If you are constantly focused on new ways to make money, but nothing but headaches ever comes of it, you may be over-thinking things. Oftentimes, the answers are right at an entrepreneur's fingertips, yet they fail to see the forest through the trees. My favorite quote sums it up:
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen."
Henry Stanley Haskins (often wrongly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson)
If your business isn't growing fast enough, or not making the money you believe it can, contemplate the answer to this slightly-off question. The answer may be very revealing, as it is for many of my clients.
"If you had a realistic magic wand, what is the biggest change you would make in your life, career, or business?"
I know it's a little quirky, but it works. The words "realistic" and "magic wand" contradict one another and yet together they perform a very intentional function. If the magic wand weren't realistic, people would respond by saying things like, "My business would make one-billion-dollars by the end of the year." And if the magic wand were missing from the equation altogether, people would not stretch their imaginations far enough.
This question generates an Ah-ha response from nearly everyone I ask. Here are some client examples and ideas upon which to base your realistic magic wand experience:
You may be overcomplicating your business model.
Joan had a very complicated business model. It wasn't working. She was losing money while sacrificing her health and precious time with her family. When one service didn't make money, she would add another--along with new personnel to deliver. The expenses were staggering.
When I posed the realistic magic wand question she took a full minute of silent contemplation. "Honestly," she said. "I want to make enough money on this business, so I can give it all up in about five years and support my dream of becoming a ghostwriter. I want to sit on a beach while helping someone become a published author."
She was basing her actions upon the assumption that she could not make enough money as a ghostwriter, which is not true. We worked on her perspective and within two months she shut down her business. Almost immediately she gained clients and has made more money as a ghostwriter than she'd generated in the five-year lifespan of her previous business. All because of an imaginary, yet realistic magic wand. Now she's living the life she has dreamed about for years.
Restructure your business model.
This client answered the question by saying that he wanted to spend holidays and six-weeks of vacation time with his family every year. That's not a lot to ask for most entrepreneurs, but he's a doctor. An obstetrician to be exact. Obviously, no one can dictate when a baby is to be born, but you can dictate who delivers those babies.
To make his realistic magic wand wish come true we spent the next six months restructuring his business model. Along with many other significant changes, he hired a second doctor who would do all deliveries. Not only does my client now spend holidays and vacations with his family, he no longer leaves the house at 2:00 AM or gets called to the hospital on weekends. Like magic, his dream came true.
Change your responsibilities and culture as you grow.
The final example I'll offer (although I have many more) is from a client who owns a successful accounting firm. Her wish was to triple her business without tripling her efforts, especially during tax season. This is a common fear for entrepreneurs so while she's certainly grown her accounting client base, she has avoided growing her current business to the max. Instead, she's been wracking her mind for years to come up with passive revenue ideas. No success there.
In a one-hour conversation, we identified several things she needed to change in her company culture (something entrepreneurs neglect to do as they grow the business), along with many changes she will make in her day-to-day activities. We also examined the budget to make room for a high-level hire and talked about restructuring some of her employees' responsibilities. Without a doubt, these changes will allow for the growth my client has been resisting due to her fear of taking on more than humanly possible.
What would you wish for if you had a realistic magic wand? Get down to the basics. What really and truly matters to you? Your dream is more accessible than you may believe.