Here’s the thing: let’s just say how we’re doing

It’s that time of year when I talk a lot about Christmas. To be honest, working with a lot of retail businesses, I talk about Christmas most of the year.

But during October, especially towards the end, something happens.

The fear kicks in.

In an ideal world, as it was in years gone by, sales would start to kick in for Christmas in about mid-October. That would really put a lot of small business minds to rest.

But the reality is online shopping has made it easier to leave things later.

I’ve written before about how we have to hold our nerve, and wait a little longer.

But here in 2018, in a year when many big retailers have struggled, what are things really like? Is it just a case of holding our nerve, or have we reached a totally different landscape?

In my conversations with clients, I often get asked: Is it just me? (To be honest, a variation of this question comes up regularly, even if we’re not talking about Christmas!)

This year, more than ever before, I say, I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone is doing particularly well. I have one client whose business is thriving better than ever, but a handful of clients are finding things much leaner.

For the community in general, I don’t know.

In what has previously been a pretty supportive community, people seem to be sharing less and less about how they’re really doing. Partly, I believe this is a good sign of great business friendships. Conversations are happening less publicly – and that’s no bad thing.

But I also know how much it helps us all to be open and honest with each other.

If you’re struggling, it can be a relief to know that you’re not alone – that you’re not doing it wrong all by yourself. This is especially true if you manage depression or anxiety. We can be quick to blame ourselves when, in fact, things are changing and challenging across the board.

And we only get to know we’re not alone when we have community who can share.

I’m not saying we should all get together and moan about Brexit or the economy or whatever else we’re blaming for slow sales. I believe we can think ourselves into scarcity, recession, and lack. I also believe that the agility of small businesses is a huge strength for getting through lean times.

There’s so much we can do to find the corners of the market that are available to us, even in slow sales periods. Even if you don’t make as much as you did last year, there are options available to you, ways to cut back and refresh.

And if you’re planning to be in business for a while, these years, these times are inevitable. The key is to see them for what they are.

When we’re in big, full years of growth, we celebrate and save and invest and ride the wave.

When we’re in years of ebb, we consciously choose where to place our energy, time and money. We choose to reflect the more primary requirements of our clients and customers. We hold back on big investments. We get through, and we renew.

So let me tell you a little truth about my business, and where I am right now:

This time last year, I cut back and restructured Copper Boom Studio. In a massive way. In 12 months, I’ve re-built my own income – which had become non-existent while the business was doing too much – and I’m slowly but surely returning to the sustainable, meaningful business I’ve always wanted to create.

Are things so great that I never worry? No. Do I still have cash flow challenges? Sometimes. Do I believe I’m on the right track? Absolutely. I can feel it in my bones.

A resource for you

If you’re struggling financially, booking in business coaching isn’t always an option (though investing in the right support can certainly accelerate your financial healing and business strategy).

I created The Safe Space as a community that is supportive, and cultivates the values that are dear to me: authenticity, no unsolicited advice, and true business success on your own terms.

Whether you’re celebrating or struggling, you’re welcome in this group. You can rant, share, ask, cheer, and receive mini coaching. You can meet like-minded business owners, and benefit from reminders from me.

It’s not much, but it might just help you to feel a little less alone.

This totally free Facebook group is open now, and requires a couple of questions to join.

See you there!

Jenny x

Here’s the thing: business friendships

We’ve come a long way since 2010, when I used to see conversations from small business owners on Twitter and wish I could provide something more.

And then there was the creation of the Notonthehighstreet partner forum (yes, I got that up and running when I worked in the Notonthehighstreet partner team) – a place for that particular community to share tips, advice, and woes. Even that appears to have dwindled now, less a community and more of a tumbleweed.

There are so many more communities and business friendships available. We meet kindred spirits on Instagram, or in a Facebook group. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be close to a strong local community. (How I long to be in Exeter and go to a Creative Business Network coffee meet up!)

My own business friendships have developed. I have clients who’ve become friends, and my own coaches have, too. My bestie, Kelly, started her own business, and so business became another way in which we support each other.

But I have to say that in this arena of business friendships – and relationships in general – I feel a little bruised. I was thinking about writing this post, and I realised that I still carry friendship-sadness for connections that have faded, and I wondered just how many of us feel that way.

It’s true of the old school friends who I haven’t kept in touch with, or the kindred spirit who went travelling and with whom I lost touch.

These are people I didn’t fall out with – nothing bad happened – but that slipped through my hands.

And those feelings are affecting my business friendships even now.

I’m still afraid to make new friendships in business, in case they fade away or don’t work out, and I’ve found myself questioning whether some relationships are meant to be business friendships, or a different dynamic.

Did I employ that person because I wanted to be friends with them?

Did I become friends with someone because I wanted to do business with them?

What about the friendships that could have been, but our business values were different?

