In ancient Greece he was known as Eros and Ancient Rome he went by the name Cupid. This playful, some might say mischievous, winged child would aim his arrows and pierce the heart of humans to make them fall in love… ahhhhh.
The early stages of falling in love definitely have their benefits. For example, you don’t need as much sleep, your appetite diminishes (great if you’re hoping to lose a few pounds), you have more energy and take delight from the smallest of things that you know will not have the same pleasing effect in 12 months time. When you fall in love in fact you have all manner of chemicals like adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin racing through your body. And with all that going on, how can you fail to feel fantastic?
But of course there is a downside. In the early stages your love life can consume your energy, time and focus. You constantly think about the other person and there’s not much space left in your head for anything else. But here’s the surprising thing, starting a business is a lot like falling in love! You are full of energy and excitement, you constantly talk about it to other people (who may or may not be interested) and you need little sleep or at least you choose to have less sleep because you are so ‘keyed up’ about this new love in your life.
As with romantic love, the love you feel for your business as an entrepreneur or a solo operator is most intense when it first begins. After a while, your chemical imbalances level out and that’s where the hard work really begins. So what should you do if your energy levels have taken a bit of a nosedive recently? If you are running on tepid rather than hot, or if a fog has started to descend over your clarity. Well, it isn’t easy, but below are some tips and ideas designed to help you fall back in love with your business.
Perhaps the finest speech delivered during the 20th Century was that of Martin Luther King Jr in Washington DC back in 1963. You’ll notice he didn’t start off his speech with ‘I have a plan…’ but rather ‘I have a dream…’ Dreaming about your business and where you want to be is an activity I recommend. It is a powerful motivator. After all, if you don’t think big and don’t have a strong idea of what you want your business to become, then how are you going to steer towards that future?
In her 2011 keynote speech at Barnard, Columbia University, Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook, urged her female audience to ‘think big’. So ask yourself, how much time do you take out of your business to sit somewhere and just dream? In a recent Harvard Review blog entitled Instead of Making Resolutions, Dream, Whitney Johnson wrote: “Dreaming is about hope — and who we may become.” She went on to say that “the more we dream ourselves into becoming who we want to be, the closer we’ll come to accomplishing our resolutions”.
So take some time out. Go to a spa for a weekend or a coffee shop for a couple of hours and think long and hard about your business and what you want it to become. Remarkable things really can happen when we dare to dream.
Once you have your dream scenario clearly mapped out in your mind the next stage is to get it out and onto the page in front of you, whether that means via your laptop, a tablet computer or favourite trusty little notebook. Start scribbling lists, drawing flow charts and/or pictures, writing key words and paragraphs. Just keep going until there is nothing left inside your head to get out.
With the above process completed the next step is to start turning your ideas into reality. This is more easily said than done but below is an activity I use with my clients both in coaching and also in marketing mode when working on visioning. I consider this a really powerful tool and I’ve seen it change the way people approach what they are doing. Suddenly they become very clear about what needs to be done and how it will happen.
• Imagine you are making your business dream a reality and you are 24 months down the road from where you are today. What does your business look like? Who are your clients? Who is part of your team? What does your working week look like? What events are you talking at? What are you writing and speaking about?
• Having got all your ideas in place for month 24, take a step back. You are now 18 months down the road from where you are today and you can see month 24 in front of you. From where you stand at month 18 to get to where you want to be in month 24 what do you need to do? Who should you be speaking to, what sales should you be achieving, what new marketing and communication tools have you engaged with to help you?
• Having got everything in place for month 18, take another metaphorical step back. You are now at month 12 and can see month 18 in front of you. What do you need to do to get where you want to be by month 18? Ask yourself the same questions you asked at months 18 and 24.
• You should now have everything in place for month 12. Carry out the same exercise and take another step back to month 6. You can see month 12 in front of you. What are the activities you need to carry out to take you from month 6 to month 12?
• Repeat the final step from where you are today and ask what you need to do to get where you want to be in six months time.
This process gives you a way forward and gives you a path towards making your vision a reality. Six-month bite size time frames make your goals much more achievable and ensure that your over-arching aims do not seem so daunting. Why not try it? It really can help.
One of my favourite ladies of the past century or so is the now sadly departed Eunice Kennedy Schriver, who died at the age of 88 in August 2009. She was the sister of the American political icons John, Robert and Edward Kennedy, as well as being the mother of the wonderful Maria Schriver. The words you often heard her say whenever she was interviewed were: “Who have you served today?” Mrs Kennedy Schriver, and the rest of her famous family, were all about service and giving of their best. Regardless of what business you are running, you are there to provide someone with a service and it is very important to make sure you always offer the best that you possibly can. To be of great service to another person is a gift. To make that dynamic work for your business, you need to know who your ideal client is and what you bring to the table to help them.
Ask yourself the following:
• What is the challenge your ideal client faces?
• How will you be able to solve their problems?
• Will your ideal client want to pay for your service and can they afford it?
• Will you enjoy working with your ideal client?
• Will they become a good reference point?
• What communities and demographics does your ideal client belong to?
It is also important to identify and distinguish the type of people you do want to work with and those that you don’t. In the corporate world, I worked for a company that pioneered executive coaching in the UK and one of the founders, Peter Needham, always used to tell me that he loved his clients and it certainly seemed to me that he genuinely did. He was an incredibly successful coach, one of the best in the country, and his commitment made all the difference to the relationship he had with his clients and contributed greatly to their efforts in achieving sustainable success. He really was an amazing person and his clients knew it and always appreciated his time.
Being in love with a business is perhaps not quite the same as more personal romances but being passionate about what you do is essential for success in business and it can fuel your efforts in delivering of your best to your clients. It might well be hard work to make it happen but if you succeed in turning your dreams into reality then surely it will all be worthwhile.
Much love and happiness to you on this St. Valentine’s Day.