What questions to ask when your business needs to change

What questions to ask when your business needs to change

Happy New Year!

As we jump headfirst into 2017, you’re probably thinking a lot about where you want to take your business this year. And if you know that it’s time for a change, today’s Beyond PRO Podcast will help you ask yourself the right questions.

A couple of quick housekeeping items before we get into the heart of today’s content.

If you’re in planning mode for 2017 (or need to be), I’m running a free email course called Plan with Purpose 2017. In it, I walk you step-by-step through my planning process. You can register for it by clicking here

I wanted to share that last week, Entrepreneur Magazine named this podcast as one of 24 Exceptional Women-Hosted Podcasts for Entrepreneurs in 2017. I am thrilled to be included in such amazing company, and I wanted to thank all my long-term listeners for their support, and welcome my new listeners to the podcast. Thank you. I have big plans for the podcast in 2017.

Now onto today’s content —

Last episode we spoke about what to do if you’re facing a crisis of confidence. If you want to go listen to that episode, you can find it here.

One of the challenges that can easily put the most confident entrepreneur into a tailspin is when they realize that their business needs to change. It might be small, it might be big or somewhere in between, but regardless – something has to shift (and most likely soon).

You know your business needs to change when:

  • You’re no longer excited to do your work (day after day, not just once in awhile)
  • You’ve plateaued for an extended period of time
  • You’re bored with your work or your clients or your message
  • You’re not achieving any of your goals
  • Your motivation is so low, you’re just not getting the work done
  • Your work is no longer aligned with your values (or you’re just waking up to that fact that it never was)
  • You’re receiving recurring messages from your audience or the same question/problem keeps coming up and you’re not addressing it, or you don’t want to address it
  • You’re not aligned anymore – you’re not extracting enough meaning
  • Your marketplace has changed/shifted and it’s no longer relevant
  • You’re feeling called to something else – period.
  • You’re burnt out, exhausted and seriously considering a day job
  • Your business isn’t extracting enough ROI to make it worth continuing as is

Listen to today’s episode and find out what questions you need to ask when your business needs to change. 

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When you’re in this place your business can feel very scary.

You might be waking up in the middle of the night panicked about what to do next. You might be spending your days scouring the web hoping to get a spark of insight or a solution to the problem that plagues you. You might be hashing it out with your business partner (who might feel differently I might add), or your business bestie or your partner –looking for advice and council.

You might also feel exhilarated by the possibly of a new path or shift ahead. Maybe you’ve known things need to change for a while, and now you’re ready to make some serious shifts.

Either way, whether you’re thrilled or terrified at the prospect, what you do know is that you’re about to step into the land of uncertainty and change. And when it comes to business, that’s not usually a place we like to play for long.

And yet, the reality is that in today’s world of work, it’s more a question of when than if. The landscape has shifted, and gone are the days of one path being the only path until retirement. As Jenny Blake talks about in her recent book, Pivot: the only move that matters is your next one, “Careers are no longer straightforward, linear and predictable like ladders. They are now much more modular, customizable and dynamic like smartphones.”

That all feels well and good right, in theory. But if you are standing at the precipice of change, with the pressure and weight of 2017 staring you straight in the face, it might feel more daunting than exciting.

So, let’s talk about what questions you need to ask when your business needs to change. You might not need to ask them all, it will vary on your situation or what’s at the root of your desire for a shift, but they will help you drill a little deeper.

What’s at the heart of your desire to change?

Let’s see if we can get to the root of things before we change them. What might feel like a fundamental flaw with your business model, might actually be overwhelm and burnout talking. What might feel like a calling toward something new and fresh, might just be you stuck in the messy middle. What might feel like a profound lack of motivation, might just be a messaging change required to better align with your values.

See if you can get to the root of what’s true for you. Don’t do this when things are busy and chaotic. Don’t do this when you’re feeling really vulnerable or distressed. Allocate some time where you can sit quietly and ask yourself this question. See what bubbles up before you censor it.

This seemingly basic question really is a critical one. I know there have been moments in my business journey when I thought the problem was one thing but it was actually something else. If you try to solve the wrong problem, you’ll continue to find yourself dissatisfied with the work.

To prompt your thinking, here are some common challenges I see from my clients and colleagues. Some will only require small changes, others are more substantial.

  • The business model no longer supports the dreams and goals of the owner
  • The business model leaves no room for growth or is extracting too much effort for too little gain
  • The clients or customers are not ideal
  • Their personal life is not going well, prompting a desire to shake things up
  • They are bored and not challenged by the work anymore — nothing feels new or exciting
  • They feel like they aren’t making the impact they truly desire

This could be you, or maybe it’s something else. Sit with it for a bit and see what comes to you. Trust that you already know the real answer.

If you can’t quite get there with this question, your next step is to ask yourself this obvious, yet extremely informing question of:

What do you want less of?

Sometimes an easier route to change is by asking what we don’t want, instead of what we do want. Usually, we have a pretty good idea about what’s not working, even if we don’t know what to do to make it better.

