Looking back on the past year, do you feel like Katniss Everdeen, an unwitting tribute in a deadly game of survival?
Each morning I leash my four-legged companion, Ella, and we welcome the day with a meditative and cleansing walk through the woods. It is one of my favorite rituals. One recent morning, this analogy of the challenges we've faced as small business owners and the Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins, 2008) captured my thoughts.
Challenges of the arena
ONE. Helplessness—thrust into a life or death game for which she had little preparation and no knowledge of the trials and dangers awaiting them.
TWO. Isolation—left to her own devices and cut-off from community or support.
THREE. Operating in the dark—blind to the new terrain without any map or guide about the safe path.
FOUR. Under constant threat and fear—stripped of the most basic physiological and safety needs defined in Maslow's hierarchy.
Indeed, much writing about the experiences we've shared in the past year confirms the parallels between our situations. In fact, if you've not experienced each of these four things in the past year, please reply in the comments as I'd love to meet you and learn more about your experience and resilience.
Given the apparent similarities, my thoughts turned to the strategies and actions that enabled Katniss to survive. I wondered if there were insights and lessons to be learned. Here are the seven that struck me.
Katniss' Survival Playbook
ONE. Collaboration—Katniss formed alliances to solve problems, share resources, and increase strength.
TWO. Cunning—a sideways approach and use of unexpected tactics lowered risk and improved likelihood of success.
THREE. Outside assistance—Katniss received gifts that strengthened her chances of success from sponsors who emerged after being impressed by her actions in the arena.
FOUR. Grit and determination—her unfailing belief in the possibility she'd be the last tribute standing and a willingness to persevere despite the challenges.
FIVE. Calculated risk-taking—access to weapons, survival gear, and food required Katniss to step out of hiding, stop playing defense, and take action that put her at risk.
SIX. Evolution—Katniss was in a completely new situation in which old rules and self-identity no longer had meaning. To survive, she had to adapt and evolve, taking actions that would have been inconceivable before this situation.
SEVEN. Integrity—Katniss refused to turn on Peeta and claim the victory for herself. She stayed true to her deepest values and honored her commitment to their alliance, and refused to allow the Capitol to turn her into a murderer.
Whether or not you find my analogy entirely on point, there is no denying that tapping into your inner Katniss and following her map to success in the hunger games arena is a path to triumph worth replicating.
Survival in the small business community continues to be in jeopardy. Although our battle against the COVID-19 virus is accumulating points in the win column, we are far from hanging our victory banners. The situation continues to evolve, and many important questions remain unanswered. We know with certainty that we can't be paralyzed by fear, and we can't wait for a rescue that isn't coming.
Success in weathering this tumultuous time and emerging victorious is hard work. If you've not already done so, you need to let go of the idea that you can do the same things you've always done and continue to survive. You also need to stop going it alone and connect with a community that understands and provides inspiration and support (I recommend your Local Independent Business Alliance).
Remember, we are all in this together. Please reach out for your FREE coaching session if I can help, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
What I've learned launching the best-ever group coaching program for women
There are two types of people—doers and planners. I've always considered myself a planner at heart. I like to think things through, anticipating and forecasting to make things as smooth as possible. Plus, I hate fire drills, especially when I'm the arsonist (but that's a blog for another time). I love the mom saying, "Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part," which I always think of while driving to Dollar Tree at 8 pm on a school night to get poster board for a project due the next day.
When people work with me on events, they always comment on my detailed planning. I create communications and other assets weeks in advance, so all I have to do as the pressure of pulling off the event builds is pull the trigger. It's very satisfying to me to be thinking five or six moves down the board.
I also know from my time in corporate positions that I am a master of delivering on the fly. My days were so full of meetings that I barely had time to do my work. Planning was a luxury. The good news is that I'm often at my best in a crunch. Having less time keeps me focused and eliminates grandiose ideas that add unnecessary complexity. I am grateful I have this skill from my time in corporate because it has served me well this past month.
One month ago, I launched my new group coaching for women entrepreneurs and business owners (WE WIN!). This model is entirely different from my one-on-one coaching, putting me into a start-up mode that is completely different than anything I've done before.
When I decided to pull the trigger on the launch, I gave myself one week to prepare and execute. Thanks to my #cocwishlist partner, Divine Bunch of Divine Writing Agency, I also had a logo and research about my target audience. And with that foundation, I jumped into the deep end, putting myself squarely in doer mode.
Here's a quick visual of my journey so far.
I'm not going to lie. For 25 of the last 30 days, WE WIN! has consumed my life. For at least 20 of those, I've worked 6-8 hours exclusively on this launch. Incredibly, my stamina has been good. I'm so excited about what this program delivers, which keeps my brain engaged and my drive strong. Many evenings when I would typically loathe the idea of doing anything work-related, I lose myself until midnight knocking another task off the list. (My house is kind of a wreck at the moment, but COVID means no one is dropping by to visit. 😄)
I've made shifts in my business that I thought I would never make.
Until the pandemic, group coaching was never on my radar. Once I had the perfect design, I only thought about the clients. I never considered how big of a ripple I was creating inside my own business. Every step has illuminated three more steps, many of which require me to learn to do something I've never done before. Maybe I could skip a step or two, but as I tell people all the time, you set a very high bar for everything you do when you put EXTRAORDINARY in your business name.
