There’s always a lot of talk at the start of each new year of business trends and predictions.
But in recent years, so many are focused only on technology and speed.
Yes, there’s no doubt that technology has imploded in recent years, especially with the advancement in AI, but it feels to me that we are unnecessarily speeding up an economy and the way that we live our lives that is already spinning too fast for most of us to handle.
I want to shine the light on the small business trends that will help us slow down; to go at a pace that helps build deeper relationships, stronger resilience and enhance our joy we get from our work.
Here’s are the five small business trends that I see ready to fly this year …
1. Simplifying how you do business
We have had an implosion of digital tools in recent years, all designed to increase our reach, speed up our marketing and make it possible to do almost anything online.
But this has meant we have lots of ‘should do’ and ‘must do’ stuff marketed at us, particularly with the surge of AI ‘productivity’ tools.
We don’t have to have funnels to have a successful business.
And yes, you can decide to only work face-to-face or have a local business serving local people if this is what makes you happy.
Over-complication is out … simplification is in.
2. Happiness goals will trump revenue goals
We operate in a push-drive economy where progress and achievement is measured by 5-figure months or 10X-ing your income.
And this is often pushed upon us by people who can work like this, all the time.
But most of us can’t sustain our energy or motivation to work like that, especially if you are in your 40’s, 50’s or beyond.
This is how I tried to operate in my 40’s. I worked with mentors who incredibly successful, but they were teaching me ways of doing business that weren’t suited to me; they just burnt me out.
Happiness goals may not be seen as sexy as achieving 7-figure success, but this is changing and we are going to see more people celebrating businesses that give them joy and sustainability over big money goals.
3. Health goals will be critical to your financial success
Taking a ‘Health First’ approach will be more important than ever as we enter 2024.
There are positive signs that our economy is going to improve, but probably not until 2025 … and there’s a good possibility of a change of government later this year which could spin things further.
Keeping your head down and taking a ‘just work harder’ approach is not going to work anymore, which is why we are going to see more business owners incorporating health goals into their business plans.
We’ve been doing this with our clients for the past four years and the difference to their results has been amazing.
4. Small will become more attractive
When you look at business growth strategies, they often come with words such as scale, double or bigger. Business growth doesn’t always have to be measured in financial terms.
Look for other ways to measure your growth if you are very happy to stay small.
And staying small doesn’t mean you have to play small, and if working less hours or working with less clients or finding work that less stressful is important to you, 2024 is a brilliant year to celebrate your smallness as more people will want the personal, human relationship that small can give them.
5. Experience over transaction
Our High Streets were beginning to die way before 2020; the lockdowns simply accelerated the process that was already happening because of the ease and increased trust of buying online. But as most of us move over to the likes of Amazon for our every-day transactional buys, the demand for experiencing products and services have been steadily rising since we started to value human exchange and relationships again, and some food stores are even beginning to bring back cashiers again and doing away with the self-service tills.
The same trends are happening in the world of small business.
Whilst there will always be need for transactional buying for commodity services such as accountancy, HR, legal, coaching, marketing support and the like, we are craving more human experiences and a deeper connection for longer term services and human-led programmes.
Finding ways for your clients to access more of you without burning you out, and thinking about how to wow your clients with onboarding and customer service support, will grow you from strength to strength as we move away from recession in 2025 and your clients have bigger budgets again.
Which ones resonate with you?
Have you experienced any of these already in your business?
If you want to discuss how you bring any of these (or all of these!) into your business this year, I invite you to schedule a free call to talk through your plans for the year ahead.
Having people around you who support what you do is important; it can be a very lonely job running your own business. Being able to pick up the phone, meet up for a walk or coffee and talk about what’s been going on in your week with someone you trust and feel comfortable around is important.
But how many of these people are too safe?
Over the many years of running my own coaching and training businesses, I have hung out with all kinds of people. I started networking as soon as I began my first coaching business in 2004. It was before the days of LinkedIn and Facebook so the only way to meet people was to be in the room with them.
