In today’s episode, Anna looks at what to do when, inevitably, things don’t quite go according to plan…
We’ve been looking recently at designing your business plan and validating your ideas before investing lots of time and money… But as powerful as this process can be, the truth is that even if we have a compelling idea and a robust business plan, and we’re taking action and doing all the right things – even then, what happens? We’re dealt at a curve ball. Something completely unexpected comes along and it can be incredibly frustrating, and we can feel it’s unfair – but it is what it is. The only constant is change – and it’s simply something we need to learn to deal with.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Hello, hello, and welcome back. Thank you as ever for listening. I hope you’re finding the latest episodes useful as you work through whatever questions and the specific situation that you’re in at the moment, and that we’re all in to some extent. But as somebody says, we’re not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm, so although the same things are happening in the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re being affected in the same way. So hopefully, again, the range of content I’m sharing at the moment is really helping you wherever you are in the process of setting up and growing and protecting, defending your business. But of course, as ever, you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions or on any social platform where you’re following me.
Now, we’ve been looking recently at planning and developing your business plan, validating and so on, and the truth is, of course, that there’s only so much planning we can do certainly from behind our computer, even if we go out in the real world and test things, and we’ve got this fantastic strategy and we’re getting on with it, but then as we’ve recently discovered, what happens? We’re dealt at a curve ball. Not sure of the baseball terminology exactly there, but someone throws something completely unexpected, very difficult to respond to and it can be incredibly frustrating and we can feel it’s unfair, but the reality is it is a reality. The only constant is change, or whatever that expression is, and so it’s something we need to learn to deal with. So I am a massive fan of visions and strategy and planning and setting up for success, but of course that will involve planning for the unplannable, so expecting the unexpected.
So that’s what I want to talk about today, a little bit about dealing with curve balls, and of course it’s going to be partly sort of mindset and staying focused and resilient and all those wonderful things, but also it will be to some extent making sure you’ve got the right business model in place in the first place, you’ve got the right mentorship, you’ve got the financial buffer and so on.
So it will be relevant also to go back to previous episodes that we’ve talked about at particular points. But anyway, we’re talking about dealing with curve balls, so of course we’re speaking quite generally now, but what could be a curve ball?
Well, given the current climate, for example, it could’ve been, and I’ve heard this from some clients, that you’ve opened a new physical location or an office just before this COVID-19 hit, which meant that you know, of course, you had to pull back, you couldn’t have your in-person events and workshops, whatever that was. Maybe you had lots of speaking engagements planned this year or, of course, from the personal side, because it’s also in your personal life and in everything else in your world, not just work and business and society, but maybe you’re having to home school your kids suddenly, right?
So that’s the most recent situation. Maybe it’s the external forces that are affecting again your offline business, for example, or it’s the personal situation of what that means for you and your family, or perhaps you had planned to travel with your business or you’d planned a business around travel, or maybe you had the vision that 2020 would be your year and you’re going to go full speed ahead with all these things and live your best life and all these wonderful things, and unfortunately these things happen and I think the first thing to do is to vent if we need to, right?
So talk to somebody, vent, express your frustration, tell everybody it’s unfair. Maybe not everybody, but tell yourself, you know, express that yes, it is unfair. “Aargh, I’m really angry, I’m frustrated, this sucks. I had this plan, I’d already done the due diligence, I had everything in place, I’ve been taking action and this just seems really like a slap in the face.” And that’s okay and I think it’s important to express that, to express our emotions and to get that out of our system first, because there’s no point in trying, and we looked at this in the survival model episode a few weeks back, there’s no point in trying to focus on solutions and so on when we just need to vent.
And we all know that situation. Usually the stereotypical sexist example is that women just wants to complain, just wants to express how frustrated we’re feeling and then the man will inevitably find a solution. I don’t think it’s always men and women in that direction, but when somebody just wants to go, “Oh, I’m so angry, this is so annoying,” you want the other person to say, “Oh, you poor thing. That’s so frustrating.” You don’t want them to go, “Oh, but have you tried this, have you tried that?” So if you’re in the venting stage, then by all means vent.
Let’s stay professional, so let’s not do it to our colleagues, publicly on social media. Of course being vulnerable and open about how we’re feeling is important, but I think we need to keep that a little bit in check so that we’re not going completely off-piste and sharing every rash emotion that we’re feeling. So choose people who you trust, express that at home, maybe some journaling, maybe some meditation, whatever you need to do to sort of… just get that out of your system and yes, express and recognise that this is really unfair, but suck it up and let’s, when we’re ready, move on and look for a solution.
Of course related to this is, and it’s a cliché, it’s a trendy word at the moment, but focusing on self-care.
