Most marketing service providers or creative professionals are masters of spin. They are expert storytellers who have perfected tricks to make things seem better than they really are. This skill comes in handy when clients call upon them to make their mediocre products or services appear more desirable than reality. I don’t begrudge them for this skillset; in fact, I respect them for it. Every business can benefit from someone who can turn lemons into lemonade.
However, this skill hurts these same professionals when they apply those tricks to their own business’ health or quality of life. Soloprenuers and agency owners are often guilty of believing their own B.S., and have too much pride to admit when they need some help, or things aren’t going as well as they hoped.
Most small agency owners I know are desperate to come across more successful, more satisfied, more in demand, and more profitable than they really are. That desire to manage appearances isn’t unique to marketing service professionals, but it’s more rampant in our industry than others, and far more problematic.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past year onboarding new members into Commun-o.com, a new community of agency owners, designers, developers, writers, researchers and more. Amongst them, I have discovered a level of candor and humility that shines a light on some significant challenges. For example, several agency principals, as well as owners of 1-person shops, have confided in me that:
- They are making 40% less than they were as a full-time employee
- They have too many people on their payroll but are too scared to let them go
- They hate most of their clients and are uninspired by the work they’re doing
- They are just hanging on for a couple more years, and can’t wait to retire
- They were disheartened to discover their firm’s true valuation, having grossly over-estimate what they thought their firm was worth
- They are exhausted, working more hours than ever before, with no end in sight
- They are essentially doing the same job they were ten years ago, failing to ever ‘graduate’ to more desirable responsibilities
These conditions arise because most small business owners are better at doing their craft than they are at running their business. Which is totally understandable. We go to school to learn how to design, write, capture video, or build a website, and then we spend most of our waking hours perfecting those skills with real-world projects. Very little training is provided to help us know how to define a compelling brand positioning, pitch our wares, price and negotiate favorable contracts, create a culture that attracts and retains talented staff or run an efficient business that adheres to acceptable operating ratios. Those skills are most often taught by the school of hard knocks, and unfortunately, very few students get an “A”.
I’m a big believer in being your own boss. But I also believe people should work for themselves, not by themselves. Life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself. Everyone stands to benefit from professional coaching and a peer group of like-minded professionals who provide guidance, encouragement, and complimentary skill sets.
I also believe that the line between professional and personal happiness is VERY thin, especially for solopreneurs and small agency owners. It’s rare that discontent in one aspect of your life doesn’t bleed into other areas. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to be professionally satisfied if you’re not personally fulfilled, and visa versa. The two go hand in glove.
Which leads me to some suggested New Year’s Resolutions. A few years ago, I had a business coach ask me some poignant questions about my business and quality of life. I honestly answered each, and then we evaluated my responses. I not only discovered that I was not as happy as I wanted to be, but there were seven specific areas that contributed to my restlessness. I share those seven areas with you in the form of resolution statements, believing that if you can resolve to do these things, you will enjoy meaningful improvements and 2018 will be a wonderful year:
- I will not operate the same way I have been for years. Change is the only constant, so I will eagerly experiment, push myself outside my comfort zone, and exploit new possibilities.
- I will focus more time and attention on work that fascinates and motivates me, instead of accepting less desirable projects simply to pay the bills. I will cut costs before I sacrifice my standards for acceptable engagements.
- I am self-aware enough to know which daily tasks I don’t like, or am not good at, and will proactively find ways to retire from those now (making it highly desirable to work well beyond conventional norms by only doing the things l love most).
- I have mastered my calendar, managing my time to maximize personal rejuvenation, productivity, thought leadership, and professional development.
- I will enrich my life and business by improving my access to ridiculously talented and engaging individuals.
- I will continually increase my firm’s capabilities and competencies to achieve more profitable sales that are less dependent upon my personal involvement (i.e. make money while I sleep).
- I will display greater courage, taking sufficient risks to warrant significant increases to my personal wealth and freedom.