When the Cup is Full – Stop Pouring

Green cup overfilled and spilling

In one translation of the teaching of Tao Te Ching, there is a statement that reads, “To keep on filling is not as good as stopping. Overfilled, the cupped hands drip, better to stop pouring.” [Living the Wisdom of the TAO New York City: Hay House  2008]

Growth is important as long as you can manage the components that require your attention. For example, if you are getting a degree or certification, are you able to find the time to focus on your learning or are you just going through the motions of looking like you are learning. Like the cup, you have control over what is in the cup, but once it is full, the overfill spills out, uncontrolled and potentially ruining that which it lands on. Often times we go through the motion of filling our cup because we think we need more, we see something we want and we get it, we look at others and want it for ourselves. Sometimes we just have to stop, take inventory, and see what we have already accomplished.

Check out this video for additional details and three suggestions on how to value what you already have.

Barb Stuhlemmer – Sept 2017

Filled with Anxiety Not Gratitude

Gratitude trumps anxiety. When we are in the grasp of anxious or overwhelming times, it is hard to see how being grateful will make a difference. Initially, it will not feel it is making a difference, but I guarantee that having a grateful lifestyle will help eliminate the feelings of lacking and failure. If being grateful is not part of your daily actions then try it out by following this process.

7-Day Gratitude Get Started Process

Child Praying - GratitudeDay 1 – Write out everything you  appreciate about your spouse, parent, child, or close friend. Make a list of at least 10 things. This must be someone you are close to and love.

Day 2 – Look at the things you have in your home. Think about how it came to be yours. Remember everything with a smile on your face and say thank you.

Day 3 – Say thank you to everyone you meet today. Today you are giving thanks to those that come into your life. If you are unsure of what you are thanking them for, just say thanks and smile.

Day 4 – Look at your work. Whether you are working in your passion or simply working to make ends meet, you have something to be grateful for. List 4 things about your work that you are thankful for.

Day 5 – Go out and view your community over your lunch break. Look for the beauty in every place you visit. See good in every person. Be grateful for the opportunity to live is such a wonderful place.

Day 6 – Look for at least 5 news stories, videos, or events online that show the greatness of people around the world. Look at their similarities and the differences and be grateful for the wondrous variety.

Day 7 – Write out your 100 accomplishments. This may take several days and the goal is to get to 100. Go back in time and list everything YOU think of as a success for you. No one needs to read this so don’t worry if the accomplishment is small and just for you, like for me, the time I learned how to whistle.

Keep Gratitude in your heart every day. Find new ways to be grateful. Continue to add to your accomplishments list and review your accomplishments when you are not feeling great but need to be grateful.

What You Have That The Government Does Not

view of field of flowers through chain link fence

Freedom to Grow

I believe in government as a necessity to ensure things happen for a large group of people. In fact I live in a country where government is a big part of our lives (more than 50% of our income goes to taxes) and we get to say we live in the best country in the world measured on many different metrics.

I have also been fortunate not to have worked in the government. I know that sounds counter-intuitive. A “cushy” government job is a dream of so many people. My husband does have a government job and he is thrilled. But as an entrepreneur I am looking for different freedom than is offered inside a large bureaucracy.

You Know Who

The Government works for the people. But who are the people? The government does not have a target market. They do what every entrepreneur is taught not to do; they say, “I work for everyone.” (Everyone in the country, everyone in the province/state/city/etc.) The problem is, even in government you cannot work for everyone. They don’t even work for the majority on any issue. Finding a balance between what needs to work to run a country and what people want is always a challenge. Being a political leader has to be one of the most difficult jobs around. Less than half the people like you because your vision and goals for the future don’t align.

In business we focus on our core target market. We know who we are supporting with our products and services. We understand what they need and why they buy. We know who our suppliers are and what their biggest challenges are. We are close to our issues and the solutions. Everything is more personal. We know these things because if we didn’t we wouldn’t be in business.

The government is in business because it has to be. We are in business because we choose to be.

