“Strategy is thinking about a choice and choosing to stick with your thinking.”
~ Jeroen De Flander
At the end of 2019, I gave birth to my second son. On the whole, his arrival went fairly smoothly. Having gone through it all before, the nappy changes, sleepless nights and near constant breastfeeding were a lot easier to handle this time round. The big difference, however, was having a toddler to contend with at the same time. I’d like to share something about this experience that I think can teach us something valuable about business.
Initially our 3yr old struggled significantly with the arrival of his little brother and started to really act out, becoming extremely defiant and prone to angry and even aggressive outbursts. As parents, we struggled to know what to do for the best and talking to friends and family, as well as looking online for answers, only made us more confused. So much conflicting advice! One article or person would extol the importance of being even more patient and loving during this time of transition, whereas others would argue the case for firm discipline to nip unwanted behaviour in the bud.
Unsure which strategy to follow, we were torn and switched back and forth between the two, which as you might imagine got us nowhere fast and simply exacerbated the problem. Eventually, catching on to the fact that we weren’t being consistent we settled on an approach that felt good to us (think more love and understanding than time-outs and punishment). Since embracing one approach wholeheartedly, we have seen our sweet little boy return back to his confident, loving and happy self (don’t get me wrong — he still has the occasional tantrum!).
What we realised was that when we committed to one strategy and continued on that path, even when it felt like it wasn’t working (because all the love and understanding in the world can’t calm some meltdowns), we eventually started to see the results of our consistency — a happier and more secure little boy.
This got me thinking about business (of course!) and a mistake I see many business owners making, to the detriment of their success (and sanity!). This mistake is what I call strategy switching and I invite you to quit doing it in 2020.
Strategy switching goes something like this.
You’re feeling stuck in your business, you’re desperate to start making decent money and you read something online about a quick-fix magic pill, strategy that will, by all accounts, solve all of your business and money problems.
So you implement it, you try it for a few weeks, you get a far less than overwhelming response, you feel disappointed and discouraged and so you lose interest. Then before you know it, you happen upon another strategy, full of promises of overnight success, and you leap head first into that only for the sad, sorry cycle to repeat itself.
When we do this in business, we fail.
Not only that but we feel like shit. We start to believe that there is something wrong with us and we struggle to understand why these strategies seem to be working for everyone else but us.
Don’t be fooled by stories of overnight success.
They are one of the most dangerous lies we are sold online. Now don’t get me wrong, some people do experience rapid success but it’s a tiny minority. If you consider some of your current online business heroes right now, my bet is that they have been in business for 10 years or more. They are where they are because they’ve been in it for the long haul. (See this enlightening post by one of my favourite business owners for further proof of this.)
If they are successful you can also bet that that they didn’t suffer from a bad case of strategy switching. You might even be able to identify the strategy that they chose, focused in on and stuck with for years that led to their huge success.
Think Seth Godin and blogging,
Gary Vaynerchuck and videos,
Susannah Conway and newsletters and so many more.
Choosing a sound strategy and sticking to it is the best way to achieve success.
But how do we know if the strategy is working if we don’t see immediate results?
The answer: Go deep. Get scientific. Aim for mastery.
If you’ve decided to take on a strategy, let’s use the example of creating content to grow your audience, for example, then you want to focus all your energy on becoming the best content creator you can. Once you’ve got into a solid and consistent rhythm of creating content, if you find that you’re not getting the response you hoped for then instead of giving up and switching strategy, look at all the possible reasons why.
Perhaps you’re not sharing it widely enough? Are you sharing it in as many places you can? Are you asking other people to share it? Are you investing in advertising that content? Once you’ve done everything you can to make sure your content is as visible as it can possibly be and you’re still not getting the engagement or traction you had hoped for, then look for all the possible reasons that might be.
Do you need to improve your writing skills? Are your titles boring and uninviting? Are you writing about topics your audience don’t care about? Could you ask someone you trust for feedback? Have you done enough audience research to know what topics your people want to hear about?
It’s my bet that if you take a strategy that has been proven to work and you apply it well and consistently you should see results. If not, don’t throw the towel in, instead refine how you are executing the strategy, tweak it, improve it, hone your skills and/or get feedback.
There is one caveat to this Just because a strategy has worked well for others, doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work well for you. If we stick with the example of content creation, just because it’s a tried and tested approach that has helped countless business owners achieve high levels of success, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, if, for example, you really hate creating content.
Another mistake I see many business owners make is to try and force themselves to implement a strategy that doesn’t feel good to them or that isn’t suited to their skills, expertise and aptitude. It’s vital, therefore that before committing to any single strategy, that you take time to consider if it’s the right strategy for you. I have always loved writing and have been blogging in one way or another since 2011, so it makes sense for me to choose content creation in the form of writing as one of my key business growth strategies.
My other half, for example, is not a big writer at all, but he’s a people person so a strategy that brings him great success in his work is speaking and networking events, which is not my bag at all but give him a room and a stage to speak on and within no time he’ll have the majority of people wanting what he’s selling.
Taking time to choose a strategy, that is not only sound, but suited to you and then doing what it takes to execute it well over time is the surest way to start seeing results.
For more on strategy switching, check out this video I made last year.
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