If you said “yes” to any of the above questions keep reading …
People like to feel they are in control of their lives and destiny. It is human nature to desire a life that meets our needs for comfort and security. I see it all the time as I talk with my clients at Live With Purpose Coaching or my employees and client contacts at Sharp Innovations, Inc. But there are really only two things that you can control in life: your attitude and your behavior. I might add that this is true regardless of your spiritual beliefs, economic status, country of origin, sex, gender, ethnicity or political affiliation.
Today I want to share with you three stories from my professional past, and how I found my attitude and behavior brought about some of the most profound lessons in through my greatest failures. My prayer is that you might be able to apply these lessons learned to your business and soar to new heights of professional and personal progress.
A Brighter Future Seized in a Down Economy
The recent economic recession has been tough on many businesses, but one can look at the glass as half full or half empty. When times are good, most companies don’t take time to assess how they got there or how they could get better. They just try and keep up with the pace of growth and the new demands it brings, but in so doing, become complacent. Conversely, when a company is faced with adversity in cash flow, sales, staffing and the like, they are much more likely to analyze their expenses, how they measure-up in areas of profitability and how they can take action to turn the tide. So those business owners, leaders and team members who have been faced with such adversity are forced to react to the changes around them. For those that see the glass as half empty, it is done in the name of survival. For their counterparts that see the glass as half full, they are rewarded with new insights and opportunities for future growth.
I think timing is an important factor, and sometimes even a down economy can bring opportunity. When I started Sharp Innovations in 1999, it was in the midst of the dot.com explosion and I am sure market entrance timing was a key to my success. When I stepped out in faith in 2008 to follow what God put on my heart as a business/life coach, I found that a depressed market was, ironically enough, a beautifully timed occurrence because more people than ever needed advice, council and coaching. My point is that you need to look at any economic climate and seek the opportunities.
To find opportunities, you may need to do some things differently, and you will need to look honestly at what new demands are being presented so you can come up with new ways to address them. First and foremost, look at how you can make changes in how your business operates and in what new solutions, services or value you can create to help an increased number of people. For me, I have seen about 50% of my coaching clientele come from clients within Sharp Innovations. I offered a new capability to meet a need in a changing world and started by creating value in offering business/life coaching articles and videos through my blog. I also offered 10-15 hours of coaching time to people for free, because I wanted to be sure that, in the process, I was not only honoring God with my efforts, but that the focus of my new services were focused on maximizing value for others. If you don’t make it about you and look at how you can create a larger future with more opportunity for your prospects, clients and key team members around you, then you are focusing your energy best in a down economy and you might just be surprised by the fruit of your labors!
The “9 Local” Story
Six partners and I created, launched and ran a dating service called, “9 Local, Inc.” in 2004-2005. Though the company was founded on a powerful vision and a seemingly well-built plan, the business didn’t reach notable levels of success in 7 months of live operation. Our concept involved capitalizing on massively growing on-line dating revenues and Internet usage stats that existed while growing new dating concepts such as speed dating and blending both together focusing on a 50 mile local radius. We took a gorilla marketing approach and gave away 60 day memberships to the first 1000 who signed-up to build our member database. We were able to achieve our goal in about 100 days and started taking on paying memberships and making revenue, but were unable to re-coup costs before a second round of investment would have been required. We ultimately failed not because of our idea, but because we gave away too much for free.
The 9Local experience might have cost me considerable income personally speaking since I was the 70% primary owner, however the lessons learned were invaluable and no good investment comes without some type of risk. Looking back, I can thankfully say that venture taught me powerful concepts in advertising, marketing, business strategy, business plan development and creative partnership legality. That knowledge has become invaluable in working with clients of Sharp Innovations. It has also helped me better relate to my coaching clientele because of the lessons learned and wisdom gained. I think the entrepreneurial education I received through that experience was worth more than I lost in the short-term as I look at how it has and will help the remainder of my professional career.
Since 1998, I have started or ran seven businesses. I can’t say how many more I will get into, but the journey of an entrepreneur is exciting. It is even more exciting if you can truly embrace failures and be motivated to implement change by applying wisdom you gained in both times of failure and success. So it really is about how you see the glass. Is it half full or half empty when you look at your past and explore new entrepreneurial opportunities for your future?
Why Size Isn’t Everything!
Many times people look at the number of employees your company has as an indicator of your company’s success. Though it might be accurate in some regards, I think there are missed insights in looking at the size of a business from this single point of focus. Indeed, down economic climates often allow you to gain new insights for a brighter future, showing you how to work smarter with fewer resources. Following is a personal example.
Back in April of 2004, I had to downsize my staff from 17 to 11 employees. During the first few years of Sharp Innovations, we hired new people in a somewhat an erratic fashion. We went after new opportunities and created new roles for people based upon great concepts or just the current workflow. After all, if you have work to do, and you feel like you don’t have the right people to do it, what else could you do besides hiring new talent or leveraging a partnership? Personally, I found that God was actively at work in my life and was pruning the vines in the vineyard that he had entrusted to me through my leadership role. I ended up laying off roughly one-third of my team in a fairly short span of time, and it was extremely painful. I had never had to go through layoffs before. Looking back now, I can see all of the blessings and by-products from that experience. God forced me to really look at what I was doing, and to challenge myself to do a better job as a leader by building a better team. I have done just that by utilizing tools like The Unique Ability Team™ and Activity Inventories that I have learned through The Strategic Coach® and the Kolbe A Index™ and Kolbe Synergy from Kolbe Corp. They have helped me to better understand how to do the following:
- Tap into the best of each person
- Better understand where my team had weaknesses or missing skills
- Know who was on the wrong bus seat (or shouldn’t be on the bus at all)
- Recognize tasks that could be better delegated—not only from me, but from everyone on my team(s)
- Maximize passion and confidence within each team member
- Ensure that anytime a person quit or left that it was embraced as an opportunity for the team to improve and grow
By applying the above concepts, my team has become stronger each time I have had someone quit or leave (regardless of the economic impact or other ramifications of the changes). Though I have sometimes lost great talent, I have confidence in being able to see my future team(s) always being stronger than my current and past team(s). As an illustration that size doesn’t matter, for the past several years I have seen a team size averaging 10-13 people outperform my team of 17 from 2004. If you’d like to know more, you can read an expanded version of this story at: http://www.livewithpurposecoaching.com/blog/howcould11domorethan17/
I truly pray that my stories and insights can be leveraged to spur constructive attitude/behavioral change, and to create forward progress for your organization regardless of the economic circumstances your business(es) face.
I help my coaching clients focus on matters like these so they can see their business become more efficient, profitable and scalable, if desired. I also help them achieve better balance professionally and personally so they can see their business truly work to support their life purpose and vision. If you want to find out more about how this could be leveraged in your world, or if you want to discuss a business problem you are facing, feel free to contact me or call me at 717-615-2274.You are also welcome to share this article or other resources found on my blog (www.livewithpurposecoaching.com). Feel free to contact me if you or an associate would like to join my blog or receive this article as a PDF.