Claudia didn’t have a “big plan” for redesigning her business. She knew she had outgrown her old business model of working with new mothers as her target audience, and had made the decision to stop actively marketing her business. Then things happened that she couldn’t have foretold.
Recognizing It’s Time to Change
Claudia confides, “I hit a place with my target audience and I never got beyond it. I found that I always had a certain number of clients, which was fine, but it never moved beyond that number of clients. I felt that I needed to go in a different direction.”
“I was kind of banging my head against a wall,” she says. “I started to realize that I wasn’t enjoying writing my ezine anymore, I wasn’t enjoying marketing to new moms. It was hard for me to recognize: I didn’t want it to be true because I had spent so many years doing it and stopping felt like I was failing. The truth was, I wanted to want to do it. I think that if I had been honest with myself, I would have made a switch earlier.”
Claudia recommends that when small business owners feel that something is off, they take a few days and figure out what’s not right. Admitting to yourself that your old business model isn’t working for you anymore is an important first step.
Reinvention from an Unexpected Source
Claudia had tutored teenagers for over a decade, had always had a small number of tutoring clients, and had been teaching a summer class on SAT preparation for several years. Even though she had been tutoring children for quite a while, she didn’t consider this to be a major thrust of her business previously because she wanted to be home with her own child after school hours.
But now that her child is older, and Claudia knew she was unhappy in her old business, she began to close it down and revisit the idea that tutoring could be a viable business model.
“As soon as I closed down my old business,” she says, “In one week, five new tutoring students came to me! It was so bizarre. I suddenly had more students than I knew what to do with. My business just took off.”
Mourning Your Old Business
When you’ve been in business a number of years, you invest a lot of yourself in it. So when you close down your old business completely, you need to be aware of the feelings that can come up.
“I actually felt sad,” says Claudia. “I wish I could say that I was really joyous and happy, but I wasn’t. It felt like a really big loss. I think because it was a business that I put so much into and cared so much about.”
But Claudia has a great philosophy about this business cycle: “People change and I changed. Once I got my mind around that, I realized that it was a really positive thing and once I realized that it was a positive thing, letting my business go was kind of a relief.”
Pausing to Plan
When I asked Claudia, “On a scale of 1 to 10 — one being you’re just starting your tutoring business and ten being that you have a complete new business model — where would you say you are in the arch of building this new business?” she replied, “Four.”
Because Claudia had run a successful business previously, she knows that she needs to design a business model for this new business – for next month and for 10 years from now. She says, “Not only the marketing skills, but the planning and the organizational skills that I learned in my last business, I know I have those assets to take with me in my new business model. Knowing everything I know is going to help me tremendously. I’m actually much better off now than I was when I was starting my life coaching business for new moms!”
So what do you do when your new business comes out of the blue? You step back and take some time to plan the foundation, even as you are conducting the new business work.
Karen, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than a business that no longer fits! Many of my clients are ex-professional, mid-career people who look to create a business that gives them flexibility and meaning. The thing about stretching your wings is that it really is not possible to imagine in detail where that flight path is going to take you. But you don’t lose equity, because you’ve built up so much expertise! It is hard to let go, but when you ARE the business, it is only natural that your business and you are going to evolve. Many of my clients have hit that point, and I tell them that it probably won’t be the first or last time this happens in their business. Thanks for sharing a powerful example.