As a business owner in the professional services industry I’m the first to admit that my business came to a screaming halt when restrictions around COVID began.
Operating a consulting business for less than 2 years when the COVID lockdown hit, I was still in the “danger” zone for business sustainability. Like many other business owners, I was faced with a big question mark around whether my once profitable business was still viable,
And, after a long career in corporate roles, most of the clients had come from the networks I developed there, so when they shut down, so did my work.
Most of my days were spent with clients, at their premises in consulting roles, working with their teams or delivering workshops – that’s where my talents and skills in leading teams had taken me. I really just continued on the type of interactions I had when I was leading large teams – it’s what everyone said I was good at – “you connect with people, you build such great relationships, you thrive on working with your team…..” you get the drift! I really thought I was leveraging my strengths.
Under lockdown, my workshops and office-based consulting stopped. I suddenly had way too much time to think about the gaps in my business, the mistakes I had made. I realised there was only one type of income stream in my business, I had all my eggs in one basket – relying on “getting out there” and working face to face.
But the biggest realisation I had was about myself, and boy, was it an eye opening one! I discovered that despite leading teams of extroverted salespeople, presenting to large groups and always being the first one to offer to speak or facilitate a workshop or client event, and being considered really quite good at all of these, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much!
Spending time alone, at home, made me feel good. I actually enjoyed self-isolation and social distancing was energising me!
I began reflecting on how I used to feel after workshops, events, even after running huddles as Head of Sales with my large team. I was shattered! As soon as I finished one of these, I craved time by myself. At the time, I thought it was simply because I had so much to do and fit into my day, but now I realise it was because I was operating way out of my natural space.
I don’t dislike people – in fact I love working with them, developing them and relish in the impact I can have – however, I prefer doing it in a certain way. One on one, or small groups is my happy place. I enjoy speaking events, or larger group presentations occasionally, but I’ve decided it’s no longer going to be my norm
I thrive on time by myself, it energises me. I love nothing more than spending the day focused on projects in my home office, just me and my 2 furry staff members, only emerging when I really need to. I’m calmer, happier, more focused and have developed an entirely new working rhythm.
Armed with this knowledge about myself, I built a new business model. One where I can scale and where I can focus on doing what lights me up – and what I now know I am equally (if not better) at, that what I was previously doing.
I’ve laser focused on one area – Leadership and Business Coaching. Narrowing my focus means I now deliver depth on my service offerings. One stream is online delivery of a targeted Leadership course enabling me to scale effectively, without trading time for money. The other is 1:1 coaching for small to medium business owners. This enables me to work with my ideal clients in an area which absolutely lights me up and energises me in every session. A friend says if she calls me, she can tell when I’ve just finished with a coaching client, as I sound energetic and positive. More importantly, it allows me to really enjoy my business again.
I’ll be honest, what initially presented as the biggest negative event for my business, has been my biggest gift. It provided the wakeup call I needed, it held my business up to a mirror and forced me to plan and be strategic.
Most of all though, I’m grateful for the opportunity to discover and understand the real me, an unapologetic and newly minted introvert!