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How Does Your Business Make You Feel?

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Human beings have an impressive ability to make ourselves feel really bad about things. Whether it’s obligations missed, opportunities lost or goals not-quite-hit, many of us spend huge chunks of time stewing on things when it would be healthier to just let go.

Being a business owner has fantastic benefits… but like all responsibilities it can also have a huge capacity for guilt-making.

Before we go any further, let me ask you to think about how your business makes you feel. Some people might say it fills them with a rush of excitement and independence, others might say their business makes them feel stressed and lacking. Most of us, I suspect, fall somewhere in the middle: we have days when our business makes us want to sing happily from the rooftops and days where we’d be quite contented to crawl under our duvets and hide.

The problem comes, of course, when you’re experiencing far more of the duvet days than the rooftop days. In situations like these, I’d want to ask just why you’re allowing your business to make you feel so bad. After all: you’re the one in charge!

Need to reassert that control? You could start by asking yourself the following three questions.

Question one: why is it making you feel so bad?

In order to move on from an issue like this, you need to get to the root of it. Often the first answer you come up with here won’t be the right one: you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find the true reason. For example, you may think that your guilt comes from not delivering enough value to your clients, but when you look further into this you could discover that the real issue is related to your own perfectionism or self-esteem and is nothing to do with client satisfaction.

Question two: what can you do about it?

Once you’ve pinpointed what the issue is, being able to do something about it will be much much easier! Perhaps the answer lies in new processes, some additional professional support, cultivating a better work/life balance, or even working towards taking on a whole new kind of client. Whatever the answer is, break the solution down into manageable steps and make a plan. You’ll likely find that just starting to work towards a solution will help you start to feel better, even if progress is slow.

Question three: how do you want to feel?

Getting rid of negative feelings means that you’ll have space for better ones! I find that it can be helpful to actively think about what kind of positive feelings you’d like to experience.  Would you like your business to make you feel important? Valued? Intelligent? Worthy? Organised? Independent? Creative? In control? Your answers to this question could be really helpful in setting goals for your business future.

If you’re allowing your business to make you feel bad more regularly than you’re comfortable with, please know that there is something you can do about it. Just remember: you’re the boss of it, not the other way round!

It’s also worth keeping in mind that you don’t need to struggle in silence. It’s good to talk! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me via Twitter, Facebook or email. You could even take advantage of my free initial consultation in order to try and address some of these problems in person.

Why Your Business Deserves Your Respect

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Do you think of your business as an entity in its own right? If not… why not?

Many business owners find it difficult to separate themselves from their business, especially when they’re running a micro-business. But even in these cases it’s important to be able to accept that you and your business are not one and the same. Rather: you’re two separate beings that both deserve mutual respect.

I’ve shared a number of posts here on the blog that deal with ensuring you’re treating yourself with respect (if you could do with a gentle reminder, take a look at Why it’s Okay to Get Things Wrong, What’s Sapping Your Business Owner Joy? or Are You Being Eaten Up by Your Business?) …but what about making sure you’re treating your business with respect?

After all, our businesses are important things. They give us our livelihoods, our purpose, our professional satisfaction. Of course they deserve our respect!

Despite this, many of us are guilty of the opposite. Go on, hands up if you regularly:

  • Skip strategy planning sessions to catch up with client work
  • Take on projects that aren’t a great fit for your business values
  • Put off investing in training or infrastructure to help your business move forward
  • Let personal and family issues overwhelm your business space
  • Get caught up in busy work instead of focusing on big business goals
  • Work day to day and forget about planning for the future

I’m going to make a rough estimate here and suggest that most of us have our hands up here: me included! It’s so easy to focus all our energy on the short term issues in our business such as completing the next client project, emptying our inbox or dealing with social channels. Though these things are all important, they don’t invest in the future of our business.

Just about everything in life is a careful balancing act. Successfully managing a business is no exception. The key is to ensure you’re offering your business the respect it deserves by ensuring you’re setting time aside to focus on its growth.

This doesn’t have to be a huge time investment – after all, the day to day activities you do in your business are vitally important too – but it does have to be enough to show yourself, your customers, your colleagues, your family and friends that you truly value your business and therefore they should too.

Interested in finding out more about how you could show your respect for your business? Developing a relationship with a business coach could be a great way to invest in its future. If you think this might be a good step forward for you, take a look at my online questionnaire: Are You Ready for Coaching?  

How to Find the Courage to Make a Big Business Change

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Photo by J Ridgeway Photography

It’s never easy to make a big change in your business. This is for two reasons. The first is logistics-based. Large scale changes typically mean upheaval, clever planning and generous investment. The second reason is much harder to quantify or organise around. Why? Because the second reason it can be really tricky to make big changes is all about emotion.

