What a year.
I say that and it’s not even over yet! But having celebrated “Freedom Day” here in Sydney a short time ago, with restrictions gradually being lifted across the state and the country, it feels like a good time to take stock and make plans.
Much of the world had been through the physical and emotional wringer throughout 2021, a year that came hot on the heels of a tumultuous 2020. In the many conversations I’ve had and the observations I’ve made, there appears to have been three key experiences business owners have had.
Some businesses have flourished
In the first case, many businesses have had the good fortune to flourish in the midst of this slice of chaos. If you are the owner of such a business, whether that be a result of finding yourself in the fabulous position of having what people suddenly wanted a lot more of (at-home entertainment, great food, books, masks, boats, financial advice to name just a few) or because you were one of the nimble types who managed to spot an opportunity and quickly pivot (the move from face to face to ZOOM room training perhaps?) congratulations.
The ability to swiftly respond to both external demand and manage your own internal state and the positivity of your team if you have one is a great example of the power of self-leadership – congratulations.
Some businesses have fallen
In the second instance, it’s a sad fact that many businesses have been decimated by the impact of COVID restrictions. Even financial support from the government may not have been enough to keep businesses in travel, the arts, speaking, events and other face to face markets afloat. It’s an incredibly difficult experience to see something you have built with love, focus and effort eroded by forces way out of your control.
Very few SWOT analyses could have seen this storm on the horizon. I sincerely hope you are able to regroup and start again, rekindling what you’ve built in the past or choosing to begin a next chapter in a new area. (As an aside you may like to take a look at the Next Chapter podcast, which has a great many stories from women who have reinvented their career, life and business paths after significant challenges or because they decided it was time to follow a path that had been calling for some time).
Many businesses have walked the middle path
In the final instance, there are businesses like mine that have seen a decrease in demand overall, but they’ve had sufficient traction and regular clients to keep things moving forward, albeit slowly.
I’ve found these business owners are the ones who seem most likely to have stepped into the space that COVID unexpectedly provided and spent a fair amount of time considering their “what next”.
When space opens up, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll use some of that time for evaluation. For consideration. To think about what we’ve been doing and to contemplate if we want to continue down the same path, or if we’d like to introduce something new.
New ideas are tenacious. They’ll wriggle their way into the smallest of spaces and take root. They’ll settle themselves into the cracks of your imagination and push themselves up above the surface and ask to be noticed. Or they’ll step onto centre stage, tired of spending time in the wings, and demand to take the lead role they feel they deserve. Shrugging off polite anticipation of attention, they assert, “You’ve told me to wait for so long – it’s my turn now!” bottom lip stuck out, pouting.
COVID opened up wide swathes of time for many of us and the ideas have come swarming in to fill the space. So, if you’ve found yourself entertaining thoughts of change and growth, of heading in new directions, of entering new markets, of doing things differently, you’re in very good company.
Questions to ask yourself to recalibrate
Don’t worry about the how at this stage, just get curious about the what and the why.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What has this year stirred up inside you?
- What is asking for your attention?
- What feels different?
- What feels important?
- What lessons have you learned?
- What feels like it’s had its time and needs to be let go of?
- What have you put off in the past that feels ripe now?
- What do you want to do differently?
- What do you feel ready for?
- What feels exciting (even a little scary?)
- Why do you want to do this thing…
I asked myself these same questions, as my ideas bounced around in my head and heart, amplified by what I was seeing and feeling in the world, in my world.
That’s when I decided the time was ripe for investing time and attention into my own ideas for change that has been in the incubator for some time, languishing because of my previous lack of time.
The end result was the development of the Centre for Self Worth, a new division of my business, and the refining of my business mentoring services under the Your Next Chapter brand.
There were many steps I took myself through when I was considering the changes I would bring in, one of which was utilising the classic Ansoff Matrix, but with my twist, where I also look at Personal Fulfilment Projects, since I believe:
- Your business needs to serve you just as much as you serve your clients
- It’s the blend of contribution, fulfilment and financial reward that allows a business to be sustainable over time
This matrix is one of the tools that I walk you through in a rather valuable resource I created last year called the Business Recalibration Guide. It’s designed for business owners who are evaluating where they are now, and deciding where they will go next and you can download a free copy here.
