The great and often quoted Jack Welch once said, Change before you have to. This short, simple sentence summarizes the most important characteristic of the entrepreneur: proactivity. Being proactive, obviously as opposed to being reactive, is the single most significant difference between those that succeed and those that don’t. Proactive mindset means that we look ahead, anticipate, plan, do, measure, evaluate and then….re-do as needed. And then, do it all over again.
The entrepreneur who is not willing to measure, evaluate and re-do is, very simply, dead in the water. It’s not just willingness to change that’s important; it’s the insight that change is necessary that makes the difference . Those that are in any change situation can benefit by taking this lesson to heart.
In my private practice, I work with professionals in transition. Some are in a reactive state. They’ve worked hard but have still lost a job or their small business isn’t going well. They move along trying to find the next job or solution to their business problem and then….when all looks hopeless, they find me to help them take control and make change happen. An example of reactivity is Sally (I’ve changed the name but the story is real). Sally came to me toward the end of her severance balance. She’d been laid off a year before and had been diligently looking for work. She didn’t want to move since her family was entrenched in Cincinnati life and there just weren’t any good jobs to meet her skills here. Sally finally made the decision to begin looking at business ownership as an option. She was referred to me through her financial advisor and we started to work to find the perfect business for Sally and her family.
Needless to say, there was a lot of pressure. Sally was the primary bread winner for her family. Our options were limited as she had gone through her severance and a significant amount of her savings. She had little left to invest. What she did have was her expertise and her connections. Out of those assets and her absolute drive to succeed we built a consulting practice. It’s been bumpy but she’s still going. I can’t say whether she’ll make it or not. I do know that she’s not on food stamps and is providing for her family. I also know that if we’d had more time and more financial assets, it wouldn’t be as stressful for her.
If I had met Sally sooner, we might have been more proactive about her change situation. Like an increasing number of my clients I might have met her while she was still working but the writing was on the proverbial “wall”. We could have looked at and planned for numerous scenarios of change. If I had, instead, been connected to Sally after she’d been laid off but still early in her transition, while money wasn’t the chief driving factor in her decision-making process, she might have had the finances to buy into a practice, having instant access to clients. Or perhaps she would have chosen to buy a franchise. Regardless of what she would have chosen she would have had more flexibility and choice in the matter.
Reactive change is often associated with fear, and for good reason. It’s scary when we’re thrown into change. Conversely, proactive change leads to opportunity. Think about the difference between a planned and an unplanned pregnancy. Now, add in the fact that the unplanned scenario might also not include marriage or even a committed partner and father to the child. The same outcome, the birth of a baby, is viewed completely differently based on whether the change is proactive or reactive.
Change isn’t always scary. Sometimes it’s just downright hard.
I know. Losing weight is a constant battle for me. Right now, it’s a choice that I’ve not yet stepped into. Believe me, I know what needs to be done. I simply don’t do it. In fact, because I’m the imperfect human that I am, there are many areas that need a little changing. The day that I decide to make just one of these changes I’ll move into proactivity – BIG TIME!
Proactive change is a strategy in itself. It’s a thought process that can be learned, practiced and perfected. With practice, change moves from creating a fear response to creating opportunity for success. Here are a few tips to help you “practice” proactive change:
The why: In order to be proactive you have to begin with understanding what matters. It’s very difficult to get to what truly matters while finances are an issue. This is the primary reason that reactive change isn’t lasting. We make decisions that seem to fix an immediate problem while ignoring the real causes of our difficulty. Having said that, money is important. It’s a practical part of the “why” but is not the driving factor-ever. If you find yourself falling into that vat of quicksand. STOP! You may have to force yourself into another state of mind in order to identify what truly matters-now and for the future.
