Why Business Things Can Feel Uncomfortable (or, Worse, Sleazy)

You grab a name tag, a glass of white wine (thank goodness for wine), and scan the room for someone you know. It’s filled with women in smart dresses and men in layered sweater-shirt combos. The light is manageable but low.

Really, the fact that you turned up at this shindig without a fallback buddy is kind of crazy. All you can see in the room is small huddles of people vacillating between laughing politely and furrowing their brows, well, politely.

Finally, you spot another lone wolf. You slowly start walking toward her and nervously ask her a question. You make polite smalltalk until one of the initiated invades your little duo of sanctuary.

You try to move on to another group, another conversation, another opportunity. Each time you make your approach the butterflies in your tummy turn into bees. They buzz up to your head. Your brain is overcome by the swarm. Sooner than later, you bail.

You just put yourself through something akin to hell and don’t even have a business card to show for it, let alone a real connection with someone knew who can help you book a new client or land a new account.

Maybe this isn’t your worst-case business-building scenario (it is mine). Maybe yours is sales calls or speaking gigs or email marketing. Maybe you love being funny but hate the expectation to perform. Maybe you love diving deep but hate holding someone’s hand.

Business tends to create opportunities to take action that make you feel uncomfortable, disquieted.

Worse, business can put you in a position where you think you need to do things that are painful, unprincipled, or sleazy.

Even when you reject the worst of those things (really, don’t do anything that makes you feel sleazy), you succumb to good advice, solid plans, and tried-and-true formulas that just don’t sit right with you.

Case in point: “If high-powered entrepreneurs go to networking events, surely I should to. That’s just a good plan.”

I’m going to let the cat out of the bag early: you don’t need to do anything in your business that isn’t aligned with your personal values or guiding principles.

But you knew that.

You’re not one to compromise your beliefs, your values, or your principles. It’s part of what got you into business in the first place.

What you probably don’t know is that there is a strategic way to develop a plan of action that is aligned with your personal values and guiding principles. There’s a strategic way to allow what makes you most effective and compelling turn into tactics and then results.

In other words, when you’re clear on the strategy, you can reverse engineer the tactics that are going to work best for you. Better, you can innovate new ones that put you light years ahead of the rest of the market. It’s not a matter of finding the right guru, formula, or expert; it’s a matter of becoming your own expert.

Let’s go back to the example of the networking event. This is a nightmare scenario for me. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still really bad.

I want to connect with people. I love finding kindred spirits and people who want to help me fulfill my vision. But walking up to people at a networking event is not a condition for success for me.

I’ve had to ask myself whether I needed to push myself to accomplish this “should” of business or whether I could find a different way to connect with people.

This is a core question on Quiet Power Strategy™: How do you want to connect with others?

Too often, we focus on how we should connect with others. Or we fixate on what will work best to connect with others based on what’s working for other people.

All the shoulds and best practices in the world aren’t helpful if they’re not helpful, effective, efficient, and fulfilling to you and your business.

When I coach clients through developing their business strategy, I ask them:

  • How have you best connected with others in the past?
  • What conditions do you need to really create a connection with someone?
  • What kinds of conversations lead to lasting relationships?
  • What kinds of people are you looking to meet?
  • When do you feel most persuasive or compelling?

Then, we create a plan that creates those conditions, sets them up to meet those kind of people, and helps the feel more persuasive and compelling.

For me, that means space to think about how to approach someone, time to consider my responses, the ability to research people first, and clear expectations for behavior. I’m an introvert, can you tell? That means that I’ve relied heavily on Twitter to connect with others. That’s lead to speaking engagements at Etsy headquarters, CreativeLive, and Pioneer Nation, among others. It’s also lead to relationships with bestselling authors like Chris Guillebeau, Sally Hogshead, and Nilofer Merchant. I can say with confidence that trying to networking-event my way to those connections would have failed miserably. I’m just not suited for it. And that’s okay.

This kind of strategic workaround works for any area of your business that’s feeling especially uncomfortable (or, worse, sleazy). Step back and look for way around. It doesn’t mean you’re copping out if you don’t take the hard road, it means you’re smart.

That said, you can’t just ignore the hard road; you need a strategic plan to get the results you want without having to do the things you don’t want to do.

That’s what my new book is all about. It’s coming out on February 10 but in the meantime, you can pick up a special sneak preview by clicking here.