The Green-Light Manager

Approximately 92,000 people work for the Ontario government. If one person finds an issue, has some feedback, wants to change a process, sees an inconsistency, etc. how loud does their voice have to be to get heard? There are processes that are meant to handle this very question, but who knows about them? Usually not the person wanting to bring the change. Often not the people they would ask for help to get the answers. Great ideas are so often lost in a bureaucracy. The mindset of management (in any setting, not just government) is to err on the side of safety, meaning they would rather throw out a good idea then be responsible for giving the “green light” to a bad idea. Since it is not management’s job in government to bring change, it is to make the status quo work smoothly, listening to new ideas is not even an option for most managers. The voice of the least person in government usually goes unheard, and they often have the best view of the issues that are hard to fix.

In our business we can see all the moving parts. We have access to all the people that have the different perspectives. We can be open to new ideas because we are the ‘green-light manager’. We can say yes to change and we should because we are small enough to be able to make change happen when we need.

We are not caged, like in the government, to only do the status quo. We are free to grow, add, change, and stop what we are doing.

No Cement Shoes

The money invested in ideas is accountable to everyone when you work in government. When you answer to everyone, you need to be more sure of everything. Once a plan is put in place, there is no going back, or at least not without major controversy. Some years ago my government placed an order for new planes for the military. We are not a military-focused country so as soon as the government changed, the order was cancelled. The cancellation fee cost the tax payer billions of dollars. Thank goodness this does not happen often. The reason it doesn’t is because of the “cement shoes”. Once a plan is put into works, it is like everyone involved is standing in fresh cement. They cannot leave without ruining the concrete plan, but they don’t want to stay because the plan doesn’t look right to them. There is no going back.

The money invested in ideas for your business is accountable to you and your investors. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan to stay the course, but with a smaller size business, there is more room to pivot. The weight of the ‘cement shoes’ is less and the cost of change is less. In fact, it is possible to build change into the plan initially to be able to make the changes needed, when they are needed, at a cost that is not prohibitive.

I almost got myself elected to a municipal Councillors position a few years back. I do want to make a difference and I love my city, but I am very thankful I did not get in because I don’t think I could make the impact I wanted with the tools available to anyone working in the government. I can do more from inside my business and so can you.

Remember as you grow, look for the areas in your business where you may lose sight of your entrepreneurial spirit. As you build your systems to manage a bigger business, don’t let bureaucracy sneak in and block you from doing the work you first intended to do. As you bring on new people, don’t let your size stop you from getting the perspective of everyone on your team. After all they are your brand managers (all of them) and they can make your business look successful or they can make it feel broken. You have this ability and the government, which runs one of the most successful countries in the world, does not. Take advantage of it.

10 Things You Won’t Need in a Zombie Apocalypse

No one ever looks at the bright side of the Zombie Apocalypse. There are so many things you are not going to have to worry about.

1. Axe Body Spray

Everything about you smells delicious.

2. Manners

People are buying from you no matter how you treat them because you have what they need.

3. Marketing

There is no competition so why bother. They need you so they will find you.

4. Books

Why improve? You are already at the top of the intellectual ladder and no one else is getting smarter.

5. A Plan

Thank goodness you will not need another business plan… ever.

6. An Accountant

What are you paying taxes for?

7. Sales

If they want it they will have to pay full price for it. After-all, they were lucky to be able to get it in at all.

8. Vacation Pay

Who are your employees going to complain to anyway? Tell them they are lucky to have a job and to get back to work.

Red rope barrier on red carpet

9. Customer Line-up Cordon

Line-ups are unnecessary because who can wait?

10. Good Management

Because great customer service doesn’t matter.

Of course, the zombie apocalypse is still many years off, so until then remember that Great Customer Service ALWAYS Matters. Hire good people, have a marketing schedule, treat your customers with love, and plan for your success.

