The other day I polled the members of my Facebook group about risk taking in their small business. A resounding 80% of them said that they were risk-takers but took calculated risks (10% didn’t like taking risk and 10% were ‘go hard or go home’). It made me think why risk-taking is important in small business and what calculated risks look like.
Before I start, I want to clarify that this blog isn’t about legal, financial, strategic, operational, compliance, or reputational risk. These are specific types of risks. This article is about the process of taking calculated risks in small business, things to consider, and why it’s important as a small business owner.
Why is it important to take risks in small business?
Most often, I see small business owners taking risk when they are at a ‘growth edge’ and are about to do something new or expand. Without it, their business stays put and they can lose competitive advantage. Without it, they question what may have been.
Risk-taking is a step to growth. It shows confidence in your brand and your business. Risk-taking can act as a ‘shot across the bow’ to competitors. It can show customers that you’re dedicated to the progress and longevity of your business and will invest in a future relationship.
What happens when you don’t take risk as a small business owner?
I get it, change can be scary and taking risks gets a bad name – other than being risky. There’s comfort, surety and familiarity (and we know what’s said about the last one) in where we are and not taking risks. But what are the “risks” in not taking risks?
Stay where you are
By not taking risks you avoid opportunity and stay where you are. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never get to the same point you would have taking the risk, it generally means that it can take longer.
When taking risks involves trying something new, not taking them means that you don’t innovate. The joy of these risks is that they are often iterative; you take the risk, find that something needs to be changed, you innovate and perhaps take another risk.
Lose to competitors
For some business owners, the idea that their competitors will beat them to an innovation or new sector of the market is unbearable. For these business owners, they can become consumed by the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’ of what could have been theirs.
Steps to small business risk-taking
I have to be honest, sometimes I’m a seat of my pants/gut feeling kind of gal. But as you know, the majority of business owners interviewed said that they are calculated risk-takers. So, for those of us out there, I wanted to put together some key steps to taking calculated risks.
Know your drivers
Taking action out of the decision to act on risk comes from us having a clear understanding of what drives us and our business. It’s important to not only know our goals and how the risk will help us achieve or near them but also the fears and needs we may need to negotiate along the way.
Does it align with your values
I’ve said it before, values are our compass, they keep us true and when we fall out of line we have a feeling of dissonance. If you are clear on your personal and business values and how the risk, your feeling toward them, and the action needed to align with your values, then the decision can become crystal clear.
For example, one of my values is courage. Sometimes I’m unsure of taking a particular risk and it’s often through fear. However, when I act from my value of courage, fear disappears and action becomes simple.
Will it help you achieve or get closer to your goals
It seems odd to have to say this but in all honesty, we do get caught up in FOMO and wanting to be part of the crowd or jump on the latest thing. I liken it to buying something you didn’t need and will never use because it was on sale. Sure you saved money but you still wasted the money you did spend (and yes you could have wasted more but in all likelihood, the price helped you not buy it originally).
Unless the risk-taking will get you closer to your goal – so what?
Consider a SWOT analysis
Not heard of it? Think of it as an upmarket version of a pros & cons list. Except… you consider the:
of the risk-taking action to your business.
When I do this, I include financial and legal implications in the relevant sections. It’s important to include these as they form part of a calculated risk.
Finally, it’s a decision if you’re going to go through with it. No regrets! You’ve taken a calculated risk based on the best information you had on hand at the time.
I hope this has helped. The one place businesses get stuck is determining their drivers. If you need help with that, please email me. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about where a calculated risk has paid off for you and your business. (For me it was leaving my public sector career to set up this business)
One of the most common unintended benefits my small business clients get from coaching is feeling supported. (But not in ways you’d think)
Types of support for small business owners
We’re so used to getting the financial and legal support and these are quite rightly needed and should be provided by an expert.
The thing is that there is more to running a business than making sure it’s above board and paying the bills. In fact, there’s a lot that we pour into running a small business that actually increases our need for support.
As individuals, we know that we most commonly need:
– emotional/mental, and
– spiritual support.