I’m Getting Schooled in Asking For Help: On Opening a Downtown Business

I love to go it on my own. Be in control. Take all the credit.

It saves me from having to depend on anyone. Which is just a fancy way of saying no one is depending on me.

It also saves me from having to manage anyone. Which is also just a fancy way of saying I’m afraid to lead.

Growing my business over the last 5 years has meant that I’ve slowly pulled back the layers of resistance in asking for help, collaborating with others, and forming a team. I’ve run into roadblocks, confronted frustration, and finally opened up to getting the support I needed.

But nothing has cracked me as wide open as the process of opening a downtown, brick & mortar business.

This week, I’m opening the doors on a mini-coworking space in Astoria, OR, called CoCommercial. There will be a core group of 8 members, a wider network of day users, and a community full of workshop leaders & event goers.

It’s a giant step toward “we” and away from “me.”

Opening the space has required sharing my vision and asking for what I want from numerous people. I’ve had to negotiate the lease, get neighboring businesses on board, and hire local contractors. I’ve had to talk with my partner–an extremely vulnerable discussion–about helping with the initial phase of workshop bookings. And I’ve made difficult decisions about who & what I would invest in.

This would have all been impossible for me 5 years ago. Maybe even 2 years ago. And not just because I wouldn’t have had the money or the right location then. But because I couldn’t see past my desire to be on my own and in control.

I’ve started to realize that so many of us are drawn to microbusiness because of those two things: the desire to only have ourselves to blame and the desire to have all the control & take all the credit.

Venturing into microbusiness is an important personal lesson in self-reliance, a lesson that so many of us need after breaking free from a world of paychecks, micro-managing managers, and paved roads to “success.” But it’s possible to be self-reliant to a fault.

Once you’ve cleared your own path, are you the only one that can travel it?

So many opportunities have been lost because I’ve been unable to partner with the right people, people who were asking for my partnership. So much time has been wasted because I’ve tried to maintain complete control over every project. So much money has been left on the table because I wouldn’t give up control of systems I had no business managing.

So much goodwill has been squandered because I couldn’t just say “Here’s where I need your help.”

I’ve gotten so much better in the last 2 years. But all signs point to this venture continuing to push me toward a mindset of community/team/network-powered growth. While CoCommercial isn’t designed as a real revenue generator for my business, I believe that the lessons I’m learning and the personal growth I’m experiencing will lead to massive changes in the areas of my business that do generate revenue.

Where I saw brick walls before, I’ll see launching pads.

I wonder if all the microbusiness owners I know, support, and love would break through the same internal barriers, what amazing projects could they complete? What daring initiatives could they put out into the world? What new solutions could they innovate to serve others?

The fact is that community is the greatest resource you have for bringing big ideas to fruition. Forget money, forget infrastructure. Heck, you can even forget your “list” (but I don’t recommend it).

Ask for what you need. Think beyond your own capabilities. Create plans that depend on others.

Pair your idea capital with network capital and watch the return on your investment.

Being Independent Shouldn’t Mean Being Alone

If I had to choose the key factor that all successful microbusiness owners have in common, it would be that they chose not to be alone in their businesses.

When I started my business, I desperately wanted to be alone. Even while attempting to create a community, build an audience, and exercise my voice, I wanted to keep to myself.

Invitations to coffee left me nauseous. Phone calls went unanswered.

Luckily, on top of wanting desperately to be left alone, I was also just plain desperate. I had no choice. Even then, I could sense that succeeding would mean meeting with, learning from, and collaborating with other people. And so early on, I learned that even as I was still “solo” in my business solo entrepreneurship was a myth.

Too often I see the struggle for independence turn into suffering through loneliness.

Your friends outside the entrepreneurial world don’t understand what you do. Your partner gets tired of hearing about Twitter. Your parents just wish you’d get a real job.

Couple that with fear of failure, the impostor complex, and not knowing where to find your compatriots online, let alone in your local community, and you’ve got the formula for going-it-alone syndrome.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Being independent shouldn’t mean being alone. Click to tweet!

This is one of the messages I’ve been focusing on over the last few years. Whether it’s been my own personal investment in travel & industry events or my desire to put together groups of like-minded entrepreneurs in coaching experiences like 10ThousandFeet, I have sought to bring people together–with each other and with me–to dramatically increase their chances of success.

