“What did I get myself into?” I can’t begin to tell you how many times I asked myself that question over the past 8 years. The answer is always the same… “Freedom, my kind of freedom,” financial, time, creativity, whatever happens to be important to me at that moment, and believe me that will be different at various junctures of this adventure. You will second guess yourself as often as you allow, I didn’t trust my gut when I should have and have some regrets because of that.
When I started my business I did it with a business partner because I was afraid to do it on my own, which turned out to be a learning experience I didn’t really need to be educated on. I had loved ones who believed in me more than I believed in myself who told me to do it on my own, but I was so crippled with the thought of flying the plane solo that I put myself in a situation I would never wish upon anyone. Trust your gut and fight your fear. Live in the moment as you feel the adrenaline grow at decision making time – that feels scary but you are compelled to do it anyway.
I love what my business represents for other small businesses, but most importantly I love that it allows me to have a very similar feeling of contribution that volunteerism gives me. Having the opportunity to support small business owners when they feel totally overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with a project or a task is so gratifying for me that it made me finally understand when my business coach asked, “If you weren’t paid a penny for what you do, would you still do it?”
YES! YES! Absolutely YES!
Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of days that I feel like throwing in the towel or want to crawl back in bed and not deal with another challenge that faces me or the business. Passion, real passion for what you do means that you allow yourself to get lost every once in a while. Find out what gets you right back on track and have a plan, identify when you need to put that plan into action. When I have these moments it mostly stems from the feeling of overwhelm coming on or clutter, either physical or mental. Given that I’m in the business of helping people out of overwhelm I developed a quick and easy way to help myself and several of my clients out of it. My “15 Minutes From Overwhelmed To Organized” system helps me every time, it allows me to deconstruct what feels like a mess and create the opportunity to systematically remove the things that are creating overwhelm and/or clutter for me. Use it now and as often as you need to help you get back to that place of passion, seeing the big picture rather than getting lost in the tasks and the day to day rut.
On almost any road trip you’re going to come across some bridges. I don’t like bridges in general, ask anyone who knows me I absolutely don’t like driving over them. I do, however, love the bridges that have been part of my journey as an entrepreneur. There will be countless times that you will find yourself stuck trying to figure out how to get on the other side of the current day’s challenge. If there is nothing else you take from the story of my journey, please remember this – you must have your own board of advisors giving you unbiased, honest (sometimes brutally) and creative advice. I read the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill in the first few years I was in business and have read it several times since because it reminds me often that the fundamentals of business are the same as they were in the early 1900’s when this book was written. More importantly it never lets me forget that what I think, even if I don’t verbalize those thoughts, has a direct correlation to the outcome.
There are two specific ways I keep a board of advisors: I participate in two different mastermind groups (one paid, one free) of women who are in various stages of their business and I have a business coach.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to masterminds; some feel that if you don’t pay for it there’s not enough commitment to the group, others feel that everyone in the group should be at a higher level than you so that you’re benefiting from their experiences. I don’t necessarily believe in either of those because I have learned so much from the business owners in my free mastermind who are just starting out in their businesses because they are my ideal client, so it’s a perspective I want. My paid mastermind gives me incredible insight on technology, marketing and financial aspects of my business. Both give me guidance from the heart with honesty which is the most important to me. Choose whatever works for you, but get involved with a mastermind group that allows you to have enough time to work through specific challenges or projects each time you meet. An added benefit is that we all feel good about ourselves when we contribute and I like that feeling of being a part of the growth of someone else’s business.
I have had the same business coach for over 5 years, Joy Chudacoff. Again, there are multiple opinions about this and believe me I’ve heard them all. My gauge of whether or not I need to look for another coach is when I have had no growth or movement in a positive direction for either myself or my business AFTER I have done everything she advised – then it’s time to move on. I have watched Joy’s business evolve and grow over the years I’ve worked with her and that’s also important to me because it shows me that she practices what she preaches. I use my time with Joy as purposefully as possible; there are times where she is my therapist, those are few but necessary! Most uses of our time together are working through a program I’m developing, revamping my organizational structure, evaluating my service offerings or reviewing my financial numbers. I encourage you to have a plan with your coach as I have seen many friends and clients spend literally thousands of dollars and not fully take advantage of what they’re paying for. Do your due diligence when you’re deciding to work with a coach, talk to others that have coached with them – the happy ones and the not so happy ones. You would contact references for someone taking care of your children, why wouldn’t you do the same for the future of your business?
One of the biggest lessons I learned early on was about how important community was to my business. Local and online communities are crucial to creating a reputation, brand and fans for your business. I got involved with my local chamber of commerce and joined women centric committees that allowed me to focus on causes that were important to me while giving me opportunities to showcase my business and network at the same time. Be careful not to let anything become too consuming of your time; it is very important to keep balance in mind because when you’re willing to give your time there’s always someone ready to take it.
Online communities can be a bit more complicated, mostly in how they come about. There are several opportunities to sit behind the computer and interact with people on social media. Remember that you can still affect your reputation with who and how you interact. Be very aware of the associations you make for yourself in these communities, because believe me other people are. I learned this lesson the hard way when there was someone I had trusted although others in our community encouraged me to be careful. We had a situation where this individual chose to do something that was in their best interest without being fully honest with me and several other people, which caused a chain reaction after I came to their defense that could have been detrimental to my business simply by associating with them.
I am someone who always needs to know where my destination is and how far I am from it. Knowing where the turns and the traffic are somehow makes me feel better because I know what’s coming up. So having a plan or a map that gives you a clear path to your goals is crucial to every business.