Focus on the aspects you can control
Business Planning used to be a hobby of mine; I loved writing business plans for ideas that I had. I would sit down and structure the plan with my mission statement, product/service description and analysis, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and the PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological) analysis. These were my building blocks to work out if my idea was going to be feasible or not. The only aspect that would look at factors that were seemingly within my control were Strengths and Weaknesses, all the others would concern outside factors that I had no control over. As I am moving further and further down the path of self reflection, it dawns on me why this is.
If you ask successful innovators, visionaries or entrepreneurs, many will tell you that all the answers (external factors) pointed towards “NO” to the question of whether their idea was feasible or not. So why did they go ahead with it anyway? There are many factors but two of the main ones will have been that their intuition told them it was going to work and they just had to proceed against all odds. Secondly, the attitude, mindset and fear of failure is just not there. In fact, I’ve often heard these same entrepreneurs refer to failure as experiences, lessons, paving stones on the path to success, etc. One can only draw the conclusion that in these cases, your typical business plan would have been a waste of energy. The energy has been spent on nurturing their connection to their inner voice and releasing their fears and need to control the outcome of any given experience.
I am not advocating that we completely ignore external factors in our planning, but rather that is not where we should start and they should hold far less weight in determining the feasibility of your business idea. The plan should be less binary in terms of making statements; the economic situation is …., our strengths are …. I prefer asking open-ended questions that may take a while to answer. When we ask deep questions like this we are able to look deep within and find areas of growth that might otherwise laid dormant never to have been awoken. If you have then cleared the obstacles from within you will know if your idea is a possible success or not, however you may define it for any given project.
I have identified five areas where we need to focus our questioning:
- Skill set
You will find that many of these intersect, connect and cross over, but you will find it helpful to approach the same challenge from many different points and for a variety of purposes.
Our Egos have a tremendous need for control, it’s how it thinks it can protect us from what it perceives as “danger”. This need comes out of our fears, which in turn come out of our experiences and programming (click on the link to learn more about tracing your fears and how to heal them: “Manage Your Fears to Remove Your Stress”). Exerting control produces resistance and resistance will cause you to waste energy on experiences that you could just flow through with ease if you didn’t attach to them. Most of the times these situations are those where you Ego perceives as something is being done “to you”. Resistance does not feel good, it is straining and exhausts you.
Explore and examine your behavioural patterns where you try to exercise control and experience resistance. What would be the difference if you just let things unfold as they may? Look at your perception of the situation and compare it to your assumption of how the other “players” perceive the same experience. Now bear in mind that when looking at other people’s perception of the same experience you are making so many assumptions that the probability of you being correct is very low. Hence, what is the purpose of you resisting an experience that you have no chance of perceiving correctly, you cannot control it nor predict it, so just move through it and focus on what you can control and what you are passionate about.
Once you see the pattern, understand the motivation behind your need to control, what are the underlying fears? Bring your discoveries on to the next segment of “Fears”
Knowing and understanding what you can’t control brings about the question, “what can I control?”. You can control:
- Your actions and reactions
- Your thoughts
- Your words
- Your perceptions
- Your feelings
The commonality is “You”. Anything that originates from you is within your control and of your choosing. Set goals of what you need to reign in control of and how you are going to do that. Basically, what energy do you want to exude in your business and what type of person do you want to be?
In my experience, fears are what set off our stresses and negative reactions. We are not born with a set of things or experiences to fear, we learn that as we grow up.
The vast majority of our fears int he modern world are conceptualised and not real tangible threats to our well being. Yes, you are taught not to step into traffic, it will hurt you, but you are also taught that if you don’t get a good job you will starve. What is a “good” job? And will you really starve if you do not land this notional “good” job? Of course not, it is just our way of programming our children to become productive members of society. However, now we’ve planted a seed in the child’s mind that if they don’t get a “good” job they will starve letting them run wild with the definition of what a “good job” is and imagining the experience of starving. Pretty heavy burden to put on child, wouldn’t you agree? We then bring this idea that we’ve stored away in our subconscious into adulthood and every time we are faced with the risk of being without a job or our livelihood is challenged we go into fight or flight mode by default. Losing your job might actually be the best thing for you because it opens up the opportunity for something even better, but because of your fear you will try to either keep your “good” job or if your lose it you jump into the first next one to keep the salary flowing. You resist the change because of a notional fear that you will starve. The fear is notional, like most of your other fears are.
For this stage in your planning you need to explore all your fears and understand if they are material or notional. Your notional fears you will then have to explore to understand where they have their root and heal that experience. Your fears will hold you back as you try to create your business and they will cause you to self-sabotage your success, so it is vital that you deal with them. Notional fears are illusions and the danger only exists in your mind and imagination.
The mindset of a successful person will vary greatly, but the common ground will be that he/she lacks a certain level of fear and will flow with life, roll with the punches as it was. Your mindset is your toolbox that will get you through your challenges, provide you with resilience, patience and perseverance. If you are riddled with fear and the need to control you will have a controlling and “worst case scenario” mindset, which will force you to work three times as hard with less effectiveness and with more energy expunged per minute worked. Not a recipe for success nor happiness. With such mindset you are likely to grow tired of your business quickly. If the outcome of your business is that it fails, as someone with negative mindset innately would expect it to, and this outcome is inevitable, would it not behove you to spend all that time having fun and enjoying yourself with your business instead of battling and controlling it? The mindset is your ability to enjoy the journey and not worry about the goal.
