I see many business coaches and mentors drive their clients hard; fuelled by the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk and other high adrenaline entrepreneur gurus, many people believe that hustle and grind are proof of success. Heck, I used to do it myself back in the early days of my coaching business. ‘Work harder’, ‘do more’ and ‘push yourself out there’.
Yes, there’s no doubt that there are times you need to step up, push your shoulders back and do whatever is needed to see a project completed, or to challenge or perhaps stretch yourself when you feel uncomfortable or nervous of taking action. But taking this energy with you all day, every day is not healthy. I only have to watch three seconds of a Gary Vaynerchuck video to feel my cortisol levels rise dangerously high. If you feel the same, I want to give you permission to stop feeling that these gurus represent success; they are simply one version of success and it doesn’t have to be yours.
Success is often thought of in terms of money, and the economy and business growth can look like this line on this chart below; the more effort you put in, the bigger the results.
If you were to relate this to your small business, it could be simplified as two stages of growth: Launch and Expand.
Launch: get a business idea and launch it.
Expand: do more and grow.
Simple enough but this version of success rarely happens.
A more likely growth chart is that your results go up as well as down over the course of the year, as seen in the figure above. This is often called the roller coaster, giving you periods of feast and famine throughout the year.
You launch your business idea, then try to grow in Expand stage, but you run out time, energy or resources, which means your results go down. You only need to go through a few of these roller coaster loops to feel burnt out. I often refer to this as ‘launch fatigue’ as you don’t have the energy to put yourself through yet another launch in order to grow your business.
Whilst the natural instinct for many people – particularly those who have left a PAYE job and have got used to a steady paycheque – is to hope that their business will give them a constant and consistent income, for most small businesses this simply isn’t possible.
External influences in the economy, regulation changes and even fluctuations in the weather can mean you have little control over whether your business can give you this constant and consistent income. Add into the mix taking time out of your business for holidays or periods of illness, or nasty surprises such as your website getting hacked, a team member leaving you suddenly, or a higher than expected tax bill, and this can mean your cashflow has regular highs and lows.
But what if this feast and famine, that we are all programmed to believe is bad, was actually cycles of feast and fallow?
As working harder isn’t an option any more, as you are finding out, what if you could feel comfortable with the ups and downs in your business, the same way that we adapt to the change in our seasons?
Here in the UK, we plant our fields in spring, watch the crops grow in the summer and harvest in the autumn. Winter may be the dormant month but Mother Nature still works away, preparing the ground for the next cycle of feast for the following year. Crops need to be rotated and fields left fallow between the crops, to allow the soil to replenish itself.
The only way to plant in a different season and get a consistent and constant harvest is to control the growing environment with heated greenhouses, artificial sunlight and plenty of fertilisers and nutrients. So rather than forcing your growth with artificial sunlight and fertiliser, could you follow your natural business growth cycles?
What if we stopped trying to control the natural rhythms of business and work in tune with these feast and fallow cycles?
The True Profit Growth Flow
This is how I see growth working. There are four distinct phases of growth within a True Profit Business: evolve, evidence, establish and expand.
Evidence: getting proof that you have people who will buy what it is you offer by spending money with you.
Establish: getting feedback, building credibility and developing your business offer so you understand the results your clients get.
Expand: once you’ve proved that what you offer works, you can then start expanding your marketing systems, processes and team to build on your initial success.
Evolve: at some point, your systems and processes will stop working as well, as external factors change and your marketplace evolves. Which means that you have to evolve, too.
The new approach or idea you decide to take forward then drops back down into the Evidence phase again for you to find proof of concept. And so the Growth Flow continues back around.
You will notice there are no straight lines; the journey between each of these phases take you forwards, sideways and sometimes backwards before going forwards again. There’s no certainty of going from A to B to C to D. It’s more of a journey from A to B and then ‘Oh, shit, we need to go straight to G’ and then back to D before deciding to get C sorted before you go any further.
Through my research in writing my book, True Profit Business, and the work I’ve done with my clients over the past few years, I have seen this Growth Flow happen at all levels. It applies to your overall business journey across five to seven years, and it also applies to the specific lifecycle of your products and marketing campaigns. If you’ve been trying to take the approach of Launch and Expand, shown on the previous business growth chart in Figure 4, what you’ve essentially been doing is trying to go straight to phase three or four; Expand and Evolve.
If your own growth journey hasn’t been going as well as you have hoped, I hope that this gives you the reassurance that you haven’t failed. You are simply trying to navigate the ebbs and flows of the True Profit Growth Flow.
Over the coming weeks, I shall be sharing more about True Profit Business as my new book, True Profit Business, is published this September. In the meanwhile, I’d love to know what insights you have this article so do comment below and share your thoughts on what profit really means to you.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
About the author
Karen Skidmore is a business mentor with 25+ years of experience, specialising in True Profit™; the design & growth of purposeful, profitable businesses. Business Books Awards finalist 2020 & podcaster, Karen uniquely combines the being-ness and doing-ness of business to help scale up, without burning out.
The first step in discovering the True Profit in your business is to take the True Profit Test.