I recently spoke at a ManTalks event in Vancouver about my journey as an entrepreneur. It was one of the most difficult talks I’ve ever had to do, because it required me to focus on a topic that I’m so subjectively engaged in.
I usually only do talks about my work, topics such as: personal development, human behavior and relationships, mental health management and whatever else my mind is invested in. This was the first time I was ever asked to talk about my personal journey as an entrepreneur, and in such a public setting too!
Preparing for this event meant unpacking a lot of my life’s experiences, which I had happily filed away within the storage units of my mind. Going through my journey, I had realized that the most significant part of it was at the very beginning. I felt that it would be obvious to people that the entrepreneurial route isn’t easy, so I wanted the audience to understand why I would endure such a difficult path in the first place.
Therefore, the people that packed the 100 seat studio in the middle of Vancouver, Canada, learned that my journey as an entrepreneur was solely an attempt at, quite frankly, “...making life a lot less shit.”
Nevertheless, I received some great feedback about the talk and several emails after the event, from audience members curious about my business strategy, and the secret behind my entrepreneurial success. I never really thought about it until I was asked and looking back, my business strategy has clearly centered around sustainability.
Put simply, I strive to live and manage my life more sustainably, and to operate my company as such too. Sustainability is so much more than just taking care of the environment, it’s just as much about taking care of yourself and those around you in a more sustainable manner too. For my commitment to sustainability is nothing, if I cannot function well enough to sustainably operate my life.
I don’t really want to run a massive empire of a company which employs hundreds of people to manage and support. Plus I coach people for a living, so you can imagine what expectations I would impose on staff members. I help ease insecurity and anxiety for a living, so I don’t think I would feel comfortable being a source of panic in someone else’s life, especially as I like to develop and work on different projects on a whim when it suits me. It would be an operational nightmare for me and would cost me energy that I just don’t have nor desire to spare, therefore, I outsource and utilize local and online services to help me run my practice.
Working with people whose sole job is dedicated to making you happy by providing you their service, to me it seems obvious where I’m going to get the most bang for my buck. Furthermore, I’m able to change the service without hesitation, when it no longer serves the needs of my company.
Technology is making it abundantly easier to work for yourself, and independently too. You can literally start a business using your garage instead of just utilizing it. The spare bedroom, the empty seats in your car and even snapshots and videos of your very lifestyle can help you launch your life as an entrepreneur. I still really don’t understand why people are clinging onto purposeless careers, when clearly technology will soon be taking over them anyway.
To think, If I lose my company tomorrow, I can literally start earning the next day by delivering food, giving rides or renting out my spare bed. There literally isn’t an excuse to not start your entrepreneurial journey, or end it for that matter, even if you have to clean someone else’s toilet for a living, there is still a way for you to make it your own service.
If you have no clue as to what to do, do what you already do but be in charge of it, and you’ll soon start developing new ideas and realize how to make them a reality. Who cares what you do, you’re an entrepreneur! You’re working for yourself and you’re getting an education in business first hand. Here’s my advice, live comfortably within your means and spend a significant portion of your disposable income on development, not lifestyle.
The entrepreneurial journey is primarily about learning, it’s the best and probably the only college level education anyone can afford and be accepted in. Regardless of level of education, you may embark on your ‘entrepreneurship’ without prejudice. I never came from a privileged background, so that’s no longer an excuse either.
Granted, some of us have bigger challenges than others, but a good idea has the potential to grow and develop into something great, sometimes I feel it’s just about discovering the best avenue to launch it. I thought the best route for my work was a book, turned out life coaching was much more a sensible option for me and my current means back then.
Furthermore, you connect to people and content you would never have had the opportunity or reason to connect with otherwise. That alone is worth heading down the entrepreneurial path. For example, I’ve met with more entrepreneurs who taught themselves accounting, than I have accountants.
Whenever I feel like I’m not learning anything, or that I’m not investing in or developing new ideas to help evolve the human experience, I take it as an indication that I’m becoming complacent. I kind of use complacency as a measure, to measure the lack energy and inspiration in my life. So if I feel I’m getting complacent and my days seem to be on repeat, then I know it’s time to shake things up and refresh my outlook on life and my business; I need to learn or discover something new.
Any strategy I adopt, must work to ensure that I wake up in the morning feeling healthy and happy about my life and my work. By sustaining this, I not only ensure my own fulfillment, but that of those who rely on me to restore theirs.
Ongoing education is key to sustainability, so if you feel like you’re not learning anything on your journey, then you’re not developing it. And learning isn’t about reading a book a day, or doing 2 hours of Yoga every morning, it’s about engaging and interacting with the world on a social, political, economical, technological, legal and environmental level. Where both your life and business are concerned, you should invest your energy in things that really matter.
For example, if your business is doing fine financially, then perhaps spend time and energy developing technologically, or environmentally, perhaps socially and so on. For another example, if you business is fine legally, then explore business developments environmentally, or economically, or maybe politically. work to restore balance in all aspects of your business, as well as your life. The same rules apply to both.
