In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on October 27, 2010, Jane Fonda astutely said, “Wisdom is knowing what you don’t need anymore.” So how many pairs of “life’s leg warmers” are you holding on to since the 80s, 90s, last year, or yesterday? Do yourself a favor and start clearing out the clutter! Whether you are clearing out personal or professional clutter, they go hand-in-hand. And whether it’s things, people or emotions, we are approaching that time of year where we get that fresh shot at reinventing ourselves—to build on what worked and to walk away from what no longer serves a purpose.
Letting go of anything or anyone can be liberating yet filled with apprehension and anxiety. You don’t have to rip off the band-aid and do it all at one time. Baby steps work just as well as long as you keep to a reasonable timeframe. Whatever you consider the “monkey on your back,” just know that you’re better off in the long run by letting it go and taking some new risks…and don’t even think about looking back! Give yourself the breathing room to be open to new opportunities, experiences and people.
On the business front…
Strategy: Yes, our clients are our bread and butter. However, stop and take inventory of the ones that make you want to get up in the morning and the ones that keep you up at night. Are you going after the book of business that’s right for you? Take some time to rethink your strategy and go after clients that allow you to thrive and to whom you can provide the most value (and who appreciate your talents and pay for them!). If your business strategy is just one of your several pairs of “leg warmers,” it’s time to revisit, revise and re-launch. And don‘t forget to recycle your old plan to make room for a new and improved strategy that will keep you energized!
Time Management: As a solo entrepreneur, I find myself toggling between prospecting for new business, meeting with clients, administrative responsibilities, networking, planning, strategizing, and, oh, I almost forgot…actually doing the work! Figure out what is sucking up your time preventing you from being productive and profitable. Find a way to rework your ratio of administrative and billable activities that will allow you to stay focused on your strategy. Don’t burn out on the tedium when you should be energized from all that you enjoy about your work. Focus on your services that bring in the right clients who are most profitable. It’s perfectly acceptable to walk away from niche or low interest services that offer little return.
Value Proposition: What are you really offering your clients? What solutions are you selling? What makes you different than your competition? Evaluate how your services are packaged for your specific audiences. Looking at your company from your clients’ eyes will give you perspective on what’s important to them. Use lingo with which they identify. Many of my medical group clients, assume “expensive advertising” when they hear the term “marketing.” When asked “how do you market your practice?” the blank haze comes over and I re-phrase the question with “what do you do to bring in new patients?” or “how do you educate current or new patients about your services?” Build it and they will come is never an effective strategy, so be open to new ways of positioning your services and reinvent what makes you unique.
Business Goals: Goals, like those leg warmers and jelly shoes, go out of style. So toss them away (goals and jelly shoes) and bring your goals up-to-date. Make them realistic and achievable yet ambitious enough to stay motivated. A dear friend and business coach, Marcie Stern of Vocal Consulting, tells me that according to Harvard Business School Research, your business can earn 10 times more by writing down your goals. You don’t need more than three to five goals to stay on track and move your business to the next level. It’s how you achieve those goals that matters most in terms of time, expense and energy. If you find mid-year that there hasn’t been a payoff for your efforts, evaluate the goal itself and the ways by which you attempted to get there, and re-direct if necessary. Business plans are fluid with the ever-changing marketplace but keep the long term front and center.
Expand Your Network and Knowledge: The world of business is changing faster than ever. Take a deep look into your current network and ask yourself, “Am I surrounded by the right people?” We associate with different people for different reasons. If those in your network are enhancing your professional circle, and exposing you to new opportunities and new ways of thinking, keep in contact on a regular basis. Then, look for venues in which you can expand your circle with connections that complement your professional life in the same fashion. Keep connections that challenge you, and help morph you into the “rock star” of your business and not just the “groupie.”
Take a class, attend a seminar, learn a new skill or volunteer for a favorite cause. Ask yourself, “How do I want people to think about me?” Now is the time to work on your personal brand, push yourself and be fabulous by staying open to new experiences and people. Get out of your comfort zone and move away from the proverbial “because I’ve always done it this way.”
Take this time of thanks, forgiveness and renewal to weed out those leg warmers, jelly shoes and banana clips (literally and figuratively) that no longer have purpose and make room for all that is fabulous yet to come. Purging what weighs you down and keeps you up at night is very cathartic.
So lighten the load, baby, and get on with your happy, successful life!
Thanksgiving blessings to all of you!