Confronting the Brutal Facts
I’ve been inspired to write this post by a couple of my recent coaching clients. Both come from different backgrounds, they work in very different fields, but they both have the same problem in common: their businesses – and lives as they know it – are in severe jeopardy, for failure to confront some very brutal facts.
Both clients are owner-operators. They, like many of the people reading this, are entrepreneur specialists – some of the 25-30% of people identified by Richard Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad) who work for themselves. They sell their time, their expertise for money, and have the potential to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds every year. It simply depends on how much they can – and are willing – to work.
Both clients are also the main breadwinners in their family. They’ve had successful careers to date and are good at what they do. They also face the daily pressure of maintaining that success in order to keep up their and their families’ lifestyles.
You may see yourself in this description – and if you do, please read on. Here follows a lesson that could save your business one day.
As we know, business is cyclical, and with the inevitability of riding the waves of success as an owner-operator, so too comes the inevitability of that cycle one day coming to an end. Maybe your product or service is out of date, maybe your clients aren’t coming from the same pool anymore. Whatever it is, there will be a time when your current model simply isn’t as profitable as it was.
There are a couple of things you can do here. You can confront the brutal facts that your business is spiralling, or you can tell yourself it isn’t happening, hope better days are on the horizon, and sit back as things get worse and worse.
So let me introduce you to those clients I mentioned:
Client A has enjoyed a very successful career in professional services. He’s worked in the City all his life and he’s a senior partner in his own firm. Throughout his career, he’s managed the portfolios of some key clients who have formed the main source of his impressive income.
However, those key clients have now had their day, and they don’t need the services of Client A any longer. He now finds himself in a position whereby the peers of his key clients are also older and his client stream has dried up. What’s more, the advent of technology and artificial intelligence has changed the face of his field – yet he has failed to keep up with the times. He’s standing on that burning platform, that melting iceberg.
The problem is, Client A has also been in denial for a very long time. He’s chosen to put his head in the sand while his field has moved into the 21st century. He’s failed to diversify his client pool, despite knowing that one day, his current clients would move on and leave him high and dry. He’s always held the false belief that everything would come good in the end – Margaret Heffernen’s so-called ‘Willful Blindness’.
So instead of confronting the fact that the problem is in his business, he’s changed his life to accommodate his shortfall in income. He began by selling his shares, re-investing the money into the business. A good move you may think – but throwing money at the business only works if it instigates much-needed fundamental change! He’s now at a point where that money is gone, and there’s no more ‘family silver’ to sell off. He’s in serious jeopardy of losing everything.
Another massive problem is that he’s dropped his prices to a level where now he can never get them back to where he was. Out of desperation, he’s destroyed his value in the market, which will have permanent consequences.
Client B is in a very similar position to Client A, in that she has ridden high on a successful business that now is in trouble for failing to move with the times. And, like Client A, her head has been too far in the sand to do something about it before now.
Client B is a media personality who has made a successful career from television deals, brand endorsements and media appearances. She’s made a lot of money in the past from her work, but now finds herself in a very different industry than the one she entered several decades ago. It’s more diverse, it’s more forward-thinking, and she’s struggling to get herself heard in an increasingly crowded market place.
Like Client A, Client B is just a little too aloof, a little too proud to accept that the problem is with her business, as opposed to the market. And whereas many owner-operators avoid this situation by listening to the advice of others who can see it approaching a mile off, both have avoided peer group mentoring – as they simply think they’re too good for it.
Here lies a lesson. We’re often told to be careful how we treat people on the way up, as we never know who we might meet on the way down. Remember those words and be gracious in all you do, however successful you may be at the time. If you act as if you know everything already, nobody’s going to tell you when they think you need help.
Now, you might have recognised yourself at the beginning of this piece, but not in these clients. Or, you may have read about my clients and know I might as well be talking about you. Regardless, what’s most important is what you can do about it.
Don’t be an ostrich
Check in with yourself and check in with your industry. If there are technological advancements, you need to be on top of them. And don’t pretend everything will go back to how it was twenty years ago. It won’t!
If you’re in the Doldrums, you need to get out quickly. So the sooner you wake up, the better!
Get out there
Business is about people, and when you interact with them, you leave a lasting impression. The power of networking is huge, so if you can leave someone feeling good about themselves, they’ll recommend you to others. That’s how you avoid client droughts.
Surround yourself with people who can tell you the truth
You need to hear the unvarnished truth – warts and all. So, show some humility – there’s absolutely no shame in telling those you trust that you’re at rock bottom. They may be the ones who will help raise you up again.
Take on new learning
I used to just be a speaker, but today, I’m a speaker, a coach, and have post-graduate qualifications besides. Add more strings to your bow and you open up more revenue streams! Adaptation is the key.
Or, if the times have moved on but you haven’t kept up, get yourself up to speed. Book yourself on some social media courses, or find out how content marketing can change your business.
Do something every year that scares you a bit
Say ‘yes’ to things you’d usually say ‘no’ to. Or, start saying ‘no’ to the things you usually do! Try new things – you’ll learn a lot more about yourself in the process. And who knows? You may open doors you never knew were there!
When you’re making money, invest
If you’re an owner-operator who can only earn when you give your time, you need other ways of making your money work for you. So when you’re in a position to invest, do it! Stocks, property, whatever it is, find other alternatives to help make money while you sleep.
Finally, if you too are at rock bottom, now is the time to act.
- Don’t leave it – the situation will only get worse.
- You need to take drastic action, and there’s no time like the present.
- You’ve got to begin by speaking to somebody – confront the brutal facts.
But know, also, that this too will pass. You just have to take those first few steps.