As small business owners, too often we get caught up with the first, draw on our personal lives for the last and forget the middle one. The thing is, it’s the mental and emotional self which can keep us going.
Emotional & psychological support for small business owners
There are recurring themes with my clients, and I honestly don’t believe they are alone in their needs for emotional support with their small business.
You want a safety net
Being a small business owner can be a lonely job, especially when no one else in your family or friendship group are small business owners.
Sometimes you want to know how to (and help with) solving the problems of your world and other times you want someone just to sit there and listen. No commentary, no solutions, just someone to vent at.
Sometimes you want to know that when you are at your lowest of lows, there’s someone there with the know-how of how to dig you out of that hole, dust you off, and set you on the path again. (Oh and to suggest ways on preventing it from happening again)
You want a mirror
As a small business owner, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. A business coach or mentor can sit there and show you the ways that you can’t see.
When you’ve been knocked down or are beating yourself up, you want someone who will speak kind truth to you, just like you would to someone you cared for.
When you’re being stubborn and not considering all the possibilities and are looking to go in the wrong direction, you need someone who is prepared to stand up and make you reason your way through.
When you ignore advice and fall, you want someone who won’t rub it in your face but will instead walk with you out of it all.
You want a sounding board
As a small business owner part of having support is knowing that the person giving it has either been there, has expertise in the area, or has a good pool of resources to draw on and isn’t afraid to use it. Why? Because part of feeling alone and unsupported is not having a sounding board or the resources when you need them.
Some days, running a small business is like reaching into the junk drawer in the kitchen in the hope that the perfect tool will jump into your hand. You hope you’d bought it all those months ago but you’re just not sure if you really did or if it really exists.
Ok, so as a business coach I may have just referred to myself as a junk drawer and some days it’s like that. More often it’s pre-empting which tool is needed and having it ready. Sometimes it’s fostering links and connections in the knowledge that one day that thing will come in handy. (Geez, it really does sound like a junk drawer)
But in reality, as a small business owner, you don’t know what support you’ll need until you need it. So that means that you need someone who is able to understand your needs and has access to the tools. Not race in and fix it for you but listens and gives you the tools to respond accordingly, it is your business after all.
I started my first business when I was working fulltime, doing my Masters, and had two toddlers. I was the first in my family to start their own business. It was early in 2011, I had recently signed up to Facebook, and I started showing my products on there as many of my friends needed what I had to sell. I did a lot of free courses and coaching sessions and eventually found myself a coach. The rest they say is history.
The thing is, I neglected my emotional and mental support. None of my friends, at the start, had businesses. It’s no surprise that my clients became my friends, I needed them but they weren’t always the best at giving advice because they could only draw on their experience and their junk drawer was all but empty.
Having a business coach or peer mastermind is helpful but you need to make sure that they take care of all of the aspects of support you need, not just the technical. I’m grateful that I have a few business friends now who have a background in mental health to offer me the support I need. But I’m curious if you’re getting the right mix of support to help you and your business? If not, I’m here. You can send me an email, book a quick (and free) coffee catch up, or you can organize more formal business coaching.
I’ve been here for a while, I’ve seen & heard a lot, I have a full drawer, and I want to support you as a small business owner.
When I bring on a new client I always ask them to detail their drivers. My favourite ones to look at aren’t their goals, it’s their values. I like values because it’s what makes us tick, deep down; it’s what keeps us on track; it’s what is often out of whack when things are going pear-shaped.
One of the common values my clients have on their list is Integrity.
Now I could rabbit on about why it’s important and how not having integrity can hurt your business. But you should know by now that I put people at the centre of your business & I want to show you how the different people around you and your business see YOUR integrity.
I want to build a list of words to help you engender integrity in your business because I believe that there are multiple ways of being and seeing and that means we benefit from multiple ways of understanding.
What is integrity?
Let’s start with a definition from the Meriam-Webster Dictionary:
Definition of integrity
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY 2: an unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS 3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided: COMPLETENESS
I like the sound of that way of being. Incorruptible, sound, complete.
