Unhappy With Your Business? Try This

Have you ever had a <headdesk> moment when you realized your major business problem

Morning on the Middle Fork. I obviously love my coffee.

Morning on the Middle Fork. I obviously love my coffee.

was…you?

I just had this happen to me. In fact, I see this happening every day to writers and other entrepreneurs.

Let me explain…

I recently returned from a seven-day rafting adventure to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Unlike last year, when I was scrambling down 25′ Grand Canyon rock walls, this trip was relatively uneventful. No huge rapids. Nobody died. It was easy to let my brain drift away with the current.

Prior to leaving, I had a conversation with a couple organizations that wanted to purchase my company. This scenario is nothing new – when you’ve owned a business for almost 20 years, the occasional suitor is fairly expected. Although I have rejected suitors in the past (as well as outside funding,) I let myself imagine life if I sold my business and remained as a training figurehead.

  • I’d be able to let go of the irritating administrative work behind the scenes.
  • I’d be able to reach more people with my Certification training (and other training options.)
  • I’d have a bigger team of people helping me.
  • All of the up-and-down business insecurities would be gone. Poof.

(If you’re self-employed, you probably understand my pain. My work fantasies are far from common.)

As we floated along, I imagined myself as an employee of my business rather than the owner. I was fully immersed in the fantasy and imagining myself leading a relative life of leisure…

…until I was suddenly doused with cold water. We had hit a minor rapid, which meant I got very wet, very fast.

But with that momentary “ACK” reaction came a <headdesk> moment of clarity.

The only person holding me back was…me.

(Which, from an emotional standpoint, felt like another cold, wet wave hit me.)

I really like where I am now. I’m happy and incredibly grateful. But there are some things I could do to take my business to the next level and have even more fun.

Where my realization hit. Just imagine a big wave crashing over me.

Where my realization hit. Just imagine a big wave crashing over me.

As writers and entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get into a learned helplessness mindset. For instance, have you ever said (or thought) something like this…

  • I’d need more time to make more money. My clients keep me too busy to think about that right now.
  • I’d love to hire help, but I don’t have the cash flow right now.
  • I’ll start business planning after I make X. Right now, I’m just trying to make ends meet.
  • I don’t have time to work on my business right now. It’s all I can do to finish work and meet my obligations.
  • I. Am. Exhausted.

My thoughts tend to come from the “too busy” excuse mindset. I don’t “have time” to plan. I’m “too busy” with other things. I’ll “get to it later” (and later never comes.)

At the same time, real life wasn’t matching my thought process. For instance, I had to shove two weeks worth of deliverables into the week prior to my trip. On top of that, I needed to rewrite two chapters of the SEO Copywriting Certification training. To say I was busy was an understatement.

Is it any wonder that having a benevolent overlord running my business sounded attractive?

What’s striking is — despite the stress, I finished all my tasks. I got out the door with a minimum of drama.

The problem wasn’t because I was “too busy,” or “too stressed” or something external.

The problem was with me. I could obviously get everything done. I just needed a plan.

I was holding myself back.

How? Instead of focusing on big-picture items, I spent my time on mindless minutiae.

  • I would pay bills, but not pay attention to long-term financial goals.
  • I would personally handle tasks (like writing and formatting emails,) that someone else could easily do for me.
  • And, perhaps the absolute worst thing…instead of contacting influencers, I focused on clearing my email every day.

WHY was I focused on email when I have other, more cool, opportunities to consider? As Ramit Sethi said in a recent email discussing this very thing, “Screw that. I decided to grow, so I’m going to do what I have to do.”

(And thank you, Ramit, for sending that email the exact moment I needed to read it and confirm my thought process.)

In short, I needed to take control. I needed to be more proactive rather than reactive.

Brainstorms and “satori moments,” as Dr. Wayne Dyer calls them, are all well and good. The important thing is taking action. So what does that mean?

  • Blocking off at least a half day (preferably a full day) where I do nothing but long-range planning, contacting influencers and working on my business. I do this on a more sporadic basis, so this is an easy tweak.
  • Finding people who can help me with minor tasks I shouldn’t handle myself. Heck, that may even be reading and responding to my email. I get over 500 emails a day…so you can imagine the time investment. That also means figuring out what I can outsource. When you’ve done it yourself for years, finding those opportunities is harder than you’d think.
  • Setting clear and measurable financial and business goals that I work towards in an organized fashion. I do this now, but I can tighten up my process.
  • Scheduling time for rest, relaxation and general rejuvenation. My husband, who has worked for Starbucks for over 20 years, gets six weeks of vacation. Shouldn’t I, after 20+ years of self- employment, give myself the same benefit? (Um, that answer is not just “yes,” but “hell yes!”)

