8 practical steps I took to develop my business

“I need to be like Frodo at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring and go and find my own way for a bit.” I said as I left a group programme at the end of 2021. Little did I realise quite how apt that description of what I was about to do would be. I’m calling my 6th year in business my wilderness year. Like Frodo, I found myself in the marshes and had to remember several times not to follow the lights which would lead me away from the path.

Marshland with brown and green grasses in the foreground and mountains in the background, beneath grey skies.
Photo by Carrie Borden on Unsplash

Catching up with a client recently, they described 2022 as a year of transition. As the new year started I also saw various posts on social media about how it hadn’t been great. Hearing about other people’s experiences led me to re-evaluate my own and part of the reason for me sharing what I’ve learned at the end of each business year is to help others.

So here are 8 practical steps I took in my 6th year of business which helped move me forward. Hopefully there’ll be something in here that is of use to you.

1. I expanded my comfort zone

Running a business always involves getting out of your comfort zone to a certain extent. Looking back over the past 6 years there are definitely things I wish I had done sooner or leaned into more. In 2022 I made a lot more leaps.

It started with going to a confidence training session by Lizi Jackson-Barrett in ATOMIC. I knew I was hiding and needed some encouragement. Lizi talked to us about gradually expanding our comfort zone, rather than hurling ourselves out of it.

She also asked us to think about the areas of our life where we wanted to be more confident. One of mine was sales. I had spent years avoiding sales conversations. Following the training I started putting offers out and not only did it get easier, but it meant I had conversations about what I was doing and so got to know what people liked and didn’t like and how they felt about their writing.

2. I embraced my weird and worked 1:1 with a coach

I’ve taken a lot of courses over the years. I’ve heard a lot of ‘shoulds’. My brain doesn’t respond very well to ‘should’. I needed to embrace the weird, as Amy Kean would say, and do things my own way.

One of the things I have realised is that I often know what I want to do but haven’t had the courage to do it.

So I started working with a brilliant offers coach called Janine Coombes. I had admired Janine for years. If you read “9 lessons I have learned about running a business” which I wrote for my 3rd business birthday, you’ll see that I quote Janine saying: “Other people don’t know what you’re trying to achieve with your business.”

I knew what I wanted but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. So I plucked up the courage to ask Janine if I could work with her. Such a good decision!

She got me to do market research and really focus on my ideal client. She gave me space to think through my ideas and challenged me when I downplayed what I wanted to do.

By the time we had finished working together I had solid offers I felt happy to talk to people about.

Janine Coombes
Janine Coombes

3. I started doing monthly planning and reflection

One of the good things that happened at the start of the year was Mike Cole asking me if I wanted to be in his membership The Cole Collective. A regular activity in the Collective is monthly planning and part of this is reflecting on the month just gone.

 

I tend to race from one thing to the next. It’s done and out of my brain. Mike gets me to sit and think about the previous month. It’s been incredibly helpful to see that, during a year when I mostly felt I was floundering, I wrote down positive things every month. I was then able to think about something I could do the following month to make things go more smoothly.

4. I prioritised my health

This might sound like a bit of a curve ball but it is an important part of my 6th year in business for two reasons:

 

  1. I needed something I could focus on so I wasn’t obsessed with those sales conversations and put myself under too much pressure.
  2. I wasn’t giving myself time to exercise. I was sitting at a computer all day.

 

I saw a quote in a productivity planner which said: “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

 

Now that was definitely sales but it was getting fit too.

 

I joined a programme run by a personal trainer and six months later, I’m still going. My computer-locked shoulders now move, I can do a lunge, and I can almost do press ups. My goal is to be able to do ab crunches.

5. I made a real effort to unhermit

During lockdown I persuaded myself that sitting in my living room was absolutely fine. I’m an introvert. I find face to face networking difficult, and I’m very happy to not speak to anyone and get on with my work.

 

When business events returned in autumn 2021 and I met up with people again, I remembered how much I enjoyed having conversations and sparking off others. So this year I went all in on events. I went to:

 

Getting out and meeting people kept me going over the past year. These events also gave me the opportunity to develop my ideas about what I want to create and the experience I want to give my clients.

Ella Orr and I grab a selfie over coffee
Ella Orr and I grab a selfie, while I try not to spill coffee on her at You Are The Media Creator Day. Photo by Zelda de Hollander

6. I decided to get to know people better

I felt disconnected. That might be the peculiar experience of living through 2020, 2021, and 2022 but I felt I didn’t really know people particularly well. Going to events helped with that but I wanted to get to know people I knew online who didn’t go to those. And I wanted to get to know people on my email list. While I try not to broadcast in my emails, they can feel that way, and I felt people didn’t see them as a two-way conversation.

 

I’m trying to get better at keeping in touch with people in between events.

 

I also did this:

7. I ate my words

Getting to know people better, and letting people get to know me, led to me doing some things I had said very clearly I wouldn’t do:

  • Video
  • Speaking
  • Running a membership

 

This year I:

 

Started a Youtube channel.

 

Attended live video training with Ian Anderson Gray and actually went live on Youtube.

 

Went on a 3 day speaker training course run by Cheryl Chapman and Jane Leonard at Strictly Come Speaking.

 

Started a membership for B2B coaches and consultants who didn’t set out to be writers but who write for their businesses. It’s called Rachel’s Writing Club and the focus is on cheerleading, accountability and support to help you do the work and publish it.

8. I created my IMPACT framework

One of the unexpected but brilliant things about my 6th year in business was the serendipitous interconnectedness of things that happened.

 

For example, I went along to Lizi’s confidence training, then created a new offer and made a sale the same week. I also decided, following that session, I was going to do something about getting fit and lo and behold an advert the perfect exercise programme appeared.

 

A bigger snowball was being introduced to Sparkle FrameworksTM  by my business buddy Susanna Reay. This got me thinking about how to codify the way I work with clients. I came up with IMP: Individual, Message, Presence. Then we both went on speaker training with Cheryl and she asked me where Copy was. That was the breakthrough I needed. Suddenly my offers were no longer separate, they were related through IMPACT: Individual, Message, Presence, Action, Copy, and Tactics.

 

And I have a clear pathway showing you what you need, depending on your circumstances.

A big thank you to Susanna. She has been an amazing cheerleader for me and has encouraged me every step of the way this year.

 

By the end of the year, I had clarity, focus and confidence, and hadn’t fallen foul of any wraiths or giant spiders.

 

If you’re building a business on your own terms, using your specialist knowledge and experience, and would like help to talk about what you do, how it helps your clients, and to get more visible, then get in touch with me. Let’s create an impact!

Picture of Rachel Extance

Rachel Extance

Award-winning journalist and blogger. I help service-based business owners communicate who they are, what they do, and why. If you struggle to talk about yourself on your website or your content marketing, get in touch with me.

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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. The Story Cave Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.