Why hang out your shingle and sell anything? Your decision to start a company only to crowd yourself into an already overcrowded marketplace depends on the type of sh!t sandwich you want to eat.
Your favorite shit sandwich?
Mark Manson coined the phrase and by it he means what type of awful, terrible things we’re willing to endure for the rewards of the work.
Owning a business means I’m responsible for everything. No one to blame if it all goes to pot. No paid vacations unless I factor time off in my income needs.
If I’m not cold-calling, following up, reaching out and booking our services, we don’t make money. The responsibility to shake the money tree everyday (or almost) falls to me.
Like to have your time wasted?
Selling stuff to people who find it helpful and useful means I control my schedule. I can shake the money tree as many times a week, a day or a month as I want.
When I worked in corporate America and higher education management found 52 million ways to waste staff time. Meetings always sat a top the list of biggest time wasters.
I never left a meeting clearer about anything: the project, my team, my purpose. Nothing.
You’d think corporations would’ve learned a long time ago about the cost to productivity found in meetings. But, no. Meetings convinced The CEO or President that we were engaged in fruitful, bottom line income-inhancing activities. So back to the meeting room we’d go to talk about nothing.
Time represents an existential dilemma of human existence.
People can be sorted into two lots: those who are willing to endure wasting time in meetings and those who aren’t.
Those who can endure the wasted time find other value in their jobs. For them wasted time is the cost of doing business in a corporation. What lies beyond the walls of the meeting room offers rewards they find desirable.
Those who despise wasted time in meetings, and I count myself in this group, naturally, can only see the wasting. I view wasted time in meetings as a reflection of C-suite incompetence. C-suite leaders waste time in meetings, and expect their subordinates to also waste time, because they lack vision. Without vision they have no sense of the passing of time. Any day is like any other day.
They say they have goals (usually it’s to cut costs and increase profits). But I can’t take anyone seriously who thinks wasting time in meetings either cuts costs or increases profits. Doing so is like one big c-suite tell. In poker a tell is a gesture performed by a player that reveals something about their hand, usually that they’re bluffing.
Accepting wasted time in meetings reveals 99% of c-suite leadership has no idea what they’re doing, really.
I believe wasting other people’s time is a form of stealing, the worst kind in fact. When I waste your time I steal your life. We measure time in minutes. Lost minutes means lost life.
I refuse to endure a boss who steals money from me. Why accept it when they steal my time?
Almost total time control is probably the number one reason to own a business.
Do you like to blame others?
Reporting to myself is another benefit to owning a business.
The downside, a tasty piece of the sandwich, is, of course, that I’ve got no one to blame.
I don’t get to complain or moan or give up. Of course I can do all those things. But everything falls to me.
I prefer to do things myself and to be in command.
Being in command renders complaining null and void.
The hard parts of the sandwich
Creating a business requires certain personality traits that must be learned to be successful.
By far the most difficult are management of the self. Among the required personality traits include understanding one’s locus of control, determining a positive outcome (for you), what quitting looks like and self-soothing.
1. Personal locus of control
I might be the greatest human being who has ever lived. But I can’t make people and events conform to my will.
We all know this but it’s so easy to forget, especially when we’ve invested time and money and sweat in attempting to produce a certain outcome.
We can’t control others.
We can only control the process of applying ourselves and our talents to our goals.
I can control the number of targeted cold-emails I send out.
I can’t control how or who will respond.
If I assume more sent emails will probably result in a higher rate of booking work, then I can control how many emails I send out, how much research I do on each recipient, how often I follow up, and so on.
I can’t control how or who will respond.
I can control when I decide to stop or start any part of the cold-emailing process.
2. Determining what positive looks like
A positive cold email is a well-researched, highly targeted email I send out to a client I’d like to do business with.
Every time I fulfill these criteria, I win.
Of course getting business from a cold email is also a win.
But since I can’t control that process, I don’t see it as a positive or negative. In some ways the objective when owning a selling-business is to keep going.
I must absolutely book work but I can’t stop with one or three or seven clients. I may take a day off but the following day I need to get the next round of emails out.
3. Determining when to quit
If I send out 100 cold emails to dentists I want to work with and 100 don’t respond or say no, I need to stop. I need to review the content of my emails, my recipients and get feedback from trusted coaches. I choose to quit this part of my process, revisit, revamp then redeploy.
This is a good kind of quitting.
If I send out 1 cold email and get one no, I need to send out 99 more. If I quit after one no response, I’m simply acting like a two-year-old who’s been told no.
Do I even need to say this is bad?
4. Learning to receiving feedback
People with high control needs may have a hard time receiving feedback. But this is the secret sauce to getting better.
Getting better means (probably) landing more clients.
No response to my cold emails provides almost instant feedback, which I think is great. Corporate worker often lack any kind of day-to-day feedback. Corporations and higher Ed often lack metrics staff may use as benchmarks.
Another tell of c-suite incompetence is an unwillingness to clearly define goals, outcomes and milestones for staff work. They’d rather hang out, all loosey-goosey, and use vague phrases like motivate and strategic goals.
No thank you. Give a nasty email no over any of that shady management tactics any day of the week.
5. Learning to self-soothe
Owning a business almost demands you learn how to self-soothe. When everything goes to pot each of us needs to learn how to talk ourselves down from the edge.
World class anything takes work, work and more work. Some days the crap pours from the heavens. On those days, positive self talk becomes vital.
Perspective helps. We gain perspective when we see that a bad day or two is part of the process.
The process — unless something isn’t working right — usually contains many no thank yous, a lot of no responses and the occasional win.
That can feel terrible some days. When our sleep, eating and movement regime is off, when we’re missing a loved one or when we’ve been working too long without a real break, we catastrophize. We pour gasoline on a fire.
We learn to catch ourselves doing this horrible, negative self-talk. We teach ourselves how to soothe ourselves.
This is a vital personality trait to have, and it most definitely can be learned.
6. Learning to be kind to yourself
We must learn to be kind to ourselves. I believe we must be kind to ourselves every single day, with every activity we perform. Not just when we everything blows up in our faces.
Find ways to reward yourself. A long walk in a park, extra play time with your kids, sitting alone in the quiet for twenty minutes, all represent activities that can restore our sense of self.
A vital, underlooked way to be kind to yourself also provides necessary perspective. Take time and step back. On any given work day, ten to fifteen minutes of reflection, away from the computer and the phone, elevate us, 30,000 feet or so above our business activities.
From that height we often see what we need to do before we need to do it, before everything explodes. This is a very kind gesture to ourselves and those around us and also serves to strengthen the foundation of our business.
All of these traits can be learned
I think of these traits more as practices. They’re not hardwired into us. With practice we develop certain traits based on how we practice.
When we behave kindly towards ourselves, for example, we create kinder, more humane businesses.
When we practice gaining perspective we learn to be wiser with ourselves, a trait esteemed by our customers.
We will fail at practicing. But midnight always brings a new day, 24 hours when we can refocus and recommit to our business and practices that help us get better.