This post offers more of a “mindset” how-to vs. a step by step guide. Every business is different, but I think these concepts are universal.

For years I’ve been doing what I think a lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of… I’ve been purposefully, and yet largely unknowingly, holding back my business growth. I fell into the trap that all of us fall into at some point or another – my current status was comfortable. Making the necessary changes to grow meant navigating into uncharted waters and forcing myself to change.

But then a few things happened that changed my thinking and helped me to make some dramatic growth steps with my business.

Working With a Coach

This point is first because if I hadn’t taken this step, I may not have seen all of these other opportunities. When I called out Dave Navarro to see if he could help me find more time in my day, I got far more than I bargained for. I “knew” cognitively that having a coach was a smart idea since most successful people recommend this, but I didn’t really KNOW how much of an impact it could have on my life and my business.

I’ve learned that if you are really dead serious about taking your business to the next level, you’ve got to bring more people into the picture that are invested in your success. Working as a solo entrepreneur for too long can put you in a place where you are unable to really see all of the opportunities you might be missing. Having a coach on your side that can see things from the 30,000 ft. perspective vs. the ground level where most small businesses and solo entrepreneurs are operating is in my opinion, one of the smartest moves you can make.

Many of the things Dave suggested were things I “knew” but that I was making excuses for not doing. Perhaps the most critical of which was that I needed to outsource a lot of the busywork that was taking time away from doing what I was most effective at. I had thought about this before, but had several excuses:

  • It’s easier to just do these things myself rather than training someone else

It does take a bit of time to train someone on your way of doing things… but if you invest that time once, you can free up countless hours in the long run. As a way to counter this, I’m creating written training and screen casting training modules so that I can do the training ONCE, but apply it multiple times.

  • Trying to manage someone else will take as much time as doing it myself

If you have good systems in place, managing a team is much easier. I started using Basecamp as a way to manage communications. I highly recommend this for anyone managing multiple projects and/or multiple team members.

  • I need to get more business in so that I can “afford” to pay someone else to handle things

This is the biggest lie of all. Filling your time with busywork is a sure way to stop your business growth in its tracks. Until you can free up some of your time, your ability to grow your businesses is severely threatened.

If you are thinking something like “well… that sounds great but [insert excuse]” then you are thinking the exact same way I was in my pre-Navarro days. If you are dead serious about growing your business, I highly recommend finding yourself a coach – even if you can only afford a few short hours a week. Dave Navarro and Akemi Gaines are coaches that work specifically with small businesses.

Action Plan: Figure out exactly how much you need to get by and set a cap for your own earnings – then outsource as many tasks as you can that do not require your core competency. As a freelancer or small business owner, it is tempting to think… “well… if I did the entire project myself I could get x – but if I outsourced I would only get a fraction of x.” That’s not thinking that is indicative of growth.

Business Promotion

With my extra time, I took measures to promote my own business more – things that I was too busy to do before freeing up my time. There are many, many ways to promote your business online aside from developing your website and blog. I wrote articles, press releases, created a HubPage, a Squidoo Lens, sent out emails, enhanced my Marketing Kit, promoted my slideshow on Slideshare, added some pages to my website, researched new methods of link building.

All of these measures have helped me improve my ranking in the search engines and convert more visitors to customers. I have many more things planned and am thrilled that I am taking measures to free up my time – what was I thinking before?!? The more I’ve put Dave’s advice into practice, the more ridiculous my original excuses seem.

Action Item: Instead of focusing 100% of your efforts on your blog or tweeting on Twitter, write and publish content on multiple sites.

Are You Playing to Win, Or Playing Not To Lose?

Whoa. I heard this saying and it was like a slap in the face. When we achieve a little bit of comfort, we start becoming afraid to lose it, so we stop playing to win and start playing not to lose. We say we want to win, but our actions don’t reflect that. As a result, I’m taking some risks that I was too “afraid” to take before. I”m starting a 50/50 partnership with the wonderful Tara Geissinger, a chick with a self-made mindset and a skill set necessary for creating a business that was playing to win vs. playing not to lose.

Even if you don’t want to partner legally, there is an important psychological event that takes place when your business becomes more than just you. When it’s just you, you can become complacent. There is no one to keep you accountable. If you fail, you’re only hurting yourself. When you partner, there is a much greater responsibility to succeed. If you truly want to succeed and believe you can, why wouldn’t you take this step?

Here were my excuses:

  • Partnering with someone means I’ll be sharing 50% of my earnings

True. But if you partner with the right person, you’ll position yourself to bring in more revenue.

  • I haven’t found a person I trust to partner with

This is a legitimate excuse. I wouldn’t recommend picking someone out of the blue. Blogging is a great way to meet people. Tara and I casually knew each other before but only started realizing that we had this incredible like-minded kinship after I started blogging. A person’s blog can tell you a lot about them and help you decide if this is someone you want to partner with. Commenting on blogs and sending a blogger ideas for how you could make their business better is a great way to build relationships that could turn into a partnership. Tara originally approached me with ideas – and I’m glad she did.

Action Item: If you are truly committed to “winning” (whatever that means to you) ask yourself at least once during the day – “Are the actions I’m taking indicative of someone who is playing to win, or playing not to lose?” Playing to win typically requires building strategic relationships with others. Keep your eyes open for people you think your skills would be a good match for and contact them with ideas. If you’re a blogger and receive such comments, be open-minded to them.

I’ve Been Listening to Steve Chandler Almost Non-Stop

When I read Michael Warner’s 78-word blog post on his Dream Jobs Dialog blog, I had no idea that it would completely transform my life. I feel like I’ve discovered a gold mine by being introduced to Steve Chandler’s work. How had I never heard of him before? After Reading “17 Lies That Are Holding You Back and the Truth That Will Set You Free,” I went to Steve’s site and bought 3 more audios – all equally amazing.

Thanks to Steve’s editor Maurice Bassett, I’ve also received an advance copy of his 10-part audio series “Mindshift” – wow. In all of his work, Steve Chandler talks about how most of us are using our minds ineffectively and thus holding ourselves back from success. Chandler first learned about the power of the mind when doing psychological warfare in the military. He says that in order to change someone’s mind, you must know how the mind operates… and he does.

Action Plan: Get some of Steve Chandler’s books and audios. I’d love to hear your a-ha moments after learning from Steve.

What has worked for you?

What actions have you taken recently or in the past that have significantly grown your business? Have you tried anything that didn’t work – oftentimes knowing what didn’t work is just as valuable as knowing what did work! Have you had some a-ha moments that we can all learn from?

Special Thanks

This week I’d like to give a special thanks to Samuel Ryan, the mastermind behind the Wake Up Later blog, for affording me the opportunity to interview on his blog earlier this year. Samuel is a web designer and developer and admits to having already experienced about a dozen mid-life crises which nearly led him to become a teacher, med student, breakdancer, clarinetist, monk, or nomad. For a great blog that focuses on website building, freelancing, blogging, online entrepreneurship, and free stuff for freelancers, check out Samuel’s blog – Wake Up Later.

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