I am celebrating one year in business this week! To commemorate this milestone, I reflected on the past year and compiled my biggest lessons learned for the Elite Achievement podcast. In preparation for this episode, I reviewed three journals’ worth of notes and reflections (Friday Ritual!) to arrive at my top ten lessons learned.
I love the month of December because there is so much excitement and anticipation for a new year. I like to say New Year, new goals. And it’s my hope that the lessons I share with you will help you accelerate the growth of your businesses, achieve your goals with more confidence and have a breakout 2021!
So here we go. My first year in business top ten.
Number 10 – Establish a bounce-back plan.
December 20th was my last day working my corporate job. I remember that day very vividly. I had a lot of emotions as I was closing the chapter on a decade long career and beginning to walk into the unknown – a world of entrepreneurship. I felt incredibly excited about the new business that I was getting ready to build. And I knew we had the enjoyment of the Christmas holiday around the corner in addition to a couple of trips planned. I had a lot of really great distractions between my last day working in the corporate world and the new year and my new business.
I remember sitting on a plane goal planning for the year after my last day. And I remember listing out my business goals, how many clients I wanted to serve in 2020, my revenue goal for 2020, the goal of launching my podcast, and of course, some of my family and health goals. I listed my strategies, closed my laptop and went and enjoyed the new year in Vegas with my family.
The first week in January, I learned really quickly the importance of having a bounce-back plan. There was a day that first week when I went to work. I was ready to get new clients – I was ready to serve my clients – and meetings started to cancel. People I thought I would have a chance to coach said no, and even a friend needed to postpone a call that I was so desperately looking forward to. I remember sitting in my kitchen in downtown Los Angeles and I could feel this wave of negativity starting to come crashing down on me. It was in that moment where I had all this doubt. And I questioned, why did I walk away from my career? Can I actually do this? What am I going to do? How am I going to make money?
All of these crazy stories and self-doubt started to flood my mind and I decided to go work out. For me, getting in a good workout is usually a great way to change my energy and thoughts. So, I went for a workout and listened to some great music. I came back from that workout, sat down at my laptop, and I set a prospecting meeting. And without even intending on it, I created what I call the bounce-back plan.
A bounce-back plan is something I think we all need as goal achievers, entrepreneurs and individuals that are growing businesses. There are going to be so many days ahead that are filled with disappointment, anxiety and fear. And if we don’t have a plan to combat those negative emotions, we might get derailed, and we might not achieve our goals.
A bounce-back plan is super simple – two steps.
Step number one is to engage in some kind of activity that makes you feel fantastic. For me, that’s working out or listening to my favorite song. It could be calling one of the supportive women in my tribe. The point is to engage in some kind of an activity that makes you feel great.
Number two, take action in the opposite direction of the story that you’re telling yourself. On that day in January, I was telling myself all kinds of negative stories about building my business. So, I took one small action by setting a prospecting meeting because I knew that if I could get some new referrals and have some new potential clients to reach out to, it would change my business trajectory. And it did.
So, the bounce-back plan has two simple steps – engage in an activity that makes you feel great and take action, even if it’s small, in the opposite direction of the story you are telling yourself.
Number 9 – Leverage the power of following up.
One of the most noted lessons and also most noted wins throughout my journals centered around following up. I don’t know about you, but there are still days, even after doing this for a year where I get a little anxious or nervous about following up. And I question myself – should I send another email? Thoughts creep in, like, “I don’t want to be bothersome. If they really wanted this coaching program or service, they would have emailed me back.” And it’s all that mindset chatter that we need to minimize.
Throughout this year, I learned that I needed a way to be less emotional with my follow-ups and become more habitual with them. I now go into business development with the mindset that I need to plan to follow up if I really want to work with a particular client. Or if I really want to get a particular project, I might need to do some work for it. We need to remember that anytime we reach out to people, silence isn’t necessarily a no. Everyone has their own agendas, priorities, tasks and calendars, so they might get our email or receive our phone call and have every intention of learning more about what we have to offer. But our timing might be off – we might need to stay with it.
I learned that the power of following up has nothing to do with me. And I need to minimize my assumptions and give myself more than one chance at connecting with someone. I also learned about the A, B, C response format from my coach, Nicole. When she taught this to me, I thought, wow, this is brilliant. So often, I’ll receive outreach, and I’m not quite sure what to say to follow up.
Some of you might remember receiving an A, B, or C email from me. A is “Yes, let’s work together.” B is, “This is interesting and I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. The timing is not right. Let’s follow up at a future date.” And C is, “I’m intrigued, but I have more questions.”