What is integrity from a customer perspective?
When I think, as a customer, of what integrity is; I come to one thing. Doing what you say you’re going to do. No excuses, no reasons because I’m honestly not interested. You said you’d do something, so do it & if you can’t, just tell me.
As a client, it comes down to honesty & trust. As a business owner delivering these things, it comes down to courage. It also takes courage to admit that you can’t do what you originally said you could.
Let’s revise that list. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous.
What is integrity from your staff’s perspective?
I’ve had many bosses and I’ve been a boss, as a boss I learnt the power of understanding my staff’s values and aligning them with those of the business. It was a more powerful motivator than any financial gain.
So drawing on that, and the conversations with clients who do have staff (because I swore I’d not have staff in my business), how do staff see your integrity over and above what has already been discussed?
The word I keep coming back to is Respect. And I don’t mean your staff showing it to you, quite the opposite. This is about you respecting them as part of having integrity. Why? Too often I hear boss’ saying that their staff are great with clients but crap with them. When I listen a little more it’s clear that the boss doesn’t treat the staff with respect and they have conflicting expectations between service to the business, owner, and clients. This impacts their perception of completeness and incorruptibility.
Let’s add to the list. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous, respectful.
What is integrity from a business owner perspective?
Because this is all about the business’ value of integrity and that is separate from your values as the business owner, we need to look at how you as the business owner sees the integrity of the business.
Here’s the irony, you need to be objective and you need to have integrity to do this honestly. The funny thing is that to do this, you need to be vulnerable. You need to be ok with honestly ripping yourself apart and looking at it piece by piece and putting it back together because so much of you is in your business.
You also need to be patient, patient with yourself as you pull this all apart but also understanding that this takes time.
Hmmm, there are a few extra words to add to the list. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous, respectful, objective, vulnerability, patient.
Where small business can show integrity in their business.
Everywhere. (It had to be said)
I think we think we can only see it face to face but with so much happening online these days we need to show integrity online, websites, socials, email. We show it by showing our face (yup). We show it by sharing our voice. We show it by sticking to what we say we do and not confusing our audience. We show it by using a brand identity kit and sticking to our brand voice. If we want to show integrity, we must also be consistent and that means no matter who and no matter where.
And there’s the final word. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous, respectful, objective, vulnerability, patient, consistent.
How do you feel looking at the list of words? Do they sound like traits you have? And how would you feel running your business knowing that this is not just how you were perceived but how you behaved? What would that do for your business?
Tom asked his staff member if they had understood the instructions, “yes” came the answer. Then some 30 minutes later Tom’s phone rang. It was his staff member, asking questions that Tom had answered and the staffer comfirmed hearing.
Lily walked into the shop and the shop assistant greeted her. Lily was very certain on what she needed, colour, size, and she told the shop assistant her needs. The shop assistant nodded knowingly and excused herself to get the product. Imagine Lily’s surprise when what was brought back was nothing like she described.
Most of us have been where Tom and Lily have been, some even in the place of the staff member or the shop assistant. So why don’t some people seem to listen and why do we need to feel heard?
Listening versus feeling heard facts
Listening is what the other person does and feeling heard is what we want and how we feel when we believe they’ve listened. Both rely on the perspective of the person doing the listening or wanting to be heard.
Most people listen for the information they believe is important. There are two critical points in this:
What the person believes is important
What is important to the person being listened to
TIP: What is important to one person may not be important to someone else.
We like to feel heard because it validates us and what we’ve said, plus it validates the drivers behind what we said. Feeling heard depends upon:
How the other person reacted as a listener
The stories we tell ourselves about being heard in the past
Our own drivers around what we said and feeling heard.
As an active listener, when you’re also responding, it’s key to know the core of the issue or the end goal and work towards it.
As a reflective listener, when you repeat the key points the speaker has made, it’s key to perspective take, show empathy when relevant, summarise from their drivers and ask for clarification and confirmation.
As a discriminative listener, when you also pay attention to the emotions and other non-verbal cues, it’s important to not interpret or respond based on your drivers or the story you tell yourself when faced with similar circumstances.