In short, it’s time for me to separate myself from the business minutiae, organize a more cohesive team and focus 100% on what really matters. It’s not about working even harder (we all do that.) It’s about working smarter.

In short, I can be my own benevolent overlord. How cool is that?

If you’re in the same boat, I challenge you to figure out how to be your own benevolent overlord. What would make your business life easier? What do you need to do to make it happen? As you’re brainstorming, know that excuses will come up. It’s easy to think, “I can’t,” and “not right now,” and “this isn’t the best time.”

Here’s the deal: You can. Just pick an “official” time to start. Then, keep yourself on track, no matter what. Do what you need to do to keep yourself accountable. Maybe that means hiring a coach or participating in a mastermind group. In the words of Nike, just do it.

When is my “official” start date? July 1, 2015. I have some traveling to do beforehand, and a customized SEO copywriting training to give. After that, my time is more “mine” again…and I don’t have any excuses.

Isn’t it time to take control of your business and finally get it on track?

Who’s with me?

 

 

10 replies
  1. Monica Nastase says:

    This is a great, get-back-to-basics of entrepreneurship nudge we all need from time to time. Perfect timing for my case, as I’m re-starting my copywriting business and it looks like the ideal departure point.
    Good luck on managing to stay on track with these tasks, the benefits are surely bigger than paying-the-bills-only mindset. :)

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Thank you so much, Monica and good luck with your copywriting business! Startup is a very fun and scary time… :)

      Reply
  2. Rachael says:

    I love this post Heather, and very timely for me too! My date is 14 September – the week after my son starts school! He’s at nursery 3 days a week now so I only work while he’s there (and that includes set hours in a part-time ‘bridging’ job). From his second week at school I’ll have an extra two days a week – so can start as I mean to go on with set days for working on, instead of in, my business!

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Congratulations, @Rachael! Do you have your September 14th master plan set, or are you still working on your strategy?

      Reply
  3. Katherine Andes says:

    Hi Heather!

    Happy 4th of July! Finally, reading your great piece. I’m sure you’ll figure out some ways to carve more time out for yourself. I struggle, too, with finding ways to take time off. It’s interesting reading blogs from younger writers. I’m in my late 60s, so I have no dreams of growing. Just servicing my clients as well as I can until I decide to retire. I may not every retire … I just have no dreams of building a bigger business. I do want to get better clients and learn new skills, but it’s no big deal if my company ever grows.

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Hey Katherine!

      I would have never guessed you were in your late 60s. :)

      My goals have changed a lot over time. Once upon a time, I wanted to run a huge agency. Then I realized what a pain that was.Today, I look at ways I can make my family’s life better. That means mastering the art of working less, but making more. I’ve come a long way since my “travel three weeks out of every month” days…and things are getting better all the time.

      Now I just have to master staying focused during a heatwave…ahhh!

      Reply
  4. Nathan Ambrose says:

    Hi, Heather.

    I can empathise so much.

    When I stepped back and considered all things, I came to the conclusion that I should take a big chunk of the blame for holding myself back. Now I am more focused on helping my clients to recover from that situation and take control of their business.

    I like the idea of an official start date. An end date for reaching a particular goal is also good. I am also working on that myself.

    It’s good to see that so many suffer from the same problem. After a while, it makes me think that it’s just me.

    Thanks for sharing. Tweeting soon.

    Nathan.

    Reply
  5. Kurt Frankenberg says:

    I’M with you, Heather!

    The “six weeks paid vaca” and the “be my OWN benevolent overlord” resonates with this kid.

    There’s a Buddhist proverb about a young monk traveling with a venerated master. He was shocked to find a mirror in the older monk’s meager package of belongings. Bewildered by the sin of vanity he believed this mirror represented, the younger monk confronted his mentor. “Ahhh, I see you have found my mirror. It is for when I discover a problem in my life. I pull it out of my pack when I need to see both the source of my problems… and their solution.”

    :-)

    Recently I started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the daily habits that serve me, with a commitment to add more business- and health-building practices (ONE AT A TIME) until they become a matter of habit as well.

    It’s been said that habits are wonderful servants and terrible masters. So the idea is to use the tiny amount of willpower I have to spare before my morning coffee wears off and use it to develop one new habit at a time so that it becomes automatic… no longer requiring willpower but just another thing I do as a matter of routine.

    2016 is gonna be great. I am seeking folks like YOU to follow… way ahead of me in the same or similar career… and copy THEIR desirable habits.

    The reason my businesses don’t do better is yours truly. But that’s okay; the reason it will do better is also me.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Keep Stepping,

    Kurt

    Reply

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