The where: Where are you headed? When finances are tough it’s hard to answer this question as well. Visioning is a powerful skill that is underutilized. Conversation around the law of attraction has created a perception that visioning is used to “attract” an outcome without any effort being put in. It’s not that simple (Is anything that is worthwhile?). First, let me share my 2 rules of proactive visioning:
Write your vision in detail, with emotion, in first person, and in present tense: “I”, “Me”, “Us”, “now”, “today is”, “I am”. In other words, own your vision so that you’re accountable to it! This is much more than creating a vision board of magazine cut-outs. You need to write it down in a way that is meaningful to you. Some use bullet points while others write a chapter of a novel. Combining detail with first person, present tense and emotion will look like this:
Today, I’m going to work at my new “job”. It’s a coaching position that I created because I couldn’t find anything that was a great fit for me and for my family. My first client, Sally, is a person that desperately needs my help. And, guess what? I KNOW that I can help her! It’s such a great feeling to know that I can bring value to someone in need. I’m going to start by asking some significant questions. Then, I’m going to shut up and LISTEN. (I found in my beta clients that this was much easier said than done!!)………………….(Envisioning 5 hours later) WOW! What a humbling experience! Sally’s situation is so much more pressing than I expected. Once we had a chance to “connect” on a personal level, I gained her trust very quickly. She poured her heart out to me. I learned that Sally needs to provide for her family-and quickly! I also learned that she desperately wants to use her considerable knowledge and experience to be of significance to her clients. Now, I need to get busy to help her create a plan.She hasn’t been able to find a job so now she wants to start a business as a consultant. I’m sure that she has the expertise; I’m just not sure if we have the time to do it right. Given her motivation though, I think it can work. I can totally see her leveraging her knowledge in order to help companies manage their people better. She’s great at it! I can’t wait to see what we come up with but first, I need to go pick up my daughter and get her to dance class. While I wait for her to finish her lesson, I’ll make some notes about Sally. Again, I can’t wait to see what we do together!
Now, if you want to create a vision board with pictures and words as a constant reminder of your vision—go for it!
Don’t be attached to the outcome.This “rule” is very difficult to understand until you work through what success really means to you. In the above scenario, success means that I help Sally build a consulting practice. Or does it? What matters to Sally is providing for her family while doing work that is significant. So, what if she’s offered a job while we’re working together, a job that provides immediate income and benefits AND is work that fills her need of being of significance to her clients?Using this example, I would have to say that the outcome of a job was a success even though it wasn’t even a blip on the radar in my vision.
I often use a car purchase as an example of how this rule works. If you put a red Lamborghini on your vision board but, when you finally had the finances to make the purchase, you fell in love with, and could better afford, a yellow Porsche, would you consider that a failure? Not likely-unless you were too attached to the outcome of your vision!!
The how: Once purpose (what matters) and vision (where you’re headed) are well understood, the “how” falls into place. Recently, one of my colleagues was telling me that she was in a planning mode for her business. She went on to say, “I know you don’t believe in planning but…” WRONG! In fact, she couldn’t be more wrong. What she was confused about is that I don’t believe that creating full blown business plans is the best strategy for many start-ups. Rather, businesses that are just beginning, without looking for outside, start-up investment funds, are better served by a quarterly strategic plan. The difference is that a business plan looks out 3-5 years and bases its assumptions on projections that may have little to no track record behind them. On the other hand, if the start-up IS seeking outside funding, they will have to have a business plan.
A quarterly strategic plan actually begins with a look at the entire year and then, breaks it into quarterly goals, actions and measurements. This way, the new business can stay nimble, learn asthey grow, react quickly and change as needed. There are 4 key components to the “how” or strategy part of change:
Setting the goal or outcome. Ask yourself, “By the end of the quarter, what do I want to accomplish?” Good visioning technique will help to create detailed picture of what the outcome will look like.
Inventory the assetsthat you have to work with. Be inclusive. Who do you know? What do you have in knowledge, experience, training, equipment, property, etc.as well as in money?
List the actions you will take. This is your to-do list. Be sure that the actions are focused on your outcome. It’s easy to be busy without being productive.
Finally, what assumptions are you making? Beware of any sentences that begin with “I think”. You should try to eliminate as many of them as possible. In other words, turn them into “I know” statements.
Change is hard and even scary many times. It’s also part of life and certainly, part of business ownership. Change or die is a truism in our world. Using the above steps you can practice proactive change. Start small. I once read that to ensure that you floss your teeth daily begin by flossing just one tooth every day. If that’s too difficult, floss one tooth weekly and then increase the activity as it becomes a habit. The same goes with your business practices. Set an outcome and break it intosmall steps. Track your progress. Celebrate often!
Finally, attitude is everything. Begin today by saying, YES!, to YOUR success!