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Recognizing And Utilizing Your Talents

Flower_BlogA collection of potted perennials for sale sat on a bench in front of a dilapidated house. The front porch leaned precariously away from the main house and the roof didn’t seem to provide much protection from a thunderstorm. However the plants looked beautiful, healthy and bountiful. Those plants led me to cheer a bit for the owners. Although the homeowners had fallen on hard times, they had looked to see what they had an abundance of and capitalized on their healthy plants.

As I left the ramshackle home, I sought to identify my ‘abundances’ and whether or not I use them as well as the homeowners. There is a striking difference between the words “abundance” and “strength”, yet we often ask ourselves about our strengths. Try asking yourself the question that created an “ah-ha” moment for me:

What do I have in abundance?

Consider what you personally can’t help but be or create; think of employees, time, smarts, connections, even inventory. Consider qualities or traits that others remark about, yet you take for granted. I knew immediately that I have an abundance of ideas and an ability to keep the end-game in mind. The “ah-ha” moment came when I realized that I needed to offer those gifts as clearly as the potted perennials were showcased. The homeowners had a myriad of objects they could have sold from their front yard, yet they chose what they had an abundance of – strong, healthy plants. By choosing that which was most plentiful, their chance of success increased ten-fold.

I’ve had clients extremely talented in sculpture, creativity, patient care, fundraising, and more. However, despite the industry, the clients who allowed themselves to bask in the abundance of their talents were the most satisfied personally and professionally. This time of year, we often reflect on all that we’ve been given, and in turn, take a moment to give thanks. As a business owner, give thanks for what you’ve been given in abundance, and share it often and loudly.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Overcomming the Fear of Success

 

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Advice on how to overcome the fear of failure is everywhere: from corporate-sponsored seminars to magazines at the checkout counter.  Being aware of the potential for failure can be helpful, especially if you shine enough light on the fear to develop a safety net. However, many business owners have another fear, the fear of success, which holds them back from achieving their initial business goals. Fear of success often goes unrecognized, or we mistakenly call it fear of failure, which increases its power over us. If you’ve been working towards a goal without the success you want, look at these symptoms to see if you might be struggling with the idea of success:

  • You postpone the work necessary to win a big proposal;
  • You complete 90% of a product or service launch, over and over;
  • You avoid telling others about your achievements, or belittle your achievements;
  • Enjoying the fruits of your success is difficult and you rarely treat yourself;
  • You worry that your success won’t be sustainable;
  • When you see evidence of your success, your thoughts turn to those who never reached their goals.

If any of these sound familiar, don’t give up! It is possible to reach your goals without a complete mental overhaul. The first thing you must do is to write down your definition of success. Is it one million in revenue? Ten million? It may not be monetary at all. Define it and write it at the top of a clean sheet of paper.  Next, make a list of what you would do if you reached your goal. Consider material changes to your life as well as intrinsic, personal changes.  Write down what you fear might happen if you became successful; this often includes fears surrounding a lifestyle, family or friends. Many small business owners began the venture, in part, to enjoy more freedom, so it’s no wonder that they fear losing it.

Once you’ve defined success, possible life changes, and the fears about those changes, it’s time to create a safety net. Imagine a warning system or a buffer that keeps you from hitting your fears, a system to implement when you reach pre-defined milestones. Again, here are some examples:

  1. A client concerned about his increased work load found a strong partner who invested in the company and shared the load – both mentally and day to day tasks;
  2. One client who was worried about losing precious family time scheduled vacations for several years out, and invested in vacations a year in advance;
  3. My first coach gave me the task of creating an “Absolute Yes” list, a list of five priorities I would say “yes” to; if it wasn’t on that list, it was a “no”.

Fear of success can prevent us from taking action, lead us down faulty paths, and chew up a lot of time and energy.  Bring some definition to what might be holding you back and it loses its power over you. Bring a solution to that fear, and you move right past it.

 

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

 

Two Simple Solutions to Move Past Fear; Improve Business Operations

Last week, a client articulated why he hadn’t found the time to contact the prospects he had agreed to contact – he was scared. I was thrilled that he had identified and accepted the reason; the next step was to do something about it.