Summer Selling – What Else Can You Do?

wine on the beach enjoying summer

Summer feels like a time of year that you cannot get much done. So many people are away on vacation or out enjoying the time with their kids who are off school; basically slowing down. But if you are looking for sales in the summer you cannot slow down, so what else can you do? Here are three ideas I have for you that I have experienced over the last few weeks.

1. Beach Time

If you have access to a great outdoor space then invite some clients to join you for an afternoon event. Add food, great content and learning, and amazing networking. Invite some other experts and add a panel or Q&A that includes them. Make sure you charge enough to cover your expenses and you are highlighting your business. Introduce an offer or let people know you will be calling them to chat about doing some other things together and helping them with their needs.

One of the networking associations I belong to (with a membership of about 150 people) hosted an event for 12 people (first come – first served). You had to be quick to get a ticket and it was worth it. It was hosted at the directors cottage on Georgian Bay. We sat on the deck sipping wine, networking, learning and getting great support for our businesses. The cost at $55 was not excessive but it also was not nominal. She made a little money and supported her members in a unique way, which created a desire for next year. In addition, she did not have to leave the cottage to host an event down in the city, saving her enormous amount of time and extra costs.

2. Think Small

If you do events during the year you know how much time they can take for things like:

  • getting sponsors
  • selling display tables
  • finding a venue
  • selling the tickets
  • arranging food, accommodations, media, etc.

If you want to do something in the summer but you know you just don’t have time to create something big then think small. A small room that sits 15 would create a great atmosphere for learning and sharing. Keep the event to a 1/2 day or less so people can still plan their summer fun around it and add something fun to the program like summer punch tasters or a summer dress code.

This past weekend my friend Beatrice Johnston hosted a Brand building event in Toronto. She was visiting with another friend who had access to a small professional room. The event was from 11 am – 2 pm and was full of great content with a promise to follow up. She used Eventbrite to create the event page and sell tickets. She filled a small room of ideal clients. She left with an open door to follow up with each person and keep in touch. Since we all paid to be there she was not out of pocket for the event.

3. An Extra $2500

Could you use an extra $2500 this summer? My good friend Cindy Ashton had some time in between setting up her new national TV show, “Cindy Uncorked” (launching this fall on the Women’s Television Network) and getting sponsors, to do some coaching for a select few entrepreneurs. She really doesn’t have much time, but she loves to help entrepreneurs have a voice with powerful communications so she created a short $500 program with specific results for 5 people only. It’s an easy purchase for someone looking for those results and an easy marketing setup because it is only a piece of any of her full programs. It required a sales page with a video, the shopping cart for registration, autoresponders to send out the information after the purchase and her time, set in time slots of her choosing.

I loved this so much she gave me permission to use the idea to offer some extra time for my clients and came up with the Growth Explosion offer. Go ahead and copy my template if you want to try this for yourself.

There is still time to get something on your marketing calendar for the summer. Do it now and get more sales while everyone else is taking it easy.

What Else Do You Need To Learn?

Books in a school library

Your Learning Curve

Does it ever feel like you have spent so much time learning, reading, attending classes, conferences, or online programs, working with experts or coaches, and filling up your knowledge bank that you could be full? What is there left to learn when you have learned so much?

Learning isn’t an On/Off switch. You don’t learn something new and suddenly you are an expert. This is the challenge with learning because so much of it feels like we have already done it. Sometimes we can even be thinking to ourselves, “I’ve already learned this, why can’t I make ‘it’ work the way it is supposed to?”

Learning is also not just about the ‘What’. It is about the how, when, where, how much, who, and why. Learning requires knowing the answers to everything around any one topic that you wish to be an expert in. Maybe ‘it’ hasn’t work for you because there is something about yourself you do not know or understand yet.

I have found that when I feel completely confident in my expertise at something I have accomplished several areas of learning. What I also know is that even with 20 years’ experience at something, there is always room for new knowledge on my topic of expertise. Let me elaborate using my expertise as a technical writer and secondly as a small business strategist.