If your life is engaged, your business is engaged. If your life is happy, your business is happy. If you feel successful, your business is successful. If you are looking to start your own business, I do recommend you check in with your mental health first. I do this regularly and it’s navigated me to launch my latest business venture, Infinite Life, Cannabis Friendly Meditation and revisit the book I intended to write.
Sustainable Mental Health Management.
Every entrepreneur in my industry knows that their companies are literally nothing without them. My services don't exist if I don’t. So my main strategy is always ensuring that I’m actively working on things that I feel like I can do forever; things that I love to do and are enjoyable for me. So a lot of my developments are due to the fact that I could feel my love and enjoyment fading, much like a sustainable relationship.
My blog began to feel like a chore, so I started selling advice via email for $5.
It didn’t make much economical sense, because I would give way more time and energy to each email, than 5 bucks should warrant. - I’m sort of a perfectionist and I like to be thorough, so if I’m asked something, I like to answer as comprehensively as possible.
I figured writing and selling a book would be a more sustainable option, however emailing over 150 literary agents and not getting one reply was discouraging, especially when all the advice is centered around securing an agent before writing the book.
This was boring to me and began negatively impacting my self worth, so feeling discouraged I had a moment of weakness and applied for a “proper job.”
In the interview, I was so excited about sharing the content of my blog instead of how I marketed it, that the interviewer suggested I be better suited as a life coach and not a marketing manager.
I instead decide to give the book another shot, and I get one reply: “You need more case studies.”
So glaring at my chapter titles that I had posted on my wall, I begin constructing ‘The Personal Development Model’:
I tested the model with the help of a few followers on my blog, until I felt the model was transferable from one person to the next. I felt encouraged and motivated by all the work I was doing, and felt like I had value because I was helping people.
Once my coaching model was fine tuned I launched my life coaching practice locally as, VanCity Life Coach.
Marketing and operating a life coaching business is no small operation, it requires persistence and patience, of which I was wearing thin. Also, I needed to be competitive and confident as a coach, which is hard to manage when I had to still work full time at my 9-5 to support myself.
I couldn’t coach my clients effectively and also run the practice efficiently at the same time. I was still working full time because life in Vancouver wasn’t cheap and though I was getting more successful as a coach, I still couldn’t afford to hire someone full time yet because of of business investments such as marketing and online booking tools.
Once I started outsourcing things like digital marketing and sought help from the occasional virtual assistant (thank you Time Ferris for the 4-Hour Work Week - great advice!), I had energy and time to think and innovate.
Enter new sustainable strategy: Group Coaching:
Though group coaching was a technical success and the energy it took to coach the groups wasn’t too demanding, managing the 12 people (only 2 Groups) was extremely difficult to do -I had planned for 7 groups!- I couldn’t juggle all the different people who had literally paid for my time and energy, contacting me at all times of the day with questions. Furthermore, I wasn’t happy being that available to that many people, especially if it meant taking time out of my life and leaving me with less energy to work with my solo clients, who I loved working with. - I was however, able to go part-time at my 9-5
So new sustainable strategy: Online Coaching
Marketing online services made my schedule more flexible, as I started working with international clients again in different time zones. - Since I’m up all night anyway because I was so overworked and thus overthinking, it made sense to fit clients around me and my current lifestyle. + I was able to quit my Job!
Things we’re going great, but I ended up filling up my schedule and saying yes to every client who found their way into my inbox. Still overwhelmed and overworked, it was time for a new strategy because there was no way I could continue at this pace forever.
Enter, the Online Course
The online course was great idea, but in no way did I feel comfortable marketing it the way I had to, in order for it to become a groundbreaking success. I don’t care for aggressive marketing campaigns so naturally, I ended up marketing the course as an affordable option to leads who couldn't afford one-on-one coaching services.
I pride myself on offering a service based on need over want, and by doing so, I keep marketing efforts to a minimum, focusing primarily on more guerrilla marketing efforts when I do.
More recently, though I get to increase my rates because demand for my service is high, I did started growing tired of the daily practice - I am after all, I’m over 7 years into this gig now: I’d go into the office, coach, come home and repeat the next day. - Remember what I said about complacency? I didn’t feel invigorated…
Enter new sustainable strategy: 420 Meditation, which is where this story continues...
I also wanted to take this opportunity to say that I had thought about seriously giving up at every point of the 15+ points above, and more. I believe it’s my focus on personal sustainability, especially where mental health is concerned, which has enabled me to grow into the success I’ve built and have found fulfillment in. I’m still growing, there’s always lot’s to learn and a lot more work to do, but I’m having fun and life does feel good. I mean, if that’s not the point of ‘earning an entrepreneurship’ as I like to put it, then what is?
I’ll continue to navigate through the ups and downs of entrepreneur life, but I’ve found that if I maintain health as a priority, I’ll successfully sustain my entrepreneurial journey.