Sane and Sustainable Strategy
Too many solo business owners, who offer transformation through their services, have no clear or specific strategy for growing their businesses.
Or they’ve taken on a strategy that isn’t working for them that is leaving them tired, overwhelmed, and cranky.
To use our time and resources effectively, we need to have a clear strategy for how we will grow and develop our work.
We need to have the courage to shape the strategy around who we are, what we are trying to accomplish, and how we best function. This often means dropping blueprints and letting go of what we’ve been conditioned to believe is the right way to grow our businesses.
The goal is to find the way of moving forward that produces the business results we want without draining our spirits or compromising our souls.
This the is the work that saves you work in the long run. That saves you trial and error, and time spent doing things that don’t help you or that drain you.
What is Strategy?
We may think business strategy is complicated.
Certainly, marketing copy for business coaching and training programs often suggests it’s “secret” and that there are “magic formulas” that make a business grow.
Many business trainings are founded on teaching a “blueprint” for business growth.
Leverage. Moving away from one on one work. Creating multiple income streams at different price points with different levels of access.
VIP offerings. Charge high rates with expectation of high returns.
Build your list.
Speak. Blog. Do live video.
Become a social media darling.
Nothing wrong with any of these.
But they may or may not be right for you.
And the rightness depends on several things:
Who you are, what wants to come through you.
How you most want to work and live.
The time and energy you have available for outreach.
What your strengths are.
How you connect best.
Strategy is the WHY behind what you choose for both your business model and your marketing.
With good strategy, there is a clear reason you are choosing what you are choosing.
What isn’t Strategy?
Strategy isn’t following someone else’s blueprint. Unless you’ve thought it through carefully and decided it’s the right fit for you.
Strategy isn’t doing what you learned in a training was the “best” way to grow your business. Unless you’ve thought it through carefully and decided it’s the right fit for you.
Strategy isn’t winging it day to day. Unless that’s working for you and producing the results you want. Even though that’s where we end up sometimes when we know what we DON’T want to do but don’t yet have clarity on what we DO want to do.
The Three Central Questions of Strategy
Business strategy might seem complicated, but the way I see it, it boils down to three basic things:
What do I really want?
How do I think I can get what I want?
(And once you’ve got the ball rolling: How is this working for me?)
Fuzzy answers to these questions leads to fuzzy strategy which leads to fuzzy outcomes.
What do you really want?
We have an odd relationship to wanting.
We don’t always know what we want. We don’t always tell the truth to ourselves about what we want. We confuse what-we-think-we-need-to-do with what we want.
Most of us aren’t trained or encouraged to identify what we want and to speak it out loud.
We get belittled or made fun of. Or we grew up with parents trying to protect us and discourage us from wanting things they didn’t believe we could have.
We don’t dig deep enough.
“I want more clients.” “Why? What do you believe that would create for you?” “More confidence.” “Ah, and what would having more confidence do?” “It would help me reach out and show up in the world.” “Ah, and what would that create?” “I’d feel more on purpose.”
So maybe what you want is to feel on purpose. And more clients may or may not be the best way to get it.
Once we know what we want our efforts to create, we can start to ask ourselves How.
HOW am I going to get that?
What actions or efforts are most going to bring that into your life?
Good strategy usually means considering a number of options, and then deciding which is the best fit, which makes more sense.
And drilling it down further.
“What do you want?”
“More of a sense of purpose.”
“How do you think you’ll get that?” “Grow my business.”
“How are you going to do that?” “Use social media more.”
“How are you going to do that?” “Ummmmmm. Post daily on FB?”
“How are you going to do that?”
“Post a picture of my cat along with a message relating to my business.”
And so it goes.
What I mostly see is copycat strategy. Doing something someone told you was a good idea without considering if it’s a good idea for you (Grow your list? Publish a weekly newsletter? Do video? Host live events?). Assuming that’s the right way or the best way to get what you want.
What I see a lot of is vague strategy. “I’m going to use social media more effectively.” But not drilling it down to what you’ll share, when you’ll share, and what you hope will be the response.
Which then leads to not exactly executing enough of anything to know if it will work or not.
And our third question: “How is that working?”
What’s in Your Strategy? Specificity.
Hint: If you worked on Sacred Yearning in the Potent Expression call, see if you can find your notes.
Sacred Yearning is acknowledging and naming the big desire we have to do, be, feel, and express more in this lifetime.
You can and most likely do have more than one Sacred Yearning.
“I want life to be easier.”
“I want a greater sense of purpose and meaning.”
“I am yearning for a sense of growth and expansion.”
“I want to feel more nourished and cared for.”
What are you hungry for? What are you hoping to feel and experience in this lifetime?
Now, what BUSINESS outcome might come out of that Yearning?
Now, see if you can translate your larger yearning into a business outcome that you hope or believe might support you meeting that yearning.
