Definitions are always a good place to start. What is awareness?
Awareness- knowledge or perception of a situation or fact (Oxford Dictionary)
People attribute business success to many factors, but I think we might be inclined to think that those with three Cs succeed:
Charisma- They have the “it” or “woo” factor.
Capital- They have the money to make their dreams a reality.
Company- They have the right people around them to promote them.
When businesses fail, we’ve heard that the majority fail in the first five years due to lack of finances. Interestingly, that’s the number two reason, according to Forbes (2017), with the number one reason being that the product or service that the person put on the market did not meet the market’s need. Interesting, huh?
Certainly having charisma, capital, and being in the right company help, but if you have all these advantages yet lack awareness of yourself and your market, you could still end up falling into the large category of businesses that fail because they didn’t meet their market’s needs.
Couldn’t we say that lack of awareness is at the crux of the failure to meet the market’s needs?
Awareness is needed through all seasons of business. Perhaps a person started with lots of awareness of the market and tons of solutions to boot, but times, technology, and needs change. Hence, the way a business runs, the team it acquires, and and the services and products it offers must evolve. Continuous awareness.
The third reason businesses fail is they don’t find the right team (CB Insights, 2019). Awareness of one’s personal strengths and weaknesses, awareness of the skillsets of others, or the awareness to foresee the consequences of keeping the wrong team players onboard all play into why business owners may not have the right team players. Typing that just made me flashback to the first time I had to fire someone. It was horrible. Like I was sick to my stomach. But the thought that made me more sick was what was going to happen in my company if I ignored my own awareness and the lack of awareness this person had about the effects of her actions on the organization.
We see the consequences of the lack of awareness in business on a daily basis: the person who posts WAY too much stuff on their personal or business social pages; the person who you don’t hear from except when they are trying to sell something; the business with zero personality; products that are a dime a dozen and have no stand-out factor in the market yet they are heavily pushed on the market; a company thinking that lowering their prices will move their products, when the real issue is the brand’s messaging hasn’t adequately communicated a value worth the pricetag no matter what it is.
It is certainly easier to look at others’ lack of self-awareness or market awareness, but it is more important to always be examining our own.
What do you plain suck at doing? For me, it’s paper organization. In college, people saw I had systems for everything- studying, test-taking, and putting my research together were areas I shined like a superstar. BUT, for the love of anything you hold dear, I prayed you would not ask me to borrow my awesomely bulleted notes, because the second I tore my notes out of my spiral notebook, they’d be lost forever. You would return them to me, and they would never again make their way back into my notebooks (which is why I kept spirals). I’ve tried every paper system under the sun, and spirals are still what work best for me, because I cannot maintain organization of small items and papers. A harder suck pill to swallow is that I stink at being a boss when the shite hits the fan; however, I excel at being a consultant to organizations (there’s a big difference!).
Over the years as I’ve expanded, rescaled, or morphed my business, I’ve found it so helpful to stay mindful of my awareness. I develop what I can strengthen and don’t beat myself up anymore over what I don’t do well. There are people and technology solutions for those things. The important thing is that we know what we do well. Reading books, taking assessments such as DISC or the Gallup Strengths Finder or the now-popular Enneagram help us take assessment of our strengths, know where we need support, and also recognize how others perceive us.
Be open to feedback. Stubbornness is different from resilience. A resilient business examines itself and its potential market to make ever-shifting decisions to match its offerings with the market’s needs. A stubborn business or business owner does not recognize or ignores the input of others more knowledgeable or errantly wants the market to change their behaviors rather than assume responsibility for the shifts needed to provide to the needs of the market.
It’s a new year, and January is a great time to start writing your business reading lists, find virtual or in-person events, join networking groups and chambers and begin cultivating relationships with people you will actively seek feedback and guidance from. What do you think you can do this year to grow your awareness as a leader and to welcome the feedback of trusted peers and mentors? Where could some simple steps towards increased awareness propel your business. How could these steps shed light on how you need shift your messaging services or product offerings?
It’s a lot to think about, but it’s worth the investment of time to think about.
Dream bigger, and your dreams will be more attainable when your awareness is at its highest!
When you started your business, I’m sure you couldn’t wait to share what you sell and could only think of trading what you do or sell for some profit. You love what you do, and you were sure others would too.
Open a cute shop and they will come. Make something pretty and it will sell. Have an amazing service and people will see how much their lives have been lacking without it.
Then it got a little complicated.