But so many of the events were stiff and formal affairs, either full of grey suited men or ladies who lunched. It didn’t take me long to start up my own women’s networking group, which over the years grew to encompass four locations, attracting 25+ ladies at each event.
However, over the years I began to see how much I was playing it safe.
It was good to be the leader of my own events, but there was a pattern of sticking to networks that I felt safe and comfortable. And this, of course, led to me having lots of safe and comfortable business buddies.
I started to fall out of love with networking because every event I went to seemed to attract the same people who talked a good game, and looked the part, but appeared to be so busy networking that they were morphing into each other, saying the same things, and often moaning about the same things!
At the same time, I had taken up playing tennis. Not competitively, but taking part in weekly classes with other mums at school. I loved it and soon realised that I always played better when I played against stronger players. Yes, I still made plenty of mistakes and smashed the ball up and over the fences (erratic was probably how I described my game!) … but the good shots I did play were brilliant. I may never have won any tournaments, but my game play improved significantly each time I was against a better player.
And I see the same with the people we choose to play with in business.
Networking now, of course, is very much a hybrid affair. The choices we have are endless but this has opened up huge opportunities to find yourself in safer, virtual events; sitting in a zoom room where it may be full of lovely people, but if you take a step back and get really honest about yourself, you are playing down and probably the “smartest person in the room”.
Choosing safe, comfortable places to meet safe, comfortable people in the early stages of your business can be the right thing to do to help build your confidence. Like my tennis, if I went straight to the school mum’s tournament without any lessons, I would have been smashed all over the place and not even have had the chance to return a ball.
Frustrating for the others on the court … downright embarrassing for me! I am not sure I would have gone back for more and probably told myself there was no point taking lessons because tennis was obviously not my game. So safe, comfortable at the start is critically important to allow you to build your confidence.
But over time, it’s very easy to stay in those safe, comfortable places with those safe, comfortable people, particularly as we begin to get more confident in getting ‘back in the room’ and start to want to attend workshops, conferences and retreats.
And when you see it, which I hope reading this has given you that lens, you realise the people who were instrumental to helping you through the last few years, aren’t the ones to take forward and beyond.
This isn’t being egotistical … this is thinking strategically and having a CEO Mindset.
One of my favourite quotes that I used to have up on my wall in my first few years of business, is from Jim Rohn …
You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
If that average is of the safe, comfortable people you are still hanging out with and discussing your business with, can you see that it may be time to go find some different people … some ‘unsafe’ people who can raise your game because they are stronger players.
And this also applies the same to your trusted friends or family members. Talking through your next big idea for your business with your spouse can often be the worst thing you can do; they love you, they want you to succeed but they also want to protect you and keep you safe.
Again, with friends who you’ve been through ‘thick and thin’; they love you, they want you to succeed but they also want to protect you and keep you safe.
Of course, I am not suggesting you keep important changes to your business a secret from your loved ones … but choose when and how you tell them, remembering you have a choice of what response or advice you want from them. If you aren’t confident with the idea that you’ve got or have a roadmap in which to execute it, talking it through with someone who wants to keep you safe can extinguish your flame very quickly, pulling you back down to safer, more comfortable levels.
I work with so many midlifers who either can’t or don’t want to pull back on their aspirations, and seeing this safety net can hugely open them up to taking the right risks and being able play a bigger, stronger game.
Where are your ‘unsafe’ people who are going to stretch you onto the next phase of your business?
What networking groups or business buddy circles do you may need to move on from?
You don’t have to say goodbye and never speak to these people again … but actively choosing those five people you want to become the average of is critical if you want to scale and grow your business.
If you want to discuss how you can release yourself from your safety net, then let’s talk. Book a Next Level Business Strategy Session with me. There’s never any charge for our first call together.
Looking for your next step to take?
Let’s talk through your current product offerings and I can help you see where you could be running your business smarter – book a Next Level Business Strategy Session with me. There’s never any charge for our first call together. Click here to check out times available.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
I want to write to you today about patience.
