As a solopreneur, have you ever experienced a lull in your workflow that just didn’t feel normal. Like you’ve been doing all the right things, going through your regular motions with marketing and e-commerce, but you’re just not generating the sales you used to?
I don’t usually discuss business on this blog, but the truth of the matter is, a lot of us are working for ourselves these days, or at the very least, contracting out to other companies. It can be overwhelming to be your own boss. To be the one to set all the expectations AND the one to follow-through with them. Sometimes we think we’re on the right track, but in reality our aim is a little askew.
I want to take a moment and talk about what it can look like when we are setting ourselves up for failure, and how to face it directly, to bring it to an end.
Attributed to the late-great Benjamin Franklin, the quote “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” is apropos here. Working for oneself can seem like it will be a breeze. We hold everything in our heads, we know everything that is going on, why would we need to make notes or plot progress, or even do something as silly as a self-performance-review? The simple answer is, you need to know what is going on. If you aren’t monitoring and recording your steps, when things start to go wrong, you won’t know where or what or how!
The first step.
I think the first thing you have to do is probably the hardest part. Recognizing the problem gets trickier when you’re the one causing the issues. It becomes a self-fulfilling/self-reinforcing problem, and if you don’t notice it early enough, it can grow to wild proportions. The specifics will depend on your industry, and may show up in the money, or the lack of clients, or the inability to attract providers, or any number of ways. Once you realize that something is wrong and you can admit it openly to yourself, then you’re on the right path.
The second step.
Having a candid conversation with yourself about what exactly is going on, laying down the evidence (this is where tracking your work comes in handy), letting go of your assumptions and sticking to the facts is the only way to go. Some good questions to ask at this point: is it really as bad as you think it is? What’s the evidence for this? Are there outside factors? What is going well? What do we know we can do about it? The answers to these questions will get you a pretty good picture of the problem. Seeing it in its entirety can be a little overwhelming, but as they say, don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater — just because things might be a little murky, doesn’t mean the whole operation will go south. You don’t want to lose the good parts of your practice along with the bad, it’s time to just look at the bad while preserving the good.
The third step.
Plot a course of treatment for the remedy. In the medical world, a course of treatment follows the diagnosis of an illness. When dealing with a failure in your own solopreneur business, modifying behaviour and developing complex skills can be more difficult that just taking a few pills. Maybe you need more training, or to bring in an expert. Telling yourself that this is an investment in yourself, not an expense can make it easier, especially knowing that payback from this expenditure will be higher than whatever you have to foot out in the beginning. Your course of treatment might be quick, or it might take a while, depending on the problem, but stick to it. The way out is through.
After dealing with any particular failure, it is a good idea to look back over the process you used to determine there was something wrong in the first place and what you did about it. Being able to monitor progress from the start can help you avoid the set-up-to-fail in the first place. If you are realistic with yourself and can admit what isn’t working right away, and then change it before it becomes too late, you won’t have to enter into these 3 phases at all. Knowing your priorities, using performance measures and time allocation can all assist you in this monitoring. When we know our expectations AND our limits, it can sometimes forestall the trouble altogether.
Clearly, it takes a special kind of courage, self-confidence, competence, and persistence on your part to be able to break out of the syndrome. Being a solopreneur doesn’t come without it’s pitfalls. But the same goes for any boss. Being able to course correct mid-flight is a wonderful skill-set to foster. After all, the Apollo 11 flight to the moon is said to have taken nearly 1000 course corrections before eventually landing in the Sea of Tranquility and making history. Realizing you are not getting the throughput out of the course you are aiming along is the first step to correcting it. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and take a closer look.