You hear about persistence and courage being everything when it comes to running a business. What you don’t hear about is what it really means. This post will tell you.
I’m writing this having just learned that one of my major clients isn’t going to renew their contract. The news came two days after another client did the same thing. Neither of these decisions are a reflection on the work that my company does. One didn’t get approval from her board, as a result of the poor performance of other vendors, which impacts the element we provide. One had an opportunity to produce content in-house as a result of a training/mentee arrangement, which serves to bed-down the knowledge for the trainee and solve a marketing problem at the same time.
It’s not a terrible thing in and of itself. Clients come and go, which is the nature and flow of business (and of life). Usually, I enjoy this flow. When one leaves, another one comes in.
But today it’s come on the back of a number of other things that, stacked together, amount to stress and difficulty. They include:
- some unexpectedly large bills to pay, all at once
- one client not paying multiple invoices on time, which almost completely choked off our cashflow, when examined in relation to the amount of time spent on their project
- the difficulty of getting creative and focused work done when demands for your time are at an all-time high
- the fact that there are only 8 hours in a working day in which you are truly productive (and my own attitude that sleep is not something I’m willing to sacrifice – because I can’t sustain it)
- trying to work on the systems for delivery, to get rid of the bottlenecks
- trying to work on the marketing for the business, to bring in future sales
- trying to be more strategic about the clients we take on, and shore up the project management, so that all of the above doesn’t happen in the future
- the fact failing is something I’ve done a lot of, over the past 15 years, and it’s starting to make me feel tired and embarrassed when I see it coming over the hill
… and you start to see the pressure in the boiler.
So, while there is money in the bank – enough to cover just shy of six months without any work, what the loss of clients does is shift me back into Survival Mode.
Survival Mode is beneficial, but it’s not fun in any form. Here’s why. I have to:
- get rid of everyone on my team
- cut out all of the lovely SaaS products that I use except for the ones that are required for the working lifestyle I have
- restrict travel
- not buy anything that isn’t just food and house and wellbeing (a story that gets OLD when you live your entire life like this and you’re nearly 40, own nothing except a car, and have travelled for pleasure for more than one weekend only twice in your adult life).
Most importantly, I am going to have to seriously re-think what my business offers. And why I’m in business in the first place.
You know, when I started the business, I only had $1200. My original intention was to work enough to help me live while I dance as much as possible.
So I think it’s time to reconsider what my goals are. I started to lose sight of what I was doing and why I was doing it.
Here’s what I mean.
Maybe I don’t need to grow a company to employ others if I focus on just creating smart financials and good investments.
Maybe instead of a business coach I get a financial coach.
Maybe I don’t need to create an agency to do the research work that is in the background of what I’m doing.
Maybe there’s a way I can co-create the R&D with another company, over the long term.
Maybe all I need is a decision-making framework that allows me the freedom to do what I want to do without the pressure of growth.
But there are some other pressure points of which I am also aware. Here’s what they are: Our target market, is highly valuable and rich in opportunity, but has an epically long sales cycle that starts with education; not one of my clients, even my longest-standing clients, has ever referred someone to us that actually called or emailed us, which says loads about whether what we do is useful or truly understood; and all the “value adding” I’ve been doing for others in the past 4+ years, only a handful has ever proactively provided connections in return.
You can see how easy it is to turn into a self-pitying wreck among stuff like this. It’s really different from when you have a regular salary, regular holidays, sick pay, superannuation, and just have a crap boss, or just do things on the side. It becomes a reflection of you rather than a place where you work.
Most of us in the face of these things start wondering, is it me??
But it isn’t. It just means that there’s a knot that I haven’t worked out.
It could be that the offering is too complicated. It could be that we’re hitting the wrong industry niche. It could be that we look so busy that people don’t bother calling us.
It could be that the service is offered to the wrong country or population.
It could be that my sales needs work.
It could be that the way I make decisions has to change.
It could be that my financial intelligence is poor.
It could be that I waste time writing non-work-related-things (like right now) instead of focusing on what brings in money.
It could be a whole lot of things, and I now have to go to work and actually work it out.
This continual working-out is where the persistence lies.
For example, dear reader, I could give up and get a job. I could take it “as a sign” that what I’m doing isn’t right.
But that’s just giving up, and what’s the point of that? And, more to the point, why would I do that when I have enough money in the bank to keep me moving?
Giving up is not in my genes. Being persistent is.
But the two don’t mean that it’s any less emotional, and sometimes as founders we forget that the emotion in business is what really makes us unravel. Nearly everything can be worked out, if you don’t let your emotions get in front of you, or if you accept them but don’t live them.
Knowing this doesn’t make today any less sad. I told my husband that I feel broken.
Don’t be. Something will pop up. Chin up and soldier on.
And I’m sitting in a coworking space’s quiet room, having a cry, and desperately wanting to go home and hide. There is still work to be done, and there are things I still have to deal with rationally, like a grown up.
Some days, like today, I feel about as capable as a four-year-old.
That’s not to say that there aren’t awesome things going on. There are. There are some fantastic opportunities in front of me, and at least two projects that will be amazing if they take flight. If they come in to land, it will be amazing.
One incredible thing that has come out of the other side of this is that my decision-making is a lot sharper now. So, in a sense, it’s taught me a lesson that I had missed previously.
I guess my point in writing this is to say that even when there are great things going on, being persistent isn’t a glamorous thing. Having courage isn’t about standing on a beach looking at the sunset like a beachwear model, with an inspiring meme written in the clouds over your head. It’s nice for inspiration, but reality is extremely different.
Most of it is hard work and emotional resilience. Some days I have loads of it, others I have not much. All you can do is breathe and be where you are.
Business persistence consists of working out what you sell, trying to sell it, and then when it works, you celebrate! And when it fails, you wonder what the hell you’re going to do next, while having a sook and feeling sorry for yourself.
And so, this is (nearly) Christmas. There’s nothing quite like a knotty problem to work out right at the end of the year.
So if you’re wondering why I would publish this in the first place, it’s for two reasons. The first is that I’m not afraid of being honest. The second is because if I start to self-censor in my own writing, I may as well be dead. Nobody wants to live a life that isn’t their own.
This blog forms part of The Pixie Diaries
The Pixie diaries is my attempt to lay bare the bones of building a business as a solopreneur, because it’s not easy work. It’s not designed to give you anything except insight. There are no quick tips, no ways to make a million dollars, just the reality of life while I work out what it all means and how to do it. Really, we all just make it up as we go along. The Pixie Diaries is proof of this.