Archive for July, 2008

Freedom, eh? So that’s why you became an entrepreneur?

You did your time working for someone else who knew less than you did, demanded you do things that didn’t make any sense, told you how to do things you knew how to do better than the boss did, told you when to work and when you were allowed to leave your job to be sick, tired or relaxed…

While you were working for someone else, a tiny little spark was lit somewhere deep inside. It was a spark of possibility, of some potential you hadn’t reckoned with (or recognized) before. The spark told you, “There’s another way to do things, another way to make a living…” and you listened.

What were your reasons to become self-employed? Was it money, or did it have to do with a passion? Was your choice driven by specific circumstances (birth of a baby, special needs of a loved one, health concerns) or by the desire to make a difference? Chances are, your choice to become an entrepreneur had a lot to do with one very common desire: freedom.

Turns out that achieving “freedom” in your business and life is a rather elusive goal. But it doesn’t have to be. Click on this link to read the article by Marla Tabaka, who is a coach like me, entitled “The Top 5 Freedom-Limiting Traps of the Solopreneur.”

Are you in over your head?

On a coaching call today, my client was wrestling with a challenge that I have certainly experienced as an entrepreneur (and as a mom, and as a teacher, and as a sales rep, and as a human…need I go on?). Her desire to please others causes her to overpromise, to bite off more than she can chew, and then to struggle with the stress, exhaustion and overwhelm that ensue after she’s made promises she knows she can’t keep.

Why do we get in over our heads? I have some thoughts on this.

First, as entrepreneurs, especially those who are in the start-up phase of their business, getting clients can be really difficult. Getting clients to believe in you, trust in your product or expertise, and to choose you over your competition can be a huge challenge. So when a client shows up, says, “Yeah, I’ll have some of what you have to offer,” and agrees to pay the price you set for it, you might be tempted to do some wacky things (like promise more than you can deliver, or neglect to mention that you need more time to get the desired results, or not ask for clarification on the project at hand) out of pure gratitude. After all, you’re going to get paid, right? So why not make them extra happy that you went above and beyond their wildest expectations? This is the desire to distinguish yourself in your field and to prove yourself worthy of the business.

I had a friend who was a realtor who was so hungry for business (this was fueled by financial needs, but also by her love of her work) that it drove her to try to be everything to her clients. She considered herself a “full service realtor.” Apparently, letting the home owners’ dog out at regular intervals during the day, tidying up the house, running personal errands for her clients and the like were all part of the full suite of services she offered as a realtor. After keeping this up for a year or two, she got really burned out and her job felt more like a burden than the source of challenge, fun and interest it had been. Her “disease to please” got the best of her, but fortunately her state of overwhelm nicely coincided with a lot of listings and sales. With a little breathing space in her bank account, she was able to choose not to offer all those additional services that were a source of personal expense to her. And her clients still loved her and referred her to others.

Secondly, we sometimes overpromise what we can deliver because we simply don’t know our own limitations. Our excitement about our work and our passion for what we do can cause us business owners to forget to factor in very basic elements of life: the need for sleep, for time away from work, for a backup plan, the risk involved when relying on others, all manner of non-billable hours to get the job done. With experience or with the support of a mentor, this tendency can be minimized.

Where do you get in over your head? Have you made promises you can’t keep to your clients, your co-workers, your family, or your friends? What impact did it have on you and them? What strategy have you put in place to manage this?

What I learned on vacation

Well, I’m still adjusting to the time difference between Colorado and Windsor, Canada. Amazing the difference two hours can make. My family and I spent eight days in and around Copper Mountain last week with my husband’s family. Honestly, the sooner we can move to Colorado and live the rest of our days there, the better. I’ve found my nirvana.

Even while on vacation, I pay attention to what there is for me to learn. Maybe I should say “especially” while I’m on vacation, since getting out of my regular routine provides me lots more opportunities to see and hear things I wouldn’t otherwise. I learned, for instance, that my almost six-year-old son is a master at driving a bumper boat and squirting its water gun at anyone on the lake he could reach. Since he had never “driven” anything before, I was amazed at how quickly he learned to maneuver the boat and to control its direction.  I learned how quickly he could develop new skills, and I learned how to get out of his way.

From my four-year-old son, I learned a lot about jumping and flipping. Tethered by a harness attached to bungee cords, he flew into the air as he bounced on a trampoline and did forward and backward flips with ease and grace. I learned that some things aren’t as easy to do as they might seem, and that some things little kids learn more easily than grown-ups do.

From my baby, not yet two years old, I learned how hearts can completely melt and total focus be attained by gazing up into someone’s eyes and flashing them a slow, steady smile. I learned again how feelings, immediately expressed, get understood perfectly, and that holding them inside doesn’t really benefit anybody.

From my husband, I learned that love doesn’t depend on behavior, or moods, or circumstances, but on being there for one another and for trusting in our commitments.

I taught myself something, too. Five hours alone in a house by myself once every six years is an amazing gift, but one I need more often. The day before we made our return trip home, I spent time by myself in our rented cabin reading a women’s magazine cover to cover (including all the recipes and letters to the editor in their entirety), drinking a glass of wine, watching the sun shine all over the mountains and trees, hearing the birds sing and the chipmunks chirp, feeling the chilly breeze on my skin and the soft fabric of the over-sized couch on my legs and feet. I tuned into KLCC radio from Eugene, Oregon and enjoyed immensely a four-hour blues program they were playing. I spoke to no one. I went no where. I ate and drank as my body dictated and rested my body and spirit the rest of the time. I haven’t had that much time to myself in six years. Even when I’ve not had the responsibility of taking care of my children, even when I’ve been on vacation with family and friends other times, I haven’t kept my own company and enjoyed it so thoroughly.

I’m lucky to have such great teachers all around me.


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