As an evaluative listener, someone who needs to listen, answer & make a judgement on what is said, it’s important to respond factually and not from a place of your drivers or story.
TIP: A good listener knows that the most important person is the speaker.
How to make sure you’re heard
It might seem silly but you really need to tell the listener that you need them to respond (or not) and if what you’re saying, and their response, is important to you. Yes, to be heard, it can mean being vulnerable and detailing what your drivers are and it can even take time to be clear on them yourself.
To be heard you need to let the listener know that feeling heard is important.
If you want a suggested solution, let them know.
If you just want to be listened to and heard, let them know.
If you feel misunderstood it’s ok to ask the listener to summarise what you said.
Let the listener know if you feel afraid or anxious about the topic discussed.
Remember that the listener is going to respond from their drivers, stories, and experiences and they may not be the same as yours (and that’s ok).
What to do when you’re not heard
So what about Tom and Lily? What do you do when you’re in their shoes and you haven’t been heard (or even listened to)?
Most bosses are likely to yell, especially if it’s a common occurrence, and most shoppers would smile sweetly and either try what was suggested or walk out.
TIP: It’s rarely personal
In these situations you need to be clear on the following:
What boundaries do you need to maintain? Can you safely do it?
Would escalating the issue resolve the situation? (or would it just make you feel better)
What was your core driver? Were you wanting a fear understood, a need met, a belief or value validate, or a goal achieved?
Can you understand why you were misunderstood or feel unheard?
It can be hard being objective, especially when you feel unheard, unappreciated, misunderstood or not valued. When we understand that everyone comes to every situation with their own stories and drivers, we can use that knowledge to increase our chances of being heard and feeling valued. It also makes us a better listener. If you need help with this, I’m all ears.
Have you ever used your understanding of human drivers to help you in a situation where you needed to feel heard or you needed to make someone feel heard? I’d love it if you left me a comment below and told me the story.
The fear of criticism, probably one of the most common reasons small business owners tell me when discussing why they have trouble promoting their business.
Why do we fear criticism?
It’s true that our mind plays tricks on us and it’s there to protect us. When it comes to fearing criticism there are two key tricks it uses:
– Fundamental Attribution Error
– The ‘Jerk’ Factor.
Fundamental Attribution Error & fear of criticism
In a nutshell, this trick is where our brain will downplay our own abilities. Essentially, we think less of ourselves than we do of others. When it comes to putting ourselves or small business out there, the fear of criticism is triggered by the Fundamental Attribution Error as we think we’re not good enough compared to others and we just don’t want people to point that out.
The ‘Jerk’ Factor & fear of criticism
No, I don’t mean that all the people out there are jerks, or that they are for criticizing us, more that we tend to go with the person who is the jerk than the likeable one. Now consider that our brain is already telling us that we’re no good, that puts us in the ‘jerk’ role. All the more reason not to fear criticism of you and/or your small business.
How do we overcome the fear of criticism?
Everyone is different and we all have our own stories and own drivers that determine why we fear criticism, what I want you to have is a tool kit for you as a small business owner, so that you can promote your business.
1. Who do you fear criticism from & do they deserve it?
I’m writing this one first because it’s my biggest problem. I give far too much credit, thanks Jerk factor, to people who really don’t deserve it.
TIP: Too often we, me included, give our energy to people who don’t deserve it, not because they are ungrateful or treat us poorly, but because they’re not on the same playing field.
Brene Brown, first in her 99U speech, spoke about the people in your arena and not paying attention to the people who aren’t doing the work, aren’t down in the dirt, aren’t getting their arses kicked.
If the people your fear will criticise you are not in the arena, then they haven’t earnt the right to criticise.
2. When the fear appears only in certain places or times
This was also me. I used to fear criticism most online. I had a bad run with a troll in the first year of my business. They had me questioning everything I did and my abilities. I was a wreck.