Change is scary. This is true whatever sphere of your life the changes are taking place in. However, changes in your business are unique in that they are usually inherently tied up with financial liquidity, personal value and perceived worth. In other words: it can be hard to embrace big changes when there’s a risk that making them could impact on the success of your business.

But does that mean we business owners should all shy away from making changes? Of course not! Putting yourself out there and taking the risk may be anxiety-inducing… but it’s also usually the best way to move forwards and embrace new opportunities.

Many of the business owners I meet will admit that they have a business scheme they haven’t quite been brave enough to embrace. Sometimes this is as simple as investing in new office space, other times it’s launching a new product or service, rethinking the way they communicate or even taking on a whole new type of client. Whatever the change, most have something significant in common: the only thing holding them back is lack of courage.

If this sounds familiar, please be reassured that this is very common. It’s also far from a dead end: there are many ways to gently help yourself to find the courage to forge ahead with your big plans.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Throw yourself into planning the logistics

We’re all different and we all find our confidence in very different ways. Sometimes, the fear of making changes can be tied up with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what those changes would look like or how they’d work. Getting right into the nitty gritty of making those plans can therefore help to make you feel braver when it comes to getting started.

Focus on one small step at a time

Your cautiousness could be due to trying to do too much at once. Big changes take time: especially if you want them to be sustainable. If focusing on the final destination is proving overwhelming, try taking some time to break your end goal into smaller, less scary steps. Simply focus on working on one at a time, and you’ll probably find that you’re half way to your end goal before you even realise.

Recruit some cheerleaders

Sometimes finding the courage to make a change is as easy as telling some supportive, enthusiastic people about your plans. Partners, family members, friends and colleagues can all be really helpful in this respect. They will typically be far less blinded by anxieties and will be able to point out just how capable you really are.

Seek advice from an expert

Your nervousness may stem from the worry that your planned changes aren’t as wise as you think they are. If this is the case, it may be helpful to seek advice from an expert. This could be someone who specialises in a relevant field, a more experienced business owner, or a business coach or consultant. Either way, sitting down to discuss your ideas with someone you respect is likely to help you feel that you’ve done your due diligence and are ready to get started.

Have you recently made a big change in your business? How did you find the courage to jump in? I’d love to hear if you did some of the above, or any other suggestions you might have. You can share them with me on the Green Shoots Coaching Facebook page.

Could Some Distance Give You Clarity?

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Many of the business owners I know live, work and breathe their business. They’ve worked extremely hard to get where they are and are often wary of taking their eyes off the ball for even a moment.

Know the feeling? Though it’s wonderful to have so much motivation and passion for your business, working in this way can start to feel very intense over time.

It may sound counter-productive, but putting a bit of distance between you and your business at key times can actually be extremely helpful. If you’re feeling run down, confused, burnt out or are lacking enthusiasm, it may be time to take some space for yourself.

Here are four ways that giving yourself this space can help you find greater clarity:

1. Distance can allow you to renew and refresh

We all need a holiday from time to time. This is true even if you’re lucky enough to run a business you love! It can be really difficult to take time out when you’re in charge, but putting physical space between you and your usual workspace can help you find the headspace you need. What better excuse to take a trip with loved ones?!

2. Distance can allow you to make big decisions

There are a lot of decisions to make in business. Some of these decisions are small: like whether or not to attend and event. Some of them are much bigger: like whether to take on a large client, rebrand or invest in a marketing campaign. Sometimes when you’re surrounded by these decisions it can be difficult to give each one the attention it deserves. Getting some distance can allow you to make intentional decisions you’re happy with.

3. Distance can allow you to regain some separation between you and your business

This one is a particular problem for personality-led solopreneurs. It can often be tricky to tell where the business ends and you begin. If you sometimes feel like you’re blurring into your business, it might be time to give yourself permission to get away from it for a while. Even a few days totally away from work could give you a much-needed reminder about who you are without your business.

4. Distance can allow you to discover how you really feel

When you make choices in your business, do you for the option that’s best for you or the one that’s best for your business? In a perfect world these two answers would be the same… but often they’re not. Just because something is the right thing to do to increase profitability or success in your business, it doesn’t mean that it’s a path that’s right for you personally. Getting some distance can help you work out if you’re truly happy with what you’re working towards or whether you’re likely to find yourself running a business that isn’t really what you wanted.

Have I convinced you that distance is a really valuable tool in business? Luckily, this is a method of reflection that you can take advantage of without having to get too much physical distance! In other words, you don’t have to actually go on holiday in order to get these benefits. (Though, of course, that can be very helpful too!)