In your business planning, you will have to look at your business idea and figure out what mindset is required to make it a success. Through your understanding of your established pattern of control and fears, you will have a good idea of your mindset. Do the two match or do you have to make changes to your mindset to meet the expectations you set out in your plan? If they don’t match, you first have to set up a plan on how you are going to change your mindset. A popular metric is that it takes 29 days to change a habit through daily practice, so establish your changes in your daily routine and you will soon have changed your mindset. There are a plethora of self-help literature on this subject. Two of my favourite authors in this field are Joe Dispenza and Mike Dooley.
Most who look at getting into a business look at their historical experiences and use them as a compass as to what their business should be. That is the Ego talking, “don’t take risks”, “don’t step out of your comfort zone”, etc. What if you got a brilliant idea for a business that required a completely different qualifications to the ones you have? I would venture to say that the reason you had that idea is that you have the qualities necessary to manifest that idea into reality. If you need a different set of skills, then you either go out and get it for yourself through training and education or you bring in someone with that skill set to boost your experiences.
Go through all the skills you you will need to bring in to make the business work and look at which ones you have, which ones you can acquire and which ones you need to bring in externally. If you need to bring them in from the outside, understand if you should collaborate in partnership, buy services or hire someone, they all have their benefits and drawbacks, so it is an important analysis. You want to divide your skill set analysis into the following:
- Core: These are skills you need to manufacture the products or perform the services you intend to offer, e.g. pottery for ceramics, herbalist for herbal remedies, hypnotherapy certificate for hypnotherapy, etc.
- Secondary: Any additional products and services you’d like to offer that are nice add-0n’s that you’d like to offer, e.g. specialist glazing for pottery, beauty treatments for your herbal remedies, quitting smoking therapies for hypnotherapy, etc.
- Administrative: Anything that has to do with running any business falls into this category, such as; marketing, bookkeeping, accounting, sales, negotiations, etc.
As you can see, and probably already knew, there are quite a few functions that go in to even a small on person business. I think it is good to have bit of a grasp on all the functions in your business as you are ultimately in charge and responsibility for the work getting done, so ignorance is certainly not bliss when it comes to running a business.
Once you have healed your need to control your external environment and healed your fears and shifted your mindset, you can move on to exploring your passion and motivation. These two elements are going to fuel your mindset and help you make the right choices for the success of your business. However, this will only be possible once you get your Ego out of the way and you listen to your inner self that is your true essence.
Your motivation will be fully aligned with your passion when you are true to yourself. If your motivation is money and your passion is to help people and your motivation is driven by your Ego, you are not going to be successful as you passion sets the measure of what success means to you. If it truly is not material wealth you will eventually tire trying to chase it and your business will fail. This is not to say that you won’t find your material wealth, but you won’t be fulfilled and happy from it. Following your true passion without fear and without the need to control the journey will bring you the success your true self desires. If that success is measured in comfort for you and others, you are like to make money, but it won’t be your main motivation, it will be a byproduct.
Passion cannot be explained it can only be known by feeling it. A lot of people search most of their lives for their passion and some will wake up and find it. In my experience, which has brought me to where I am today, you need to clear your cobwebs of negative energy, deal with your old perceptions of life and let life flow, then you will have opened the gates to allow your passion to present itself to you. If you do not know your passion (really, your true passion) you will have to let it come to you by preparing the yourself for it. It is similar to sleep; you cannot chase it because it will elude you, you have to allow it to come to you.
These are two aspects where you have to be brutally honest with yourself. If you let your Ego trick you to make arguments one way or another you are surely to not go with the business where you want to take it. If your passion and motivation don’t line up, take a pause and work on yourself and revisit the idea. If you come to the conclusion that you don’t have a passion for the idea, it just sounded good because of the money, have the courage to step back and pull the brakes. You must allow your truth to convince you of a business’ viability.
On the other hand, you may have all the external factors pointing towards complete failure, but your passion and motivation scream, “full steam ahead!”. In this case you will have to trust your instincts and your gut feeling. I know plenty of successful entrepreneurs that have been through this stage and haven’t regretted their decision to plough ahead. Be very aware and conscious, though, that it isn’t your Ego doing the screaming. Remember, your Ego is always a lot louder than your inner passion, so listen to the soft voice not the loud booming one.
It is a common misconception that a business plan is a plan of how to move ahead with a business. It is in fact an analysis to establish if you should move ahead or not. It allows you to put all the facts on paper and get an eagle eye’s perspective of your thoughts. However, if you only look at the external aspects of your environment, you have no idea if you have what it takes to succeed and if you have done the preparatory work to make sure you are moving in to your new phase in life with the right motivation and that you have the passion to sustain yourself through the good as well as the hard times. You may want to test your courage as well and share the plan with others and be open to input. If you are reluctant to share it with others, you should ask yourself, “why?”. You should be excited to share it with the world, if you have done all the preparatory work. If your plan then checks out; go for it!
Also published on Medium.