The rise of the Portfolio Entrepreneur
One of my recent Next Chapter Podcast guests, who also came along to one of my Business retreats last year, described herself as having a “slow burn change arc”. Her business, which we refined at the retreat, sees a blend of financial advisory work alongside health coaching and yoga, a combination that energises her and utilises her diverse range of skills and interests as what I have begun to call a ‘Portfolio Entrepreneur”.
A portfolio entrepreneur monetises their skills in many ways, resulting in multiple sources of income, rather than having a single business focus. When you embrace this approach, you develop a unique personal brand and have several offerings, often complementary or linked in some way, where you own the intellectual property and evolve your service mix over time.
The business owners who had to rapidly pivot (or pirouette as we chose to rename the phenomena at my virtual book launch last year) found themselves needing to reskill quickly to meet new needs or to serve old needs in new ways. More arrows in their quiver contributed to this feeling of being a “portfolio entrepreneur” and feelings of self-efficacy can increase significantly when you see that you’re the kind of person who can respond to a challenge.
One of my Business Mastermind clients, the owner of a Pilates, Barre and Yoga studio was one of these, quickly mastering live streaming, setting up a second website for online live and pre-recorded classes and offering personalised online Wellness Hubs to business clients for their staff to access. The skill ramp was steep at first, but by the time she and her team were facing Lockdown 4.0, the switch to online delivery and engagement could happen almost seamlessly.
Building new business skills and moving in new directions
I’ve also witnessed those business owners who have “walked the middle path”, myself included, taking some of the available time that opened up to add to their skill set. Another mastermind client immersed herself in adding Virtual Facilitation prowess to her already formidable skills. I joined her on this journey, working alongside an array of skilled presenters from around the world, led by Rhonda Tranks from Illuma Consulting, as we added new tools and techniques to our toolkits. I utilise several of these in the monthly masterclasses I offer through my Centre for Self Worth.
I’ve also completed a Certificate in Applied Neuroscience and Brain Health and am currently enrolled in the Diploma in Positive Psychology with the Langley Group. All of these new skills are combining to strengthen my ability to support the growth of clients I work with both business strategy and self-leadership. And it’s invigorating for me as I simply love learning! These new areas of personal growth have helped to stave off the languishing that has been reported on as a side effect of the pandemic around the world.
Another of my business mastermind clients went through a metamorphosis after recognising that she had an inherent vulnerability in her business model. As a subcontractor, she had become reliant on a pipeline that she had little control over and she needed to generate new ways of generating revenue that she had more control over. Several months after that revelation, she is now thriving with a personal brand in the media and communications space and a revenue base that is 50% subcontracting assignments and 50% personal mentoring clients – a far more secure and satisfying place to be.
What’s next for you?
Now is a great time to consider what your next steps are going to be in 2022.
I’m a big believer in spending time in consideration and gentle planning this side of Christmas so you can allow yourself time out over the festive season to have a proper break, not a COVID induced break, knowing that you have the framework for your new year, and the support that will help you further develop and implement those ideas.
You can then revisit your plans early in the new year, with a fresh perspective that a break provides.
This is where the Business Recalibration Guide can get you started, along with a set of simple questions.
- What will you start?
- What will you stop?
- What will you continue?
- What will you do more of?
- What will you do less of?
Before you can answer those questions, you need to spend some time evaluating your 2021 results, overlaid with a COVID filter – what might have worked differently if COVID had not been an extenuating factor? What impact might the next phase of COVID have on my business? There’s a lot to consider there, alongside how you are feeling about your current service, market and product mix and what role you want your business to play in your life going forward.
Don’t rush this. They’re big questions that deserve your time. I always find it useful when I am in big picture mode to step away from my usual working space. A change of scenery really helps my brain to open up. I’m fortunate to have a beautiful deck overlooking the enclosed waters of Pittwater, surrounded by a lot of trees. It’s where I tend to do my own big picture planning, and it’s why I host most of my Business Strategy Planning days here in Bayview, if I don’t meet you interstate.
Finally, I’d like to suggest a conversation with me, to help you to expand your thinking, as it’s often rather tricky to see the spot you’re standing on. That’s why I invest in my own support. After 18 years in business, I’ve come to really appreciate the value of a coach, mentor or mastermind group to help me uncover opportunities that I may have missed, to act as a sounding board and to help me more deeply appreciate and leverage my own strengths as I expand into my own next chapter.
Perhaps I might join your support team?