Mastering My First Competency

My background in technology and my education gave me the foundation for my career as a technical writer.

  • I started in a high-tech company learning how to operate the equipment we were manufacturing. I had to know all aspects of the equipment to to help others be able to use it but I did not have any experience creating manuals. Email was new to business and most of my instructions were done via fax.
  • I was asked to help with some internal documentation and another person with experience using MS Word showed me some of the steps for using the software.
  • I was asked to use my knowledge about the equipment and MS Word to create the instructions for a service manual.
  • After the manual was published I was asked to write all the internal work instructions, build procedures and quality procedures. I created templates based on standards. I now had the title of technical writer, but I didn’t feel like a tech writer. I didn’t know the industry or what experts in this industry needed to know to be experts.
  • I attended conferences, continued to write, asked questions of experts on list-serv communities, and joined an association for technical writers so I could be connected to the industry and the masters.

After many successes, I got to a point where I could answer all the questions my clients had around what was needed, how much it would cost, how long it would take, who was doing the work, when could we start, etc. I saw myself as an expert.

Small Business Strategist

With my background and connections in small business and my own experience owning a small business that did technical writing I found I had a great deal of knowledge and interest in the support of small business owners.

  • I was volunteering to help small business owners because there was a need and people asked for my help.
  • I got certifications, read, worked with other experts, attended conferences and hired coaches to work on myself and the tools I could use to work with my clients.
  • I surrounded myself with experts, mentors, and other business owners so I would have continuous access to the ideas, insights, and mentality of the people I wanted to be expert at helping.
  • I invested in industry information and researched the small business industry.
  • I worked with small business owners as often as I could, as clients, in networking, or through volunteering.

It wasn’t until I say with certainty what I was able to do for my clients and know it was possible that I felt like the expert.

My Learning Curve

What steps do the learning of my two expertise have in common?

  • Start with the fundamentals I leaned in school, growing up, and other experiences.
  • Outside people needed me for my current skills
  • I got more skills
  • I spent time with others that were masters
  • I researched the industry and became more knowledgeable
  • I practiced the craft at every level, continuously.

I’m sure your learning takes a similar path each time you mastered something new.

Your Learning Curve

If you want to figure out why you cannot master something take a look at two things that you are very good at. Two things you can do better than other people. Then think back to when you were not good at them and look at how you learned it, what you felt, when did you start becoming competent and what you had to do to get to the place where you could do the work without having to actually think about how it would work for you. You will likely discover a pattern in the way you learn. You can use that patter to determine what you have not done to get you to where you need to be on your learning curve.

Finally – it is important to understand that 100 years ago a person would get an education and not much would change over their lifespan. Their knowledge level did not need to change much to be successful at what they did in life. Now we learn something and 5 years later someone else has come up with a disruptive invention to replace the program or technology we learned and our knowledge becomes obsolete. If you are not learning you are falling behind and you will not be able to sustain the level of excellence and thus the lifestyle you were originally schooled to live.

What else do you need to learn? Why everything of course. Don’t stop. Remember, school only provides you with the fundamentals of your calling – it is experience and the investment in further knowledge that gives you the mastery.

Capturing Ideas – 1, 2, 3…

Do you come up with a lot of ideas? Do you get to act on them? Do you even remember them when it’s time to act? Getting an idea comes as quick as 1, 2, 3, but keeping the idea is harder.

1. When Ideas Come

When ideas come they happen fast. Often we may think, “Wow, that’s random. That came out of nowhere!” but it is likely not the case. Ideas are how our mind puts together concepts to solve problems. Not all problems are our own, so they don’t feel close and familiar. Ideas can come to us in lots of ways and at almost any time. Here are three key places you will likely come up with new ideas.