What I know for certain is that I don't regret my choice to jump. I could have spent the last 30 days planning, but frankly, I had to start doing to realize what I didn't know because I'd never done this before. Are you a planner or a doer? The truth is that one is not better than the other. Each has advantages and disadvantages. My family may prefer that I'd planned a little more so that I wouldn't be so distracted, but convening the first-ever session of WE WIN! this Friday, within a month of sharing the news with my tribe, feels amazing.
Last week, in the middle of launching my women entrepreneur's group coaching service, WE WIN!, I stepped out of my business for 2.5 days. Crazy, right! I'd spent weeks implementing a social media plan to build awareness and connect with my audience. The timing couldn't be worse. So, want to know why? It's simple. I chose to focus on the important over the urgent.
This year my father turns 80. He grew up on a farm, retired at 62, and is most happy when working. Despite two bouts with cancer after retiring, he remains healthy and active beyond his peers thanks to his gym membership and handyman projects. So when he called me with five days' notice that he was coming with his buddy to help me finish the basement remodel we started before COVID-19 put everything on hold, the only answer was YES.
Real estate agents and students of home sales know that general maintenance on your home is not enough to command top dollar when you are ready to sell. Over time trends change, and most buyers prefer updated homes in move-in ready condition. Part of protecting your investment is spending money on things that increase value.
Additionally, I have the joy and pride of working side-by-side with my dad. Often my role is little more than "girl Friday." But whether I'm running to Lowes, sweeping the work area, carrying messages between the guys, or organizing materials, we share each other's purpose and company for 10 hours a day. The memories I have every time I walk through a room we've remodeled are PRICELESS.
So, yes, I stepped out of my business to be 100% present with my father while he gifted his time and talent to me.
This week I challenge you to think about your business like a house.
As a busy entrepreneur or business owner, waiting for the perfect time is waiting for a time that may never come. Protecting and increasing the value of the business you've worked so hard to build is part of the stewardship every owner accepts. The time and money you spend on "renovating" your business to keep it in top shape will pay off handsomely down the road.
Recently, my neighborhood book club read Nothing To See Here, by Kevin Wilson. As I was walking my dog one morning and listening to the audiobook, this quote grabbed my attention.
It was a EUREKA moment. I thought to myself, "This is it! This is the internal battle that prevents business owners from recognizing their need to invest in business coaching."
I must admit that I'm a Gen Xer, and like my cohort's generalization, I tend to be a DIY gal. As a business owner, I am also diligent about cashflow when making business expenses and investment decisions. So I get why so many of us fall into the trap so eloquently names by Kevin Wilson's protagonist.
That is why this week, I'm sharing THREE mindset shifts required to stop the cycle of denying ourselves the things we need in the name of self-sufficiency.
ONE. It's okay to spend $$ on the easy way over the hard way.
Your time, happiness, and health matter! If your business is overwhelming your schedule, stressing you out with too many demands, or requiring knowledge and skills you don't possess, and yet, you choose self-sufficiency, then you are choosing the hard way.
It's hard to make money in a business without investing in supplies, products, advertising, or other business expenses. Today's pace of new technology, tools, and platforms is continually changing and improving. Many of these are solutions specifically designed to streamline processes, increase response speed, and automate standard tasks. The problem is the time required to learn, customize, and implement these tools fully. This time is either added to your already demanding schedule or exchanged for time spent on your core business activities.
Although it can be scary to spend money buying an expert's services, it is likely the best business decision you can make in the long run. An expert brings knowledge and experiences they can deploy immediately without the learning curve. When you do your diligence in researching providers and select qualified professionals, you get better results faster and save yourself many headaches. Check out this SWAAY.COM article from last year, "10 Reasons You Should Hire An Expert."
TWO. Spending money can help you make money.
According to a 2019 report by Small Business Trends, running out of cash is the second most common reason businesses fail. In light of this, being hawkish about when and where you spend money is essential. However, most companies go through phases that require short-term debt.
Paying attention to cash flow and earnings is essential. And although it is preferable to collect and deposit money before you spend it, committing to expenses based on forecasted sales makes sense when those investments enable you to increase future earnings.
Check out this extensive resource on measuring ROI.
THREE. Asking for help is NOT bad.
According to Dr. Brené Brown, a professor and vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston, insecurity is present in all of us and so strong that we often go out of our way to avoid situations that might make us feel fragile. Some people perceive admitting the need for help as inadequacy. For others, it is an adaptive response that allows them to accept their life and continue with it, even if it costs them a lot of suffering (learn more). These are mindsets that KEEP YOU STUCK AND SLOW YOU DOWN!
This 2017 article from Forbes makes four compelling arguments for why asking for help strengthens us. Two ideas that stood out to me include the infusion of new perspectives and that asking for help is a signal of trust in those around you.
Have you learned to live without the things you need in the name of self-sufficiency? What would it take for you to permit yourself to break this cycle? Share your answers in the comments.
We are only one month into the new year, making this the perfect time to SAY YES to your mental health, life balance, and ultimately faster and better results.