Evolutionary Business Design

How to move on when things change

I was recently having lunch with a lovely client I had coached several years ago. We’d had enormous fun working on their family business together. It grew and flourished over a number of years and gave them everything they wanted; a great income, opportunities, education for their children and travel – a very good life.

But it has been disrupted over the last few years by legislation and compliance. It has ceased to be as much fun as it was.

This is no longer the business they started with. They’d lost their passion for it. They had a decision to make: they could stay and try to ride it out or move on and sell it to someone else to create the next chapter. They decided to part with it.

So that’s what we were talking about – how to move on when things change.

First we tackled all the perceived negatives: “Who would want us at our age” (not yet 50!) “We have no qualifications”. “It’s too late to start university”. “Do we want another business?” “Should I get a job?”

Then we got to the positives: The irreplaceable experience they had running this particular business for 15 years. The roles they had taken on: business management, financial management, HR and people management, stock control, marketing, sales, business structure, time management… the list is very much longer.

We talked about “reinventing” yourself. Understanding the skills and natural talents you have and how valuable that is in business – and in life.

And we talked about self-worth and self-belief and that until you can get a better sense of yourself and the value you bring, you’ll pitch yourself too low. The temptation would be to take something to be safe rather than work out what you really want and shoot for the stars.

It was a fascinating lively conversation. This wonderful amazing talented person who came in with her shoulders drooped left on a high, with a much better sense of starting out on a new “grand adventure”.

You don’t know what the future holds. No-one does and yet we go through life wanting to control everything.

Yet some of the grandest adventures in life are beyond what you can imagine. You just need to let go a little and trust that the Universe is conspiring to do you good.

Life Lessons: “I’ve got your back”

A dozen years ago I found myself on a tight rope stretched 10 metres high above the Nevada desert, legs and arms and body wobbling dangerously. I was listening to my internal dialogue yelling “Holy Cow!” but telling me I would be okay; listening to others encourage me, feeling fear in the pit of my stomach – and I was laughing at the same time!

“Pauline, you asked for this!” I reminded myself under my breath. And I had! I was looking for a little excitement – something to stretch me.

I clutched at the dangling rope that was handed to me like life depended on it (even though I was wearing a harness attached to a wire above). And as I grabbed that rope I had to edge forward and let go of the one I was holding in my other hand, to pass it on to my team mate.

I would love to say I was brave and fearless. I wasn’t. But I didn’t buckle either. There were people way braver than me – instructors and participants. People passing me the rope, making sure I was okay, safe and moving forward. I was terrified but not to the point of not moving, and now, when people say “I’ve got your back” I really know now what that means and how that feels.

When I say “I found myself” I really mean I found myself. I was testing my limits – there was an instructor on another wire behind me and people ahead of and behind me. But I felt like it was all up to me – which it was. I had to move and pass the rope with care to the person behind me.

And I could have sat this one out and watched other people scrabbling around the high ropes course, but I couldn’t let myself and my team down.

I was so incredibly relieved to get to the end of the wire – and so proud of myself for doing it; and so heartily grateful to all the people who helped, encouraged and supported me.

You might guess that that was the beginning of testing my limits and it was; even though I don’t consider myself a thrill seeker, I like to find out what I’m capable of. I do the occasional “dangerous” thing – jump out of a plane, abseil, explore underground caverns. I like to make sure my heart’s still ticking.

Because nothing will sharpen your senses like fear!

What did I learn?

I learnt to trust myself and those around me. There are always people around me who have “got my back”.

I learnt to think about how I fit with what’s going on and to try to get beyond my own fear to help others. (This is still a work in progress – it’s pretty terrifying when all you can think of is “I might die!”.)

Above all, I learnt that if I can tackle scary things like this, I can handle pretty much anything that comes at me, in business and in life.

And so can you.

Capitalise on your Concept

Are there opportunities you could be taking advantage of that would give your business a massive lift?

Capitalise has several meanings; to secure funding or inject money into your business; realise an investment; authorise or issue stock (shareholdings)… and several other accounting terms.

Let’s explore this one: Capitalise: to take advantage of; turn something to one’s advantage.

Right now, if you know where to look, there is hidden money in your business.

Let’s go exploring…

Use your strengths

Your personality will determine your strategies:

If investing in your business was like buying property, what would you be focusing on?

A Trump Tower?
(It’ll need deep foundations and buckets of money – preferably not your own money!)

A nice little starter that you can sell to someone else?
(Great for creative types who get bored easily and have a wealth of ideas).

A renovator for a quick makeover and flip for profit?

A long-term “home” you can add value to?

Something with development potential?
Renovate or knock it down and turn it into units – think franchising, multiple business or launch your business on the stock market.

What next?

Once you’ve decided on the best strategy for YOU as a business owner then move on to these considerations…

If your concept is “unique” – ask yourself “Am I being realistic about this? How long would it take for someone to copy this? What would that do to my business?” AND the most important question to ask is “Can I get a good return on investment with this, relevant to the effort I need to put in?”