I’ve been staying with my mum since Thursday last week. She’s 81, incredibly independent and wants to stay this way for a long while yet. But she’s had another operation on her hip; to correct the one she had in 2019 which left her with one leg an inch shorter than the other, which also led to her having to have a knee replacement last year.
You could say we are getting pro at this after surgery care, but unfortunately she’s now having to deal with the fact that, this time around, she can’t put any weight on her hip for the next six weeks.
Her desire to be independent is being tested. And her need to be patient is forcing her to slow down and ask for help in almost everything, from cooking meals to washing her feet. (And yes, I know she’s providing me a wonderful mirror opportunity for my own life lessons LOL)
On one hand six weeks is a long time for her to be resting. And it’s a long time for my brothers and I to juggle the after care needed. But I also know that six weeks in the grand scheme of things is nothing, if being patient now will mean she will be walking without pain by the summer, and be set to carry on her independent living for many, many more years to come.
All this has got me thinking today about how often do we choose to play the patient game in our businesses, in particular the patience at winning over our ‘pregnancy clients’.
There are two types of clients that I talk to my clients about:
– the ‘bread-and-butter work’ that pays the bills, is easier to turn around and get results quickly, but are often short-term, lower paying clients who can use a lot of your time and energy without the right systems and processes in place.
– and the ‘pregnancy clients’ that – yup, you guessed it – can take up to nine months (or more) to sign the contract or buy your programme, but they are often buying at a higher price point, can be more profitable and potentially have a longer and more meaningful relationship with you, which in turn reduces your need to rely on ‘bread-and-butter work’.
Our 24-7 society, that means we can get groceries and books delivered the same day, expect responses to our emails within hours and answers on chat within minutes, has meant that our expectations have massively increased over the past decade.
And not only do we expect results and success quickly, we, as consumers, demand far more trust and confidence in the brands and businesses that we buy from than ever before; we check out online reviews, speak to friends or family members, scroll through social media feeds to see what they are publicly sharing and may even google the CEO to see what they stand for or what causes they support with the profits of their business.
All of which has had an impact on our own businesses and marketing. These shifts have meant that we all have to work that little bit harder to win more ‘pregnancy clients’ in order to avoid getting exhausted chasing too many bread-and-butter clients.
We have to choose to spend more time on projects such as:
- nurturing relationships
- creating content that builds trust and confidence (rather than trying to beat the algorithms)
- hiring the right team to support you and your business
- having a sales process that gives them what they need to make a decision in their own time (and not because it suits you and your need to make money right now)
Projects that may not give us the immediate results we are programmed to expect. But, with patience, will allow more ‘pregnancy clients’ to come to you; clients that give you more meaningful work, and potentially better profitability.
Wherever you are at in your business journey, there is a time to hustle … but as you become more established and want to grow, there are more times needed for patience.
Not sitting back, twiddling your thumbs and waiting kind of patience.
But the patience needed to doing the work that gives the clients you want to attract, the trust and confidence that you have the skills and expertise to help them give what they want. Just like my mum right now, ensuring that she take her slow recovery seriously for the next six weeks in order to be back walking at a pace by the summer!
Until next time, be more, play bigger.
It is said that the lessons we *really* need to learn in life, show up time and time again. We don’t learn it once and be done. Life has a way of circling back and giving us another experience or challenge to navigate to make sure we *really* get the lessons.
Many repeated lessons come to us on a superficial level to begin with. We may logically get what we’ve experienced for the first time but it’s through repeating the lessons that we truly see the importance of why certain behaviours and beliefs have to change in order to fulfil our potential.
So it is no surprise to me that the four biggest lessons that have helped me shift forward this year have all been learnt before. I just got to experience them a deeper level, and yes that did mean slightly messier at times, too LOL
Slowing down speeds up success
No matter how much I know this, I keep on having to learn it because it seems I am still not going slow enough. But the slower I make decisions and the more I feel into them, sleep on them and trust my gut, the stronger and more powerful the results I get.