  1. In your sleep – Often when you are sleeping a great idea can wake you up. It may even keep you awake as you go through the process of evaluating this opportunity.
  2. From someone else – You may hear your next big idea when in a conversation with someone else, listening to others talk, at a conference, from a TV commercial, while reading a book, etc.. The idea that comes out of nowhere is likely an idea that was catalyzed by another experience. Surround yourself with interesting people and events to continue creating great ideas.
  3. While solving a problem – This is the classic time when people come up with some of the world’s greatest inventions. If you are familiar with the saying “Necessity is the mother of  invention” then you are familiar with the idea that having a problem forces our mind to go into solution mode. You will likely generate many ideas and solutions during this period.

2. How to Capture Ideas

The second biggest challenge with ideas is that they are fleeting. If you do not capture the information when you have it, you may not get a chance later. Think about a time you woke in the middle of the night with a great idea and then in the morning you thought to yourself, “now what was that great idea I had last night?” Don’t wait to record your thoughts. Don’t try to evaluate whether it is worth recording, just get the idea down.

  1. Keep paper beside your bed – For those of us that have a brain that creates solutions to problems when they sleep, it is imperative to have something close at hand to record your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out, just enough information to get you back on track in the morning. I have a sticky note pad and pen on my table beside my bed. I record short reminders of my idea on the page in the dark. It’s hard to read, but I have not yet been unable to recall my idea using this process.
  2. Have an idea book – Once you have a good idea spend a short amount of time fleshing out the details. I like to put the details of my ideas in an idea book. I have ideas for books, businesses, and patentable products in my book. If you are worried about ‘first to market’ or secrecy then get others to initial the pages with ideas on them and date it. They don’t have to read it, just confirm that they signed and the signature is theirs if you do end up fighting over a patent.
  3. Tell Your Team – Get it on the meeting agenda so you can discuss the value for your development for current or future plans.

3. How to Act on Ideas

Once we have an idea it is often difficult to know which one we should act on, if at all. Of course the biggest challenge with ideas is actually getting into action. As entrepreneurs we can be flooded with ideas, you know them, the Bright Shiny Objects that distract us from our core focus. Or do they? Some ideas are in line with our core focus and should be acted on. Some ideas are new and should be acted on in the future. Some are simply distractions and should be ignored.

  1. Enlist others in your circles, like peers, mentors, advisors, investors, etc. to hear out your idea and help you take appropriate action.
  2. Make it part of your goals. Put it into your business plan or create a project plan for it. If my ideas are for the growth of my current businesses then I get them into my business plan where I can act on them. If your idea is the missing piece of a service or product you have been creating then get it into the designs and process of that project.
  3. Have tasks you do each day that will further that action if it is in your current plan. Put it in your calendar to revisit your idea in the future so you can add it to your ‘ToDo’ list at that time.

Ideas are the solutions to your current challenges and your future growth. Don’t let them get away.

 

Being “Camera Ready” Gets You More Business: Even if you don’t plan on being on TV

Camera filming in TV Studio

“I don’t want to be on TV!”

“I hate speaking in public.”

“I find it so hard to think of something intelligent to say.”

These are a few statements I’ve heard (and said) over my career and in my business. As a business owner one of the key things we learn is that we have to speak to people, all kinds of people, if we want to sell. It does not seem like we need it when we first start. We’ll just talk to our clients, they’ll get us. After all they want what we have. We already have a common language and something to talk about. The challenge is that to get to our clients we have to be seen. Even if it is just our product that has to be ‘in the public eye’, like on TV, we still have to be seen by all those along the path that get us there.

When I was younger I was so self-conscious about being in front of people that I didn’t even want to invite family to my wedding. The thought of standing in front of all of them, the people that love me, was terrifying. I went from that to a TV show host and it took some time. Like anything in life, we are not born experts. Even child prodigies have to practice to be great. I had to learn how to say things that were intelligent and how not to be too hung-up on my imperfections. I had to learn how to be and act in front of people so my message could be heard and stop saying no because I felt I wasn’t ready. I chose to step up and do things that were extremely uncomfortable to take my next steps in learning and be better at everything I did. It stopped me from feeling deflated when I failed.