So make the list. Start big picture and then start to get more granular and specific. Set a timer for five minutes, grab a piece of paper and just do a big, epic dump of everything you don’t like about your business right now.

Once you’ve got the list, I want you to mine it for patterns and themes. Is there something that keeps coming up? Do you notice anything that surprises you? Do you see any themes?

To make this immediately actionable, I want you to look at this final list and see if you can do anything about it now. Like, right now. It’s likely that there are some very specific items on that list that you could either ditch entirely, delegate to someone else or defer until later – giving you an instant sense of release. Some challenges might be bigger than a simple quick-fix, but don’t underestimate the relief you will feel handling a few of those nagging items you just don’t like.

What do I want more of?

I know, I know. These feel like such basic questions right? But when was the last time you deliberately asked yourself them?

In the quest to build an enduring company, service our clients, post on social media, do the admin work and everything else we need to do just to keep things operational, we forget to ask ourselves what we really want.

The question is simple, but it’s one of the most important ones you can ask.

What do you want? And you can add in this one, popularized by Danielle LaPorte, “How do you want to feel?

As you ask yourself this question, I want you to think about it in a holistic way. So when you look at what you want, your first thoughts might be “more clients” or “more money” or “less busywork.” Those are good answers, but they are somewhat surface-level.

Can you go deeper?

You might find when you do, answers like this come bubbling up:

  • I want to feel useful and of true value
  • I want to feel energized and lit up by my work (most of the time)
  • I want to know that I’m having a profound impact on the people I serve
  • I want to find a way to not work so hard for what seems like an unbalanced return
  • I want to know that I can take a break and my business won’t fall apart without me
  • I want to have a better delineation between my work and my life
  • I want a business model that sets me up for the longer-term life vision I have, not just the one that pays the bills today
  • I want to create more portability and freedom so that I can travel and experience my life in colour
  • I want to work less and create more
  • I want to enjoy more financial abundance

When we tap our true desires, we can use them to inform our actions. If we make our business decisions only from what makes sense operationally, we might see short term gain, but we’ll soon be right back to where we started.

In my coach training, I remember our instructors saying that one of the most profound questions we can ask our clients, is always, “What do you want?”

Try it for yourself.

And when an answer bubbles up, jot it down.

Then ask yourself, “What else?”

Keep asking that until you have literally exhausted the question.

And remember not to censor the answers that come up. Your job isn’t to figure out how yet, it’s just to awaken the part of you that knows the truth.

And like the last question, I want you to identify any areas you can immediately action or add now. If you want more time off, can you actually just book a damn day off? Do you need to change the whole business to give yourself one CEO day of care and thinking a month? What can you put in place now to make things easier?

What’s a Both / And solution?  

We touched on this already with the short, actionable things you can do today to make your business better. But let’s be real – not everything can be fixed in an hour.

But that doesn’t mean you have to break everything and rebuild it either. Is a radical change needed, or can you adjust without much upheaval?

So, your next question is what is a both/and solution here? This is just another way of asking if there’s a way you can change things up and bring more of what you want into your business, without fundamentally changing the entire scope of the business.

For example, if your business is starting to feel too transactional and you’re questioning the impact you’re having in the broader community, can you add a community investment or social giving strategy into your mix? Perhaps your business invests in a relevant, community initiative as a way to deepen your impact.

Or maybe when you get really clear, the problem isn’t the business itself, but the type of clients you work with. But you’re not ready to ditch your bread and butter work, so you feel stuck. A both/and solution would be to put an offer together to attract a different type of client or simply change your marketing messaging/client filtering to better attract the right kind of clientele. As you start to work with a different type of customer, you might find that everything feels way better.

Bottom line: always ask what your both/and solution could be. It might not even be forever, but it could make the work much more enjoyable as you navigate your what’s next.

If I could have it exactly the way I wanted it, what would it look like?

This is a similar question to the one asking what you want, but I find this one helpful to get right to the core of what’s most important to me. I can list off a bunch of things I want more of, but when I ask, “if I could have it exactly the way I want” that asks me to be specific, succinct and deliberate about the form and structure of what’s needed to make me happier and more aligned.

This is a great question to journal on. Make it as detailed and colourful as you can. Assume you can build it exactly the way you want.

What will I do and when will I do it by?

Let’s get real for a second. We both know that nothing will change unless you make the commitment to actually change things. I always think of this quote by Sydney J. Harris:

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same, but get better.”

Right? I know you get this. And listen, sometimes it’s just NOT the right time to fundamentally shake things up. You have to get clear about your willingness to make change and on what timeline.

You might realize that you’ve been complaining about things for a long time. It’s time to get honest about what you’re willing to do and by when to start to move your business in the direction you want.

There are no right answers here – the timeline is yours to identify. But just please do. The future of your business is counting on it.