Business owners love to tell themselves that they don’t have time, they don’t have the money, they don’t have the contacts, they’re located in the wrong area, or they don’t have enough help. More often than not, the truth is that they are scared – scared of failing, scared of succeeding. Rather than face that truth, which means we might need to do something about it, we choose the excuse of the week. The amount of mental and emotional energy we waste is astronomical. Instead, here are two simple and effective solutions:

  1. Find a different action that we are willing to take, that will bring us to the same endpoint (which why being clear about our true vision is so critical). Here’s a personal example: honestly, I’m not thrilled about giving a prepared speech in front of a large audience. I’ll do it, but I stress out about it. Early in my coaching business, I was asked to give a speech. I said “I could, but I’d love the chance to coach people from the audience, in a live setting.” It was a gut response, not planned, but it felt right and true. I did coach live, and I loved every second of it. Although I was in front of a hundred people, it felt like there were two people in the room – me, and the “client”. I achieved my goal – introducing people to my business – in a setting as comfortable to me as my own kitchen. And, I gained business.
  2. Take baby steps. Business owners love to commit to “calling 50 people” or “setting up five prospect meetings a week”. Those are terrific goals if you will do them; if your stated goals are such an enormous stretch for you that it would take an act of Congress to get it done, scratch it and select a more realistic goal – still a stretch, but achievable. Compare your business goals to running a marathon: if you’re new to long distance running, you might start with five miles and ratchet it up. All too often in business, though, we decide to “run 26.2 miles” on day one. I envision a funnel that we incrementally move up the more we try new skills. Our reservoir of business skills gets bigger and bigger.

Although my client didn’t contact his prospects, he did take on two new agreements that he was excited about:

  1. He loves speaking in front of groups, and eagerly chose to set that up.
  2. He chose two people to call this week. At first he said ten, then five, and when he said “two” his shoulders relaxed, his voice softened, every part of his being relaxed. And when we’re more relaxed, we perform better and create stronger results.

Some coaches would have pushed for more, but I know that success is what he needs this week. Next week, I’m confident that he’ll willingly agree to call more and he’ll do it with a smile on his face.

 

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

 

 

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A Step at a Time; Growing A Small Business

A few years ago we vacationed in Puerto Rico. One of the highlights was visiting the El Yunque National Rain Forest and climbing a 600 foot waterfall. We hiked a few miles, then, roped together in case of a sudden rainstorm, we climbed to the top of a waterfall looking for foot holes and places to grab. Our guide convinced us that it would be worth it and he was right; the water was cool, the view amazing, and we enjoyed a sense of accomplishing something we didn’t know we could. I’m sure that if I had heard the guide tell me his plan, I would have said “Oh no, that’s not for us. That’s too rigorous.”

Growing a small business can often feel the same as this experience; we are often in new territory, we don’t know what to expect, and we’ve heard some pretty scary stories about the adventure. A common reaction is to pull back, to say “Oh no, that’s not for me.” Instead, hire a guide (talk with SCORE, a coach, or a trusted friend experienced in business) like we did in the rainforest to encourage you, help you find places to grab onto and pull you up, to remind you what it is you’re working towards, to create a safety net – just like the rope was to us in case of rain. It’s helpful to have a long term vision, but keep focused on the next step – define the next action you’ll take and make sure it’s in line with where you want to go.

When you hear yourself say “I can’t do that” just ask yourself what the next step would be and take that one. Go for it – you might just surprise yourself about what you can accomplish.

 

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

 

 

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Push Through Assumptions to Reach Success

I had a conversation with a business owner the other day, and she was telling me how the results she wanted weren’t going to happen. The talk went something like this:

Fact.

Fact.

Fact.

Assumption.

Therefore, failure.

“Whoa, back the train up”, I said. “I heard some facts in there along with a pretty big assumption.” I waited for her to acknowledge and defend the statement but she was so convinced about her story that she couldn’t even identify the assumption at first. To her, every statement was an irrefutable fact. We walked through the story and discussed alternatives to her assumption and found evidence that those alternatives exist, although not for her. We then looked, and found, avenues for those alternatives to occur in her business (surprise!). Once we found different paths she was able to create a new story that went something like this:

Fact.

Fact.

Fact.

Possibility.

Therefore, success.

Let me give you a concrete example from another client:

I have gained new clients from past events, prior to the recession.

My competition has had recent events with large turnouts.

My recent events have had low turnout.

I can’t get new clients from events anymore (assumption).

Therefore, I must not be any good at events anymore or I’m not going to get new clients anymore (your failure statement of choice).

It’s obvious when we see it in writing. So guess what your assignment is :)?

If you’ve been struggling to reach a goal, or the next time you hear yourself say “I can’t….” or “It won’t work to…” write down all the reasons why you can’t or why it won’t work – at least ten. Get up and walk around for five minutes. Next, as objectively as possible, decide about and write “fact” or “assumption” next to each statement. If you struggle, ask someone else to do it for you.

Once you’ve identified assumptions, get creative and imagine alternatives; if you’ve seen the alternatives occur, that’s even better. Choose an alternative path to your goal that seems most likely, a timetable, and take action. I can’t guarantee success with every alternative but I can promise progress.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

 

 

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Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.