Being ‘Camera Ready’ is a term from film and TV that implies that the actors and stars are prepared to do their job. Well your job requires you to be in front of people so you should be camera ready too. Here are three tips I’ve learned along the way that you can practice.

Wear Your ‘People Pants’

There is a joke in our house that goes like this” I’m almost ready to go, I just have to put on my people pants.” If you’re like us, we like to get comfy when we are at home: lounge wear, gardening jeans, shorts, and pajamas. But before we go out, before we are going to be in the presence of other people, people that don’t yet know us and have a first impression to make, we put on our ‘people pants’. This also means you need to put on make-up, brush your hair, add jewelry, etc. to create a look you want to be seen in. I guarantee the day you go out in track pants, with stains or holes, is the day you see that person, you know the one, the person you have been trying to reach. And now you either hide or you give them an impression you are going to have to work hard to overcome. One day I left the house to walk my daughter to school and a news journalist was getting opinions from pedestrians along the sidewalk. I live in a quiet neighbourhood; nowhere near where you would expect to see a TV camera crew. I was grateful for ‘people pants’ that day.

Practice Your Spiel

If you want to sound intelligent you have to know what to say and that requires practice. Just because you made the product does not mean you will have something of value to say about how it relates to the trends of the day or a well-known competitors alternative. You may understand it but saying something that sounds intelligent is different than saying something rehearsed or rambling on-and-on until you get your entire knowledge base discoursed. Intelligent thoughts have an easily understood  composition of ideas. People will be able to understand you and they will want to listen, not run away. If you want to have something to say that people will want to hear you need to practice.

When I had left my last employed position to stay at home with a sick kid, I decided to sell Pampered Chef products. I had never done sales before and believe me, this was a trial by fire type way of learning. My up-line director was Canada’s #3 sales person making sales in the high 6-figures and she had something to teach me, which was to practice. I wrote out what she said. I wrote out what I wanted to say. I read about the product. I learned about my clients. I practiced my language at home on my family. I practiced in my car alone. I practiced at meetings. I was still shy and self-conscious, and I knew I needed to learn this, so I did. When I started my company I created the brand and the language to go with it and then I practiced. Every time I introduced myself I tried on different ways of describing what I did and for whom. I kept what got results and changed up the rest. I became competent at talking about my expertise and the business around it.

Practice what you want to become powerful. Don’t just script it and save it, make it a part of your language so it will be easily understood and delightful to hear.

Stop Saying No

This is funny because I am often telling people that they need to say ‘no’ more often, but when it comes to our fears eventually it is time to say ‘yes’. It is now your time to start saying ‘yes’ to the invites on a the radio show, to speak at a luncheon meeting, to be a guest on a TV show, to do a video testimonial, etc. The video testimonial is where I started to really break out of my ‘self-conscious’ shell. At the end of a great event the leader would ask people to give a testimonial about their experience and in return they would link the video to their business website. For years I would walk right past. One time, weeks after an event I got an email with a link to a testimonial a friend had given. She was smartly dressed and came across as competent and likable, just what I wanted my clients to see in me. I realized I was passing up opportunities for people at the events and others outside the event to see my expertise. The next event I was at I stepped up and gave a testimonial. It was so much harder than I expected. I looked great but I didn’t know what to say that did not sound like a plea for clients. I watched, made notes, and practiced over the next few events, including giving testimonials myself.

Eventually one day I heard someone else say about me, “she’s good at that, so calm and natural. I could never do that.” Wow, I was there. My image, my language, and my presence had finally caught up to my ambition. I haven’t stopped since; learning, practicing, and doing. I find I usually say ‘yes’ first to my fears and then evaluate the relevance to my business afterwards. If it fits my marketing goals I do it, even if I’m scared, because I know I have the three things that will make it easier – my presence, my language, and my confidence – and you can too.


In support of The CEO Elite Advisory Boards for small business.

