business (and our life) is what it is because of who we are today, so if we want to change an aspect of our business (or life), one thing is certain: we have to change first.
My client’s consultants have to go through Change too. They have to step out of their Comfort Zone, close the door behind them and stay there. And while sitting in the discomfort of the Wilderness, they have to start creating their new selves, so that they can enter the Promised Land. The Promised Land where they have become the kind of person that can go out and make sales, good sales.
As friends, partners, employers and bosses of people who are going through the Wilderness the best thing we can do to support them is to acknowledge that change is hard and weird and can often be frightening. We can reassure them that they do have the courage and resourcefulness to create their new selves and enter The Promised Land. And we can hold their hand (as it were) and be with them while they are in the midst of the turmoil and weirdness. By doing so we might make it a little more bearable for them to stay in the wilderness and hence employ their resourcefulness to create their new selves.
Hold their hand
So my client can best support his consultants by helping them to picture themselves as great sales people, to imagine the world from that vantage point and to start to feel what that is like. All the while “holding their hand” as it were while being in that unfamiliar place, until they start to feel more comfortable, bit by bit.
The moral of the story is this: Learn to accept that the discomfort you are feeling is ok. It is actually ok to be scared and anxious and to feel a bit lost or out of control. You have every reason to trust yourself. After all, you got this far… didn’t you!
I’ve consciously experienced a number of these transitions in the past 10 years and the outcome of each one of them has been unexpected and very positive. I see no reason to believe that learning how to be a Grandfather will be any different …
Especially not if you knew how cute those two little girls are.
3 Letters that will Change Your Business & Your Life
I’ve had a blinding insight and I am keen to share it with you all.
You know how most of us small business owners feel overwhelmed, inadequate and guilty half our waking life… the little voice on our shoulders that just keeps haranguing us about all the stuff we are not doing or not doing well enough?
Do we focus on profit, or cash, or customer satisfaction, or staff engagement, or lead generation, or leadership or setting visions and goals, or HR systems, or strategy or succession planning or sales and conversions, or systems and procedures and operation manuals, or diversification or accelerating growth and marketing directions or quality management or risk minimisation or or or…
No wonder we can’t sleep at night… no brain in the universe could ever effectively focus on so many key aspects of a system at once… you just can’t do it.
And the light at the end of the tunnel might just be the gates of hell!
So how do we choose what to focus on, what to put in the forefront of our mind from day to day, as business owners?
I can tell you, there is one aspect of business that cuts through all of the different priorities and by relentlessly focusing on it, you will drive your business to where you’d like it to be and find peace from the little voice on your shoulder in the process.
What is that aspect… that miracle KPI?
A three letter word… FUN
A three letter word… FUN
Oh I can hear your little voices screaming at me from here… “As if”… “This is business we’re talking about here”… “Business is serious stuff, contracts, profit, cash, pipelines, occupational health and safety… don’t talk to us business owners about Fun”… “ Hrmppfffff…. We haven’t got time for fun”… “We haven’t got time to go to the gym and look after our health… We haven’t had time to take our son to soccer training for the past 4 years… We certainly can’t afford to focus on having fun, we’ve got to get cash in the door… Today”…
“I tried doing paint ball outings once a year and casual Fridays and all that stuff and it hasn’t made one bit of difference”
Hear me out…
Ask yourself these questions: What are the times you have had the most fun you’ve ever had in the past years while running your business.? The times when your whole body just hummed… The time when it felt as if time stood still… when you were just totally engaged in what you were doing?
Weren’t they the times when:
You got a note from a customer thanking you for the great job you’d done?
Or the time when you signed a contract or sold an order that was bigger than any orders you’d had before
Or the time when you had enough cash reserves in your bank account to just pay the tax bill when it was due?
Or the time when you were working with your staff as if you were all on the same soccer team… Winning the game you were playing?
Or the time you delivered your product or project and stood back and felt a real proud smile cross your lips… “Job well done?”
I bet you when those things happened there wasn’t a little voice on your shoulder banging on about the stuff you hadn’t done that day or week… The little voice fell silent…Didn’t it?
And that is exactly the kind of fun I am talking about … Real FUN.
You see when business is fun… REAL FUN… it means everything is working, and when business isn’t fun, I guarantee you there are one or more things not working the way they should.
When business is fun:
It means you are making profit,
It means you are collecting your cash
It means you staff are engaged and they just don’t leave
It means you have customers who simply can’t get enough of you
It means you are proud of what you do and you have a life too.
Would you like some of that?
Of course you do
Ok, so in April I will tell you what the 4 steps are to start focusing on fun, REAL FUN, in your business
Try it out …
In the mean time … Why don’t you start to think about how you can have some more fun in your business tomorrow… Next week… What would make business more fun next week?
Maybe if you collected some of your outstanding debts and got some more cash in the bank this coming week… Would that make business more fun? I bet it would.
Think about it.
Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have more FUN in your business.. Or come to the next Small Business Masterminds workshop… click here