The Problem: People working harder and stressing more and not getting enough in return for their work.
· Strategic Congruence: Having your day, week and month give you a sense of movement forward
Cathy* looked at me with worry etched on her youthful face. She had a successful solo business for a while, but the 4 years to build it to the current success had taken its toll. It was her first coaching session with me.
“I don’t want to spend another 4 years building up to more stress… and I don’t want to burn all my money on hiring people who don’t produce results.. and leave me broke”. She burst out crying.
I felt for her immediately – this is a common and normal stage for many people to go through with in business. Cathy was lucky in the sense that her business not only survived, but was just making her enough money. She had reached some momentum – but she needed more consistency and less stress.
It was time for her to make even more money and consistently so every month and every year.
As an entrepreneur, this is important to plan and strategize for – but up to now, she had not found the time to try and figure this next stage of business development and growth out.
Cathy had a couple of areas to start working on, but the most important area was Strategic Congruence.
Strategic Congruence means having all your strategies (e.g. identifying and reaching out to your target market) align with your short term daily, weekly and monthly projects. Like a lot of starting out entrepreneurs, Cathy had her fingers in quite a lot of pies at the same time – this accounted for a lot of her stress (based on her own observation and assessment).
When we listed out all her projects for the month, they totaled 27!
These projects included the following:
a. Search Engine Optimization for her website
b. Part time consultative work with another organization to get more leads from them
c. A facebook strategy for outreach to a particular market
d. A project to build up her twitter membership
e. Building up a networking organization she started – to over 1,000 people from 300 people
f. Training her new admin
g. Etc. etc.
In our discussion, we managed to whittle down the list to the top four projects for the month. These projects we thought would put the most money and satisfaction in her pocket. She also quickly identified that these four projects could probably dovetail into the other projects for each succeeding month, building up to a solid fulfillment of her yearly outcomes. I could already see her stress level go down – the smile on her face returned and her voice took on a firmness of tone and conviction.
“I feel a little worried about letting go of the other projects, but I can see that the selected projects will probably speed up getting more cashflow in, and reduce my stress and, more importantly, I can reduce my work hours if I hire the two people like I was thinking before.”
I said “I am always skeptical when we first start out. Let’s start with these four projects and then measure our progress daily to do our best to catch any problems fast. If we hit $5,000 in the first two weeks (a very conservative estimate), that is a good sign, but not the end of the story.”
Being quite astute, she replied quickly. “Yeah.. but you know.. I like the way we broke this down into smaller and less risky projects to start out with. These projects have the least downside (risk and investment) and the most in terms of upside. I had it topsy turvy before – I thought I just needed to do a lot of work to make sure that ALL the projects occurred at the same time – probably because I felt guilty in not doing hard work – so I ended up working harder!”
She sat up alert and looked at me. “Am I too hard working? Is that why my children and husband dislike any time I spend on my business?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.. and maybe it is irrelevant to ask. Life and business is complicated.. and getting more complicated as time goes by. The real measure may not be hard work.. but your stress levels.”
“Yes…I want to reduce my stress level from level 8 to level 3: Do you think I can do that in the next few months?”
I nodded. “I think so. There is only one main variable: success depends on your willingness to account for your strategic congruence daily, weekly and monthly i.e. to continually see if these small projects are on track and producing the results while not over stressing you – a little bit of stress just to get you going, but not debilitating to the point that you are paralyzed or unhealthy. That daily attention will make all the difference I feel. No guarantees but statistically speaking and from a brain science perspective – yes I believe you can and will make it.”
“Why statistical and brain science.. what does that have to do with this?” She was more animated now and curious to learn.
“Statistically – because if you are checking your results daily, you are checking your results and course correcting every day; you are course correcting about 20 times a month. Good chance that you will avoid the obvious risks and failures. You can’t avoid the unexpected factors that may be beyond our control – but the obvious obstacles are easier to handle. Hence a greater chance that you will be successful because of the frequency of course corrections. Think of an airplane that keeps correcting it’s course every few seconds: there is a good chance that you will land at your destination on time.. maybe even early.
She nodded slowly. “So good strategy + consistency in course correction is the key?”
“Yes…. a big part of the key”
“Brain science – “ I continued. “Because… if you take on this new habit every day, there is a greater chance that you will have a new automatic behavior i.e. one that you don’t have to work so hard to remember to do, in about 3 months or less. If you have this habit ingrained, there is less work for you to do – you just have to allow the automatic new habit to take over you. Your brain is the most complex mechanism in the world today – it is able to make trillions of connections between the hundreds of billions of brain cells representing different ideas and concepts in your brain. The more you act in a focused manner daily.. just how I suggested, the more likely you are to create these new automatic habits… (just like how you developed the habit of brushing your teeth) and the more likely these new automatic habits are going to lead you to new results.”
Like most clients, at this point, she had a lot to think about and a lot to start acting on.
“I think I am ready to get into action.” She said taking out her notebook and calendar.
“Okay.. let’s format and design your daily communications with me so that we can keep this game on track!” I told her.
The following months were a lot easier but involved a lot more focused hard work.
“I am enjoying the business more.. and like both my parents who were hard working, I don’t fear hard work… but unlike them… I think I prefer to have far less stress working – I am certainly enjoying my work more now. The results are becoming more consistent. I think I am ready to even hire one more person to take over one of my monthly projects.”
The end of the year saw Cathy quitting her part time consultative work to focus more on her business which was paying her about 20 times what she was getting in her part time work. The stress lines disappeared and she was sleeping better. She was now clearly in what I called stability; we could predict, more or less, her income every month.
“The next step is to get you to breakthrough levels.”
“Phew… am I ready?” she asked.
“I think so… but it will take…”
“Consistency and brain science..?” she jumped in.
“Actually a different game with the basics of consistency and brain science…” I answered. “But more on that later.” I winked.
*Client names have been changed to protect client confidentiality