I was walking down 5th avenue on my way to a networking event last night when this question struck me like a bolt of lightening:
“What if I can’t really create a successful business? Should you stick with your business or give the whole thing up? Who am I to think I can truly, actually, do this… for REAL?” My heart beat a little faster and a for a split second I was tempted to give it all up. “Just kidding! Never mind! I’ll just go back to my much less stressful existence as a professor and consultant and actually have time to do things like watch TV or read a book.”
Should you stick with your business or give the whole thing up?!?
These thoughts never go away. I had them when I had a single client and a home-made website. And I have them now, as I’m booked solid with high paying clients and am excited about launching a program this fall.
The solution that I’ve found to manage these impulses comes directly from the annals of psychology: I invest so much in my business that to walk away from it would be unthinkably painful.
Last month we talked about what it takes to get started. In today’s post we are talking about what to do when you’ve created a little momentum. DO NOT DO THESE THINGS if you are just getting started and still just thinking about, maybe, someday becoming a coach or launching your private practice; go back and follow these steps instead.
In psychology, this is called the “sunk cost fallacy.” Essentially, pure logic would dictate that all decisions about whether to continue running a business would be pulled from an objective evaluation of whether continuing to plug away is likely to result in a greater return than stopping and walking away. This decision would hold regardless of how much investment we have put into it so far.
In real life, however, this is not how we make decisions about whether to abandon our current course of action. Instead, we are more deeply committed to those things that we’ve invested in- if we’ve given time, money, or emotional energy to something we will have a very hard time walking away from it. The larger the investment, the deeper the commitment.
Food for thought: We assume that we invest in things that we are committed to, but psychology helps us to see that sometimes we are committed to the things we invest in.
Psychologists worry about this fallacy largely because it holds even when something is really, really bad for you (abusive relationships, toxic workplaces, etc). Please hear me when I say this: If your business is toxic for you, then DO NOT double down. Walk away and find something else to do.
However, if you know that your business is your chance to make a difference in the world, and if you are scared of starting your business, have mindset blocks and limiting beliefs that keep you sidelined, investing in your business is a good way to deepen those roots and keep you put. If you want to stick with your business when it gets hard (I think you do!) then you can use this psychological principle to hack your brain and generate the commitment you need to carry you through.
Confused on how exactly to commit to your business? We have created a checklist of 15 Ways to Commit to Your Business to get your creative juices flowing.
In this post, I’m talking about three investments that I made that were pivotal for me that I genuinely believe leveled up my commitment.
Commit to Your Ideal Client and Their Most Pressing Problem
When you start your business, it is perfectly normal to want to serve everyone. Eventually, if you want to level up your business, you need to commit to helping a particular “kind” of person. You need to shift into resolving a fairly narrow subset of their problems.
This is scary for all of my clients and I have no shame in saying it was equally as terrifying to me when I was growing my business.
When niching down, the commitment is real. The goal is to be so specific that those who are not your ideal client will be repelled by your message. Why would we ever turn away the vast majority of people?!? Because the people who are attracted to your message, will feel so seen, so welcomed, and so understood that they will go to great lengths to work with you.
Certainly, it’s scary to niche because you don’t want to unnecessarily restrict yourself, but I bet that another risk you are feeling is that niching puts more emotional commitment on the line.
- You become attached to helping these people and the rejection inherent in growing a business becomes more personal. No one likes to hear “no” from someone they care about.
- People will better understand what you are trying to accomplish, which is good, but also means that they can more easily judge your efforts. It’s so much more comfortable (though much less lucrative) to do something that sounds vaguely impressive and complicated.
Basically, when you aren’t niched, there’s no one who feels personally betrayed or confused if you walk away. When you are niched and you have a following who depends on you, it’s quite a lot harder to walk away. Mission accomplished.
Get a Coach
In the beginning, I didn’t have the courage to hire a business coach. And truth be told, if you are in the beginning of your business, it may not be the right solution for you. But as your business grows, so does your opportunity cost. Eventually, it becomes imperative to get some help to make better decisions and up-level your skills more quickly.
I bootstrapped my way through the first 2 years of my business and had some modest success. After my first product flopped spectacularly, however, I realized that I needed some help. The failures were getting bigger and I wasn’t handling them very well. I needed someone to help me see where my best opportunities lay, and give me the advice I needed to go after those opportunities efficiently.
And so I invested. My coach is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E and she’s amazing. In the time that we’ve been working together I’ve conquered my most significant block, created a flow of clients that are eager to work with me, and I’m on target almost 10x my income.
Coaching is powerful, but that’s not the point of this post.
Let me tell you a secret- remember when I was walking down 5th avenue wondering whether I should give the whole thing up? Well, my second thought was “How on EARTH would I pay my coach?” Even without going deep into my why and re-committing to my mission, I was back in the game.
Now, obviously I’m a coach and I’m happy to talk about working with you if you are a coach or a therapist dying to grow your business so you can make more money, find more clients and change the world.
But choosing a coach is a highly personal thing! It’s kind of like picking out your wedding gown- when you see your coach YOU KNOW. Suddenly you want nothing more than to have this person on your team. You want to believe about yourself what she believes about you! But that initial, raw enthusiasm will wane as “the real world” gets involved in your decision about whether to work with your coach. Let this post be the encouragement you need- no matter whose coaching you are considering- if it feels truly, deeply right, I say: GO FOR IT.
You’ll thank me later.
Build a Community
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. No one cares about your business as much as you do, but if you are smart, you can find people who care about you and your business A LOT. Obviously, your fabulous coach cares about your business, but your coach (if you choose a good one) is busy building her own empire so she can inspire you to greater and greater heights. She won’t have time to serve as your coach, cheering squad and business bestie.
You have to diversify. I suggest putting together an informal mastermind of professional female entrepreneurs who are talented in a diversity of areas. It helps to have someone who loves social media, someone who is good with video, someone who is great at in-person networking, etc.
Check in with them monthly or bi-weekly to discuss concerns and celebrate successes. In my mastermind, we also have 1-2 retreats a year- often focused on creating content calendars or setting new goals.
Don’t stop with the mastermind! You need a robust community of women to support you on this crazy journey! If you are in New York City (or any large city) there are at least 3 or 4 women’s NYC networking groups having events every single week! Go to Eventbrite or Meetup and search for them, then swallow your nerves and go network!
Here’s how being tied into a community deepens your commitment- as you help others with their businesses and accept their help with yours, you begin to develop a stronger, more resilient identity as an entrepreneur.
When you are walking down 5th avenue, pondering whether to stick with your business or give it all up, you will have the useful (and true) thought “I’m an entrepreneur, this is all just part of the game.”
In order to walk away from your business, you would have to tell ALL those ladies (and me!) that you are giving up on our shared goal. It’s just easier to stay in the business and give it another go, don’t you think?
That is the power of strategic investment to keep you committed when things get hard! Now, these are three investments that I made that have transformed MY business, but there are many other options!