You like hats as a fashion accessory, but probably never realized you’d be wearing so many simultaneously. Then there were all the decisions, and they all involved money which as a start-up or scaling business is something you don’t want to waste, so you keep putting on more hats. The problem is before you know it, you’re doing more of what you never intended to do and less of what makes you set out to do to make mulah.
Here is a good question to ask yourself.What are you willing to invest time and money in to learn to do AND feel you could learn with good proficiency, or what will cost you more in time to learn and maybe every just do mediocre or consume tons of time and should be outsourced?
In the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I was certain that I could figure it all out. I could be all the things I needed to be or learn all the roles to play the parts of web designer, bookkeeper, public relations specialist, and office manager among other things. In 2006, social media for business was not even a thing, and I was still overwhelmed.
Part of what I was hanging onto was control. I had birthed this business baby, and no one could take care of it like mama could. Butttt….
Time is money. You pay for what you get.
If I had the money back that I lost in the time and mistakes I made in trying to do everything myself or in outsourcing cheaply, well, let’s just say, I’d have more money in the bank and might have saved myself a few pounds caused by stress eating.
Friend, make a latte and a list.
This week, settle onto your comfiest chair with your laptop or paper and pen. I want to challenge you to think about all the hats you are wearing and list them. Then I want you do decide if you wear that hat well at all or could learn to wear that hat well and are willing to invest into growing in that area. Here are some areas to assess:
Photography– In a media-heavy business world, having good quality pictures of you, your products, and services will help you shine over your competition in visual appeal. There are great stock photos on apps like Canva (I recommend paying the monthly subscription for the pro edition to unlock thousands of great pictures), but having even a small catalog of quality, branded photos can make people stop scrolling or really polish up your website. Consider investing in a branding photography session with a photographer who specializes in brand photography and who can capture the essence of your brand’s heart and story. A couple headshots (because I love you, pretty please take down the selfie profile headshot) and 10 styled shots can make a huge difference in how your business presents. Some photographers will also coach you in how to take better pictures with your phone for ongoing filler pictures.
Copy and Messaging– Did you ever date a guy with a gorgeous face you could stare at all day, but then find you couldn’t connect deeper and so his pretty face had to go? Hang with my analogy sister 🙂 Your visuals (pictures, website design, and logo) may attract a potential customer, but if she can’t get deeper by developing quick and strong chemistry with your brand by understanding your messaging and wanting to be part of your brand story, she’s going to move onto a deeper connection. A great looking website and beautiful social media feed comes to life through the words that breathe life into the pages and posts. A copywriter (like yours truly) can offer a variety of services from done with you consult on your brand story, general messaging, blogging strategies, social content ideas or done for you services. Invest in getting really clear about how you show up and what you say to people. A clear mind will say yes to what you can offer them 🙂
Bookkeeping/Accounting– I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Your money. Maximize it and allow a pro to guide you. There are many options here from monthly to quarterly to annual services to help you know exactly where your money is going and what is coming in and stay in compliance with state and federal regulations. Not to mention, depending on the type of business, accounting can take a lot of time.
Website and logo design– It’s tempting to go with cheap on a website and logo, but you will probably end up unhappy and spending the money again to redesign and pull these vital brand components together. I promise you you can find affordable quality, but you should have a realistic expectation of associated costs and put those into your start-up plan. For a website, you can buy some beautiful and easy to build out templates or hire a web designer to get your site built out on a platform you can easily tweak and build out new pages by copying already designed pages. My site is on wordpress. I started my own build on WordPress with a Divi overlay while taking a web design class at a local community college (I quickly learned I was not built for the patience I needed for WordPress), got through as much as I could and then handed my page over to a local web designer for cleanup, formatting, and organization. After she did the first 4 pages or so, I could duplicate pages and found it fairly simple to tackle. With regard to logos, if all you need is something simple, there are templates you can purchase or you may have some luck on a site like fiverr.com. Just be sure to make sure if you go a route like a template or fiverr design, that you get a vector file, so you may change the size of your file without sacrificing quality.
Any other time suckers– It depends on your business, but you may wish to outsource/hire out scheduling, email, social media (get your messaging together first to convey to the person doing your social media and email marketing), payroll, and housekeeping (for office or home). If you can be making more money per hour doing what you do than any of these tasks, take the hat off and give it away!
So there you go! I’m a huge believer in start-slim businesses and minimizing risk. Start-slim means you spend where you must and wait to reap profit before investing in other areas. Figure out what you are willing to invest this year for quality and efficiency, and I hope my picks of where to put your money brings some happy thoughts and lightness to your next steps by pulling off some of the hats 🙂