When’s the last time someone asked you: “What’s new?”
If you’re starting or growing a business, an e-business, or a web site, the answer is: “Everything!” – especially on the inside.
Face it, launching a new enterprise – or taking it to the next level – can sometimes feel scary and overwhelming. Where do you begin? How do you begin? And do you have what it takes?
Granted. We’ve heard about the classic stages of starting a successful business – like Plan, Launch, and Grow. We’ve heard about the latest web promotion buzzwords – like Stickiness, Link Popularity, and RSS Feeds. Yes, these are important, but let’s start at the heart of the matter. My objective is to help you begin your business by focusing on the inner shifts that accompany committing ourselves to any new business venture – the “hearty” changes that we’re unable to see directly, but that happen just the same.
I write these words from my 20 years of experience helping entrepreneurs start all types of businesses – both traditional and online – and having discussions with them about their entrepreneurial lives, about their inner achievements. What has it been like for them? What have they learned? What has worked for them, and what hasn’t?
The essence is this: Though the outward steps of launching a business may vary from person to person, if you’re willing to look closer, you’ll see that the process you go through on the inside will trigger all the deep changes in your life that are truly your own, that you’ve been waiting and wanting to happen all along.
The nature and truth of these inner changes – and their effects – cannot adequately be put into words. My clients tell me that these changes don’t move in logical ways. They are subtle, sometimes masked, even from our self. We see the outward advances – the sign going up, the website being launched, and the first client being won – however the deep, subterranean realizations that occur when we launch a new enterprise (that sometimes seem to emerge “out of the blue”), end up affecting the success of our business far more than any genius business plan or enlightened promotional strategy ever will. So, it’s up to us – to be prepared for as much transformation as we will allow, personally and professionally.
Here are a few “hearty” Start Up Tips I’ve learned and experienced firsthand from my clients. I hope they will help you as you shift and as you shape your new business:
“Be as you are”
I used to think that appearing confident and fearless regardless of what I was feeling inside was what it took to succeed in business. “Be strong and in control. Never let them see you cry or sweat” is what we are told. Or, at least that’s the way I heard it. I believe what that advice amounted to was this: “Be two people. Appear as a competent person in business at any cost” (even though you know all too well that you are sometimes unsure of yourself and make mistakes). I bought into this lie, hook, line, and sinker (or maybe that should read stinker?).
The truth: a straight-forward approach – warts and all – works better every time. Be as you are. It takes the pressure off and keeps your ego in the right place, while at the same time it makes it crystal clear to others whether you can meet their need from the very start. No hype. Nothing hidden. A few laughs. They can make a decision faster and feel confident in doing business with you because what they see is what they get. They can trust what’s real.
And likewise, the clarity and inner confidence that come from being as you are will guide the right actions for your business as well. They will be your light. They will set you going in the right direction and will provide the ready fuel to keep you going – and growing. The spirit of your business will sustain you.
“Humility precedes confidence”
Right up there with transparent living is humility. For most of my life, my take on “humility” was that it meant being “weak” or “less than” in the eyes of others – descriptions that seemed the very opposite of how an “entrepreneur” was supposed to act. But, the more I experience, the more I see that taking a humble, realistic approach as we start any business is essential. Humility is not a demure personality trait; it’s part of living our humanity.
I’ve been blessed to work with many humble people. You know, it’s ironic that taking a humble approach to business will, more than anything else I’ve observed, have a positive, dramatic affect on your personal confidence and motivation, and your ability to communicate well – to reach people where they are. I’ve also learned that I can be confident and humble at the same time, as long as my humility precedes my confidence, as long as I keep the notion that I am no more or less than anyone else ever present.
“A chance to help others”
So, my clients say: “See your idea – your new business – for what it is. Simply a way for you to create a living that helps others.” That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything. You have talents and gifts. You want to do something that seems natural and personally fulfilling. So be it. At the same time, there are people out there that need what you have to offer. This same equation of life and work is true for everyone. None of us are any more special, while at the same time all of us are capable of wonderful things.
“It’s always personal”
Business is always between just two people – it’s always inter-personal, even if your client is a huge company, you’re still communicating with a person. Today’s emphasis on the one-to-one nature of the Internet has always been the case in business, it’s just easier to see it illuminated on the web. Bringing your real skills (and person) in contact with another’s real need (and person) is the simple essence of meaningful business.
“Go with your heart”
So, we challenge you. Clearly define the parameters of your business upfront – what you will and will not initially offer. And, know your true values and limitations – what you cannot and will not do. Get these things out of your mind and commit them to paper – and re-commit yourself to your business each time you re-read them. Build it as you see it. Ask for others’ input and gain the professional help you need to succeed but go with what’s in your heart, with what moves you. When you go with what charges you up, you’ll have built-in confidence because you’ll be offering what is you. You’re not trying to make others see your business for anything but what it is. You’re not having to psych yourself up all the time. What a relief!
“Be like an open container”
They also tell me: “Wear life as a loose garment.” Be like an open container as you run your business. Be contained in terms of being focused, yet always remain open, in terms of being observant and flexible. You will create the map – your business plan – but without fail know that your map must change as you use it. That’s the way it is. As entrepreneurs, we can grow to love the fact that our world and business will change constantly. By saying alert, by consciously observing, by asking ourselves how we can best respond to these changes, we allow our business to take on its own life – a life we don’t need to “try” to push or “think through” all the time in order for it to maintain momentum.
“Challenges enliven your business”
And finally, their advice: Remain poised to creatively meet the challenges in front of you. They will appear, and you can benefit from them. They may appear as opportunities. “Oh boy!?” Or, they may appear as hurdles. “Oh, no!?” It’s all in how we see them and the actions we take as a result. We can label the very same thing as ” a blessing” or an “opportunity,” or we can label it as a “problem” or a “roadblock. However, refusing to accept what lies in front of us – just because it is different from what we had envisioned – prevents us from the very thing that will drive our business: change and growth.
“Hope and energy abound everywhere. Surprises are rampant.”
Remembering this daily, and living from my heart daily – is often the greatest challenge for me, and for my clients. It’s the challenge of perceiving my changing path and my changing relationship with others clearly and consistently, and allowing the spirit of change – the spirit of my business – to propel me forward, without grasping for it, without losing my focus.
Susan Kay Thompson, a Florida Gulf Coast resident, is founder of Emerald Coast Entrepreneur, [http://www.emeraldcoastentrepreneur.com/], a consulting firm specializing in business start up and web content development services. With a rich and varied background in academic, corporate, and entrepreneurial achievement, she cuts through the theories and the hype to write words – and find solutions – that make a difference.