Here's the thing: Holding your nerve

hold your nerveEvery Friday I post a “here’s the thing” blog. “Here’s the thing” is something my mum (and many other wise people) like to say when they’re about to make a good point. Hopefully these posts are also good points.

It’s official less than three months (less than 90 days!) until the Big Day. The upcoming days and nights are likely to be the biggest you’ll see all year. They have the potential to launch you into a different level of business. They could change your destiny. They’re the days that have the biggest risk and biggest reward.

Right now, today, this week, and for about the next month, is a crunch point. It’s like the calm before the storm, and it can be incredibly unnerving.

You’ve spent all your cash on stock. You need to order more stock, if you’re going to have enough. But you worry that those forecasts you’ve worked on, or your hopes and dreams, are too big. The orders aren’t really going to match it. The stock you’re ordering – twice, thrice, or more times what you normally order – is still going to be here in six months to a year, because it isn’t really going to sell.

You’ve found staff, you’ve committed to paying staff, but soon they’re going to have done all the prep they can possibly do, and then they’re going to be sat around, costing you money, with tumbleweeds all around waiting for the orders to roll in.

These are the conversations I’ve had with clients this week, and things I’ve seen and heard over the past six years. Maybe you’re not quite there yet, maybe you have enough *stuff* to do before you get to this point. Come back next week, or the week after. Because you’ll feel it. That scary tipping point of commitment before you can be sure it’ll pay off.

This moment, right now, is kind of an act of faith. That you’ve created products, services, websites, product pages that are going to draw people in and generate sales. That you’ve invested in the “right” things.

It’s a moment where doubt creeps in, and fear can grab a nasty hold.

Let’s do a little sense check to calm the doubt and fear:

  • Do you have a brand that customers have connected with, even a little bit, over the past months/years?
  • Are your products the best you have to offer? Not perfect, but good, interesting, different?
  • Have you shown them off as best you can? Clear photos, thorough and interesting product descriptions?
  • Have you got yourself a little marketing plan? Newsletters to your subscribers, features in press or online, social media plans?
  • Do the numbers make some kind of sense? Do you have forecasts that allow you to re-think as we get through the next couple of months?
  • Have you been clear with staff that you might need more from them if it gets busy? You don’t have to get them in at maximum capacity straight away.

Now, when you read through that list, I want you think about the perfectly imperfect, the progress not perfection attitude. Your products and photos may have flaws. If you’ve done everything else, and there’s still a photography niggle, then have another go. But if you go into a fear-based flurry to organise a reshoot of everything in your shop, please pause. Prioritise.

So here’s the thing:

The key distinction you need to make at this point is the difference between paranoia, fear, doubt and legitimate tasks to complete, improvements to make. And that requires you to tune into what the reality of the task is. So deep breath, make a list, review the list.

(And if you need a second opinion, email me.)

It’s about holding your nerve. Believing you’ve done your best, checking you’ve covered all bases. Committing to yourself, to your products, to your customers.

It’s not easy to do it all by yourself. I know! If this post resonates, I can assure you: you’re not alone.

And it feels a little bit weird to be offering something up when I know cash flow can be a little tight, but this time next month, I’ll be starting the journey of sending out three emails a week to my lovely Progress not perfection people. These emails, this course, is a whole load of reassuring, practical, supportive advice and reminders. It won’t break the bank (promise!) but it will give you something to lean on when things are busy.

Pop over here to read about the full course and sign up. I’m even offering the option to get a weekly care package of nice stuff in the post. I’m so excited about this course, and about supporting you during the busiest weeks of the year.

And if you have any questions, just ask!

Jx

 

Here's the thing: What I learned last night

Every Friday I post a “here’s the thing” blog. “Here’s the thing” is something my mum (and many other wise people) like to say when they’re about to make a good point. Hopefully these posts are also good points.

Last night was date night, and a pretty special one at that. Not because it was like a birthday or an anniversary or anything, but because we went somewhere really cool.

About a month ago, I started following Grub Club on Twitter. They’re a kind of marketplace for pop-up restaurants, and for people who just like having people round for tea. Shortly after I started following them, I spotted a tweet about a new Argentinian chef who was running a small number of 12 people, 1 table dinners. I’m already pretty excited because I love food in general, and small gatherings, but also because Ryan spent about a year and a half in South America and really loves Argentinian food and wine.

But guess where it was? The St Pancras clock tower.

Hello! I mean, that’s pretty cool. And I know that it’s Ryan’s favourite building in London. Book tickets. Cancel other plans. Gogogo!

So I kept it a secret right up until I had to take Ryan into the fancy apartment building, at which point, I’m definitely winning. And it gets better from there.

Whatever my expectations were, they were surpassed. The building was amazing. The view was brilliant. The host, the chef, such passionate people. The company, unpredictably good. And the food. I mean. Yes!

Peter, our host and the owner of a pretty exceptional apartment in the St Pancras clock tower, was a true gentleman, and clearly had a passion for architecture and for this amazing piece of history. He told us about how the bell tower had been built, but never had a bell in it. And we could see the staircase up to the clock where, once a week, someone had to climb to wind the clock. So welcoming, so charming.