As a connector & a futurist, I put an extremely high value in creating communities of value so that we can learn from our disparate experiences and put them to good use building the world we want to live in.

I believe we should be actively cultivating relationships that bring us closer to the success we crave. And I believe we could all put more time & intention behind that action.

The next week will see me take two big steps even farther in that direction. I’m rebooting Kick Start Labs, the entrepreneurial community & resource library I founded over a year ago. By the end of the month, I’ll have opened a coworking & workshop space in Astoria, Oregon for the purpose of bringing together the independent workers & thinkers of Northwest Oregon.

I look forward to telling you more about CoCommercial soon. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll consider joining me and over 100 charter Kick Start Labs members to do just that. Not only will you get access to me and this community of just-like-you business owners, but you’ll have access to all the resources I’ve created over the last 3 years plus access to new ones as they are created.

And it’s just $39/month.

Now accepting new members: join today.

Bursting the Business Bubble – or – thinking bigger than you thought you could

By the beginning of this year, I had achieved each of the big goals I had set out to achieve with my business:

  • Earn enough to stay at home with my daughter.
  • Earn a full-time salary.
  • Earn enough to allow my husband to quit his job.
  • Earn $100,000 in a year.

The first two goals always seemed doable. By the time I started working towards the third, the outcome was already in sight. Frankly, the fourth one crept up on me without my noticing its tip-toe steps.

When I reached that point, I felt a little lost.


Out of my element.

Fearful of stagnation.

Not to mention, those are all earning goals and – whilst I love making money beautifully – there’s more that I want to accomplish with my business!

Sure I could keep producing, keep earning more bit by bit, keep serving my clients… but what was I working towards?

Ease? Elegance? Comfort? Yes.

But I suspected I could do that and still work towards something bigger than I’d ever dared to dream of before.

I posed this question to several of my business models & mentors in the first quarter of 2011:

How do you set new goals when you’re completely outside the realm of your experience?

The people I asked – Danielle LaPorte, Marie Forleo, Amanda Steinberg – they all offered solid answers. But still, I felt lost.

I could feel my power tingling like magic on the tips of my fingers. But I didn’t know where to channel it, where to cast the spell.

How do you move forward when your goals are behind you?

As a solopreneur, my business relies on ME for its vision & execution. My experience is all I have to go on. My brain, all I have to rely on.

That’s limiting.

What I really needed was a team to hold my vision and push it all around the edges, expanding it to the point – maybe, past – of bursting.

But a team full of employees, a physical location, a list full of others’ needs… that’s limiting too.

What I created was a whole new (to me) approach.

Instead of either trying to go it alone or hiring a team, I created relationships – both formal and informal – that could hold and expand my vision without weighing me down.

Carrie, formerly my “virtual assistant” is now exercising her own expertise as my personal Business Manager and Assistant Editor for Scoutie Girl. We “meet” weekly to discuss my ideas, work out systems, and discover new ways to execute my mission. She’s working on everything from scheduling to communication management to event planning.

I’d say she offers me the use of an extra brain – but it’s so much more than that since she brings her own outside perspective to this business.

She believes in what I’m trying to accomplish and knows that she’ll be better off in her own business the more I’m able to achieve in mine.

I’ve also been busy cultivating informal relationships. My bubble-bursters include other entrepreneurs, thinkers, and activists who want me to succeed every bit as much as I want them to succeed. I suppose, really, we’re mutual bubble-bursters. We help each other push past what is on the surface to more fully realize our complementary visions.

These are not just people I rely on to promote my products or retweet my posts. These are people I trust with my mojo and momentum. I trust them to challenge me, not just stroke my ego.

I’ve met my bubble-bursters through Twitter, my blog, random emails, conferences, and referrals from clients. Potential bubble-bursters are all around you but you have to do the work to build trust.

If you struggle to find your voice & vision outside your beginners’ bubble, it’s time to sure up your relationships with those in & outside your business. Make sure they understand your passion and the change you want to make in the world. Ask them to push you when they see you settling – and sometimes, even when you’re not!

What can you do today? Set up some Skype or coffee dates with people who you already consider in your circle and just talk shop. It’s not so much about asking for advice as it is becoming aware of how your bubble-bursters react to your ideas & concerns. It’s about allowing someone else to hold a bigger dream for you than you can imagine – and creating big dreams for your friend in return.

Are you ready to burst your business bubble?