The Moped Principle

Or: use only what you truly need to get the job done. The most common way I see people get sideways in their businesses is by trying to 1) project the future based on the present and 2) locking in a big commitment based on that projection. Being 6 months into your coaching business and spending several thousand dollars on branding help, a website, marketing materials, and coaching based on your niche…only to realize in another 6 months that NONE of that is who you really are or what you really want to do. Completing a training program in the discipline you believe you want to base your work on, and immediately committing a lot of time and money to the next level of training…and discover partway through that you really want to do different work. Being the early stages of your business and believing you need a much more extensive and advanced level of support than you really do (a full-time assistant, an expensive software service with a contract, professional mentorship, a pricey organization membership.) Ask yourself – what is the minimum I truly need to take the next step towards my goal? If all you really need most days is to get food from the store, and it’s a mile away, a moped is your best bet. Walking takes too long, and the moped can also get you to your doctor’s across town if needed. It doesn’t cost much to own or run. What you DON’T need (yet) is a car that requires monthly payments or repairs and mostly sits in the driveway. And here’s the real problem. What if you decide you need a car, and you buy a Lexus because someone told you no one will take you seriously if you drive anything less…and then you realize what you REALLY want to do is lead Jeep tours in the mountains? Or tour the country living in a bio-diesel VW van? Then you’re committed to a vehicle that’s actively hindering you. It’s not able to take you where you’re truly headed. You can swap out, but it’s expensive in a number of ways. Instead, consider this. When the moped can’t get you to that speaking gig you finally landed, borrow a car, or take Uber, or get a Zipcar membership so you have a car ONLY when you need it. When you’re spending enough on Uber or Zipcar to equal a car payment, you start looking at cars. By then you know what vehicle you need for that next stage, and you can afford it because you’ve worked up to it. Your dream right now might be the gleaming tour bus full of your roadies, or the limo whisking you from speaking appearance to book signing with your posse. You could very well end up there – but if you do, I guarantee you’ll have built up to it. A moped will get traded for a used Honda Accord. The Accord becomes a used SUV, which turns into a new BMW. And then the Beemer won’t hold all your peeps anymore and the limo will be the obvious next step. AND…if you realize at the step between the moped and the Honda that you actually want to lead eco-retreats in Costa Rica, or become a florist and live above your shop, or you’ve unexpectedly and joyfully become the parent of twins and need a hatchback wagon, you’ll have the flexibility to do that. You won’t have a tour bus sitting in your driveway with your name painted across the side, nobody in it, costing you more than your housing payment, getting you nowhere. Don’t walk if you can get a moped, people. But don’t buy a tour bus when a moped is all you need here and now. You just might end up in Costa Rica instead, completely unforeseen, and you don’t want to have to put that bus on Craigslist before you can get there. I promise you two things: everybody starts out on a moped, and almost no one ends up where they think they’re headed at the moped stage. Let yourself be where you are, and dig into it. Keep an eye on the road ahead – but mostly so you can see when that road starts to change to something you never expected, so you can change vehicles to meet it. In the meantime, love that moped, baby. It’ll get you everywhere you need to go and ask nearly nothing from you. Give it a kiss, put your helmet on, and putt proudly to the store and back. It’s the first stretch of the road that will take you places you can’t see from here.  