Does your business have depth? i.e. does it appeal to a good chunk of the market and does it have long-lasting capability (i.e. not a fad that will go out of date)

Is what you sell something that has future potential to grow? i.e. it has complimentary products or services that can be added to your range OR has the ability to do one thing really well so it can be duplicated and scaled through franchising or licensing.

Are there more opportunities to sell all you can to your current customers? i.e. how’s your up-sell and cross-sell – are customers getting all they came for and more (without employing creepy icky sales techniques)?

Are you converting enough leads and prospects into actual customers who buy from you? Regularly and predictably – and are they sending you good referrals?

Can you attract investment partners? Think “Shark Tank”. If you had to pitch your business to investors, how would you do it? What are your weak points? (For a LOT of business owners two weak points stand out: 1) the money side of their business and 2) Marketing to get more customers.

What chunk of the market do you have? How much more do you really want? Be realistic with this – one or two percent might make the world of difference. Don’t set impossible targets, just break down a big goal into manageable chunks and chip away at it.

Ultimately you need to know why any prospective customer would walk over hot coals to get to you. You’ll need to describe the uniqueness of what you offer – it MUST be significantly different to anything else that competes for your customers’ dollars.

Ultimately the questions you ask now will determine your future.

There is no perfect plan, so now what?

Things won’t always go according to plan.

Sometimes unexpected things happen to throw you off the rails.

You could spend a lot of time and energy kicking and scream “it’s not fair”, “it’s not my fault”, “everything’s ruined” OR you could do it differently.

I was talking with a new client the other day who told me he’s scared to fail. He has high expectations of himself and was taught that failure is bad and you should always avoid failure.

We tossed the idea around for a while. I asked him about the things he’s done in his life that he considered successful. Did he know exactly what he was doing each time he set up a business or took on a new client, bought stock, employed people?

“No, I made some mistakes”. He said, “I had to learn how to do things.”

Failure is not what you think it is. There is no value judgment. It’s part of the learning process. When a baby starts to walk we don’t tell him he’s bad every time he falls down, we don’t stop him from getting up and trying again.

I watch my baby grandson mastering walking. He falls over a lot. He used to cry when he fell over, now he just picks himself up and accepts that the falling is all part of the learning.

So, when things aren’t going according to plan, what do you do? Fall over and never get up again?

I’d bet that you usually get up and give it another go or find another way.

Your first plan is just that. Usually a first rough draft of where you want to go and what you want to happen. You might not know it’s a rough draft. You may not have allowed for “Planned Spontaneity” – the things that are going to happen outside your tight control and “Planned Synchronicity” where things will happen in their own right time.

So, let them happen. Just because things aren’t going according to plan doesn’t mean disaster is about to strike. It just means something extraordinary is happening beyond your control. Sometimes you might not like what happens; don’t believe everything should be easy and fun. I’ve usually found that the most painful mistakes were my best lessons and often, years later, I learn why it happened.

Whenever I plan, I set my intention for what I want, being as specific as I can (because you have to be careful what you ask for – you just might get it!) When I’ve finished my plan I ask for the result I want then include… “or something better.” Oddly enough I usually get the “better” outcomes!

Give it a go. You have everything to gain.

Is your Role in your business missing the Joy Factor?

“What’s the thing in your business that gives you the most joy?” I asked.

“There hasn’t been any joy around here for a long time” he said. “I’m just putting in the work so in 5 years’ time I can retire and then I’ll enjoy myself.”

He looked deflated at the prospect of 5 more years without joy but he felt powerless to change the business that gave him a reasonable income; it was familiar work even though it was no longer engaging and exciting him. He’d backed himself into his own corner, because he hadn’t stopped to think about what he was doing.

“Oh no, that’s not how it’s supposed to be,” I thought, his resignation washing over me like a wave of grief for what he was giving up in order to make a living.

This conversation actually happened word for word with a prospective client, and I hear it too often in various formats from business owners who’ve lost their way. Work has become something they grind out daily in the hope of a brighter future, but no actual plan.

It definitely does not have to be like that.

In fact, it’s easier than you think IF you alter your perspective a degree or two and give up a few things you’re doing now in order to get the joy back.

Before you start resisting, know this: people have all sorts of reasons and excuses for why they can’t do things. They even blame other people! What’s rare is a person who is willing to work out how they CAN do things and take responsibility for it.

If you are one of the rare people here’s what you’d do:

Make a list or a mind map or a chart of all the things you do best in the business. Not just the things you CAN do but the things you do better than almost anybody.

Now, get real with it. For each item ask these filtering questions

  • “If I never did this again in my life, how would I feel?”
  • “If I did this for the next 5 to 10 years, how would I feel?”
  • “What would happen if I decided to delegate this or teach it someone else to do?”
  • “Will the world end or will somebody die if I don’t do this?”
  • “Is there something I’m not doing that I passionately want to do?”

Separate your lists into 3 categories:

STOP doing

START doing


Your “stop doing” list can be delegated…

…OR you could change the nature of your business so that those things are NO LONGER NECESSARY.

Your “start doing” and “continue doing” lists should contain your joy and your genius. If not, filter it again. Rinse and repeat until you feel the wellspring of joy inside you.