So again, there’s no point in rushing into solutions and launching new products and pivoting and diversifying and all these things we’ve been looking at if you’re feeling exhausted and anxious, you’re not sleeping, you’re not eating, you’re eating too much or whatever, so focus on self-care, take care of yourself.
And yes, you know what, if a couple of weeks go by and you haven’t really done nothing about the business, it is going to survive. There’s nothing drastic that’s going to happen. We talk about those balls bouncing back, so in terms of resilience, if it’s a rubber ball, which most aspects of our business are, then a couple of days, a couple of weeks of little bit of benign neglect won’t kill you, but neglecting yourself and your family and your health certainly may kill you, so that’s incredibly important.
So take care of yourself, have a bath, talk to a therapist if needed, get the professional help if required if you’re really sort of on the verge of feeling real anxiety, depression. That’s something, of course, that we can’t deal with with coaching or certainly not with business strategies and so on, so again, focus on taking care of yourself and then when you’re ready to get to work and find a way forward then we can get to all these other things. So talking to someone, venting and focusing on taking care of yourself when a curve ball comes along.
Now, another word of warning, I guess, is not to panic. So, okay, easily said than done. More easily said than done, but the key is not to make rash decisions right away. So when you’re in this, “Aargh, it’s so unfair,” you don’t want to say, “Forget it. I’m going to stop this, I’m going to go back to this other thing I was doing.” Or, “I’m going to start from scratch.” Or, “I’m giving up entirely and I’m not even going to bother to start a business anymore,” or whatever that might be, right? “I’m going to change it completely.”
So don’t make dramatic, big life-changing, career-changing decisions when you’re not in the right head space. You want to take the time. You may feel the pressure and certainly with income needing to come in it can feel like you have to make a quick decision, but I talk about this a lot is that there’s no point in rushing into something that’s the wrong thing, if there is a wrong thing, that you’re going to hate that isn’t going to bring the money that you need, that’s going to compromise your work-life integration, your balance, your family priorities and so on. So take as much time as you can to take a deep breath, take a step back, and then when you’re ready then you can make some sort of informed choices. And again, this can happen quite quickly, but you just don’t want to rush into it without giving it the sort of careful reflection it deserves.
Now again, before rushing into something, let’s have a look at okay, yes, this crazy thing has happened, it’s completely thrown your business off course, your plans, your lifestyle, whatever it is, but take stock for a moment and look at what is working.
So okay, this crazy thing has happened, this doesn’t work anymore, but hang on, let’s break that down. What is this and what is working? So what can you still do? What can you keep in your business plan? So if you did your business plan from the previous episodes. So what can you keep in your strategy that you’re already doing? What is working? Where are you still getting clients? Your brand building, which we talking about in the coming weeks, what’s working there, and what’s working in your daily routine, at home and so on, right? So what are the elements that you can keep?
So that’s really important too. You don’t just want to let go of everything, and in fact, maybe I’ll introduce a framework here that I think I’ve used before which is the Stop, Start and Continue. It’s something we used to use back in my Procter & Gamble days in strategy work that we did in our annual strategy in particular where we reviewed what was working, what wasn’t, and we’d look at stopping, so traffic light system, right? This is the things we want to stop doing, red. These are things that we want to continue, I guess kind of orange, and these are things we want to start doing that we haven’t done before.
So have a think about okay, what are you going to keep? So this is what I’m going to continue, these are things that you know what, unfortunately are not going to work, so we’re going to stop doing those, and these are the things that need to change, this is the new direction I’m going to go off in, so what I’m going to start doing.
Maybe and probably, in fact, the current situation is shedding some light on other things that need to change in your business, so maybe the most obvious thing isn’t the most important thing, maybe there are more fundamental issues. Maybe you hadn’t done that due diligence and your business plan had a few gaps and maybe you made some assumptions that weren’t true and so on. So it’s very possible that you’ll need to, and this is a good opportunity to review again what’s working, what’s not, and this is actually a good thing that we’re catching these things now. Yes it feels frustrating [inaudible 00:09:40] take a step back, but that will hopefully allow us to take a big leap forward.
Next is to focus on what you can control. This is so important, I think, for our mental health and for our focus. If you imagine this is my zone of influence, I’m showing you with my hands, which of course you can’t see, this immediate sphere around me is what I can control and everything else around the world is stuff that I can’t control, at least right now immediately. So what other people are doing you can’t control. You can’t control the spread of a virus, you can’t control what governments are doing, depending on your role in the society, but mostly you can’t control what other people are doing. You can control what you’re doing: taking care of yourself, taking action every day, working on your health and so on, working on your strategy and reviewing, cutting down expenses, whatever you need to do.
But think about the things that you can control, and that’s incredibly empowering as well to really look at okay, these are the things that I can do and let’s focus on that.