Spiritual Business: Beyond Balance

Solar System Emergence - The work of God

You might be thinking, “Why do I want to know about religion in my business newsletter?” I’m not writing about the business of spirituality, that is what the places of worship, like churches and mosques, do best. I want to share the idea that when business goes beyond the dollar you go beyond challenge and stress. Sound too ‘woo woo’ for you? Try these three suggestions in your business and see what ‘new’ comes from it.

1. Be the Voice

When I was listening to an audio outtake from a past Wayne Dyer’s TV show I heard him make reference to “being the voice of the person not in the room” with reference to gossiping and kindness. Interesting perspective on helping those without a voice. As I listened further I realized that this was akin to playing the “devil’s advocate”, something I do a lot. The “What if” questions that comes up when we don’t jump to conclusions about people, events, or situations. So often when watching a situational comedy I have had to leave the room because I feel people are so stupid not to ask the questions that would get them out of the hole they dig for themselves with assumptions and secrets.

Don’t let your business be full of assumptions and secrets. Make sure you give people in your business permission to speak when they see something that doesn’t feel right and to make suggestions when they think something can be better. Always be asking questions and looking for the insight into what other options there might be and what other information is missing. Think of having access to an invisible person who knows the full picture telling you what else you might be missing. What would you ask him about your situations so you can have all the facts?

Doing this does not make for funny situational comedy, but it also won’t make you a laughing stock because you acted on misinformation.

2.  Balance is Not About Equal

Lady Justice and her Scale of JusticeI think the word “Balance” is used incorrectly with reference to life. When we think of balance we often think of the meaning referencing weights, where you put something on one side and an equal amount on the other side to balance the weight. I picture the “Lady Justice” with her scales of justice in one hand representing the measure of justice as a balanced and equal measure.

The balance we seek in life is more like this definition:

mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.” [http://www.dictionary.com/browse/balance]

‘Calm behaviour’, now that sounds like a balance I want in my life and that has nothing to do with ‘equal’ or ‘fair’. When we look for our work lives and our home lives to be equal we are looking to try and give our time fairly to both and that is not how life works. At least that is not what I tell my kids when I let them know, “life is not fair”. Your work is your life. Krishna says, in the Gita, “One who shirks action does not attain freedom; no one can gain perfection by abstaining from work.” [The Bhagavad Gita – Introduced & translated by Eknath Easwaran – Nigiri Press 2007]

When you find the work that is your true purpose or dharma, it will allow you to be in equilibrium with yourself, so you will bring calm to everything you do. It will not be about 8 hours here and 8 hours there, it will be about being totally engaged in all hours of the day, whether the work is a business meeting or a PTA meeting. We all have different work and we are not all called to be at corporate head office for 16 hours a day, but some of us are. Know what your calling is and understand how you can show-up in your life so you can experience the ‘calm behaviour’ of a truly balanced existence.

3. Get to Guru

In all religions there are leaders that are revered for their understanding of life and their ability to live by the words or knowledge they see as holy. These gurus, saints, disciples, teachers, etc. come with what seems like a direct line to God or the Universe. They have an understanding of life many of us do not try to comprehend. They can use the forces of the universe to their success. We see this in many successful people today as well as those in our holy books and stories from the past.

If you want to lead a full and exceptional life you need to ‘get to guru’. By this I mean, continue to learn from those that know the way and be open to other possibilities. I know that there are more secrets in this universe than all the answers we, as humans, have already uncovered. Don’t discount the impossible or the improbably because we don’t have a scientific way of describing it yet. Your knowledge and faith to get to your goals will always serve you to your highest outcome. So learn, learn, learn and be willing to be led by others farther along the path then you so you can then lead others behind you on the path; especially those inside your business.

We are all spiritual beings; whether your spirit is led by religion or by the energy of atoms. No matter what your belief system is, you cannot deny that what you do and how you react to what happens around you is completely up to you. You are the control panel for your life and you can choose to do things that feel hard and slow or things that feel light and fun. Try adding one of these ideas to your business and see if you can make the changes to your actions affect your life and business in a positive way.

