What 11 Years in Business Has Taught Me
It was October 2010. I’d recently qualified as an NLP Practitioner, hypnotherapist and coach. And always one to want to do things “properly”, I’d registered my business as a sole trader and set up a business bank account – after all I needed somewhere to pay in that £60 I got from my first ever paying client!
Incredibly that was 11 years ago, and during that time I’ve moved slowly but surely through all of the Stages of Business that I teach about in the Business from the Heart Pathway.
Watch the video or scroll down to read more:
These stages in my journey included the following:
- Taking a very very long time getting clear on my target market, niche and core message
- Working for free to get testimonials
- Signing up my first paying clients
- To begin with, getting all of my clients through activity that took place offline (even if some of the actual sales happened online)
- Setting up a website and social media profiles
- Extending my offline activity to the online world
- Finding my marketing “sweet spot” – that one thing that works best for me and with the least amount of effort
- Launching an online programme
- Launching a high-end programme
- Passing that mythical 6 figures mark that all the experts tell us we “should” be aiming for!
- Going through a long and painful period without the right team, systems or processes to support my business
- Making a conscious decision to transition to be fully online
- Realising that what I was doing wasn’t fully working for me (financially yes, but in other ways no) and having a major change in my business model
From what I see, my journey has been fairly “typical” of someone whose been in business as long as I have – and with all the typical ups and downs too!
Throughout all of that – both through my own experiences and also observing my clients over the years – I’ve learned six key lessons…
1. There is really only ONE fatal mistake you can make in business
All the time I see small business owners worrying too much about taking their next step; whether that’s “what if I put myself out there and nobody is interested?” or “what if I make an offer from a webinar and nobody buys?” But here’s the thing: no matter what you do, none of it is likely to be a disaster, and at the very least you will learn something incredibly valuable that you can use going forward to make you more effective and successful in the future.
There is actually only ONE mistake you can make, and it’s one that I see heartbreakingly too often, and that is giving up too soon. Success in business usually takes longer than most people imagine it will, and so when they are not seeing green shoots within the first few months they often throw in the towel – but the green shoots are there under the surface, you just can’t see them yet.
That’s why it’s so important to get support and connection from other people on the journey with you, to remind you to keep going when you are ready to pack it in. It’s also important to learn about what it really takes to build a business so that you get a good grasp of what is normal and realistic despite the big promises you might hear.
2. Everything takes a LOT longer than you think it will!
If you sometimes feel frustrated because you think you should be further ahead than you are, it’s not just you – join the club!
One thing I can pretty much promise you is you will probably always feel you are “behind”. I know I do, if I’m not careful to manage this. And it’s all of us – I clearly remember one friend whose business was doing an impressive £110,000 every month bemoaning the fact that she was frustrated because she wasn’t managing to grow as quickly as she wanted!
And I’m the same! It’s too easy to look back over my business and think “Eight years, all this work…. and I’m only here…? How is that possible? Where have I gone wrong?” and start comparing myself to people who I know started around the same time as me and are now huge online celebrities with multi-million turnover businesses. I’ve learned to not allow myself that sort of unhealthy comparing myself to others. Instead, I focus on how far I’ve come, and on how lucky I am to have work that supports me and that is so fulfilling. Comparing the size of my business to someone else’s is really just vanity and ego. My business gives me what I need both in income and fulfillment – why should it bother me if someone else’s is bigger and shinier? (and how do I know if their life behind the scenes is as happy and fulfilled as mine?).
If we are not going to spend our whole business berating ourselves for lack of progress it’s so important that we can learn to follow our own path, to measure our success against where we were last year, and against our own personal dreams and aspirations, rather than against other people with completely different life circumstances, or against some arbitrary and maybe not even realistic goal we have picked up from someone else. In other words it’s OK to be a tortoise.
3. Business Hurts
As heart-centred business owners we tend to take our businesses very personally. After all, we’ve gone into business because we care, because we want to make a difference to others. We want to do a good job.
If you are reading this it’s highly unlikely you went into business to make a quick buck and try and make as much money as possible with as little delivery as possible (though if that’s your thing there are plenty of people queueing up to teach you how to do it!). If you’re like me, you probably pour your heart and soul into your work, into figuring out the best way to serve your clients, thinking deeply about your programmes, and how you can structure them to help you get the best results for people.
What this means is that we can be easily hurt. People who don’t like or don’t appreciate what we do, friends who we offer to help for free who don’t value the gesture, strangers who make negative comments on social media, and clients who complain and criticise without offering constructive feedback to help us improve.
This hurts. Of course it does!
But this is all part and parcel of being in business and as time goes on we do become more resilient. And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to grow too thick a skin as it would mean I wouldn’t care as much, and I think that when I stop caring a certain flame will go out for me around my business.
4. It will never be perfect
Oh, no – it never will!
You are a human, with a limited budget, limited time and limited resources. You will never be putting things out there with the same quality, shine and gloss as a multi-million dollar business. My own business mentor ran a marketing campaign earlier this year that I suspect cost him more to run than my business brings in in an entire year…. I watched it with awe, but I also understood that that quality of production simply isn’t possible for me.
And let’s face it, if you have my sort of perfectionist tendencies, even if you had Steven Spielberg come round to film your videos you would probably still find fault with them!
Instead you have to get comfortable with the “less than perfect”. Do this by focusing first and foremost on the people out there who really need to hear your message today, and on how you are going to help them.
And also know that being able to communicate in a way that your ideal clients respond to and that helps them to come to trust you is way more important than having the perfect glossy landing page, or a “no hair out of place” video.
5. Two marketing strategies is probably all you’ll ever need
I know this one is totally counterintuitive. The temptation when you start out is to respond to every marketing training or piece of advice that comes along and make yourself over-busy with way too many strategies and actions designed to bring you paying clients.
The problem is, all this activity is often counterproductive. If you are doing too many things you are unlikely to be doing any of them well enough to get any real traction. In addition, if you are doing a lot of marketing activity without having some of the foundational pieces in place to actually make that marketing “sticky” so that people actually want to find out more once they’ve found you – then you can find you become burned out, exhausted and fall out of love with your business before you’ve even worked with enough clients to know how a business that’s working really feels (it feels pretty amazing by the way!).
Two strategies for attracting paying clients is probably all you’ll ever need for a successful and sustainable business that you can stay in love with for years to come. Any more and you risk spreading yourself too thin, and burning out in the process.
6. Focus on just One Thing at a time
There will always be a new idea a day and a new shiny object showing up on your Facebook feed every hour. But you are just one person and you simply can’t do it all. Trying to do too much at once and saying Yes to too many things is the quickest way to burn out and overwhelm. It is far too easy to have too many things and projects on the go and at the end of the month turn around and wonder why you don’t seem to have moved forwards with any of them. That’s a place I was once stuck at for what felt like a very long time.
I’ve learned that the best way to get forward momentum and actually see results is to get really clear on my key focus each month and say “No” to everything that doesn’t help move me towards that outcome.
In the Vision & Planning Workshop that I run twice a year for members of the Business from the Heart Community, I encourage them to set JUST ONE key focus for every month of the year. It’s far more satisfying to focus on just One Thing that you know is going to take you forward – and actually get it done – than have five or six things on the go but not bring any of them to fruition.
If this resonates with you and opens up more thoughts and questions, I’d love to hear from you so please do comment below.
With Love & Gratitude,