By outlining this A, B, or C response formula, we make it so much easier for people to give us an answer. I know not everyone is going to say yes. I know I’m going to hear a lot of no’s. But getting answers helps minimize some of the negative stories we start to tell ourselves.
Number 8 – How to grow a business during a pandemic.
On March 13, I note it as one of my wins that Joe, my husband, “prepared us for Coronavirus.” Of course, there was absolutely no way we could prepare for the reality that we are all still facing. I went into the start of this pandemic thinking, Okay, we’ll quarantine for a couple of weeks. This is going to be challenging, and then life will get back to normal. And as I sit here in December, life as we know it is nowhere near normal. In fact, we might have started to establish new normals. We’re working differently. We’re socializing differently and we’re certainly thinking differently. I know that this pandemic has negatively impacted so many people and their lives are forever changed. It’s definitely been a time where I’ve been encouraged to think differently.
I go back to the start of this pandemic and I remember asking my husband, “Am I a terrible person If I focus on business development during this time?” Because at the start of this pandemic, it was very scary. Everything was uncertain. I didn’t want to come across as insensitive if I reached out to people during that unprecedented time, but I am so grateful that Joe responded, no, you’re in your first year of running a business. You have to build your business. And that’s exactly what I did. I put my head down and I went to work.
I changed a lot of my habits from my first couple months of being an entrepreneur – I slept in – I took some afternoon yoga classes. I was living the good life, but I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted or the results that I needed for my family. So, in a way, I’m very grateful for how the quarantine forced me to change some of my habits and some of my beliefs. I created and generated a lot of activity to grow my business in March.
In April, I remember a quote that was floating around the internet that I’ll paraphrase. It said if you don’t come out of quarantine with a new skill or a new habit, then you’ve lacked discipline all along. And that hit me like a ton of bricks, because yes, the time was not positive. It was scary. It was a change for all of us. But I thought, that person is absolutely correct. I have a completely blank slate on how to spend my time! So, I enrolled in the Science of Well Being, a course from Yale, offered for free on a platform called Coursera. And I loved it! I had a course to work through for about ten weeks. And I learned a lot about being happy and how it’s often our experiences that can create our happiness. It helped me get more connected to meditation, continue my practice of gratitude and it was a very welcome distraction that helped me grow personally and professionally.
I also focused on adding more blog posts to my website. I wanted to make sure I was putting out content that could help people think differently. I knew that if I was feeling fearful during this pandemic, and I’ve done a ton of growth and development work, there were probably many people who were fearful and hadn’t been given the opportunity to do as much growth and development work. So, I got really serious with my blog writing and put out a bunch of posts during that time.
I also had to be aware of what I was consuming from a media and social media perspective. In order for me to grow my business, I needed to minimize a lot of negativity during those early months of the pandemic. I know everyone expresses what they were going through in different ways. But I found I felt worse after scrolling through Facebook. I wasn’t feeling energized – I was feeling more fear. I worked really hard to minimize a lot of those distractions so I could keep my head focused on my most meaningful goal for the year.
The last thing I’ll mention, and I think that this has been a pretty common conversation with many business owners is the need I had to pivot in some areas. I went into the year with a goal to do five speaking gigs. I envisioned companies hiring me to come in and speak about goals or speak about an achievement mindset. And clearly, in March, that was no longer going to be the case. Thankfully, I bought Zoom, as I’m sure many of you did, and I was able to pivot. Instead of showing up in person, I created some content and I was able to achieve the goal of five speaking gigs, virtually.
So, the big lesson I’m taking out of growing my business during the pandemic is that we need to stay connected to our most meaningful goal. We need to make sure we have strategies in place to keep our mindsets strong. And we really need to be aware of the outside influences that we are allowing to impact our thoughts, beliefs and emotions.
Number 7 – Stop the storytelling.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have all the details or don’t have an answer, I’ll start creating stories in my mind. The stories I create are often negative – I don’t usually create these super positive stories where things have gone better than expected. I often go really dark, really fast on the negative side of my storytelling. So, I needed to learn how to rewrite these negative mental narratives. And that, for me, showed up in the way of making fewer assumptions.
I’ve learned to pause when I start creating these stories in my mind, have a conversation and ask more open-ended questions. I learned from a podcast earlier this year that anxiety and excitement are the same emotion, which is interesting. Sometimes some of the stories that we tell ourselves – going to the negative – might really be our mind’s way of being really excited!
