“I hope I’m not wasting your time,” my new client said as we kicked of her first session.
“You see, I’ve been trying to get my consulting business off the ground for the last couple of years and I’m spinning my wheels. I have so much knowledge, talent and skill but they’re not doing me much good. “
“What do you mean-they’re not doing you much good?” I asked….curious but sensing I already knew the answer.
“Well, I’m wondering if it’s worth it. I make good money, but it’s not nearly what I want or really need to be bringing in. And it’s not just about money. If I could just get out there in a bigger way, I know I could really help people. I’m so passionate about what I do, but I’m frustrated. I’m not having fun. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m cut out for being an entrepreneur… I don’t know what to do.”
Then she said it…
“Maybe I should just get a job and forget about all this.”
I cringe when I hear people seriously considering a ‘settle’ strategy. It’s not that I don’t understand, because I do. You can only struggle so long before you begin to wonder if you’re crazy to keep going. And settling for something that won’t ultimately make you happy begins to sound pretty darned attractive.
But I know something they don’t.
I know the answer is right in front of them. They just can’t see it through all the distractions, noise, confusion and inner-story telling. I know all they really need is a tighter focus and fine tuning to make the shift from struggling ‘best kept secret’ to a leading expert in their field.
You’re always closer than you think.
Here are the 4 questions I use to diagnose exactly where the refocusing and fine tuning need to happen, and in what order, to turn things around quickly. You can use them yourself to get clear on where to start.
Are you operating from a clear, focused and compelling mission?
Sometimes in the process of building a business you lose touch with what drives you—the passion and motive that got you started in the first place. You get so focused on getting it right and following all the ‘rules’ that suddenly everything feels all wrong!
When you disconnect from the source of real sustainable difference in your business…YOU…,all motivation, momentum and fulfillment start to drain away. You’re left to make it happen with sheer grit and determination, which almost never works.
Are you working from an aligned business model?
Does your business resemble a crazy quilt of ideas, products, programs, services and even brands? Or does everything work together…intentionally…to create a cohesive, clear and effective customer experience?
When sewn together under the ‘umbrella’ of your business everything needs to work together and flow. But many entrepreneurs love to create when the inspiration hits. They create products, programs, offerings and websites. And they create a mess.
Not all ideas are great ideas. Especially if they take you off mission or muddle up your business model. You may need to do some housecleaning to streamline your products and services but the payoff will be well worth it.
Is your environment supporting you and your business?
I love to garden. If a plant is not thriving, I don’t just look at the plant. I also inspect the environment. Are the conditions suitable for it to thrive? Each plant has its unique requirements and I have to know what they are, or I’m clueless about why it’s not doing well.
You and your business are no different. You need your environment to support you and your business. As a business leader you must get nurtured…creatively, energetically and professionally. Are you clear about what you require to be at your best? Are you vigilant about making sure you are getting your needs met?
Are your standards, boundaries, policies, systems, practices and people all in alignment with the vision and mission of your business? Tolerating mediocrity will drag you down faster than almost anything else. So will too many distractions, drains and tolerations. Fix them before they do any more damage.
Are you taking consistent, confident action to implement your plan?
In the end, it all comes down to consistent action.
It’s hard (if not impossible) to take consistent action if one of the other three areas are out of whack (that’s why those questions come first). But sometimes we just don’t do what we say we’ll do. We don’t do what we can.
So before you get tempted to throw in the towel, take a quick check:
Am I motivated by a meaningful mission or have I gotten off-mission?
Is my business model clean or a muddled mess?
Does my environment lift me up or drag me down?
Am I doing what I can to make this business thrive?