YOU DON’T NEED A NICHE

Really. I know “they” all say you do. It’s logical, there’s a lot of “conventional marketing wisdom” behind it, and frankly in the stew of confusion and self-doubt that characterizes the “WTF Phase” of business-building, it can be really comforting to have something that feels so solid. “I work with executive men between the ages of 30 and 45 who have C-suite jobs, drive BMWs, wear Calvin Klein underwear, refuse to drink Starbucks, and listen to U2 when someone’s in the car and Jay-Z when they’re driving alone.” Sure, that’s pretty specific. And there’s a lot of power in specificity. But have you noticed that most of you don’t have anywhere near this amount of specificity about YOU? I know a lot of practitioners that have this kind of “client image” that’s so specific (even if it’s also fictional) that you feel like you could watch an entire movie about this character. But when it comes to themselves, it’s a gray, fuzzy blob. So they just try to fit the fuzzy blob into this very, very detailed and specific box marked “client image”. They have no idea who they are, or what they actually do, or why they’re drawing the people they’re drawing into their practice. So all their ideas about their clients, and their business itself, is from the outside in. This isn’t sustainable. I’ve seen a lot of people start businesses using this model, and sometimes they’re even quite successful quite quickly, from a money-and-image standpoint. But they always – always – end up hitting the wall within the first couple of years and needing to radically remodel their whole working world. When you instead look for that kind of specificity for YOURSELF, and especially when you look for the kind of specificity that goes much deeper than what kind of underwear you wear, then you are creating a foundation. You identify what actually fuels you. What you look like when you are at your biggest, brightest and best. What it is you really do. (Hint – it isn’t coaching. Or art. Or massage. Or VA work.Or web design.) When you know your foundation, and you align everything you do with that foundation, there’s an electrical, compelling, overwhelmingly clear energy you start to generate that draws people who want THAT. THOSE are the people you want to work with, because those are the people who want precisely and fully what you have to give, and are ready to receive it. But they might not all drive the same car. (Some of them might not drive at all!) They probably don’t wear the same underwear. They probably have a very wide range of drinking habits, job titles, secret dreams, and personal quirks. Even when your people do have a set of similar details, like age or health or life stage or parenting status or career type, there is something underneath these external qualities that brings those specific people (or will bring those specific people) to YOU. And if you don’t know who YOU are, with great specificity, you won’t understand why. And this is crucial for building the kind of long-term, sustainable business you want. Your business is at its most alive, most vibrant, most effective and engaged, when it looks like YOU. No niche, my dears. Please don’t believe you have to put all your effort, imagination, and creativity into the “client box” and then stuff your fuzzy, indeterminate self into it. (I also guarantee that you are excluding clients that could be really wonderful but don’t match that box either.) Put that effort into discovering yourself. Let your imagination introduce you to YOU. Build that vibrant, detailed, diverse, specific picture of YOU and then let an organic understanding emerge of who wants all that gorgeousness! Maybe they will look more similar to each other in obvious ways, and maybe they won’t. But they will have one thing in common – the only thing that matters. THEY want YOU.

Regrouping – the Essence of Square Three

It’s Monday. You’re full of good intentions. (You know where this is going, right?) This week you’re going to write a blog post, reach out to three new prospects, write the outline of your new program, and attend a local networking event. Tuesday morning, your kid gets sent home from school for projectile vomiting. Your partner has a huge presentation due at work and simply cannot stay home, and you can cover it, right? You hadn’t done laundry last weekend because you were fixing the broken spot in the fence where the dog keeps breaking out. Then the fridge quits. Three weeks later you surface – groggy and undershowered – and gradually you remember those shiny business tasks on your list. With mounting horror you realize you haven’t touched your business in three whole weeks. Your head hits the counter with a hollow thump. You feel like such a failure. How are you ever going to make this work?!? Here’s your magic word: regroup. There are a million voices in your head that will tell you this is not allowed. These voices will put enormous effort into convincing you that you are utterly unfit to have your own business, that all you are fit for is to be hung up and flogged until you give up and slink away like the loser that you really are. These voices will sandblast you with scorn, explaining that real business owners don’t let laundry and sick kids “interfere” with their business. You must give those voices a large dose of horse tranquilizers and a Netflix subscription. Then, you regroup. First and foremost, you forgive yourself. This is the hardest part, but it comes first because without this you are done. You will spend all your energy on the flogging, and none will go into the business, thereby giving you more grounds for flogging, and you will spiral down into fiery doom. I hear you saying, “Yes, but…” which is totally understandable – I know how hard this is. How do I know? I do it on a daily basis. I’m building my coaching practice on my own, this tech setup business with my team, and holding down a contract side hustle while I do both of those. Meanwhile, my “personal life” (why is this still a thing? Life is life, people) blew up like drunk Kanye West at the Grammys about six months ago and it hasn’t really come down yet. So I’m working three self-directed jobs while the structure of my daily life looks like the centerpiece of America’s Greatest Disasters. My work means the world to me. I have big dreams for these businesses, and I know that big dreams come true by doing the work to bring them to life. I set my intentions with fierce devotion, as often as once a week. (It varies.) And then…life happens. Sometimes I get most of them done. A lot of times three weeks goes by and I come out of a daze and I want to cry when I realize I did none of it. But this I know – if I then go straight to “Punishment Central, 24/7”, that’s when I am truly screwed. Instead, I do the harder thing – I forgive myself. And I regroup. I don’t even bother with those three weeks, and all the whys. That’s a decoy – it’s you justi-splaining yourself. It feels really sexy and accomplishes nothing you actually need. Sometimes you need to examine repetitive patterns behind these times, if it’s really a trend – but don’t do that until you’re moving forward again. Understand the wisdom of the Buddhist saying, “You must start where you are.” Indeed – how can you start anywhere else? So shake off the daze. Look around you, even if what you see hurts to look at. DO NOT THINK ABOUT HOW YOU GOT HERE. Just figure out where you are right this minute, and ask yourself, “What can I do from here?” And then do it. It will probably be tiny. The voices will need more tranquilizers, and even then they don’t shut up – they just slur a lot, which makes them easier to ignore. But you will have taken action. Not when or how you thought you would – but this is the un-secret of this phase of business, my dears. It’s never going to be what you think it will be. And you have to keep regrouping and doing what you can, from where you are, with what you have, ANYWAY. (Thank you Teddy Roosevelt.) And then you will find that what you did, from where you were, with what you had, got you somewhere you only dreamed of. It’s not instant. There’s a lot of wash-rinse-repeat. But if you can master this – forgive yourself, start where you are, and do what you can with what you have – you WILL get there.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