This year, I learned that there are two ways that I create stories. One, I ruminate. I replay situations from the past, I rehash stories from the past, and I often over-blame myself, evoking feelings of shame, disappointment and frustration. And it’s really hard to focus on pursuing your goals when you are stuck in that space of reliving the past.
Second, I will focus too much on the future. I think through a lot of what if scenarios. What if this happens? What if they think this? It’s all these what if – worst-case scenarios in the future that can create a lot of anxiety. If you are like me and you find yourself doing some of this negative storytelling, here are some power questions I can offer you to help rewrite negative mental narratives.
Number 6 – Work through fear.
My favorite acronym for fear is false expectations appearing real. We all have fear. Some of us fear failure; some of us fear success. And so it’s important to recognize that fear is going to show up. I don’t know of anyone who is incredibly successful or made a massive impact, who didn’t have to learn how to work through fear.
The way we work through fear is by taking action. Action is our antidote to fear. So, if you are finding yourself so wrapped up with fear, go back to those questions I just shared with you, journal your thoughts and uncover what it is that you’re really afraid of. What I’ve learned this year is that even with all the fear I have, reality is never as bad as I imagined.
So, when I do find that courage to take action and when I’m on the other side of all of those thoughts of fear, it ends up not being that bad. Sometimes it’s pretty good! Learning how to work through fear is so critical on your goal achievement journey.
One way you can start to work through fear is to break what it is that you are afraid of down into smaller steps. For me, that was my podcast. When I thought about a podcast, I was super scared of launching one and I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I was able to break it down into smaller steps. A lot of times, my small steps start with learning. I’ll listen to a podcast or I’ll watch a YouTube video. Have you noticed that everything you want to learn pretty much exists on the internet today? Google can really be your best friend.
If you’re learning how to work through fear, start researching and learning about what it is that you’re afraid of for that first step. Now, here’s the caveat, we can get stuck in that learning stage. And we can stay stuck in that learning stage and wait until we’re perfectly ready to take action. The truth is, about 80% is good enough. Because as you’re taking action, you’re going to fill in that next 20%. So, working through fear, you can break things down into steps. For me, step one was learning or researching the program or platform I would use. Step two was planning out the content. Step three was writing out the outline for my first podcast episode.
You can start to break down things, like podcasting, into smaller steps that help you take action and each time you take a step, you’re going to feel less fear, because action is the antidote to fear.
All right, here we go halfway through!
Number 5 – Repurpose or re-package content.
I went into this year believing that I needed to constantly create new content or new messages. And here’s what I’ve learned. Sometimes we need to hear the same thing multiple times to learn or to implement. So, a little bit of repetition is not always a bad thing. It helps reinforce a concept.
Some concepts I have worked on reinforcing this year include the Friday ritual, where every week you are writing down your weekly wins, your lessons learned and identifying your priorities for next week. I’ve also focused on promoting progress, not perfection. I focused on the power of reflecting and planning.
We can repurpose or re-package a lot of our messages to make a bigger impact. We can also take a look at a lot of the services we’ve created. And if we don’t get the lift, or the result, from something we’ve created, it doesn’t mean we need to start all over. One of the programs that I went into this year offering was a small group coaching program for women in financial services. I’ve been able to take the lessons from that program and re-package them into a different development program for new advisors in financial services. I learned that the content I was offering in that women’s small group was really helpful to both men and women as they are launching their financial planning practices.
As you’re in business planning at the end of this year, there might be an opportunity for you to look at everything you’re offering. Look for different ways to repurpose that content.
Another thing that has been wildly helpful as I’m growing my team (I’m partnering with a copywriter and a social media manager) is learning how the content I’m sharing in my podcast can become a blog. It can also become an emails or social! Stopping the cycle I was in at the beginning of the year of constantly creating new content has been incredibly freeing.
Number 4 – The power of planning.
I can talk a lot about planning. But I want to highlight a couple of key takeaways that came from my reflections this year. The first is to schedule what is important. If we keep waiting for the right time, the right time often does not come. If you want to really make progress on your goal, do you have time to work on your goal every single week in your calendar?
I needed to test out different days for different tasks. I went into the beginning of the week thinking Monday would be the best day for business development. And I didn’t do it. I realized that I need Mondays to ease back into my week because of the way that I work. I am in a client servicing business and I pour a ton of energy into my clients. I need Monday to enjoy a cup of coffee, have a great run, write in my gratitude journal, read, etc. I need to give myself that space for that full morning routine to ease into the week, so I am energized and ready to serve my clients. So, I moved business development off of Monday – it wasn’t working for me. I moved it to a day in the middle of the week when my energy is high. I’m coming off of great coaching calls and I’m ready to focus on growing my business.