Common Outcomes we want in business:
Better Client Results
Less Busy Work
More Free Time
In all likelihood, you want more than one. For now though, pick one that has some life and energy to it.
You might also have a more specific outcome based on your business.
“I want to enroll 20 people in my next workshop.”
“I want six new clients.”
Specific is good!
Ask HOW Five Times
Ok, look at your desired outcome. Round One: HOW are you going to create that? What specifically can you do to help make that happen. There will likely be more than one way but pick one to start. (You can repeat this process with the other ideas.)
For example, if you want more visibility, you might choose from:
Attend live events
Post more on social media
Post more effectively on social media
Post ads on social media
Post live video on social media
Grow your email list
Get booked as a speaker
Do PR to get media attention on your work.
In real life, you’ll probably use more than one approach. But for now pick one.
Round Two: HOW are you going to do THAT?
Let’s say you choose “Get booked as a speaker.” You might then say: “I am going to look up all the groups in my area that hold events, find out how they book and when they book and offer myself as a speaker.”
Round Three: HOW are you going to do that?
“I am going to identify groups that serve women in business. I will attend their meetings to see if it’s a good fit. While there, I will ask about who books speakers.”
Round Four: Ok, HOW are you going to do that?
“I am going to look at the listings in our local paper to start.”
Round Five: Ok, HOW are you going to do that?
“Tomorrow, I will get the paper, read through it, and enter all upcoming events in my calendar. I will repeat that every Tuesday until I see that the schedule is recurring.”
Yes, at some point it will get silly! The point though is to keep challenging yourself to get more and more specific about HOW (and to some degree WHEN and WHERE) you will take action.
You can repeat this process for EACH business outcome you want to create, and EACH main way you see you can create it.
What Makes Your Strategy Sane and Sustainable
That’s how we start to create our Business and Marketing Strategy.
But we haven’t really addressed sane and sustainable.
Sane means we’ve chosen a path forward that allows us to maintain a sense of balance and ease in our lives. Sane means we’ve carefully chosen what to do and what NOT to do so that we aren’t constantly frustrating ourselves, beating ourselves up, or wondering what is wrong with us because we are struggling to execute something we thought would be easier.
Sane means we’ve designated a path for growth and forward movement that allows us to have the life we want. That gives us time for family, for partners, for friends. For personal and spiritual growth. For peaceful moments. For growing a garden. Or riding horses. For walking in the woods, or doing laps at the pool. For vacations. For sick days.
Sustainable means the level and pace of what we are taking on is something we can maintain over time without harm to our bodies, our souls, our minds, or our spirits.
Sustainable means we can keep at it over weeks, months, and years as we gradually build and strengthen and refine the work we bring the world.
Creating a business that allows you to do your best, richest, most potent work in the world takes time to build.
As human beings, we tend to be poor at estimating what we can do in a given time frame.
Life-centered over Revenue-centered
The first key to having a sane and sustainable strategy for your business is to make it a life-centered strategy more than a revenue-centered strategy.
That does NOT mean that you don’t think about revenue, or that INCREASING revenue might not be the focus of the strategy.
It means you look FIRST at the LIFE you want, before you consider the BUSINESS MODEL or the REVENUE you want.
One of the lies that has been peddled in the coaching/online business world that last seven or eight years is the notion of building a “lifestyle” business. (I hate that phrase by the way.)
The idea is pushed that if you follow Person X’s super duper secret business-building blueprint, that you will make SO MUCH MONEY that you can then live the lifestyle you desire. Sometimes it’s built in that THEIR model is one that is DESIGNED to give you lots of free time. By the way, you know that you are being sold on a “lifestyle” business when the person selling tells you all about how much free time they have, how much time they spend with their kids, how they go walking on the beach, how it all the work of their business gets done in four hours a day. And you can have this too!
(Many of the women I know of who grew seven-figure businesses worked their asses off, put in long hours, spent most of their revenue on the team they needed to run the business, spent less time with family, and developed stress-related health issues. So, while not impossible to create a really lucrative business that doesn’t require your constant presence, it’s not easy, it’s not common, and in many cases, you’re being SOLD a false narrative of what is easily achievable. It’s a deliberate and intention strategy to trigger your envy and desire for the image they are painting.)
The Business that Serves Your Life
You want to build a business that serves the life you want to have.
Which means you need to get clear what the life is that you want to have.
Which means you are going to bump up against all the stories and beliefs and assumptions you have about what is possible for you in this life.
We create businesses that don’t serve our lives when we think what we want isn’t possible. When we rush to quick answers about how we are going to proceed.
Your strategy will more likely be sane and sustainable if it’s aligned with who you are at your essence.
Anything that shines a light on who you are and gives you clues about what kind of business, and what kind of business growth strategy will work for you is highly valuable.
My two favorite tools: Scientific Hand Analysis and Human Design.