Instead, you could create distance in much smaller ways such as visiting a coffee shop by yourself, taking a lunchtime walk, working from a new environment, signing up for a conference or workshop, giving yourself permission to take a mid-week day trip, or working with an outside professional to gain new perspective.

Want to know more about how you could find greater clarity as a business owner? You might be interested in reading about Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business, my monthly membership programme.  

Do You Actively Appreciate Your Business?

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Photo source

We talk a lot about mindfulness when it comes to relaxing. Meditation apps such as Headspace and Stop, Breathe, Think have become hugely popular in the last couple of years. Perhaps as a society we’re finally becoming more aware of just how important it is to take care of our emotional selves.

In this post I want to talk a bit about appreciation and your business. When you’re a busy business owner it can be easy to get caught up in rushing from one task to the next without giving much thought to what we’re doing.

In fact, most of us will probably admit that one of the main emotions we experience when it comes to our business is frustration. Frustration that we have so much to do and not enough hours in the day. Frustration that our efforts haven’t paid of in the way we wanted them to. Frustration that administration tasks keep cropping up right when we are trying to do our most important work.

Sound familiar?!

I can certainly see a lot of truth in this. This is a shame as I’m actually extremely grateful to my business for allowing me so many freedoms! Why wouldn’t I be? When you own a business you have the freedom to shape your own schedules, take control of your future, choose which kind of work to take on, create your own workspace and set your own tone for each day.

Considering all these fantastic benefits… I wonder what would happen if we were able to apply the same principles of mindfulness from our downtime into our business.

Being mindful of how we spend our days as business owners could really help us to appreciate the lifestyle our businesses give us.

What might this look like?

While we’re dealing with admin we could also be appreciating the workspace we’ve chosen to be in.

While we’re getting stuck into the big task of the day we could be also appreciating that we’re doing so on our own schedule, not anyone else’s.

While we’re traveling from one meeting to the next we could also be appreciating the fact that we get to make all the decisions that affect our work.

While we’re investing time in marketing and communications we could also be appreciating that we’re able to finance our lives by doing the work we have chosen.

See what I did there? Even a little tweak to our thinking patterns can make a big difference to our outlook.

How could you bring a little mindfulness into your workload today? I’d love to hear your ideas. Share them with me on the Green Shoots Coaching Facebook page.

Why it’s Worth Investing in Your Business Partnership Before You Start

Photo by Sam Beebe

Business partnerships are fantastic things. A good partnership offers all the same benefits of being self-employed but with a built in colleague to weather it all with. Like all relationships, though, business partnerships require careful tending to ensure they remain positive.

I am a big believer in the value of taking time to establish a positive grounding before you start. If you’re going into business in partnership with another person, whether they’re a spouse, friend, family member or former colleague, part of that grounding will include ensuring that the partnership is going to be sustainable over time.

Though business partnerships often work extremely well… many don’t. This is shown in the rate of divorce in couples who work together as it’s much higher than the norm. It’s far from unusual for partnerships to hit a metaphorical wall two or three years into their business because the two parties just aren’t compatible to be in business together long term.

There are ways to avoid this very common issue. I believe the most effective one is to invest the time before you start to ensure your partnership is up to the challenge. The best case scenario would be that this extra groundwork makes your partnership strong enough to succeed. The worst case is that it makes you realise the partnership isn’t going to work in business: which will save you time, money and heartache in the future.

At the beginning of a business partnership it’s really important to be able to honestly answer the following questions together:

  • What are your individual strengths?
  • Do your strengths compliment each other?
  • What are your personal values… and do they sit well with each other?
  • Do you have a similar working style?
  • Will you be able to happily work to the same routine, or two complimentary routines?
  • What are your long term goals?
  • What do you see as the perfect life/work balance?
  • How do you approach finances?
  • How ambitious are you?
The point of this conversation isn’t necessarily to both come out with the same answers. Rather, it’s designed to flag up any potential frustrations before they become an issue. If these initial honest answers help you to discover that you have very different working styles, you’ll be able to make provision now, right at the beginning of your business, to find a way to accommodate them both.

These conversations can often be difficult to have, especially if you’re not really sure where to start. You may wish to address this by bringing in a third party to facilitate discussion. Working with a professional mediator could be an excellent way to dig down into your partnership, unearth any as-yet-undiscovered problems and find a solution before they begin to weaken your business.

A mediator would also be a great way forward if your initial discussions have brought up concerns and you and your business partner are unsure about how to proceed.