Then my business coach made a suggestion. Write down the names of 3-5 people who are in the Arena, see point 1 above, on a little piece of paper and keeping it under my keyboard. Whenever I was feeling fearful, I pulled out the list and looked to see if the name of the person I was fearing was on the list – if not, their opinion did not matter.
It may not be that you fear criticism online, wherever you feel the fear, have your list. You could have it in your purse, wallet, or pocket. Eventually, your list will be memorized and you will be able to mentally refer to it.
And eventually, you won’t need the list very much, if at all.
3. When social media triggers your fear
I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with social media and sometimes it goes to I love to hate it. Either way, it’s a necessary part of promoting my business (and there’s a good chance you’re the same).
There are a few ways you can help yourself & your business if it triggers your fear of criticism:
– schedule your posts (and I’ve got something to help with that too)
– use your list of people from point 2 (that’s what I did)
– take apps off the phone, particularly easy if you schedule
– limit your time online
4. Consider why they are criticising you or your business
It comes down to if the person is trying to help, or are they just being a jerk? (Yes, I mean in the real meaning and what I mentioned at the start)
The well-meaning critic
Having managed staff, locally and remotely, I can honestly say that providing feedback (and criticism) remotely is hard. We can’t hear tone, see body language, or get a chance to interject. Then there’s the issue that not everyone is great at giving feedback. (And the feedback sandwich is now the equivalent of a “yes, but”)
TIP: This is when you need to dig really deep, flip your perspective to their’s, and perhaps even ask someone on your list to give their perspective.
The heckler critic
When it comes to people who just don’t have a nice or constructive thing to say, just look to see if they made your list or are in your Arena – there’s a good chance they’re not. If they’re not, don’t waste time or energy on their criticism.
5. Being ok with being vulnerable & having boundaries
Ok, so they may seem contradictory but please stick with me.
Vulnerability and fear of criticism
It does take a certain willingness to accept that criticism will come with business. Here are some truths I’ve learnt, especially when it comes to vulnerability:
– people are generally good
– your customers and fans will have your back, especially when you’re vulnerable
– anyone who doesn’t have your back was never going to be a customer and doesn’t matter
– your presence online will repel people, that’s the intention of marketing and you shouldn’t want to be all things to all people.
Boundaries and fear of criticism
You do need boundaries in your small business. They help you in so many ways, when it comes to criticism though, boundaries:
– protect you from jerk critics and hecklers
– show self-respect
– teach people how to treat you
– teach you what you’re prepared to accept
– are necessary for growth.
6. Strong Values to keep you on track
I am a big believer in playing the long game and the end game. These beliefs mean that minor distractions, like criticism or the fear of it, are speed bumps and not derailments. But the one thing that helps playing the long game is being firmly grounded in my values.
Understanding, speaking & behaving from my values, and in particular my core value, keeps me focused and grounded. I am fortunate, and equally struggle, with the fact that my core value is courage. That means that when I am authentic to myself, my business, and most importantly my customers I MUST act from a place of courage.
TIP: Your fear of criticism is based on the stories you tell yourself, drawn from what people have told you, what you’ve experienced, and/or what you have told yourself.
They may not be true.
Your brain hates gaps and silence and it will draw on your stories to fill them.
Thing is, they’re stories and not always facts.
Stories other people told you about yourself are their perspectives on you based on how they view you at one point in time through their lens of experience & the stories they heard.
The stories you tell yourself can be a mixture of and interpretation of what you heard from others or what you believed was the right thing to do (I used to be afraid of public speaking because I believed everyone is/should be).
Your lived experiences, and especially your memories of them, are tainted by time, what other things you hear about the experience, how you felt at the time, and the stories you tell yourself.
I hope you can see how unlikely they are to be based in fact or to be objective. That means that your fear can be a lie, like mine of public speaking, through to a fairy tale/fable of someone else’s perspective trying to sway your actions. Either way, they’re not real and shouldn’t be given much credit.
I hope this list helps you to overcome any fear of criticism you have in your business. I know I haven’t spoken about its roll with staff. If this or any of the other items I’ve shared here has left you wanting more, then please comment below and I will reply, email me, or book a time for us to have a virtual coffee. Any which way, I want to help.
