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When you need something different.
Needs change, and so should your business.
There’s a rumbling undercurrent, that you might catch if you’re paying attention (or, like, happen to be in daily conversation with small business owners): we’re experiencing a wave of small business closures and upheaval. The pandemic isn’t over and neither is the shakeup of the economy.
If I can muster enough bravery, I’ll write more about the context of the closures that are happening— what I'm seeing is a bit of a canary in an economic coalmine. Today I want to talk about before you get to the shutting it all down point— when you know something's off and you can (and want to) still do something about it.
There will come a time when you need something different from you business.
Depending on our personalities and motivations (and which of our habitual relationship patterns we cart onto the scene. Like, Hi mom, thanks for coming to my business dynamics!), the energy that got us going can sustain us for years….until it doesn’t anymore. You don’t think to ask for something more or different, because like anything habitual, you forget to notice whether you need a change. Or the need for change is clear, but taking action feels too damn hard or even impossible.
A few common symptoms that your needs have changed:
Resentment creeps in. Towards your customers or clients. Towards your employees. Towards the business itself and what it asks of you. Notice if lately the voices in your head are snarkier, sharper.
Your engagement wains (and keeps waning). It’s fine and normal to feel disengaged in your work from time to time. Everyone feels like Fridays in July sometimes. I’m talking when you’re feeling checked out for a prolonged period (5-6 months, say?).
You’ve let the check engine lights of burnout blink on for too long. Weekends off no longer do it. A week’s vacation no longer does it. You’ve fried yourself.
Your life looks radically different…your business not so much. This one’s kind of a weird one, because I know all sorts of people with job jobs who have kids, move, get divorced, etc…and keep their same job. As an entrepreneur, your work is more intimately tied to the shape of your life. Upheaval in your life will often prompt necessary changes in your business. Like, have a kid and see if you can maintain 50 hours a week of unpaid labor!
These are signs of unmet needs. Sometimes its because you could get away with shorting yourself in one area or another on new business energy, after all, no one said business ownership would be easy. As someone committed to suffering as the natural state of my work for years, I am here to push back on the idea of struggle as an acceptable prolonged state.
Often though, it's the everyday process of maturation. Do you also cringe at some of the behaviors you put up with in the people you dated in your early twenties? Me too. I don't need that shit anymore, just as I don't need to underpay myself in my business.
It’s not that our needs and all the various parts of our work and businesses must exist in harmonious alignment at all times. Having some aspects that suck means you’re a human existing in this reality. But change is inevitable, and certain kinds of misalignment will prove fatal to your business if left unchecked.
Recognizing misalignment of needs is that first step, but of course the hard part is that you must do something, something courageous, with that knowledge.
Here are some “sites for change” to explore:
Money. Good goddess, I wish it weren’t such a common affliction to shortchange yourself, but the number of you who don’t pay yourself enough is staggering. I’m putting this one first, because it’s both a root cause and a symptom of a relationship or a business out of alignment.
Curiosity & Learning. Sometimes we just need a new thing to work on or find some new rabbit hole to dive down. Especially if you've been running your business for some time, you may have reigned in "idea bonanza self" because you're wiser now, and she's really disruptive. Well, maybe it's time to let her run amok for a bit?
Business Structure. Maybe it turns out you hate selling in a launch cycle or find managing a team draining. Or you got started doing intimate 1:1 work that morphed into groups because scale and turns out you prefer the 1:1. Question your assumptions around what you think you should be doing or how your business should look. Structural changes are rarely small changes, but after the dust settles, they come with deep relief.
Time & Space As in you need more of both, outside of your business. This one requires concrete action, and maybe some guardrails so you can’t fuck it up for yourself by *just* peeking at your email.
A 4 day workweek.
A three week vacation.
Ending your workday at 3pm.
Starting your workday at 10am.
One day a month that you are not allowed to plan, but must happen such that you wake up and spontaneously blow off work.
I don’t know what the magic *less* will be for you, but telling yourself to work less won’t help unless you actually change your schedule. At the very least, block off one (better yet, two) days a week where you don’t do calls and don’t meet with anyone.
Get a damn job This one’s related to all of the above— actually create a job for yourself or craft yourself a new job. A good job, not a shitty, exploitative job. Far too many of you have created jobs for yourselves you’d feel mortified posting in public! Good jobs have boundaries, they compensate appropriately, they include PTO and sick time. They allow you to go home and be interested in other things: hobbies, family and friends, your pet hamsters.
The common thread through this non-exhaustive list is a prompt for a deeper—sometimes radical— change.
And well, that’s the point actually.
If you’re lackluster about your business, a little mindset shift or a long weekend aren’t going to cut it.
The other point is that your business can’t actually meet all of your needs, so getting clearer on what needs you want your business to satisfy will support you in creating separation, connection, and having space for needs outside of a work or productive context at all.
And to circle back on the closures, some of the current wave of closures is owners of successful enterprises finally choosing themselves over persistent overwork and struggle. Sometimes that's the best outcome in an untenable situation. However, if you're not there yet, you owe it to yourself and, yes, the people around you, to ensure that your needs don't come last.
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