I’ve been surfboat rowing for 5 years and last season, my crew was ranked third best in the country. Out of a 20-strong competitive field we’re very proud of that.
Looking back at my first race, I smile. I can now see that I didn’t have a clue! It was all arms, panic and heroic inefficiency. Little wonder I ran out of gas not even half way out to sea.
With the wisdom of 5 years and many thousands of strokes, I know that calm, powerful, synchronized team work wins. Legs, not arms rock the boat. And it’s not a sprint. The four-minute race requires multiple phases and strategies. You can’t just go balls out.
So today I know the rowing game. And 3 to 4 times each week, my crew trains hard to win the race.
Do you know what game you are playing?
The same principles apply to setting up your own consultancy, coaching business or start up. I left a successful corporate career in 2012 to build my Influence, Leadership and Change consultancy. I’ve been my own crash test dummy and now I run a very successful business – working with cool clients, doing great work and all whilst designing a life that I want.
The destination is great. But the journey was rocky – with a lot of pain, mistakes, tears, fears and doubts along the way.
But the learning has also been priceless. Each year I personally coach around 30 smart people to make the same transition – but faster and smarter. Some clients are fresh out of corporate employment, others have been trying to work it out themselves – often for several years – without great success.
My focus is to:
In this article, I attempt to capture the things that really matter.
I’ll split it into 3 Parts.
1. WHAT YOU WANT
What you want has a few variations, but is basically this. You want to:
In short, you want to be your own boss and make a great living doing work and life on your terms.
2. THE GAME YOU NEED TO PLAY
The ‘What you Want’ goals are exciting. Who doesn’t want to live life on their own terms? Trouble is making them a reality is HARD. You need to understand the Game you need to play.
Here are some of the problems.
There’s no monthly salary.
You are not guaranteed to earn a cent.
You have to sell, develop, deliver and administer everything yourself.
You’ll need to fund yourself initially.
Old networks and relationships are likely to dry up.
You are on your own.
Doesn’t sound so sexy now eh?
To give yourself the best chance, you need to become an influencer. That means bringing your expertise to life – activating it in a way that is attractive and commercially compelling. You’ll require high levels of pro-activity, energy, persistence and flexibility. IT IS A VERY DIFFERENT GAME TO BEING A CORPORATE EMPLOYEE.
You’ve got to stick your neck out. Building a business around your personal know-how and personality requires a strategic investment of time, mental energy and effort. It can be hard, but it’s also greatly rewarding and enjoyable.
Most importantly – Believe! This stuff works.
3. GETTING FIT FOR THE GAME
My model illustrates the combination of Actions, Attitudes and Resources you’ll need to win in this new game. I believe it takes 1 year to get the basic rhythm and achieve solid returns and 2-3 years to really perfect and make your ‘What You Want’ goals a reality.
There are 3 focus stages and 3 levels within each stage. Start at the bottom left and work upwards through each stage.
The first focus stage is about what you need to ‘DO’.
Information is overwhelming and everywhere. We now value those who can make sense of it by creating content that helps us to understand and solve problems. Less is usually more. Give yourself permission to put your ideas out there, rather than to rely on prevailing or dominant market thinking.
Be brave! Have fun!
Experts often present an aversion to selling, thinking that the sheer weight of their intelligence or status will seal the deal. Many subscribe to the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. In my experience they don’t!
You’ve got to be continually connecting your ideas and in-build this process into everything you do. Elegance, energy and environment are all variables you can use to maximise the impact of your ideas – and therefore your success in selling them.
It’s no use having amazing ideas if you can’t make them real and wow your customers. Today’s technology means all of us can create amazing projects, products and collateral. There really are no excuses, so up-skilling in this area is critical.
From client ‘first contact’ through to project delivery, follow up and invoicing – you need to make sure you are professional, timely and impactful.
So that’s what you ‘DO’. To ensure youe consistently build your Influence over time, you also need to get into the right mindset. This is the focus of the second stage and is about how you need to ‘BE’.
If you are going to earn serious money you have to become highly-productive. This has always been the case for solopreneurs. You need to become ruthlessly good at getting more done and develop a constant vigilance around your output levels.
Remember your ‘What You Want’ goals. You need a clear plan to stay on track in achieving them. This means doing the right things at the right time. It’s easy to embark on too-many projects or to get distracted. This is where 90-day horizons and strict weekly, monthly and quarterly plans are crucial. You need to schedule your activities and say “no”. It’s about developing the discipline to finish what you’ve started (and avoiding shiny project syndrome).
Most of us can’t do this alone. The best way to stay the course is to hold yourself accountable to someone else. An external mentor is the perfect person to challenge, correct and encourage you to deliver on your agreed actions and targets.
I have Mentored hundred lot of leaders, consultants, coaches and entrepreneurs through this journey. I usually find that the people I work with are amazed with what they have achieved and how they have grown after only 6 months.
The combination of our ‘Doing’ and ‘Being’ is a great start to developing and deploying your influence to create the brand recognition you need. The final column details the things that you need to be ‘Building’ over time. These are fundamental in sustaining you to enjoy long-term success.
III. BUILD THIS
The pressures of work and life don’t disappear when you commit to building the profile, positioning and commercial impact you need to become a market influencer. Trust me, you WILL experience knock-backs and discouragement. Colleagues will say you are wasting your time, that it doesn’t work. Projects will fail. Ideas will be rejected. You will doubt yourself and wonder if it’s all worth it.
You must counter this by learning to expect and accept this fact of life and to develop your resilience muscle. You must also never lose sight that you are making a significant investment in securing your future success and happiness.
To help manage your resilience, to stay on strategy and to thrive in a potentially lonely environment, it’s important to build a supporting community. As you develop your network, you must actively seek out and commission those who ‘get’. These are the kindred spirits, willing to support your growth. You will be amazed and delighted by the people and resources that emerge as you develop your reach.
The ambition to become a market influencer can seem unrealistic and even arrogant. If you’ve got this far, you probably think you have something to offer the world. GOOD FOR YOU! You’re probably right.
Once you step out on this path, you’ll be amazed by the new connections, friends, colleagues, mentors and resources that your efforts reveal. In just a few months you’ll probably look back and wonder how you remained so stuck for so long.
Understanding the 9 elements of this model is clarifying. It’s easy to get lost and discouraged on this journey, or to fixate on a few of the pieces. All are important over time – especially once the initial inspiration has passed. Keeping a lightness of touch and a good sense of humour and humility is also useful.
Are you up for thE game?
If all of this sounds attractive, you now have a practical plan for the game you need to play and how to get fit to win. I hope it helps.
Contact me if you want help. I work closely with over 35 professionals every year to help them build the confidence, thinking, content and mindset to build their personal brand and activate it.