Running and growing a business demands a high level of focus and commitment to your vision. You must be able to perceive what you want to create, and then invest your energy and other resources in actually creating it.
The downside of this intensely personal business focus, though, can be a lack of perspective, by which I mean, a lack of outside perspectives. I’ve often experienced some internal tension around how much “outside” perspective to bring into my business. On one hand, there are conversations around competition and maintaining a competitive advantage. On the other, there are conversations around how nice it is to get support and to feel understood, and to be able to find solutions that I couldn’t get to on my own.
What I notice with this, like most things, is there is a healthy balance. Too much of one, or too much of the other, isn’t so good. Too much outside perspective and you can lose track of your desired path. Too little, and you risk becoming myopic, and stale.
This came up for me today as I was thinking about my final chapter of the business book I’ve been writing. I realized that, for a long time, I knew I wanted to be a business coach, even as, at the same time, I doubted if I was a very good one. You see, I had been working as a dissertation coach for many years; this was my first business. I grew it organically using content and search marketing into a +six figure business. It was on track to grow even bigger, except I didn’t like the work and I began to lose interest. Yet, even for my lack of continued enthusiasm and interest, that business has generated more than 50 client referrals for my associate coaches in the past few months. In all respects, my dissertation business has been a worthy accomplishment. Not just in terms of dollars earned, but in the fact that this business represented my testing ground in terms of learning online marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and product development. I honed my capacity to enroll clients, retain them, and to evolve my service levels to include paid speaking and high level consultation to Universities.
By outside measures, this has been a successful business, and has given me some valuable knowledge and expertise that I now use as a business profitability coach. But the peculiar thing was that I never had outside measures on this, and so I never really realized how significant this achievement was. In a part time business that I no longer felt passionate about or committed to, I have been able to generate +six figures for myself and to help my coaches build a stable base of clients so they, too, can build their +six figure businesses. I’ve been able to help thousands of people with my methods, and have written books, spoken at Universities, and made a significant positive impact in the lives of others.
I raise this not to brag, but because I am seeing how much I operated in a vacuum, and for how long I carried around the belief that I didn’t really have any business coaching experience from which to coach my clients on. Can you see how incomplete my view was? I built a profitable business in an arena I was no longer committed to. Imagine what I might be able to do in a business area I really loved?
Whatever my dissertation business has been, it’s the pretty much the same as it has been—I just see it differently now. Rather than being something I have reflexively hidden or always felt a little ashamed of- because I really wanted to be doing something else, but just didn’t know exactly how- I see that this represents an achievement that I can lean into to create my next set of business successes.
And I see, too, that I could not have had this change in perspective without some outside support and outside perspectives. I’d been doing what I’d been doing, and thinking the way I’d been thinking, for so long that I wasn’t able to see any other way.
I’m imagining I’m not the only one of us who gets caught in the idea of trying to have the big picture view from within a vacuum. Can’t happen. We all need some outside perspectives and ideas and new ways of thinking to keep us fresh and in active relationship with our businesses.
For me, I’m making a more focused effort to deepen my professional connections and to create a circle of people whose opinions I trust and can use to help me see things I might be missing. I hope that I am able to bring the same kind of perspective to them.
None of us can know what we don’t know. This is why its important to occasionally step back from our view of what we’re doing, and actively engage others in seeing for us.
Where in your business are you operating in a vacuum? What might you be able to see from a new perspective?