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Or, how to cope with the good times

Here I am, heading into the sixth year of running my own business, and things are going swimmingly.

  • I have quality enquiries coming in every day.
  • My cashflow is steady, and my income and profits are increasing nicely each year.
  • My clients are happy and returning for more.

I’ve overcome the challenges of creating a niche in a crowded market. I’ve managed to balance the whole mum/work thing. I’ve been through some serious business storms and weathered them well. In fact, I’ve made pretty much every mistake in the book and learned from them.

I should be happy, right? I should be patting myself on the back for a job well done?

But the truth is – I’m not happy.

You see, the thing is, that smooth sailing is just that, smooth. And smooth isn’t particularly exciting. It’s comforting, yes; it’s easy, yes, but interesting? Not really.

I’m in somewhat of a business rut. I can’t help thinking ‘what next’ – and drawing a blank.

I’m unsure how to keep the energy and excitement flowing in my business, so I thought I’d chat to some other successful business people about how they keep engaged and happy in their work:

Melanie Miller, founder of The Profit School and the How to Create Your First Online Business eCourse, who has been in business for five years this month.

Glenn Murray, one of Australia’s leading copywriters, and owner of Divine Write, who has been in business for thirteen years.

Natasha Vanzetti a Discovery Coach, who has been in business five years.  

Rebekah Lambert, founder of Unashamedly Creative and Hacking Happiness, who has been in business for six years.

Here are some of their excellent tips for how to cope with the good times.

Remember you’re not alone

The business owners I spoke to had all felt the same way.

Rebekah: “We’ve all been there, you look around and go ‘how the hell do I keep this fresh, how the hell do I get myself up in the morning.”

Glenn: Yesterday was a bad day for me, we all have them. I got through it by not writing at all. Instead I worked on some project management tasks.”

Don’t self-sabotage

When things are going well, it’s surprising easy to make dumb decisions. Caution goes out of the window and you may start to make crazy choices. 

Melanie:        “I find a lot of people, including myself, have a fear of success, not a fear of failure. I think when things are going well people sometimes sabotage their own success.

“Like burning through cash – because all of a sudden the cashflow looks healthy and the money is coming in, they start spending on unnecessary things.Another form of sabotage is to drop marketing. Businesses think they don’t need it, but often, without it, things quickly go down hill.”

I admit to being guilty of the ‘splash the cash’ sabotage this year with my crazily expensive cubby house and brand new Mac?? (Looks down at feet in shame).

Have a chat

Often, it’s tough to get a fresh perspective on your business. Talking to someone else (Top tip: not your partner or your dog) can be the key. I find that chatting to my business colleagues helpful, but others may find a session with a coach a great way forward. 

Natasha:       “I break this down into three phrases by asking people questions about their story, such as ‘what’s changed?’ and ‘when did they know things didn’t feel right anymore?’. Then we go through their style, ‘how do they work with people?’ ‘what do they enjoy doing?’. And then we go through their experience, ‘what’s the skill set you have?’.

“By unpacking these questions for my clients, it helps me to connect the dots, and brings fresh eyes to their scenario. Then I can pull together the gems to construct a story that makes more sense for them.”

Learn detachment

Of course when you’re starting a business, you often need to give it your all; it takes over your entire life and becomes all-consuming. But now you’re business is working, is it time for a little separation?

Rebekah:      “Often our working life becomes such a major part of our identity, and that often turns into an inability to switch off at night and an inability not to define yourself by your business benchmarks. I think it’s important to learn a little bit of detachment. It’s healthier, and it will help you strategise your business better.”

By having a level of detachment between you and your business, you can gain perspective and see new opportunities more easily.

Remember the love

While it’s easy to focus on the technical side of your business (the accounts, the marketing and all that jazz), it can be good sometimes to go back to basics and remember why you love what you do.

Whether you’re a tiler, a hairdresser, a web developer or a copywriter, one of the best ways to stay engaged and interested is to focus on the actual bread and butter of your job.

Glenn:            Really try to enjoy the job that you do. As a writer, when writing is what you’re paid to do, it is easy to lose the joy in it. You start focusing on getting it done rather than doing it well or how long it’s taken or how often you’ve written it before.

“You should be focusing on how fantastic it is (without wanting to sound arrogant) that we’re blessed with this ability to put our fingers on a keyboard and words just flow out.”

Sometimes, the way through periods of lethargy is to just get stuck in, and get stuff done.

Enjoy a fallow period

If you’re feeling a little burned out, taking a break can, of course, recharge your wiggly bits. This doesn’t mean you have to head off on holiday; it can just mean that you take your foot of the accelerator and cruise for a while.

