Change. It can sneak up on us, or it can be warmly anticipated. It can be exciting or catch us completely off guard.
We all handle it differently.
There have been times when I’m so out of my comfort zone, or I want the opportunity so intensely, I jump in headfirst. Sometimes this is a winning strategy. I’ve met amazing people, landed in obscure cities in far flung countries on a whim or been absolutely pinching myself about a new business deal unfolding.
At other times it’s a bit of a disaster.
The warning signals firing beforehand were for a reason.
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway is great advice, to a point.
Was it worth being so rash and jumping in before nerves or anxiety get the better of me?
I always learn something, and new opportunities unfold in the wake of the disaster, like I’ve crashed through the wrong door, but a new door down a mysterious and exciting new hallway opens up.
The thing is, waiting and assessing for too long can also produce haphazard results.
You’ve weighed up all of the options, played out every scenario and convinced yourself of outcome. This can go wildly wrong too.
Perhaps these are the hallmarks of an anxious brain, or of an overthinker. I’ll own it.
So, what’s the solution?
While my approach to handling change and staring down big opportunities may be a bit outlandish at times, and something I’m questioning now I’m in my 40s, some serious Bridget Jones vibes here. As a professional and business owner and also a mother of 3, I’m now tasked with guiding many others through change.
What have I learnt?
Change takes time
I’ve seen tears, been urged ‘it must be done by Christmas’, and felt the panic of small business owners wanting swift change. I’ve been there on many occasions myself. The problems feel huge. You feel everyone else is succeeding except for you, and you wonder if you should go and get a ‘real job’. By hiring a marketing person, you want results, and that is understandable.
But, change takes time and not everything can be tackled at once.
I’ve felt the urgency and through compassion and enthusiasm to solve their problem, I’ve jumped in with gusto, written copy, worked through holidays and burnt myself to a crisp.
It’s not the answer.
Firstly, while cashflow problems and yearning for a stronger brand image are very real, change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, planning and time.
I do believe to some extent my jump in headfirst approach is good. I heard recently of a woman who went skydiving to break through the mental barriers of showing up as herself on social media. Whatever it takes, again to a point.
As a Communications Manager, working on largescale corporate change programs with Sydney Trains and at Accenture Microsoft Partner Consultancy Avanade, I saw different types of people.
There were the jump in all guns blazing folks like me.
But mostly, corporate folks wanted safety and comfort.
There is a paycheque at stake and a corporate reputation.
The 9 to 5 is grounding, repetitive and steeped in process, convention and habits. It’s not a place for jump in headfirst folks. For me it took leaving the corporate world to really take big chances. To stare the fear of failure in the face. To dive in with everything I had.
For largescale projects there is a process to change, and I’ve worked closely with Change Managers to follow this.
- There are business goals to achieve
- Consultations happen with team leaders.
- Leaders develop strategies to broach the change with their teams
- Employees are educated and informed about why the changes are taking place
- The changes are implemented over time
- Changes are embedded and reinforced – they become the new status quo
Communications Plans are developed, hashed and rehashed. Comms are written, rewritten, scrutinised and eventually delivered to leaders to cascade, or with specific action points for teams.
It takes a whole team.
The final product is often created with various consultation and carefully considered outcomes in mind.
Be patient with yourself as a small business owner
As a solo or small business owner, we can be nimbler, hire experts, make changes quickly, outsource or try to do it all ourselves. We can create magic and amazing outcomes!
It’s also easy to think we can make it all happen in a nanosecond if we hire the right person or purchase the right software, system or take a course.
So it’s super frustrating a few months in when the problems have barely shifted, and your bank account is in the red.
Change still takes time.
What is the best way of approaching change?
Number one it’s taking a step away from your business. A weekend away, long walks, meditation. You need to remember why you started your venture in the first place.
Once you’ve honed in on your why – it’s about intuition.
What do you really want?
Then it’s all about the ‘Ps’:
Getting your ducks in a row
I’m no stranger to feeling overwhelmed and discombobulated as a new business owner. You immediately need to be the Account Manager, implementer, Finance Manager, IT support and admin person, perhaps also the caterer and cleaner. It’s a bit insane when you’ve come from the corporate world.
After crazy long days, a sore neck and numerous headaches I found my groove.
From a marketing standpoint, the best advice I can offer is to articulate what you stand for and your positioning in the market. It’s one of the best moves you can make. It will form the foundation of all you do. You won’t get it 100% right at first, but it will help you to build the foundation.
Develop one piece of branding you love that you can build from.
For me it was a logo.
For you it may be a colour palette, look and feel or a great branding photo.
You’ll also need to get really clear on your ideal client, so you can identify the audience you’d like to speak to.
Identify short and longer-term goals. Where do you want to be in 6 months, 2 years, 10 years?
Work out who you need to help you, depending on the area you need support with. I support clients with content marketing and PR. I currently have an Accountant, a VA and a Mentor. I also work closely with designers, strategists, Photographers and Stylists. I’ve also worked with business coaches a bookkeeper in the past.
Find someone outside your family or friendship group to keep you accountable, because developing new patterns and behaviours is challenging for everyone.
Remember change takes time
Be kind to yourself and remember you can’t change everything at once, or expect huge growth in the short term.
Big things are possible and very achievable.
If you can envision it, you can do it!