I've been thinking a lot lately about how to make business changes – how to refresh or turn your business toward something new. We all have to do that now and again – either the market demands it or we change and grow – our interests become different. This is something that's a fairly common conversation with my clients who have been in business for a while. It isn't that they have not been successful – they have been very successful. But they are smart enough to realize that either their market has changed, or they have changed. Sometimes, both happen at the same time. It's time to make business changes.
I call this “turning your ship.” You have a big ship – a business you've grown that has steam behind it, and lots of moving parts. You don't want to abandon or wreck your ship, but you do want to chart a course for a new direction.
This means that some of the things you used to do in your business are things you will start saying no to. Sometimes you have to say no to a group or a client who you have said yes to many times before. That creates anxiety. What I see is that some of my clients get stuck making business changes because they don't want to say no to people or events they have been saying yes to. They are worried about burning bridges. We've all been taught never to burn a bridge, right?
When you start turning your business ship toward a new course you DO burn some bridges. Or, perhaps better put, you consciously decide not to walk over certain bridges that you have walked before. You can do it with grace and compassion, and it's a good idea to do that, always. Sometimes the builder of that bridge that you decide not
to walk over will get hurt or mad about it, and decide to put up a gate to make sure you never get the chance to walk it again. That's their issue, not yours. You say no with grace and compassion. What they do after you have said no is not your business.
If you build a business and make your decisions based on what is going to cause others to like you rather than what is good for your life and your business you will not build the business you want. You will build a business that someone else wants for you. You will dilute your energy and your efforts away from the life and business you envision and into a life and business that pleases others but not yourself.
Inherently, business is about saying no to many things and yes to a few things – those things that help you get to your pre-determined lifestyle and business goals. EVERY decision can be (and should be) measured by those yardsticks.
Let's say that you have two yardsticks (some people might call these values). Maybe one is to have a personal or family life that is what you want. Maybe a second yardstick is to run a business that gives you the income you wish to have each year. When a business opportunity comes your way, even if it is one you've done before with great success, if it doesn't meet up to these two yardsticks it's time to say no. The fewer exceptions you make to your yardsticks the faster you'll be able to turn your ship toward the new business (or life) you want.
Business is not about pleasing people. There's no reason to be ugly or rude, but there's no reason to sacrifice yourself, either, wasting your precious time and business resources doing something that no longer fits.
Of course, we always want to be gracious and compassionate and give our reasons for saying no. Let's say that you have been a free speaker for a conference for many years – you go and speak there at your own expense. Let's say that this is something that no longer fits into where you want your business to be – the audience is no longer your target market, or perhaps the audience has changed, or the group has gotten too small to be worth your traveling there. Here's what you can say:
- No, I'm sorry but I've gotten so busy with my business that I've had to adopt a policy not to speak for free and in addition pay my own expenses. It just doesn't work for me now. I'm sure you can understand that.
- I'm sorry….perhaps next time.
- I no longer speak for free, I have too many other demands on my time. I've enjoyed speaking for you, but I just have to say no this time.
The decisions that seem small to you are actually much larger. Every decision is about you and your life. That's how you turn your ship toward new waters. It's how your business changes.
Want to read more about making decisions according to your own values? Here's one of my blog posts about how rock star Keith Urban changed. And here's what I have to say about giving yourself the “one best thing.”
I'm doing a workshop in Atlanta on February 6 all about charting your course in business. To get all the details about it, click this link.