Hand Analysis looks at the patterning in your fingerprints, and gives you your Life School, Life Purpose, and Life Lesson.
Human Design gives you your Type and Authority.
Both can provide useful clues about what kind of business will suit you, and how you will best succeed developing that business.
Your Blue Sky/Magic Wand Vision
When I do Path work with clients, one of the exercises we do together is to construct a Blue Sky/Magic Wand Vision.
To throw away the constraints, for a moment. To throw away the old stories, for a moment.
To go into a territory where anything might be possible.
We want our actions to lead us in this direction. Not to some other destination.
So we can explore what is desirable.
So imagine for a moment you have a magic wand.
You can now create any life you desire.
Imagine a world where there are no constraints on who can be, what you can do, how you can prosper. (Laws of the physical world still apply. Gravity. Time-space continuum. Etc.)
In this life, you will receive EQUAL AND ABUNDANT compensation no matter which life path you choose. No matter what work you choose. So you can choose based on DESIRE and not needs. So being an author pays as much as being a consultant. Being an artist brings in as much as being a stockbroker.
This frees you to think about HOW you mot want to exchange for life energy for compensation in this world.
Let’s ask some questions about this world:
How do you most want to exchange your life energy, your insight, your creativity with other humans? What forms of exchange are most interesting, exciting, and pleasurable?
What is important to have in your life above and beyond work?
How would you use your time? How much time do you use for work? How much for other things – learning, rest, spiritual practice, play?
What is your preferred rhythm for your day, your week, your month, your year?
When I work with clients, I create a mind map of this world, with details about forms of work, rhythm and schedule, and other life elements.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to pursue this vision of your work and life?
Blue Sky Meet Real Life Constraints
When something we are doing isn’t working, it’s often that we are not telling ourselves the truth somewhere. We are investing in a lie, in an assumption about what is true that isn’t. If we can spot the lie, we can change the situation.
I suggest that you practice turning towards your constraints, grappling with them more, and letting them fuel your creativity. Like a designer, the more you work with these constraints, the more likely you’ll create a strategy that works for you.
What constraints do you have on your time? On the number of hours to work on your business.
What constraints do you have on your energy? Health condition. Depleted. Grieving.
What constraints do you have on resources: money, space, support?
Any other obligations or even true desires on your plate that affect what you can devote to your business?
What is your need for income from your business? Or from new growth or directions in your business?
Now filter your Blue Sky Vision through these constraints. A picture should start to emerge. What business outcomes might be most important to develop first. What kinds of outreach you can do with your time and energy.
The ideal is to start to take things OFF the table, to focus more clearly on a few, carefully chosen efforts rather than feeling torn and pulled in too many directions.
The Work that Saves You Work
If this is new, it may feel like a lot of work. But I do believe this is the work that saves you work. Willing and able to ask these questions, work with someone who will ask you these questions.
If you can come up with strategy that is wisely designed for constraints, moves you to what you desire, saves you from busy work, don’t spend six months running yourself ragged.
Something wants to be spoken through us, a sane and sustainable strategy increases the odds we will be successful bringing that to the world. We can see a way to sustain, year after year, as the work grows and develops.
How Can You Get Help with Your Strategy
I work with clients on strategy one-on-one, in my Words on Fire, and to a lesser degree, in the Magnify Your Message Action Circle.
More Calls on the Path of Potent Expression
Potent Expression: How to Make Your Voice Ring Clear and True
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. In a noisy world, how do we make our voices heard? By finding our Potent Expression, that place we write and speak from that emanates the depth and power of who we are. By crafting signature language that holds our heart beat. In this first call, we look at what Potent Expression is and isn’t, why it matters, and how potent your current writing is
The Building Blocks of Potent Expression: Creating Your Book of Language
There is an art to finding the right words to transmit the beauty, power, and magic of what you offer. In this call, we’ll go deeper into the building blocks of Potent Expression and look at how creating a “Book of Language” gives you more ease and power when it’s time to express who you are and what you do to the world. On this call, we look at how words create worlds, and why this matters if you offer transformation, using sensory language to build the world you invite people into, and the Five Building Blocks of Potent Expression
Straightforward Marketing: Replacing Hype with Expressive Power
Who wants to be yanking their audience’s chain and pulling tricks and hacks to get them to buy from you? It is truly possible to market effectively being true to yourself, true to your work, and true to your audience. What a relief! When your marketing is straight-forward, you neither hide the fact that you are in business and want people to pay you money, nor do you pull any games in inviting people to work with you.
Sufficient Visibility: Using Vulnerable Exposure to Amplify Your Influence
There’s no avoiding visibility if you want to bring people to your beautiful and wonderful work. Your goal is to figure out what your right level of visibility is, and to find your just-right venues that allow you to be seen, heard, and felt as the one-of-a-kind original that you are.
Learn more at http://isabelparlett.com/firebrand-teleclasses.