Today is National “I am in control day.” Yes, there is such a thing. This day reminds me of when I was first learning to ride a horse on my own. My uncles used to take me riding double when I was a small fry. Eventually I grew in size and needed to learn how to manage a horse by myself. I already knew how to tack up and get ready. But being on top of the horse all by myself was a whole new experience. My uncle the horse-whisperer started by clipping a lead on to the bridle. He led me around the barnyard while I discovered how to connect with the horse through the reins.
Wow. I had no idea of all the talking back and forth he did with the horse while we were flying down the farm driveway. And I had to learn how to do all of that on my own. It was scary but exhilarating at the same time. We spent weeks walking in circles, making turns, and even backing up before he was satisfied that I could work together with the horse without yanking or tugging on the reins, and I could cue the horse with my cowgirl boots when needed. Working in partnership with the horse opened up a whole new universe to me.
Maybe you have experienced something similar, where you are in control but not having to be an absolute control freak about it. Maybe it was learning how to drive your first car, ride a motor scooter or train your dog. Maybe taking salsa dancing lessons.
Whatever your beliefs around control, let’s take some time to think about being in control from a different perspective. When people think about being in control, it usually has the context of getting their personal life under control. A call to action to get things in order.
I have spent the last two years in a monthly personal energy class looking at my own behavior patterns through the lens of Steven Kessler’s “The 5 Personality Patterns.” My learned, default patterns that I resort to when I feel out of control or backed into a corner. Best as I can figure out, my primary defense mechanism is usually responding rigidly, putting up walls and rules, trying to control things I can’t control. Which usually doesn’t work very well, hence my spending a lot of energy and time relearning better, healthier ways to be in control.
My new response to stress and unpredictability is now to just to take a deep breath and relax before I jump into response mode. During the breath, I assess what is actually going on. I look for the facts. I definitely do not let my monkey mind immediately start telling me some old, distorted story from my past. That’s like letting the horse grab the bit and take over control with it. When that happens, I am immediately out of control. The horse wins. Which usually means a wild race back to the barn instead of what I want to do. Not good if my plan was to trot down the road to visit my cousins and go out for a group ride.
The brutal reality is that we all have triggers, and the mind starts to pull us into familiar old response patterns. The same old dance that gets us into trouble every time. As good old Albert says, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Start here. Start Today. Use today as the first step to get things in order and under control. For business owners, it usually means looking at your to-do list and setting priorities and boundaries. What are your top goals for the next six months? At the beginning of January, I gave an informal talk at one of my business networking groups on the 6 basic principles of entrepreneur business building that I learned at Sandra Yancey’s RISE Conference to help you move your business forward.
Answering these six simple questions will help you identify where your business is stuck and show you the steps you can take to remove obstacles and roadblocks.
- The first “P” -- Priorities. This is the first part of your roadmap to reach the finish line. Your priorities define what your finish line looks like, where it is, and helps you build the GPS system to navigate there. Once you have figured out what and where your end goals are, you can get behind the steering wheel and drive.
What are the three action steps you need to take for each goal in order to reach them? Narrow your focus down to these 9 action steps, and work on them every day, every week. Make them your top priority. You need to make space in your life to execute the urgent and important tasks that will deliver the results you want. Ask yourself, do you have the time and focus to be innovative and work on income-generating activities? If this area is a challenge for you, work with someone like Robynne Davis to help you develop a business strategy.
- Which takes us to the second “P” – what’s on your plate? This is the second part of your roadmap. To power through all the obstacles and roadblocks, you need to honestly identify the non-productive activities and commitments that are time-wasters or total distractions to the point that you will never get to the finish line. How many of you are feeling that you don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything that you think you need to do? Do you have enough time to take care of you? One of my favorite sayings from the eWomenNetwork conference is “Do it, ditch it, or delegate it.” Sure, we all have tasks that we don’t like to do and we end up avoiding doing them. Also be honest and ask yourself what is on your plate that doesn’t belong to you, but you are doing anyways. Enabling other people by taking care of their problems may not be helping them in the long run and takes its toll on you. Take it from me – I spent two years helping a business partner build her dream that wasn’t mine, and she never learned to step up and take charge of her dream. I lost two years of precious time and resources that could have been devoted to my own dream. It’s like what the airline attendant tells you at the beginning of your flight, “In case of emergency, put on your own air mask first before helping other people.” You want to feel good about the quality time you have for yourself, your friends and family outside of your business.
- The third “P” stands for People. You need to get the right team in place to grow and play at the level you want in your life. Now is the perfect moment for you to look at the people in your life. What role will they play in the next stage of your business? What do you want from them? And what do they want from you? Pay attention to the people you surround yourself with – the smarter, the better. Go to the top.
Ask yourself, do you have the right people in place to free yourself to do only the things that you can do, the stuff that makes a real difference? Look at your pit crew – who is missing, or no longer a good fit for you and your mission? It’s ok to let go of the people who are no longer a good fit for you and your mission. Bless them, say thank you, and give yourself permission to make changes in your lineup. It could be finding a new mentor, collaborator, new networking groups or communities. List three action steps you can take to help you build your dream team.
- The fourth “P” is your products or services. Think of these as the gasoline in your fuel tank. Where do your product or service offerings connect with what your customers want and need? Are your offerings high-octane booster rocket fuel that will power your sales, or low-grade, watered-down stuff that nobody wants or needs, and will fizzle out half-way through the race? Your task with this “P” is to get clear on your products and services, build your list of ideal customers/prospects, and fill your pipeline so you have the power to cross the finish line. Identify three areas where you have gaps in what you offer, or you need to improve to build your product and services power. Learn to have compassion for your customers and kill the stuff that isn’t working for you or them. Fire the customers who are draining you and your business, and not helping you grow in a good way. Here’s where I want you to list three action steps you can take to innovate better market offerings or build a better customer base.
- The fifth “P” stands for processes. Many of us entrepreneurs have excellent fire-fighting skills, and precious few processes or systems to prevent the fires in the first place. We find ourselves desperate for help but find that it’s often easier to do almost everything ourselves than stop and try to explain or train someone to take care of this for you. This creates a business that is not scalable, repeatable and in the long run, not sustainable. Going back to “do it, ditch it, or delegate it,” these are the delegate or automate steps that we need to take to build momentum. Find some trustworthy minions. Build processes to streamline how you do things. I myself have been wrestling with finding the right set of entrepreneur tools to reduce the amount of time I spend doing admin tasks that are not the best use of my time. Book some time with Joan or Robynne to review and analyze what business processes or systems are really working for you, identify what’s not, and then fix them. Are there three action steps you can take to streamline how you do things more efficiently that will also make you a happier camper?
- The final “P” is performance. Are you talking to your customers to find out how well you are doing by them? Have you done a survey lately to find out what they think about you and your business? To me, a great business is one that stays connected to and in touch with their customers. How can you make your customer’s day, so that they truly appreciate you and what you have to offer? If you have gaps or problems, what can you do to remedy them?
In the end, it’s all about delivering on what you promise. If you say that you want to be a successful business, and you now know what exactly you need to do to make it happen, how willing are you to commit to doing this in the next month, or the next year? Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on how well you are executing each of these six principles. If you have areas that you rank 5 or lower, make it a priority to build these areas up through the action steps you wrote down. Put these action steps in your daily or weekly planner, so they get the love and attention from you that they deserve. In as little as a month, you will see momentum and break-through that will help speed you to the winner’s circle by the end of the year and set you up for a successful 2019.