When Should You Give Up?

chess board

Owning a business is a challenge day to day. Sometimes there are great rewards, huge accomplishments, amazing opportunities, and it feels great. Sometimes there are great disappointments, huge losses, and a feeling that path was lost. And often it is simply routine. Doing what has to get done, over and over. No gain, no change, and no closer to your desired goals. It can feel like there are only two options: Win or Lose.

So when is it time to “throw in the towel” and give up the race? When the losses are greater than the rewards? When there is no future vision that can be found to get you out of your current situation? When it is not fun or enjoyable any longer? If your business is not making money, month after month or year after year?

I believe that every business owner has a moment (or a day or month) when they think:

  • What am I doing here?
  • Am I doing the right things in my life?
  • Can I be doing something else that will make me more money and be easier?
  • Is there something else that would make me happier?
  • Should I go back and get a job?

All valuable questions and worth evaluating for yourself. If you are like me, that last question (Should I go back and get a job?) makes me wince. Not because ‘job’ feels like a four letter word to entrepreneurs but because I cannot see any future for myself inside any other business. What would I do? What position could I hold? Who would I report to? I have no answers for these questions.

When faced with the feeling that your business may not be a viable way to live your life you need to ask yourself the questions above but you also need to evaluate your business and not on your own. Take these three steps to evaluate if your business is even a viable revenue generating idea and get to the answer of ‘Grow it’ or ‘Give it up’.

Research and Evaluation

Go back to your original research for the development and launch of your business. Were your estimations and evaluations correct about your marketing, your sales, your product, your customers’ needs, etc. If you did not do the research initially then this is an indication that you are not as serious about business as you may actually believe. Go and do the research and evaluate it with your known operations and sales. What are the real trends? What are the real costs? Who is your primary and secondary competitors and what are they doing?

Sounding Board

Take your challenges, issues, research, and current numbers to a trusted sounding board for brainstorming. These people should have an experienced understanding of business (not just your business). Invite them to spend a few hours just focused on your business. Let them know all the numbers so they can tell you directly if you are on the path of potential or if you should shift your focus. Take all ideas as plausible. Don’t discount or discard ideas because they feel small, redundant, or impossible, just listen and capture the options.

Strategic thinking comes from having a bigger understanding of the playing surface (your business) than what is currently visible to you right now. If you could see the way out you would have done it already. Find all options and play with them in your business plan. What have you tried and how can you try it again with a small twist on delivery? What haven’t you tried and how can you make something new in your business? What is the expected outcome of trying something different and is it worth the time, money, and effort? Are you willing and able to step up, because I guarantee that every possible option is going to require you to get a little more uncomfortable than you are right now.

Make the Decision

With understanding and options now available to you the next step is to decide what to do.

Keep the business and make changes OR move on?

To make the right decision you have to know what you want. Yes, what do you want in your life? What are you willing to sacrifice (time, more money, relationships) to make your goals reality? Are you willing to do what it takes? You have the answers so what are you going to do with them? The answer, which ever it is, will not feel comfortable. Again, if it was you would already be doing it. Making changes, giving up more, or closing something down does not feel good, but it should feel right.

If the outcome of your brainstorming was that you should invest a lot more money and you didn’t also define a plan to get that money or you are unwilling to get the money, then closing it down is likely the only option at this point.

If reducing the size and focusing on a niche or smaller market was the option, and you did not define a plan to reduce the size and exactly who and where the niche market is, then this is not a viable option either.

Whatever you decided as the most potential option for keeping your business you must also have created the plan to make it happen. Without that plan you do not have an option.

The key to implementing the plan is that it must be working towards something you desire. Without a desire on your part to make it happen, there is a lack of effort to do the hard things required. Honestly, if it were going to be easy everyone would do it.

The reality is, you are doing the hard work so you can focus on work that feels more like play. With both passion around the work and a desire to fulfill your goals you will have the drive to make it happen. It will not be time to give up.