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.
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Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.