Here’s the thing: I am not pretending

I was talking with a friend recently, and we were reflecting on a trap we all fall into from time to time. A mutual connection had been in touch with her to say they were struggling, and then had shown up in a small business Facebook group to talk about how busy they are.

Haven’t we all been there?

It’s really hard to be authentic on social media when things are hard. Even in support groups.

We have so many high expectations of ourselves and the people around us. We believe that the only way people will want to buy from us and connect with us is if we’re already successful. That is a headspin if ever I heard one!

It drives me crazy to see people using up their precious energy putting out a false sense of success. Because something happens, even on the most subtle level, where you try to believe your own hype. You want what you’re saying to be true. And yet you know that it’s not.

That level of dishonesty with yourself is the bit that can really erode your confidence over time. (I speak with experience, here.)

I’m not saying you have to share every single negative thought or experience or fact with the world. You certainly don’t have to make yourself feel over-exposed. That’s not going to help.

I do recommend having an inner circle or a business coach or mentor that you can be completely honest with, even before you’ve managed to process. Someone you can write a panic email or text to, and who’ll sit with you while you figure it out.

Otherwise, with other people and groups, may I suggest that you simply find something to say that’s true?

“It feels really busy, but I’m still worried about finances.”

“Things haven’t gone fully to plan, but I’m optimistic about the coming weeks and months.”

“We’re working really hard to make this year a success.”

Friends, you just don’t need to pretend it’s all amazing. Everyone in the whole world goes through cycles of success and struggle because that is life.

There is no constant uphill straight line of growth and prosperity that everyone else has found, and you haven’t.

Here’s the thing for me

When I wrote the title for this post, I hear the line in Kate Havnevik’s Unlike Me.

In the spirit of not pretending, I thought I’d share my own update.

Right now, as I write, my business is in a stronger position than it has been for two full years. It’s more profitable, more efficient, and more fulfilling.

But it’s not perfect. There’s still plenty to improve and work on and change.

Running retreats is always a little nerve-wracking – they require a lot of upfront work and financial investment, and I still have spaces available. Of course, I’d be way more comfortable if my January retreat had sold out as soon as I opened up the tickets! And so I sit with the discomfort of waiting, and I look for ways to share the experience for what it is: amazing, transformative, and rejuvenating.

And I can’t pretend I don’t doubt my decisions sometimes. It’s inevitable that we will, especially when we’re in new territory. I have some news up my sleeve for the new year, and while I’m pretty much decided on it, I’ll pace around the house pondering the decision until I share it in a couple of weeks.

Friends, business is not always easy. And while I don’t think it has to be impossibly hard to be successful, I am not interested in perpetuating the myth that you become self-employed and ride off into the sunset.

Be true to your experience. Explore what’s actually true. Redefine success for yourself.

We don’t have to be successful by other people’s standards in order to make a living. We do have to be true to ourselves and be honest and authentic with our customers. That’s how connection, respect and support happen.

I feel I could get my soap box out and stand on it all day! But I’ll leave it there for now.

In case you need a trusted ear, I’m available for coaching, and you can join my free Facebook group, The Safe Space.

Until soon,

Jenny x

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

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