If you think a mediator might be beneficial to your business partnership, I’d be very happy to chat to you about how I could fill that role. Why not give me a call or send me an email?  

The Success Trap

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Do you ever feel like you’re too busy?

It may sound like a very good problem to have, but being too booked up with client work can reduce the time we have available for big picture planning.

Any successful growing business needs time for introspection. It’s important to be able to evaluate what’s going well, what’s not going well and how close you are to meeting any outstanding goals. Business owners who don’t make time for this kind of planning often find that their business drifts forward in a direction they wouldn’t have chosen.

This is perhaps a good time to revisit the concept of working in your business versus working on your business. On an every day basis most business owners spend 90% of their time working in their business. This generally covers all client work, meetings and appointments. This is really important work and generally where the majority of money is made. But that remaining 10%, the time they spend working on their business, is also vital.

Without time to work on your business you would quickly find that you lacked strategy, plans or goals. Your marketing would be likely to suffer, as would your client communications. You may even find that you lose track of the reason you started your business in the first place.

In order to avoid this success trap, it’s wise to ensure you make time to work on your business, even when it’s difficult.

You could do this by:

Scheduling a regular appointment with yourself

If you struggle to find the time to work on ongoing business planning, it might be a good idea to set a regular recurring appointment for yourself in your diary. A couple of hours once a fortnight could really help you to keep on track with your business goals without having too much of an impact on the rest of your workload. Choose a time that’s typically quieter than others (perhaps a Friday afternoon?) and commit to keeping the appointment.

Finding a mentor, coach or accountability partner

Some business owners find it much easier to  stick to big picture planning if they involve a third party. What kind of third party you choose to work with will depend on your personal preferences. Some business owners have excellent mentors they can turn to, while others get great results by pairing up with another business owner for a mutually beneficial partnership. If neither of these options are for you, a business coach could support you to stay on track with the work you need to do on your business.

Delegating some of the work you do in your business

Are you worried about how you’re going to find the time? Take a look at how you currently spend your working hours and think about which of the tasks you do really need you to do them. A lot of business owners spend hours every week working on financial, administration or marketing tasks that don’t necessarily need their expertise but take up valuable headspace regardless. Could some of these tasks be delegated to a virtual assistant, bookkeeper or freelancer?

Automating certain tasks

You may find that there are some tasks that you do that could actually be automated. This includes paying recurring invoices, responding to certain types of emails, sending out digital resources, and some kinds of social media posts. Looking at options for automating could free up as much as an hour or two every week.

When was the last time you set time aside to dedicate to working on your business? If you’ve been caught up in the success trap, now is the time to check in with your business plan and ensure things are still moving in the right direction. Not sure where to start? Setting some new goals for moving forwards could be a great jumping off point.

Why Not Bring Playfulness Back into Your Business?

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Photo by Aaron Gilson

Here’s a thought for you: business doesn’t have to be boring! Whatever the size of your personal entrepreneurial endeavour, there’s always more than enough space to have some fun.

When we think about running a business, many of us think of the formal and administrative sides. There is definitely always going to be a necessity for these as the more practical parts of business are always going to need to be done (and if there’s a way to make filing a tax return or organising paperwork joyful I certainly haven’t found it yet). However, there is a very creative side to running a business that many of us overlook.

Why is playfulness important?

Playfulness is a really useful tool that we tend to underuse. It often gets written off as something we should leave behind in childhood… but those who follow that advice could be seriously missing out.

Children use play as a tool to learn to understand the world and experiment. But play can be useful for understanding and experimentation at any age. In fact, studies have shown that play is essential for brain development and that nothing else really lights up the brain in the same way.

How could it help your business?

Introducing more playfulness into our businesses could be beneficial in a number of ways:
  • It could help us to think outside of the box
  • It could help us find the confidence to try new things
  • It could help us to better connect to our clients
  • It could help us to manage stress more effectively
  • It could help us to get more enjoyment out of what we do
  • It could help us to come up with new marketing techniques
  • It could help us to make better use of our sense of humour
  • It could help us to work through tedious tasks more efficiently

Where could you start?

The important thing to remember here is that playfulness is a relative concept. Your particular brand of play will depend totally on your personality and preferences.

For example, some business owners love engaging in role play activities during training, while others find them awkward. Some business partners might find it helpful to get out and get active by playing sports together instead of sitting down for a traditional business planning meeting. For others, playfulness may be more synonymous with encouraging their creative side and using a pad of paper and coloured pens to mind map their way to a creative solution.

If you’ve already taken steps to make your business more playful, I’d love to hear how you’ve done it. Why not share your tips with me and other readers on the Green Shoots Coaching Facebook page?