The other week I shared an article on the psychology of what drives people to do what we do. I wanted to remind you of that because you are a person as a business owner and your psychology & mindset impact your business growth; as much as your staff and your clients’ psychology do.
Over the years as a business coach, many clients come to me with technical issues about growing their business or growing social media, and we address those, but I soon see that the biggest thing holding the business back from success is the business owner, their psychology, their mindset, their fears.
So I want to address some of these with you. It will be an overview, but I hope it helps you to see where perhaps you may be holding your business up and perhaps some ideas to help you overcome them.
How do you know that it’s your mindset or psychology as the business owner holding you back your business growth?
There are four main ways that I see business owners holding themselves back: procrastination, second-guessing, asking advice from others, low self-confidence/feeling flat. So what are some of the tricks to overcome them? Firstly you need to catch yourself doing it, then you can try one of these 5 tips to get you moving again: https://www.karalambert.com/business/build-self-confidence-business/
Fear of success
Let me start with what was holding me back, a fear of success. Ever dream so big, set the goals, put the plan into place only to realise as it’s about to realise that you’re scared witless (or rhymes with) about it actually succeeding. Yeah that’s me.
The paradoxical thing about success, unlike failure, is that it can never truly be achieved. Once you’ve achieved a certain level of success, a new one appears. And I think that’s it. My fear of success is actually that I can never attain it, but don’t confuse it with felling like I will fail, it’s not that. It’s fleeting and surpassed by a new goal. I’m afraid of something I believe doesn’t exist because while I achieve a goal, success has moved. It’s a mirage that jumps along the road of progress to a new point.
Then it goes further into the stories I was told growing up and my beliefs around what success would be like. I ended up taking these on as truths, when in all honesty they were only what someone else’s fears were when it came to success or what someone else has accepted as their success. None of them were my reality. I go into this more in the section on Imposter Syndrome.
Overwhelm as a business owner impacting your psychology, mindset & business growth
I’ve helped a number of business owners through this. They come to me with a particular tool they are struggling with, generally Facebook, and they feel utterly overwhelmed. Like with most of life, what we think is the problem rarely ever is. But the thing with overwhelm is that it is all-encompassing and that so often we are unable to realise that there is more to the problem that meets the eye and if we only looked a little further the answer would be so clear and so simple.
So often I see this overwhelm and it’s characterised by any or all of the following things.
Sounds simple right? Too simple to answer the issue of this overwhelm! It’s not and here’s why.
Humans are hard-wired for connection. Connection to our family, our friends, our community, our tribe. When we lose these connections we feel lost. As lost souls we grapple and grasp for things to give us direction and meaning. Much like connections do.
In business, we have three connections. Connection to self (our passions). Connection to business. Connection to clients (audience). When one or more of these are out we feel out of whack and the more disconnection we have, the more overwhelmed we become.
So what is the one thing we’ve lost other than the connection which is contributing to overwhelm in business?
We’ve lost that all of this connection is about people. We have lost that the ‘whats’ and ‘shoulds’ are actually about connecting to people. This is where I see the overwhelm sitting and this is where the relief comes when I show it to my coaching clients.
Now for some this might seem simplistic, but I have to say that there is a tonne of science behind people, connection, and how they interplay with social media, communication, and business. And this fascinates me.
But what happens when you’re the one overwhelming yourself?
You’ve got the laundry list of things you want/need/should do and achieve and it feels like you’re drowning with no possible way out. Now I could sit here and tell you to go easy on yourself and not to compare yourself to others and not to set unrealistic expectations – and there would be a good chance you’d ignore me and tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that how else were you going to be a success.
In the end, overwhelm comes from being disconnected and that includes with ourselves.
Fear of rejection
When business owners come to me for help with social media, this is one of the most common psychology or mindset issues holding back their business growth. I’m/it’s not good enough… Fear of rejection is understandable. We all want to be wanted or needed. When we put our business, our services, or our product out there and forward for all to see – we put ourselves out there. Wide open for criticism and/or rejection. And when that happens, it’s a reflection on ourselves.