Martin Milesi, our chef, was one of those people who loves food and can create it. Rarely do you get to spend an evening with someone like that. He had so much excitement to share his dishes and his stories with us, and I have renewed love for South American food. Also: it’s mostly corn-based so gluten-free is super easy.

So here’s the thing:

Apart from gushing after a truly awesome evening, I was reminded of a few things:

  1. Small is beautiful. There were 13 of us dining, which made for great conversation (plus, I’m an introvert at heart, so I find small groups rewarding). We had a tasting menu of 6 courses, and each course was, truly, just a taste. You don’t have to have a lot of something to really enjoy it. See also: quality vs quantity.
  2. Passion is infectious and inspiring. Not only Peter and Martin, but the other guests were also really excited to be somewhere so special and experience something unique. And Martin’s story of wanting to create this micro-restaurant, developing the idea for 6 years and finally getting it together when there were the right ingredients. I love that! This morning, I feel like there’s opportunity everywhere if we look for it, and do it on our terms.
  3. It’s fun to celebrate for no real reason. I like an occasion. I like the big ones, but even more so, I like the random Thursday nights that turn out a bit special and extraordinary. Adding a little festivity and fun is really rewarding.

I really hope, this weekend, you get to experience some or all of these things for yourself. Maybe choose one that stands out as something you’re craving. Embrace something you’re passionate about, or spend time with someone who’s passionate about something – even if it’s different from your passions. It sticks with you.

Jx

PS Registration for my new ecourse opens on Monday! Watch this space…

progress not perfection

Here's the thing: Abundance

I hope we all make itEvery Friday I post a “here’s the thing” blog. “Here’s the thing” is something my mum (and many other wise people) like to say when they’re about to make a good point. Hopefully these posts are also good points.

I know, I know. “Abundance”. It’s a Stephen Covey Americanism. I don’t think I used, thought or wrote the word until long after I read his book several years ago. And I didn’t realise it then, but the idea of abundance has (slowly, gradually) had a really big impact on my beliefs. Cheers, Steve.

So while I appreciate it might feel a bit cheesy, I’m going to ask you to bear with me, because I really believe that abundance – the idea that there’s enough and more for everyone – will have a profound impact on your business.

Money. Customers. Ideas. PR features. Holidays. Food. Friends. Lovers.

There are things we believe we’ll never have enough of, but in our minds, they are in shockingly limited supply. You may worry about some or all of that list above. You might have your own unique additions, but those are broadly the biggies for small businesses and people in general.

We believe that we need money to live – four walls, ceiling, food, tax. We believe that we need customers to give us money (and boy do we worry that there won’t be any customers left for us in six months). We believe that we’ve only got so many ideas inside us, that they’ll run out and then no one will want to work with us.

I’m not about to tell you to stop thinking about how to get more customers, or whether your profit margins are healthy. These are all important things to think about. It’s the way we think about them, and our beliefs about them, that are important.

The opposite of abundance is scarcity. If we believe there aren’t enough customers for everybody, that we’ll lose out, that it can’t be done if we’re not chosen for a homepage feature, then we limit ourselves. We’ll stop seeing the opportunities to find customers, connect with them, be nice to them, because we don’t believe they exist.

I see this in my clients. They’re still in scarcity mode, where they don’t have enough. They’re worried about investing in another staff member or stock. They’re worried they won’t sell enough to justify the cost. And my face says ‘huh?’. They’re serious. They can’t see how much it’s going to benefit them and, honestly, how much it’s going to be fine. When you invest, you step up. You make it work.

When we believe we don’t have any (or enough) money, so we don’t spend any money, so we don’t get any return. We create our own false economies – hey, look, I bought this cheaper version! Oh, wait, it doesn’t work so I have to spend just as much if not more on making it work. Or, I can’t afford to hire someone, so I’ll have to say no to new opportunities.

When you believe in abundance, what you value changes. You see things differently. You see that hiring someone with more experience or enthusiasm gives you more than hiring the person who’ll do it for less.

You see that there are enough customers for everyone. Yes, competition exists and it’s important to think about where you sit in the market, what you offer that others don’t, and all those things. But when you simply focus on connecting with the customers who want your products, rather than the customers who want someone else’s products – that’s when you make meaningful connections and things start to grow.

Here’s the thing:

Fear takes over. A lot. Especially if you’ve been in places that felt truly scarce, where you really didn’t have any money, or a safe place to live, or anyone to call on when you needed help. The recent recession didn’t help, and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s completely over when you read the headlines these days.

It’s hard to un-remember those times, but they’re just a memory. You did survive them. There’s much more than there was then.

Imagine you’re in a world where everyone has enough, if they choose to see it. There are people who want you to do your thing, successfully. They want your products, your brand, your voice. They see value in what you offer. But you have to give them something so that they can see it.

Believing in abundance is very much connected to your self-esteem. Do you believe you’re worthy of everything you want and need? And that’s not something one blog post can instil in you.

But my parting message is this: believe, just a little bit, that there is more than enough for everyone. Take this little nudge towards being relaxed about buying in more stock than you think you need, or employing someone really good. When you step up your input, it shines through. You’re taking yourself seriously, and so will your customers.

optin-cup

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