Once upon a time, a mentor told me ‘money loves speed’. I took this to heart and prided myself on my fast decision making and product launches. But what I have come to realise is that the longer the time I take to plan and sit with new ideas, success becomes simpler and easier.
And the deeper level of learning of this slowing down has helped me know when it’s not procrastination or me playing small.
Underestimate what you can achieve in a day, and overestimate what you think is possible to achieve in a year
This is one of our Momentum ‘bumper stickers’. Even though this gets repeated and repeated on our calls and I give out this advice like candy, it’s still so easy to believe that I can take superhuman powers on certain days and crazily multi-task when faced with a to-do list the length of my arm.
And yet, when I sit with my bigger vision work and feel into what it is I want to create in a year’s time, I have to consciously stretch myself beyond my current resources and thinking.
Plans may not work but it’s the thinking that goes into your planning that matters
Every time I make a plan, I’ve continued to learn that I need to keep it bold, but loose enough to flex and adapt with what each month brings. Just because almost all our holiday plans are now rescheduled (yet again!) for 2022 (our Ibiza trip has been rescheduled three times now), this doesn’t mean I can’t set targets or milestones in my business.
I’ve had to remember to stay unattached to the outcomes that I set, and to always add the phrase “or better” to each one. Because it’s not the plan or the targets that are important; it’s the thinking that’s needed during the planning process.
This is what expands my mind to see the possibilities and to let my doubts keep me grounded whilst still shooting for the moon and be able to land somewhere in the stars.
And finally, health is everything.
I took several weeks out during the summer, cancelled things and invested in my health. Even though I thought I was doing OK, to have some test results come back with ‘early signs of autoimmune’ was a reality check that I needed to get on the right supplements, change up my diet and work in more exercise.
I am finishing this year feeling stronger than ever, and even taken up a twice weekly kick-boxing fitness class which I am absolutely loving.
So what lessons have you learned this year? And how many have you learned not just once before, but maybe many times over?
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
Back in 2017 … those pre-covid days of being able to attend conferences with hundreds of other people! … I had spent an incredible weekend at the One Woman Conference.
There were 400+ women at this event and I had the honour of being invited up on the stage as one of the finalists of the Lead The Change awards 2017, voted by the community as someone who most embodied the One of many SoftPower Leadership principles.
Having spoken on many stages, it has to have been one of my most nerve wracking performances. Somehow sharing my personal story and the vulnerabilities I’d faced (and was still facing!) was nerve racking. ,
In the run up to the conference, I reflected on what it took to step in to our potential to make a difference, and what it was about me that represented being a leader.
When you spend time by yourself and unconnected with people outside of your immediate family (and let’s be honest, we’ve all plenty of this opportunity for this over the past 18 months!), it’s easy to feel that whatever journey you are on, that what’s ahead of you is too steep or too rocky or that your goal isn’t clear and is shrouded in mountain cloud.
And this was the big lesson I shared on stage that day.
That there are times, particularly when you are alone, that fear and doubt and worry creep up, sometimes from nowhere, and take hold of us.
My fear and doubt appears as a gentle tight grip on the inside of my throat; almost like a child’s hand trying to silence me.
Your fears and doubts will appear in different places. Perhaps a knot in your stomach or a pain on your left side or a buzzing sensation at the back of your skull.
For the years running up to working with One of many, I had used this feeling in my throat to pull me back, like a bungee cord. I’d come up with an idea, reach for it and then the bungee cord would snap me back so that I’d either give up on the idea or just do a smaller version of it. And this happened a lot in the years I was recovering from my burn out, often very afraid of getting sick again.
My journey with the incredible mentors who make up One Of Many, Joanna Martin, Annie Stoker and Susie Heath, had allowed me to now feel into my uncomfortableness … the feeling of vulnerability … the feeling of shame, guilt and whatever my inner shit threw up at me at the time I want to do bigger things and become a bigger version of myself.
That gentle tight grip on my throat became my sign that it’s the right thing for me to do.
And as I stood up on that stage, I felt it appear … so I knew what I had to share was the right thing for me to have shared that day!