Growing up were you a people pleaser? Did you want people to like you? How do you go now?
I was this child and even this adult. Over the past year I have been working a lot on coming back in to alignment with my motivators. Truly understanding them. Getting rid of thoughts and stories (I’m not calling them beliefs) which no longer serve. But the need to keep people happy stuck around.
Now don’t confuse this with a fear that no one likes me. I know people don’t like me and I’m totally ok with that. I’m not afraid of people not liking me, I don’t want everyone to like me because I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
Keeping people happy is about not disappointing, it’s about meeting their expectations, it’s about putting their needs above mine.
What about business owner mindset, not psychology, and business growth?
After the psychology, the mindset we have as a business owner is the most common thing holding back our business growth. Personally, two little words changed my world. These two words bring about thoughts of anger in every parent, competition in every sibling, and fear in every business owner. Yet as business owners, we need to be asking it more often than we do. To achieve more we need to be willing (and able) to step back and reassess. When dealing with difficult clients, these two words can change the way you approach the situation.
I’m not asking a question, these are the words. While I understand it might seem abrupt and abrasive; it’s this that gives them their charm but also their jolting power. You see, it’s not until we are jolted from our comfort zone that we see and achieve greatness. Read on: https://www.karalambert.com/business/two-words-change-business/
“Kara, I just need more self-confidence”, “I need to get out of my own way”, “I need to stop holding myself back”. It’s generally what our conversations come down to, no matter what we start with. Generally, it starts with wanting to learn how to promote their small business on social media, then after a little while, the truth comes up. It’s really a lack of self-confidence that is stopping them progressing. https://www.karalambert.com/business/build-self-confidence-business/
One of the first and most needed mindset shifts I made was around time.
When I started, it went something like this… But I just don’t have the time! I’m time-poor! I need more hours in the day! Sound familiar? I wish I had a magic wand and could give you more hours, I don’t, but I can make it feel like you do. It’s all about time management and perception.
If you constantly think and feel that you don’t have enough of something; you won’t! It is a ‘glass half empty’ approach to time management. Consider this, you have a friend who is always negative, they can’t see the good in anything; always moping, bad things constantly going wrong. If they can only see the negative, that’s all they will find.
So, now think about time. Yes, I know we all have the same number of hours in the day, but how do you value and see those hours? Do you believe that they will slip through your fingers, do you think they will whizz by; or do you think you have all the time you need, and that time is on your side? Which would you prefer?
When I changed my belief about the time I had and I realised that I can do all that I need AND I don’t have to feel rushed or stressed in completing them, it was how it was. I realised that time is an asset and when assets are seen for their true value they grow. I liken it to when you feel stressed and take a deep breath, things seem to slow and calm down. When I first started, there were a lot of deep breaths, but that’s ok, it’s working.
So change how you think about the time you have available, then plan how you use your time.
Now if you’re a bit of a procrastinator and just thought “brilliant! Now I have more time to do nothing in”, well you’re technically right but let’s tackle that procrastination.
The first issue is why you procrastinate and generally that comes from fears. Things like fear of failure, imposter syndrome, perfectionism. Addressing those is a whole other chat. But let’s tackle that never ending to-do list! How did I get around that?
The fear of being left behind is real in business. Business owners are afraid of missing out on the next best thing. Fear that their competitors are going to get the jump on them. Fear of not having a competitive advantage. It’s a competitor FOMO mind storm. All of this plays on a business owner’s psychology, mindset & ultimately their business growth.
So, what do you do when you’re afraid of being left behind in business? Or that your competitors will have the jump on you? Or that you don’t have a competitive advantage? Well, I answer how to overcome all of these in the following article: https://www.karalambert.com/business/fomo-and-business/
Some of the things business owners say when it comes to competition are:
“It’s end of financial year, no one has any money.”
“It’s holiday season here in Europe/US no one is around.”