I call this my fallow period – it’s a farming term that means, letting the field lie unplanted for a year so that the nutrients can return to the soil. Who knows what could grow next year?
So, don’t be afraid to just turn up and do your work, and not think about the next big thing for a while.

Natasha:       “Sometimes stepping back or walking away from your business is the best option. It means you can find a new focus.”

Have a plan

If at the end of your fallow period you’ve feeling a little rejuvenated, perhaps now’s the time to work out a new plan or direction.
Last year I set myself some business challenges to move me out of my comfort zone and breathe new life into my business. I set up The Clever Copywriting School, ran several workshops and built my The Recipe for SEO Success eCourse. These new challenges definitely put some pep into my step.

Melanie:        “I believe every year you should have a plan that’s going to take you through the next 12 month’s growth and challenges. It should include three major goals you want to achieve. If you continuously do that, though you’re never reaching your Utopia, you’re always pushing yourself.”

Natasha:       “Some people come to me and they’ve been running a business for a while and it’s just a little pivot that they need to make.”

Melanie:        “One challenge is to think, how could my business continue to be profitable without me?”

Acknowledge success

We can be so busy looking for the next bright shiny object that we forget to acknowledge how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved.

Taking time to note down what you’ve done so far can turn your frown upside down and make you feel more positive about the future.

Redefine future success

Often, our vision of success changes over the year – our goals shift. Once we wanted to simply stay afloat or earn a lot of money now we need something more.

Natasha:       “A lot of us go out there and think we’re ticking all the right boxes and then wonder why, by the end of it, we’ve got a nice fat bank account, but we’re totally miserable with everything that’s in front of us.

“So, it’s important to understand what your version of success is, and allow yourself little resets.”

Look outside of your business

Remember when you started out, you hoped that running your own business would give you the opportunity to do new things? Not work related things, but real life stuff, like learning to play piano, mastering karate or taking long walks on the beach. Well now’s the time.

Rebekah       “One of my biggest inspirations is my fella. He’s in the university system, and he’s not exactly brilliantly excited about setting up lab exams and doing soil tests everyday of his life because he’s creative and intelligent.

“He’s realised that this is the baseline. He doesn’t want to do a Masters, so he’s going to work this job so he can have the money and creative freedom to do other things.”

There’s nothing wrong with changing your perspective around on your job and accepting that it’s a way to earn money and it’s relatively enjoyable and that’s enough.

Your business doesn’t always have to be a ‘Mount Everest’ style challenge.

Think about your tombstone

Okay, it’s sounds a little morbid, but bear with me.

Rebekah:      “It’s good to remember that your business, though an important part of your life, is not the only thing in it. One thing I always asks myself is ’what do I want on my tombstone?’ I don’t want ‘she was great at invoicing’, ‘she ran workshops’ or ‘she earned more money than Kate’. I want something else. So, that’s why I use my business to give me the ability to get to the point where I get an inscription on my tombstone that’s meaningful.”

Natasha:      “You’ve got to figure out your ‘heart set’. It sounds a bit crazy and ‘Woo Woo’. But you need to ask yourself, what are the things you truly have your heart set on? Because they’re the things that, once you go after them, enables you to overcome every road block that smacks you in the face along the way.”

Would your tombstone even mention your business? If not, then perhaps it’s time to start enjoying your success and focusing a little more on what really matters to you.

Know when to keep on keeping on

Often, though you may feel your business has run out of gas, and crave something new, you might not know what that ‘something new’ is. My advice here is to keep on keeping on until something new appears that tickles your fancy.

Know when to throw in the towel

The truth is, there comes a time in every business’s life when enough is enough. When there’s no more oil in the tank for your business and maybe it’s time to try something different. But how do you know if that time is now?

Melanie:        “I see that at the 3-year point, the 7-year point and the 12-year point. At the 7-year point I see many wanting to put their business up for sale. When you wake up and you’re no longer excited by what you do, when you can’t think of another challenge – then it’s a question of, ‘can my business run without me, or is it time to sell it and move on’?”

Take responsibility

The joy and the agony of running a small business is that it’s all on you. It’s important to realise that only you have the power to keep your business mojo going.

Glenn:            Generally, it’s your responsibility, and you’re the only person who can make you happy doing what you’re doing. You have to consciously make an effort to be positive.”

Well, I feel better, do you?

Writing this blog has been a hugely cathartic experience for me. It was great to get perspectives from others in the same spot. Now I have a checklist to see me through my ‘damn it all to hell’ days.

I hope it helps you too. If you have any other ideas to add, please comment below.

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confessions of a misfit entrepreneur with Kate Toon

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