Feeling in to this experience of identifying where in our body we feel emotions is incredible powerful. It slows down our over thinking, and often over catastrophising, of the situation we are faced with; whether that’s a difficult conversation, a challenge at work or a relationship with a friend or family member.
Do you feel into your uncomfortableness of fear, doubt, shame or guilt … whenever it appears … and see it as a power? As a sign that you may need to hear a message of stepping up, to challenge?
I’d love to know if you do this already, perhaps even on a subconscious basis, not realising that you are doing it.
Because I’ve come to now feel these uncomfortable moments not as a bungee cord as I had done the years previously. I’ve learnt to slow down, take a moment and feel into knot or the pain or the grip or the buzz because I know now it’s probably trying to tell me something.
That bungee cord pulling me back to safety is all very well. Because, after all, safe is lovely place to be, particularly on a warm, cosy Sunday afternoon when you want to snuggle up on the sofa with a good book or film.
But if you want to make a bigger impact on this world around us, then safe will only keep you safe. It doesn’t allow us to take risks and stretch us into our potential.
As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it,
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
So let us get vulnerable and, more importantly, feel vulnerable because I know this has the potential to let out the leader that’s within you, too.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
This time last year, life, as we knew it, changed.
As I sit here and reflect over the past year, and of course acknowledge the trauma that happened to so many, I am also in awe by how many people have shifted and grown their businesses.
Comfort and growth can’t co-exist.
It often takes extreme discomfort for us to make big changes to how we are living and working. And for all the grief and loss that many have encountered, there are many others who have risen up, like a phoenix from the ashes.
I think of all the new experiences that I have bought that I would have never considered before March last year.
Joining fitness classes over zoom is probably something we’ve all done for the first time this past year. But now some fitness professionals are going further and making decisions to staying online; they’ve realised they are now open for a global market (time zones dependant) and have upped their tech skills to have a full TV production suite in their home studios.
This month I booked a magician for my son’s 19th birthday (never too old for a magician, yes!) through an Airbnb experience. An hour’s private show beamed straight to my laptop from a chap over in Japan; it was 4am for him! He told us that his day job was a project manager and in June last year he decided it was time to turn his hobby into his career. He now runs between 3 and 5 shows every few days, to an audience across the world, and is regularly booked for corporate events, as well as families like us.
And last week, I had a virtual photo shoot. Yes … a professional photo shoot through an app that I downloaded on my phone. I was a little sceptical about this but if you are on Instagram, you can see the results on my profile @karenskidmore. I was blown away by the quality of photos and how good Aga was at directing me by only using her voice.
What about me? What new skills and ways of doing business have I adopted?
I’ve always worked predominately online, so working on zoom wasn’t new to me. But I have had to learn how to run my all day workshops virtually, as well as our Mastermind Days for our Momentum Impact members. I’ve decided these work better online – more powerful – and I won’t be travelling into London to run these again, something I would have never considered before last year.
I’m also now working in my Plotting Shed, a new garden office that we built at the end of last year. With my husband now working from home, it became apparent we needed two separate offices. Of course, I volunteered to go outside. And I love it. (Again, you can go see what it looks like on my Insta pics.) It is the most gorgeous space and it makes me smile every time I walk down the garden path to unlock the door each morning.
Would any of these examples that I’ve shared here have happened without the discomfort of the last year?
This past year has pushed many of us to our extreme boundaries. We’ve been forced to step outside of our comfort zones and face, head on, parts (or even everything) about our business that stop working suddenly twelve months ago. You’ve made decisions about where and how to move your business through these last twelve months and, whatever has happened, there’s every chance your business is very different from where it was a year ago.
Acknowledge what you’ve achieved in your business through these uncomfortable months. And know that the potential of what is possible happens because you don’t stay comfortable.
Which leads me to wonder how we can all make sure we take full advantage of a little (or a lot of!) discomfort from time to time so that we can keep moving forward and ensure we are thriving in business.
If you want to discuss what I’ve shared here today and you’re interested in being challenged in what you could achieve, get in touch.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.