Motivation Without Direction

I am typically the guy with the plan.

When I tried starting a business after getting laid off in 2003, I was very motivated because I knew a whole lot about doing IT work, but I sure didn’t know much about running a business. I had grand plans on how I would help others, but no plans at all on how I would manage employees, contracts, taxes, insurance, marketing… In a few short months, that business had to close, and I needed to get back to work.

In the years that followed I spent a lot of time studying the areas of business I didn’t know. I studied business formation, contract language, types of insurance I would need and the kinds I didn’t, and a whole lot of marketing. I bought some books, and I attended a few seminars. Also connected with local business owners, and participated in some online forums. I created a business plan and when I took it to an adviser, he said there’s nothing else to do but present it for funding.

When 2012 came around I was ready to start my business and boy did that planning work. For the first 18 months we had 30% growth quarter-over-quarter. Just an amazing ride. My sales plans based on the demographic, market, and competitive research I’d done said I wouldn’t be hiring until year 2. I hired my first employee at month 13, and the second at about month 18.

I was really concerned because it was growing much faster than I’d forecast. Most say that is a good problem to have! And I would agree, save for the fact that I was working more and more hours even though I had employees.

I misjudged the cost of labor, and for good reason. My business is in a “bedroom community” to a much larger city. The big city salaries for quality labor were hard to compete against when I had small city clients. This created a bit of a negative bubble of effort, a hole, if you will, where I was digging and digging. I was producing, but really wasn’t achieving my goals because I wasn’t making enough to hire the people who would take some of the work off my plate.

I got to year 3 and there was some stagnation. We did great work and didn’t lose any clients, but we weren’t adding more. By this time I was regularly working so many hours that I really wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I’d lost my way, and I was feeling pretty stuck. I’d made a commitment to my counselor that if I couldn’t reduce my hours by a certain date, I would abandon the business.

My commitment came and went – I didn’t even notice. A few weeks later I realized it and was challenged. My business was successful, we were making money, but not enough to get to the next level. I had a contingency plan for if the business couldn’t make money, but I didn’t have one for if the business consumed me.

In a moment of clarity, I realized that there was no longer a separation between Wade and the Business. It was time for some kind of change, I had to get back to where I was myself and I was IN business, not THE business. So I had to find myself, and what my goals were and what I wanted to do. What made me happy? What are the values that matter to me?

It started to sound like I needed a business retreat for myself, but I didn’t have a team. It’s just me. Seems a bit crazy to hire a facilitator for myself. Not only that but that all sounds kind of expensive. What I needed was a step-by-step process to lead myself through a retreat. Surely someone has done something like this and I can just get on the internet and find it.

Well I did find some career coaches and things of that nature, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I already had a career. So I put my research and planning hat back on and went to work. I found some career guides and some step-by-step processes for figuring out what you want to do based on what you enjoy. Also put together some concentration techniques because it is sometimes hard for me to stay on task when I’m by myself.

I put it all together and gave it a shot one weekday morning.

I came back home that afternoon with such a lighter mind. I had a new plan, and I had new goals. All based off what I learned about myself and what I needed to get through this rough spot. I ultimately found ways to delegate some tasks, restructure some parts of my business and find some work I found to be rewarding so I could press on.

A week later, I shared the outcomes of my retreat with my family and they were impressed that I was able to process so much on my own and just by following some fairly simple instructions I’d created for myself. They said I should write a book…

The rest, as they say, is history.

I hope the personal retreat can give you direction to your motivation!


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