Things to be mindful of as you navigate change in your business:

Blowing Things Up

For some of you listening, your natural inclination might be to just blow everything up. You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, you feel the need to do something radical. This is rarely the solution, and will more than likely lead to undue stress and added work. Yes, a big overhaul might be needed, but doing it in haste or on the back of big emotions is counterproductive.

The Messy Middle

When the work starts feeling hard and unfulfilling, it might have less to do with the work itself and more to where you are in the lifecycle of the project. Frankly, there is not much worse than the messy middle of a project where you’re too far into it where the freshness and novelty has worn off, but the end is too far down the line to feel the relief and joy of completion.

Be Careful of the Bleed

What’s going on at home? When things are chaotic or unsettled or stressed in our personal lives, it’s easy for this to bleed into your business, causing you to second guess your direction or work. Last year, I felt myself feeling quite stressed and unclear about my business. While some tweaks were needed (and are in motion now), what was also true is that my husband was at risk of being laid off (along with 10s of thousands in our city), our beloved dog was diagnosed with cancer, my husband then was laid off, and then re-hired, we had to put our other dog down due to health complications, and I was only working a handful of hours while my daughter was in kindergarten.

The weight of all these things impacted my ability to stay grounded in my business. I was worried about what a layoff would mean for our family, so was looking at how to shift my business to support those possible changes. I had little time to work, so I was second-guessing everything I’d built to date because none of it felt sustainable at the time.

My point being that your desire to change might have more to do with getting back control in an area of your life when other areas feel out of control or less stable than you’re used to. Is there stuff at home you need to deal with or clean up first?

Test Your Intensity

You might have heard me tell this story before, but when I was working in my corporate job and seriously contemplating leaving, I hired a life coach. I needed someone to help me sort through my frustrations, my desires, and my action plan. After coming to each session, week after week venting about one of my bosses, she finally said to me words I’ll never forget, “Steph, listen — either we figure out a way for you to cope and manage dealing with this person, you quit your job or you fire me. Because I’m not going to let you bitch to me for the next six months.”

The next week I quit my job.

When I say to test your intensity, this is what I mean. I knew the minute she said those words to me that there was no longer a way for me to reframe my experience or cope differently. I was done. And pretending I wasn’t, or dancing around it was completely pointless.

So when it comes to your desire or fear you need to change, what’s your intensity level around it? If it’s an eight and has been for a few months, chances are you need to make a change sooner vs later. If it just showed up in your consciousness this week because it’s the new year, and you’re hovering at a three, you might not need to change things just yet.

Be Wary of the Shoulds

We all fall victim to the shoulds. These are the things we think we should do, should believe, should say, should think. But I know you know better — because the shoulds are killing us. If the answers you’ve revealed today clearly point to change, but your rational, should brain is telling you that the logical choice is to stay where you are, ask yourself what’s actually true? It’s probably just fear.

Your Gremlins Will Have a Hayday

Speaking of fear, whenever we navigate a change of any kind — even if it’s positive, our gremlins will show up loud and clear. Why? They don’t like change. They want to keep you safe and in the status quo (even if the status quo sucks).

This is really important to know because if you let the gremlins guide, you’d never make a change – even if it was the most strategic, powerful and best choice for your business. So don’t let them dictate, otherwise, you’ll totally convince yourself that change is wrong.

Sunk Cost Principle

This is an economic and business term that refers to the idea that we’ve already invested time, money and effort into something (sunk costs) so we can’t change things because of it.

Escalation of commitment

Similar to the sunk cost principle, is one called “Escalation of commitment,” and is defined as:

Refers to a pattern of behavior in which an individual or group, when faced with increasingly negative outcomes from some decision, action, and investment, will continue rather than alter their course—something which is irrational, but in alignment with decisions and actions previously made.

Just because we previously made a big decision about our business, doesn’t mean we are tied to it for all eternity. If it needs to change, it needs to change.

***

Ok, we made it to the other side. I hope this episode has been helpful for you as you navigate any changes you need to make. I’ve got faith that you can make 2017 the best year of your business yet.

And I wanted to let you know that if you’re navigating a change in your business, big or small, and want some help figuring out all the pieces, I’d love to help. I’m currently accepting new Leadership Coaching clients. You can learn more about that here, and I’m happy to hop on the phone with you first to make sure we’re a good fit.

Thanks again for listening, and I’ll be back in your earbuds soon.

Recommended Resources

24 Exceptional Women-Hosted Podcasts for Entrepreneurs in 2017 

Plan with Purpose 2017 – free email course to help you design the year ahead

Pivot: the only move that matters is your next one by Jenny Blake

Leadership Coaching — currently accepting new clients!

Nothing is ever wasted, it is all useful – Beyond PRO Podcast

What are you doing today to feel the way you want to feel? – Danielle LaPorte

Thanks for listening!

I want to thank you for listening and to those that have taken the time to review the show. If you like the Beyond PRO Podcast, please consider leaving an honest review in iTunes. Your review goes a long way to help this podcast get found by more people. Thank you!

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Start 2017 strong with a clear plan for your business

 

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