Here’s the thing: your sales aren’t shit

First, excuse the language, if it’s not the wording you’d use.

But perhaps you’ve said something like that? “Sales are so bad.” Even if it’s just in your head, if you’ve repeated a phrase similar to this more than three times, we need to talk.

I’ve heard it hundreds – if not thousands – of times from clients who are pretty low on energy, looking for a magic answer or at least some kind of good news. And, truthfully, I’ve been there, too.

I’m not one to sugar-coat things. I don’t like spiritual bypassing or anything similar. (“It’s not that bad! Just look on the bright side!” No, thanks.)

But this is where self-discovery and self-development are incredibly useful. Using awareness of what’s going on in our brains, we can change the story, and change the situation.

Here’s what I mean:

You’ve looked at a number, or several numbers, and something in your brain has said, “Sales are shit.” It’s such a clear and powerful message that you may have questioned it briefly, but it’s basically taken hold.

Then, because it’s not a great feeling, you’ve told someone else. “Sales are kind of shit.” And this person tells you they’re sorry to hear it, or that they’re in a similar position, and you feel not alone. Which feels better than sales-are-shit-and-I’m-all-alone.

So the mantra takes further hold.

And then when you sit down to write a to-do list or you’re thinking about your business, your brain is thinking from this “sales are shit” place. You feel desperate, or uninspired – both sides of the same coin. Maybe you have that frantic energy: you’re getting a lot done, but it’s not really changing sales or changing your mind. Or maybe you just… don’t do very much, because it all feels overwhelming and out of your control.

This story – one that you decided on in the blink of an eye based on something that isn’t the full picture – has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Want to get out of the downward spiral? There are three essential things to do.

Check the numbers you’re looking at.

If you decided sales are shit based on a two-second glance at a dashboard that doesn’t take your entire business into account, you absolutely need to dive a bit deeper.

If sales are down, you’re likely to be looking at turnover, rather than profit. Which is a false success metric, and is definitely going to give you misinformation about your business and your efforts. Track and look at profit as a marker of where you are, rather than assuming turnover is the same – broadly – as profit. (My business is way down on turnover compared to a couple of years ago, but my profit is significantly higher.)

Check the language you use. Clarity is power.

Okay, so as I said, I’m not one to sugar-coat the truth. Telling yourself things are fine when they’re not won’t help you to improve your business or your situation. We need truth. We need clarity.

But there are ways to phrase things that honour the truth without getting stuck in a story.

First, let’s get the facts. If you’ve looked at the numbers, you’ll hopefully be able to say something like, “My turnover is 30% down on last year.” Or, “My profit has dropped.”

Then there’s something to add…

“My profit has dropped, and I’d like to change that.”

“My turnover is 30% down on last year, and my profit is, too. I’m ready to improve my profit.”

Sticking with true statements, we want one that expresses something true about the situation. You’ve got a fact statement about the numbers, and then it’s best to add something that shares what you want to change. In a positive way, of course!

Get a new game plan.

With a more positive mantra, like, “I’m ready to improve my profit,” you can start to put together a more proactive game plan.

The thing about the “sales are shit” mantra is that it keeps you stuck. You can also get stuck with a positive mantra (even if it’s amazing), if there’s no action that relates to it.

So if you truly are ready to change your profit levels or improve your enjoyment levels, it’s time to get creative about how you want to do that.

I’m pretty clear on something: most business women I know can come up with 3-10 great actions to take if they have half an hour and a positive environment to picture possibilities.

Maybe it’s creative ways to reduce your costs and streamline things. Maybe you can create a more efficient way of fulfilling orders. Maybe (and I say this with many years of experience) you need to put your prices up.

You don’t have to change your entire business overnight. But find a starting place. The second part of your new mantra should encapsulate the way you want to feel, say, a year from now.

When you write your next to do list, include something that is linked to how you want to feel.

What do you think? Does this method resonate with you?

Here’s the thing: gentle and powerful

This time last year, in January 2018, I was burnt out, emotionally and financially.

The previous year had been tough, mostly because I’d tried to do too many things all at once. It was time for something to change.

When you’re burnt out in business, it can feel like you’re at the bottom of a very deep pit. There’s SO much that needs to change – and that can be totally overwhelming.

So at the beginning of last year, I decided that my theme for January was “step in the right direction”.

I knew we have a tendency as humans to overestimate what we can do in the short term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term. So I didn’t want to put too much pressure on the month of January to turn everything around. (Also, I didn’t have the energy.)

So I used the practices I teach at my Small Creative Business Retreat to figure out my direction, and I simply asked myself to take small steps in that direction every day.

And I got through it. By the end of January, I’d run my retreat, and taken small, consistent steps to improve both my energy and my business. It was the start to the year I needed, and it was both gentle and powerful.

I shared this very story on Instagram recently, and by the end of the day I’d had messages from women with whom the idea of gentle and powerful resonated.

We’re not often taught that gentle is powerful, especially in business. To many of us, selling and marketing our work feels harsh, brash, and almost aggressive. There’s so much out there about setting goals, being productive and getting it done.

But if you’re anything like me, you’re creative, sensitive, and you like to feel a sense of authenticity in your work. And perhaps, like me, you manage depression or anxiety.

In which case, gentle is the most powerful way forward.

Gentle allows us to connect more deeply with the values that are most important to us.

Gentle allows us to go at our own pace, rather than pushing to a speed that throws us off track or bores us to tears.

Gentle reminds us that this life and business stuff is meant to be on our own terms, not dictated by the ideas and demands of others.

When we’re gentle with ourselves, we can really tap into our innate power. I can only write well when I’m well-rested and have the time to work around a piece. If I put pressure on myself to write as much as possible in a given time period because otherwise I won’t be successful, my writing isn’t as good.

So here’s the thing

What would being gentle mean to you as we start 2019? What doors could it open up?

When you feel at your most powerful, in business or while creating, what does that feel like? What helps you to get there?

If you’ve already written goals for 2019, what happens if you put “gently” in front of them? If you’re hoping to grow this year, how could you do it gently?

Will you join me in the pledge of gentle yet powerful this year? Pop on over to Instagram and tell me all about it!

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

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