The link between small business owners & hunter-gatherers

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I constantly consider what it means to run a soul-enhancing, burnout-making, future-shaping business.    

Understanding what motivates humans to dive into their own “thing” helps me help my clients keep it running. Opening a business can seem counterintuitive. A “real” job will give people the income they need to feel secure. Why choose the independent path? What happens when people finally pave it for themselves but feel lost again?

Creativity and freedom are usually what people say they want of their independent income life, but I think there’s a deeper motivation. It can feel nearly biological to shift into the unknown. Deciding to grow what seems to be working but is unproven is interesting.

Creativity and freedom are usually what people say they want of their independent income life, but I think there’s a deeper motivation.

The salaried way of life is a newer concept for us humans. For centuries, we planned our whole lives around survival -- from shelter to relationships to food. Of course, we crave the security of someone else worrying about how to pay us. Then our nervous systems can relax and, ideally, we can focus on more significant intellectual issues rather than baseline survival. But in truth, a salaried job is far less secure than projected, and anxiety levels are higher than ever.

We’ve even created systems like social media that give us a sense of urgency and “fight or flight” regularly… just to feel human again. I see the complacency that the security of a job provides drip deeply into our system. That’s very scary. I know this because businesses I work with are far from complacent or passive. They are tax-paying, freedom-fighting, pleasure-craving monsters, and I love them.

I see the complacency that the security of a job provides drip deeply into our system.

The way we used to live as farmers, hunters, and gatherers feels more like what small businesses do now. For centuries our brains used to be required to work and I think we crave it today. Some people planned, some people tilled, some people knew the soil intuitively. Everyone was part of their community and always had to think ahead.

In our farmer days, I doubt there was ever a “knowing” what was to come or a real sense of security. It’s the same when you own your own business.  What I think my fellow business owners really want is to know their entire process intimately. When I talk with clients about “learning” their business, they nod enthusiastically. It’s FUN for them to have a sense of control, anticipate the future, adjust when things need to shift - all to help them feel like they’re working on something bigger than themselves.

Back to the farmers.  Knowledge about land patterns and ecosystems was passed down to the next generation. People grew their food and tended their cattle in a way that would create the most security as possible. But what about the year when the rain poured down for months, obstructing the key moment to plant seeds for the summer?

What happens in that dark hour? At an earlier time, grains were dried, fruits and vegetables were canned or fermented. This left room for error and an alternative route to prevent starvation.

Knowing what is going to come is a luxury -- and doesn’t seem innately human to me. Yet, security is possible for a business when you create a path toward building a safety net. Beware the drama we create to break up the mundane, or worse, the vices we use to numb our human desires for more.

What I want to do is hone in on the patterns of a life and a business. I want to help people see the future through their desired income and create a plan to anticipate the unfortunate loss of income. Better yet, I want people to get more creative about how they can shift with the changes in the wind patterns around them.

Quiet The Noise

I've been thinking about my contribution to the Internet. The place of endless information — distracting and enlightening.

  1. The information superhighway bridges the gap between worlds with news and global connection.

  2. The information superhighway filled with distractions.

I hear about the stress of daily derailment. Along with productivity, it is the struggle to maintain the inner voice that hurts a business owner most. The company and the person running it can be confused as the same entity, and are required to have a (seemingly) perfect online persona. Along with that pressure, the distraction of competition and the pressure they feel to compete can be debilitating.

If the internet has opened up the doors to businesses, how do we continue to use it while not getting wrapped up in the mess of it all?

Marketing (It works. It’s hard.): Telling people who you are, what you do, and how to get what you're selling. But this is how we got  into this mess in the first place. Technology we didn’t understand, rules we make up as we go, and a target market that seems to shift constantly.  

Find your story: Not just a "who are you" in general, but also your story this week, or this month. The overall brand story gets old. Involve yourself in a project, get comfortable with your products, new and old, and tell a real story that your customers and clients what to follow. A safe assumption, instead of the usual one, is that you're not repeating yourself and people do want to know what you're working on.

— Mine is a quiet, concentrated participation. It has not much to do with an algorithm and a lot to do with my people and their needs. I believe in deep human connection. I believe in tribes. And I believe in doing what feels right for you, your time, your people, and your business.

Find your customer: Speaking of your people, what does your client want and what are you doing to capture them? Create an ideal customer profile with a few variations. What do you want them to know and how do you think they'd like to be reached?