When you have a business friendship, I think you know it. At least, when I reflect on what works for me, I know it. There are some friends with whom I can talk about business and feel respected, seen, heard, and supported. And I can listen to friends in business, and make sure they want my coaching perspective before I offer it.

Because there’s a difference between being someone’s business coach and being their friend.

There’s also a difference between being a friend in business, and a business friendship.

What do we mean by a business friendship?

A business friendship is a relationship in which you’re able to share honestly about your business successes and challenges without judgement and in order to receive encouragement and support. You might meet up for co-working coffee dates, or brainstorm your marketing plan together. Perhaps you meet at or attend events together. (Like a business retreat, for example.)

You’re able to bounce ideas around, go on inspiration-gathering trips together, or send a panic text when something’s going wrong. In a business friendship, you know that the other person has your back, but isn’t responsible for your business success.

It might be a one-on-one friendship, or it might be a small community. You might have a Facebook group or an Instagram chat.

Things that aren’t a business friendship:

  • A friend who has a business but doesn’t support yours (Beware the Naysayers)
  • A business coach or mentor who offers guidance, advice, or services (though a friendship might blossom outside of your coaching or mentoring relationship)
  • Anyone who offers you unsolicited advice, or is constantly negative about your business or decisions – even if they say they’re “playing devil’s advocate” or offering “tough love”
  • One-sided support, where you give all the support all the time. This is different from the cyclical nature of mutual support, where one person needs a little more for a time.

If you have even one person you’d call a business friend, count yourself incredibly lucky! Any more, and you’re walking on sunshine, my friend.

Of course, sometimes we need more than friendship – we need a coach or mentor to provide business expertise. A business coach will work with you to create a business plan and will help you to identify what you really want – and how to get it. It’s in-depth work. Yes, you’ll be seen and heard (with the right coach), and you’ll get a whole load of love. But you’ll also have someone who is trained, experienced, and works in this way professionally. It’s a total business – and life – support.

Chances are, if you decide to work with a coach, your business friend will benefit from the work you’re doing too, as you share stories and create a different path for your business. It’s a win-win-win.

Here are some things I’d love to know, so please get in touch!

  1. Do you have a business bestie? If not, are you looking for one?
  2. If you’re in or near Cambridge, would you be interested in a regular creative business meet up?
  3. What do you think the difference between business friendship and business coaching is?

Until soon,

Jenny x

What if you felt aspirational on the inside?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about two things:

  1. How social media affects us as business owners – who we follow, who we compare ourselves to, what we think we “should” be doing
  2. Taking time out to connect with your inner wisdom on a deeper level – and how working in this way allows us to create more authentic, meaningful businesses

It hit me this morning that these two things are incredibly intertwined.

I created Self Care on Social Media for Business Owners to help people like you and me make sure they’re not too distracted by other people on the internet, and instead to cultivate their own authentic voice.

And I’m running a video series on why and how to take time out of the busy-work in order to cultivate better business alignment. Because I know that that’s the only way to get really clear on what you want.

Ultimately, that thing you see on the internet, on Instagram, on the grapevine – you know, the one you imagine means “true success”? What if that thing wasn’t an aspirational post or a Pinterest board or a beautifully styled image? What if, instead, it was a feeling and a source of power and inspiration within you?

Does that sound like nonsense? Stay with me.

For generations, and especially in the last 100 years, we’ve cultivated our homes, our lives, our clothes, and our spaces to be an outer expression of who we are. We want our spaces to represent a part of us: Comfy sofas demonstrate our passion for relaxation and welcoming guests. Sassy t-shirt slogans let people know we’re sarcastic. A yellow front door tells the world we value joy and fun.

That’s the idea, right?

And if you’re a business owner or creative entrepreneur or a maker, your work is also an expression of who you are – at least in part. (Because we’re really very complex human beings, so that one print you designed probably won’t pack all of it in.)

But what if we reverse engineer it?

Those Instagram posts you like are telling you something about yourself, or a feeling you want to cultivate in your own life and business.

What if, rather than wishing we had the styled, superficial photo, we dug deeper into what it means to us?

Maybe that flatlay of pretty autumnal things is telling you you want to be more creative, just for the hell of it (and not for your business).

Perhaps that new product by that brand you admire is showing you that you want to be really confident in the new things that you launch.

What if that crazy helpful blog series is showing you that you too want to be helpful?

Rather than trying to replicate the content or the look or the aesthetic, what if we sink deeper into the feeling we have within us? From where I’m sitting, going inward and exploring it internally will help us get to a unique and authentic expression of something that’s never been seen before.

So I think I’m coming to understand that there’s wisdom in combining these two things: taking good care of yourself on social media by noticing where you slip into envy and comparison AND going deeper to explore what these external indicators really mean for you.

That aspirational feeling is inside you. It isn’t in the yellow door or the perfectly styled flatlay. It’s within you. And it deserves exploration and expression.

What do you think? Am I rambling, or is there something here?

Jenny x

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