This week I was asked to look at the business activities of someone who has been working to establish her own business but has felt a lack of confidence in knowing which direction to go in. This woman sees herself as being “slapped down” by the past few years. In short order she lost a good job, got into financial difficulties, felt unsure of what to do next, tried a few ideas out, got sidetracked in helping others with their work, and eventually went from a professional service provider to cleaning houses, just to bring any type of money in the door. She saw herself as sadly lacking and unable to recover from the loss of her professional job. She had become embarrassed and ashamed of her situation.
When I read what this person had done from the time she lost her job until today, I saw an entirely different story. I saw someone who had a great work history and professional credentials, an obvious ability to form solid relationships with customers, a hard worker who didn't give up but was willing to clean houses rather than sit home and whine, and a person who had stopped what she was doing to help another business owner (she actually created a website for the person) not once but twice. Not only that, she had at least two solid, good ideas for her own business and had gone out and gotten clients in one of them. She also had good support from a spouse.
Here are the five things I recommended she focus on.
- She had remained busy and active ever since she lost her job, something many people would not do. She obviously has a great work ethic, but she didn't use this to bolster her self-esteem.
- She was very successful in her job, which was demanding and required her to build solid relationships with customers, so her people skills are fabulous.
- Even with tentative efforts to start a business, she was able to bring a few customers in the door.
- She was full of good ideas, but she had allowed circumstances and other people's needs to pull her focus away from actually sitting down and doing a plan for her business, sticking to it faithfully for six months, full time, and seeing what happened.
- She was underselling herself, offering too much for free “to get started” and worrying too much about losing customers who weren't paying her for the value of her work to begin with (which was her fault, for not setting and sticking to her fees.)
It's very easy when you are alone and trying to begin a business to lose confidence and focus. Your perspective can sink to the lowest, despite facts to the contrary. No one (other than her spouse) had said to her “you can do this, and you've got solid, good ideas.” She needed to hear that from an “outsider” who could help her re-focus and set out a step-by-step plan. She also needed to hear that it was up to her to stop the self-sabotaging thoughts, stop giving her time away to friends who needed it, and stop under-pricing her work.
Losing her job had totally thrown a professional, self-confident woman into a constant self-doubter who was afraid to step out. Yet she had a great business idea and clients coming her way, even with her half-hearted efforts. As we talked, this person said to me, “This is exactly what I've needed to hear. I even know some of this myself, I just have lost my hope.” A few days later she commented “I'm still so high with hope after our talk.”
Sometimes just having a sounding board is what small business owners need – someone to help keep their perspective and mindset. I offer “One and Done” time for exactly these types of situations. This woman can't afford and doesn't need to work with me on an ongoing basis right now. But what she gained in our time was exactly what she did need to get her back on track. When your self-confidence is low and your perspective foggy, consider a “One and Done.” You can get all the details here.