There is no point in getting frustrated about things that we can’t effect at all, so really focus on what you can control and you may be pleasantly surprised by the fact that actually, there’s a lot more you can control than you realise.
And of course the ‘nother classic cliché, which is so true as well, is that we can’t control what life throws at us, so these curve balls, we can control how we respond. In my coaching training we have the distinction between reacting and responding, and reacting would be making those rash decisions right away just going, “Aargh,” and hitting back. I remember in sports I think when I wasn’t so good at a particular sport, the ball would come at me, probably football, I never really played or trained in football, I’d just kind of go, “Aargh,” and I’d kick it away. That’s reacting, that’s not the best thing to do.
A good player would probably sort of, I don’t know what the correct terminology is, but receive the ball, kind of dribble it around a little bit and then look around to see where there’s a gap and can I shoot and can I pass it to a teammate, whatever? So that’s what we want to do, we want to look for the gaps, look for the opportunities, rather than just going, “Aargh,” and kicking the ball right away. So focus on what you can control, respond rather than react.
Now, a different situation, which this is, and again, I’m generalising this as well because it could be any curve ball, so I hope this is still and it definitely will be still relevant in many years to come. If something has changed, that different situation is going to call most probably for a different solution. It’s a bit of that what got you here won’t get you there. So if you’ve been plodding along doing this and it has been working and suddenly whoa, the parameters have changed, the ground underneath you is shaking or something’s quite drastically transformed, you can’t just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
So it’s a good opportunity to not take complete blank paper, although that could be interesting just to look at what would you do if you were starting from scratch, but to really think, “Okay, what have I been doing and how can I mix things up? So okay, I’ve been working this myself. Maybe it’s time actually to outsource to somebody so I can free up and focus on the business development piece, or maybe it’s time to, you know what, actually I’ve been just plodding along, I’ve been kind of doing this trial and error, but actually now working with a coach and joining that programme that I’ve been thinking about could be really powerful.” Or maybe you’ve been focusing on Facebook and Instagram and now the time to actually look at LinkedIn, or you’ve been focusing on this type of client and it’s that type of client again.
So have a listen to the diversifying and pivoting podcast episodes from a few weeks back, but really think about, okay, what could I do differently?
Again, not throwing the baby out with the bath water, full of idiomatic expressions today, not throwing everything out, but have a think about what are the things that you could perhaps do differently just to try and mix things up and to now respond in an effective way to this very different situation?
Related to that, I want you to ask for help, so whether you’re right at the beginning, the survival mode, you know, venting and so on, or you’re further along and you’re now solutions-focused, I want you to ask for help from friends, from family, from mentors. Again, it could be free health, it could be in your community, maybe you’re part of a mastermind. If you’re part of our One Step Outside Facebook group, please share in the group because I’m sure other people are feeling in similar ways, and of course you can always reach out to me as well and we can see how I can support you.
But please don’t struggle alone. That’s key at any point, but certainly when you’re going through quite a difficult, dramatic change of circumstances, it’s really important not to just sort of knuckle down and sit at home in the dark and try to solve it yourself. You need a sounding board, you need that sort of role model and guide to help you to navigate out of this in the right way.
And then finally, and I hinted at this at the beginning, expect the unexpected. Plan for future curve balls, because that’s the reality. So yes we can do our business plan and we can do our ideal week, which I talk about in terms of planning our time blocking and our calendar and so on, and we can have this amazing routine mapped out. But you know what? Life happens, the world happens, COVID-19 happens, and so we know that there will be curve balls in the future, financial recession, what was it called, the Y2K, which of course never happened, various unfortunately viruses or conflicts and things going on and we can’t control. Brexit, another thing which we’ve sort of forgotten about almost in this particular period we’re in, again, we can’t control these things, but the only thing we know is that they will happen at some point.
So how can we strengthen our business model, get the support system in place? What is the worst case scenario? Can we paint a picture now with this experience of okay, what if this happens again? What if something else happens? Okay, this is sort of the best case, this is my plan, this is my strategy, this is my vision, but what if? And then go through the assumptions we’re making. Okay, if that doesn’t happen, what could I do? How can I mitigate that? How can I put a plan B in place? How can I have a support system that will help me sort of stay resilient through that? So again, expect the unexpected, plan for future curve balls.
So those are a few thoughts today about dealing with curve balls. Again, there’s so much planning and envisioning and strategizing we can do, but the reality is that there will always be unexpected things happening, and that’s not to say that we shouldn’t plan and strategize, it just means that if anything, we need to include those potential curve balls into our planning to the extent that we can and then when it happens, we need to be a little bit flexible, adaptable and respond in an effective way that’s going to work for that particular situation and work for us.
So I hope you found that interesting and I look forward to seeing you back here next week. Bye for now.
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