— The business owners I work with are already overwhelmed. They're tight on time and I never want to be an added distraction. I want to limit my contribution to the noise and provide meaningful content.

Find your fun: I say this a lot, maybe every time I write something new, but (like I said above) repeating important information never hurts. Life is too short, and business is too hard to not have fun with it.

— Breaking the mold is fun for me. I've never been a straight and narrow person, and I love the idea that I am going against the typical social media strategy and finding a path that feels authentic and new.

Here is the plan, for now:

12-9 photos a month. That's it.

I will plan my story with strategy. I will give a big picture, portfolio feeling with more information in the comments if it works.  I will have to work hard, which is great. Protecting my community from more noise, which is what they need most, the people I want to work with will come.

But, What's a Vision?

... and how do you expand it?

A business’ vision gets lost. You get caught up in a daily routine, your business it takes up all of your energy, and now you’re too busy (or tired) to step away to see the big picture. Slowing down the daily grind can feel impossible. 

When I “expand the vision” I go back to the very beginning of the concept to explore how you got here to uncover the spark that opened the doors. I like to understand your strengths and what makes you tick so we can work on getting back to what made the leap in the first place.

Vision is a silly word. So is Brand. They’re both terms that sum up how you’d like to be seen and the path you’re meant to take. The merit of those terms is the shortcut - broad guidelines, or keywords, that are supposed to help you focus on the goals your company has committed to. 

Shortcuts, without an understanding of depth, are overwhelming and leave you with questions like: How does everyone else have this “vision” and I’m struggling just to start?

Shortcuts are helpful when you’ve seen what the longer path has to offer. So it takes you 15 fewer minutes to get to work, but those extra fifteen minutes could be a more beautiful route or give you more time to digest your favorite podcast. It’s worth taking a long way until the shortcut has substance.  

Let's Talk About 2016

New work, goals achieved and everyday accomplishments all happen in a flash. Months of work and here you are, looking like you didn’t break a sweat. But what about acknowledgment and celebration? Look at the goals you reached and let it sink in that what was once an idea is now a reality.

You CREATED something from nothing. You! A persistent genius!

Incorporating reflection & celebration is essential to a business owner’s life. It helps prevent burnout, aids in staying present and most importantly, it gives the rare opportunity

A few days ago I was working on my 2016 overview and 2017 planning. I was met pretty early on in the exercise with the prompt, "How did you celebrate your achievements?" I couldn't think of anything specific. Was paying my rent and monthly expenses enough celebration? Not at all. 

The world around me felt like it was spinning too quickly to celebrate. Or maybe I felt like there was too much to do to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments. So now, as I do with my clients, I will model good business owner behavior and celebrate what has happened, even if only to look back on it with admiration a decade from now.

My website

Oh, this website. What a dream come to life.

Moving forward with ideas, without being paralyzed by perfection, makes for a lot of success. I was without this tool for the first two years of my business and I grew and thrived because I exceeded expectations. But I have to say that this site feels pretty close to perfect and that's a great feeling. 

This site was a 2016 resolution to come into the world six months later. I honed my skills, I wrote out what I wanted, and got comfortable with my dream. It felt (feels) so good. I was in good hands with my good friend, Chelsey as the designer (here is more of her amazing work) The site was celebrated on the website TypeWolf (a really big deal!) and the branding will be put to use for many years to come. 

Promotion

With the website came recognition. I was ready for the site and I was ready to talk about what I do to the world. These were my pieces: 

New clients + workload

I got busy! And I learned while doing it. I figured out how much work I could handle on my own and when to say no (or quit). I learned how to manage more contractors and more complicated projects. I learned that everyone needs something a little bit different and that’s a really good thing. I worked out my systems so I could be better at my job and that system included staying put, which brings me to… 

My office! I moved into an office! 

In October I looked at my business with a fine-tooth comb. Something wasn't right. I was tired, felt overworked, and barely had time for myself.  I had to figure out where I was spinning my wheels. I realized that I needed to make myself accessible without compromising important work concentrations hours. It took time, but I found the perfect space. My clients are happy to come to me and I am so much better at my job now. Just two months in and my exhaustion is almost non-existent. 

Does simply making it to 2017 count as and accomplishment? 

I think it does. Cheers!