Change is inevitable. Yet, when it comes to business (and, subsequently, your reputation and income), change suddenly becomes the most daunting, terrifying thing. Ever. Too many entrepreneurs, who are disillusioned with their businesses and aware that they are, would rather cling to the status quo than embrace what’s next for fear of losing everything.
But when you’re in business for yourself, ignoring the obvious signs of a problem is far more dangerous than addressing it head on. For one thing, you run the risk of sabotaging your business with unconscious behaviors that crop up when you’re no longer motivated by the work you’re doing. For another, you increase the likelihood that you’ll completely burn out when you force yourself to tough it out with a business that’s no longer the right fit for you.
Making the necessary changes to have a more fulfilling, sustainable business doesn’t have to mean starting over from scratch, though. How you achieve that will depend on what you ultimately want and whether or not your current business has enough of the right elements to make it possible.
Here are three important questions to ask yourself to figure out how best to move forward.
1. What Does Success Look Like for You?
You chose entrepreneurship because you wanted to create your own path to success. Perhaps you wanted to focus on work that you care about and be able to hand-select the opportunities you take on. Or maybe you wanted to monetize your skills on your terms and not be limited by someone else’s definition of what your work is worth.
Whatever it was that brought you to this path, you’re now in a position where you have to decide what’s going to keep you on it.
Entrepreneurship is a long-game career track. So, you have to be specific about the things you need and want out of it:
- What are the business opportunities that you care about?
- What kind of impact do you want to have in your community, society, or the world?
- How do you want to spend your time from one day to the next?
- How much money do you want to earn year-over-year?
These are all decisions that you have the luxury (and burden) of making when you’re in business for yourself, so spend some time thinking this through. Grab paper and a pen and write your thoughts down. When you’re clear on the things you want, you’re able to align the way you work and earn to support that.
2. Can Your Business Support Your Definition of Success?
As you bring depth and focus to the things you want out of your entrepreneurial career, you’ll need to assess whether they’re possible with the business you have. I’m a huge proponent of starting with what you have, optimizing what’s already working and looking for the possibilities, before moving on.
Consider the tweaks that can help you make your business work better for you.
Let’s say, for instance, you’ve decided that you want to be known for a very specific expertise—something that encompasses skills that you’re already monetizing, but that you want to carry out in a much bigger way. The opportunities you’re attracting right now don’t reflect the full story of what you have to offer; so you’re not creating the impact you want to have and you’re not earning what your expertise is really worth.
Instead of dumping all of your clients and looking for new ones, you can focus on repositioning the work you do and repackaging the way you offer it, so the new opportunities that come your way will be a better fit. In addition, you can look at evolving the relationships you have with your existing clients to be more mutually beneficial.
This is just one of many possibilities of how you can make adjustments in your business to support the outcomes you want.
3. Is There an Opportunity That’s Better Aligned?
If, on the other hand, making adjustments in your business doesn’t get to the core of what’s missing for you, then it’s time to seriously consider moving on. In this case, the business you have doesn’t connect to what matters to you. More than likely, you’ll constantly struggle to muster the motivation that’s required to make it work—until you ultimately burn out.
When your business can’t support what you want, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board to explore what opportunities are out there that do.
However, this in no way means you need to quit your business outright (unless you just want to, I don’t recommend that). As with any other strategic move, you’ll want to start with a plan. Consider the causes, issues, people, or brands that you’re intuitively drawn to. Perhaps you’ve always had an affinity for a certain demographic of people. Explore what their desires and challenges are. Examine the ways in which these needs are being addressed and what’s lacking. Then assess the ways you can fill a gap for that demographic with your expertise and abilities.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula to choosing the right business path. This is when having strategic guidance (in the form of a mentor, coach, or consultant) is most valuable and probably your best bet. But if you start with aligning your abilities, values, and interests with real challenges that exist in the world, you’ll at least be on the right track.
What’s the Verdict?
I’ve given you quite a bit to consider with these questions. This certainly is not the typical surface-level stuff that you find around the innerweb. The objective of these questions is to help you think about your bigger picture. After all, the more resolved and confident you are about where you’re headed, the more resolved and confident you’ll be about what it’s going to take to get there.
However the gavel falls—whether you believe there’s work you can do to make your business thrive on your terms, or you realize it’s time to shift focus and pursue a more aligned opportunity—trust that it’s absolutely the right move for you.
Still, there are a host of decisions and challenges that you’ll have to navigate to create the version of success you’re after. In my next article, I’ll be sharing tips on how to build from the right foundation to ensure your next chapter is your best one yet.