I also plan to play golf with my husband on Fridays. And that might be another lesson itself. I learned this year that I love golf. At the beginning of this year, I never would have gone out on the golf course or even had the courage to try. But again, with the pandemic, it was one of the activities that opened up and I thought, why not try it? Turns out, I really love it. So, I plan on my calendar to play golf with my husband. It’s on there, so we carve out that time to work on our relationship and enjoy an activity together.
I plan what books I’m going to read in advance. I am much better at reading books if I have a stack of books I want to read sitting next to me. When I finish one, I grab the next one. I also plan my workouts. I know what workout I am doing the next morning when I go to bed and I lay out my workout clothes to be ready. All of this planning creates intentionality and removes distractions, or any of the decision making, that could keep me from reaching my goal.
Number 3 – The power of perspective.
What I thought would be difficult at first was not as challenging once I started. I would build tasks or initiatives up in my mind and they would seem so monumental and not achievable. Over time, as I continued to take action, I minimized the fear and the task became easier with consistency and routine.
I encourage you to lean into what feels difficult and challenging. A ton of growth and opportunity might be on the other side. In order to gain courage, I recommend what I shared in lesson six. Break the monumental task down into smaller steps. The power of accountability and enlisting a trusted and supportive accountability partner can also keep you motivated to take action.
Number 2 – The difference between believed and actual expectations.
There were so many times this year where I felt overwhelmed. And I had to ask myself, am I overwhelmed because this is an actual deadline and this is actually due on this date, or am I creating that feeling of overwhelmed because of the expectations I have for when something should be completed? I’ve been working very intentionally on prioritizing the priorities. I’m looking at the calendar to determine what actually needs to get done and what things can be done on different dates at different times. This is going to continue to be a habit and an exercise that I work on in the new year.
Number 1 – The power of intentional goal setting and reflecting.
Between my Friday ritual, month-end reviews, and quarterly business goal reviews, I was always aware of the progress I was making towards my most meaningful goal. And to be honest, some of those review sessions were painful. At the end of Q1, I was only 10% of the way towards my yearly revenue goal. This was not the fast start I was hoping for in 2020. I was bringing in the revenue I needed to make in one month over the course of three months! So, I was wildly behind on my revenue goals. And I realized I had to make some massive changes if I was going to hit my goals. Those review sessions have become fantastic reality checks for me. They’re also a great way to remind myself of the progress that I’m making towards my goals.
At the end of Q1, I had a choice to make. I had a choice to change my habits, beliefs and processes so I could work in the direction of my goals. Or, the choice to keep doing what I was doing.
Before the pandemic, I was taking yoga classes in the afternoon. I was living the good non-corporate life. And while that was fun, those were not the decisions I needed to make to achieve my goals. So, I’m still running strong for these last couple of weeks of the year and if everything that I have planned out falls into place, I should actually exceed my 2020 revenue goal. It sounds crazy to say that because I set my revenue goal at 66% more than my best earning year ever in my corporate role. And I’m sharing this with you today not to be braggadocious. But as a goal achievement coach, I think it’s super important that I achieve my own goals and practice what I preach. The strategies and the practices that I share and promote with you are the same ones that I leverage in my own business. And if you take one thing out of this blog today, I hope it’s that you block time on your calendar for a month-end goal review, and a quarterly review. Doing these reviews will not always be fun. Tracking your data and taking note of why you’re off pace – these are not super fun things to do. But they are incredibly, incredibly powerful.
When you go into these review sessions, I highly encourage you not to judge where you’re at and not beat yourself up. But rather, ask yourself, how can I win? What can I do? Our language is powerful and creates our reality.
I have been very intentional throughout the year during these review sessions. I would identify a couple of priority changes at the end of every month, and at the end of every quarter that I needed to make in the direction of my goals. I’m also going to encourage you to pay attention to your inner voice during these review sessions. I did not need to look outside myself for creative ideas. I did not need to research creative ideas. I knew in my heart of my heart what I needed to do. I knew what activities would lead to goal achievement. I needed to make sure I leaned into that inner voice and did the simple activities that required courage.
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look back at my first year in business. And it’s my hope that these ten lessons I shared with you can help you on your own goal achievement journeys. Until next time, goal achievers, keep celebrating your weekly wins, noting your lessons learned and outlining your priorities for next week.