Is Worry Holding You Back?

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Worrying is a natural human process. Trying to stop those little niggles and concerns altogether would be impossible… but that doesn’t mean we have to let them take hold.

When our worries get out of hand they can really start to have a negative impact. Symptoms of this could be anything from:

  • Losing confidence
  • Missing out on opportunities
  • Failing to communicate effectively
  • Avoiding forward-planning
  • Not seeing the big picture
  • Being afraid to try new things

All of these things could have a big impact on the success of your business, both in the present and in the future. If you feel that your worries starting to take hold, now is the time to do something about it.

Look forwards, not backwards

Many of us worry about things that have already happened. If you find yourself getting caught up in anxieties about things you said, did or thought in the past, you’re far from alone. The thing about these sort of worries, though, is that there really is nothing you can do about the situation they relate to. Instead, you need to make a conscious decision to let go of the past and focus on the present.

Find a way to ‘download’

Sometimes small niggly worries become overwhelming simply because we can’t switch them off. Some people find it it helpful to experiment with different ways of ‘downloading’ this information. This could be by writing it down into a dedicated notebook or digital document, telling someone about it, turning each worry into a diarised action-point or even speaking each one into a dictaphone or voice recording app. You may find that making a note of your worries in some way helps to stop them going round and round in your head.

Take action

Some worries are irrational. Others, however, can stem from incomplete projects, neglected tasks, areas of ignorance or protective steps we haven’t yet acted on. If your worries fall into the second camp, why not take each worry as a prompt to take action? Each time a worry crops up, aim to do something productive to combat the source of it. Depending on the time of day and what you’re doing at that exact moment, this could involve actually sitting down to complete a task or two, or it could mean making some helpful notes to use when you next get the chance.

Find a professional sounding board

It can be easier for your worries to get out of control if you work as a solopreneur. This is because you’re likely to have less people around you to talk through issues and concerns with. In these situations, it can be really helpful to find a trusted advisor to use as a sounding board. Regular support from an experienced professional such as a coach could allow you to talk through any worries in a non-judgemental space.

Looking for more tips for dealing with out-of-control worrying? You might find this post on the benefits of behaviour techniques useful.

A World Without ‘Can’t’

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For the next couple of minutes, I’d like you to humour me. I want to take you on a little journey into a world where the word can’t has never existed.

Why? 

Personally, I think the word can’t is responsible for holding huge numbers of business owners back. Most of us use it daily without really thinking about why we’re doing so.

I can’t charge that much
I can’t take on a member of staff
I can’t afford to go to a conference
I can’t take on that responsibility
I can’t teach a course
I can’t bid for such a big project
I can’t offer consultancy services
I can’t put myself forward for an award

Get the idea? Business owners like you and I use those four little letters daily to limit ourselves and prevent us trying new things.

What if you challenge it?

The reason one small word has such a big hold on us is that we rarely challenge it. When our inner critique rises up and tells us we can’t do something, most of us will simply agree with it. But what if we questioned it?

If you take on the questioning challenge, you’ll likely find there isn’t very much substance at all behind can’t.

Go on, try it now. Think of something you’ve recently told yourself you can’t do in your business, such as pitching to a new bigger client, offering a new service or even writing a book. Now try and come up with one genuine unsurmountable reason why you can’t.

It’s quite hard, isn’t it?

After all, most of the reasons we come up with are fairly easily surmountable.

  • If the reason is financial… how many more sales would you have to make before it became a possibility?
  • If the reason is time-based… what jobs could you outsource to someone else to make time?
  • If the reason is based on lack of skills… what training could you invest in to fill the knowledge gap?

In my experience, the real underlying reason behind almost all can’ts is fear. Being a business owner often means we have to put ourselves out there to move forward. Doing this can be really scary, especially if you sometimes have issues with confidence.

But the alternative, listening every time our inner critique says can’t, will stop us from experiencing new things and putting ourselves forward for new opportunities.

A world without can’t

So what about if we lived in a world where no one had ever used the word can’t? Close your eyes for a moment and have a think about where your business might’ve taken you if your inner critique had never spoken up.

Would your business be bigger? More specialist? Would you be trading from a slightly different angle or focusing more on values that are important to you? Would you be working with different types of client on different types of project?

Obviously we can’t click our fingers and make can’t disappear altogether, but we can make a resolution to challenge it. Next time you find yourself countering a new idea with the word can’t: make sure there’s a genuinely good reason why not.

Did you find this exercise helpful? If so, I’d love to hear where your business might’ve taken you if you’d never said can’t. Share your thoughts on the Green Shoots Coaching Facebook page or send me a quick email.