Here at Work Like You, we help people get their service businesses online. We also do our best to help those businesses look, feel, and work like the person creating them, which we’ve found to be an essential quality of a successful business! We do that partly by testing you like a lab rat. Well, OK, we don’t make you run through mazes looking for cheese or pressing levers to avoid electric shocks. (Life coaching can be weird but not that weird!) It’s just a moderate amount of answering questions, sometimes annoying questions, on several different instruments – the Kolbe A Index, the VIA Character Strengths report, the Myers-Briggs, and the Enneagram. If you’re curious about what these tell us, stay tuned–we’ll be talking about each of them in more detail over the next several weeks. Looking at you through all these lenses, seeing where they illuminate the same aspects of your character, and where they point out differences, is what will give us the signposts to guide you to a business that works like you do. You might be raising your eyebrows at this, for two reasons. First, because there are literally thousands of people out there telling you that they know exactly what you need to do to make your business successful (commonly using the “six-figure” definition of success) – and it’ll only cost you [somewhere between $59.99 and Ten$ of Thou$and$] to get those “proven secrets”. None of which has anything to do with who YOU are. It has to do with how willing you are to follow their model as precisely as possible. And if you do, it might even work – by their definition. But does it match your definition? Do you even know what your definition of success is – not what you think it’s supposed to be, or what other people think it should be, but what it really is? The second reason this approach might raise your eyebrows is because you probably don’t truly trust yourself. You’re scared to death (even if you’re also excited and determined) to launch this business, yet more often than not you have major doubts about your ability to make it work. You don’t look in the mirror and see a confident, knowledgeable entrepreneur who knows how to do this. (Thus the $59.99-to-Ten$-of-Thou$and$ flowing to the people who do look like that.) So it might not seem sane to you to create a business that looks like this wild-eyed, passionate yet wobbly creature who stares back at you each morning in the mirror. In the end, though, this is the only way – truly the only way – to create a business that you will love, and that will love you in return, over the long haul. This is a relationship, and it’s not any different from any powerful, intimate relationship you’ll ever have – compatibility matters! You don’t have to be identical, but you have to groove together. As an example: if you’re one of life’s flexible, spontaneous, seat-of-the-pants types, the idea of creating a business with strict time schedules chopped into little blocks, governed by weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reports and business plans, probably makes you feel sick to your stomach. Yet this is very close to the “standard model” we’re taught!   Whether you’re a coach, an accountant, a massage therapist, or any other service professional, you’re supposed to have a daily to-do list involving X number of “business-building” tasks. You’re supposed to have a budget, revenue goals, a marketing plan. If the thought of this makes you queasy, why on earth would you do that? Would you marry a person like that? Would you expect to be happy and thriving in your relationship if you did?!? There’s nothing wrong with a person (or a business) that works like that – unless it doesn’t fit with who you are. (No matter how many glossy people with perfect teeth tell you it “should”, or that if it doesn’t, you’re just not working hard enough.) Let’s go back to that tiny little point about the definition of success. A business like I’ve described, we will call it the “standard model”, defines success around things like predictability, organization, structure, consistency, and measuring performance against expectations. Those are all really valuable things. We’re not suggesting you can magically run a business that is completely absent of these qualities. (God knows there is plenty of that within Work Like You.) But where’s the freedom? Where’s the flexibility, the spontaneity, the excitement, the playfulness? We all need some of that, and a lot of us need a LOT of these things. If you’re one of the latter, and you start into a serious relationship with a business that does not value the things you value… well, we bet you might have done this in your personal life, and you know what happens. We don’t want that to see that happen between you and your business. We put you through all the assessments so we can get a clearer picture of how you actually work, naturally and easily and joyfully – underneath all the fear and doubt and wobbles – and we help you work to set up your business like that. Then we help you learn to trust that, to listen to both your business and your own essential self, so that you’re building this long-term relationship on a solid foundation. We help you craft the content on your website, the way your work time is set up in your scheduling system, the way you communicate with your people, the way you get paid – every facet of your tech systems – in alignment with you. Here’s the thing we know that you might not yet – you’re pretty fabulous. And your people are waiting for you to show up and get the party started. We want you and your business to be the hottest couple in the room, with an energy between you that’s visible from out on