These were tales of lack and woe. I’m not saying I’m immune. I lose clients each year in the lead up to the end of financial year. It used to bother me, now I realise that there are always better opportunities about to come by.
Looking for more information about what makes your business different in the eyes of your customer? Do you know why they choose you over your competitor? Want to be able to win a larger piece of the market? Then you’re going to want to read this article about your selling point: https://www.karalambert.com/business/point-difference-selling-point/
What if you don’t have any competitors?
What if you’re unique in your field? I can tell you that up until late last year, this was me. I had to get ok with not being like anyone else. I had to be ok with not having anyone to benchmark off. I had to be ok with being different and educating the audience as to why it was just ‘ok’ but it was necessary. If this is you, then you’re going to want to read what I wrote about going it alone in a blue ocean: https://www.karalambert.com/business/swimming-in-a-blue-ocean/
When looking over your shoulder at the competition wears you down
We are human and there are times when everything and everyone gets the better of you. Then there can be points where it’s one thing on top of another. It can also be the smallest jibe by ‘the’ wrong person and your set off down a spiral of self-doubt to self-loathing. This is what I call the confidence gremlins and I want to introduce you to them and their cures in this article: https://www.karalambert.com/business/killing-off-confidence-gremlins/
Imposter Syndrome & its impact on your business owner psychology, mindset & business growth
So what is Imposter Syndrome? Why does it matter? How does it fit in with the psychology and mindset of a business owner and how it could hold back their business growth?
For the people I speak to, it’s this constant niggling (or roaring) self-doubt combined with a constant fear that you’re going to be caught out, called out, or targeted as a fake or phony. The vast majority of people who have Imposter Syndrome are female and are high-achieving. That means that not only do they place exceedingly high expectations on themselves, they work their butts off to achieve them. These people are often referred to as Type A personalities.
They work hard to meet what they believe the expectations are of the person that they’re performing the work for. The problem is, is that they can never live up to those standards because they’re actually not meeting the standards of the person that they’re providing the work for. They’re trying to meet what they believe the standards are.
It’s the story we play to ourselves.
It’s years of hearing little comments.
It’s being passed over.
It’s the impact of tall poppy syndrome.
This constant self-doubt and feeling like you need to watch your back; the feeling like you will never live up to expectations; it’s all draining. It erodes away at your confidence and for some people, they just stop trying or putting themselves out there.
It’s said that there are 5 key business drivers: cash, profit, assets, growth and people. If I’m honest, it comes down to one and what drives it: people. So what is the psychology behind staff and customer drivers? By they way, the psychology of marketing is now called neuromarketing.
In the previous blog, I wrote about the psychology of online business and this article is all about the psychology behind the key drivers of a business, or more importantly, the people that make it happen. Let’s lead these horses to water and have them drink.
Before we look at specific groups of people, I really recommend you look at this article on how a small change in thinking about how to motivate people to drive the action you need works & makes a huge difference. Go read it now and come back! Here’s where you learn more about driving people and understanding the psychology of it: https://www.karalambert.com/business/what-really-drives-business-success/
Psychology of staff drivers
I’ve trained many staff, I consulted with many staff, and I managed staff. The most important lesson I had was when I managed 10 staff. They were beaten and needed support and motivation. So I turned to them. I showed them how they fit within the aims of the Department and asked them what they were passionate about when it came to their work & how the Department helped Veterans. I showed them how as people, they were the most important thing to our business success – because they were.
My staff went from being unmotivated to incredibly productive, happy, having less time off, being consulted more by the business areas we serviced, and they got rid of 2 years’ backlog of work in 3 months. There was no overtime, bonuses, or extra pay. Instead, I made people the most important part of the business. My staff could see where they fit in the direction & success of the Department, they had meaningful work, we had happy ‘clients’ & we were a success.
This proved what I had read in my Masters program on happy staff being the key to having happy clients.
These areas can be as open or closed as you like. You can use them to promote or sell items or events. You control who is accepted into the group. It works like your own business fandom and is perfect for growing a ‘tribe’.
There was a time where Facebook Pages were “dead” and Facebook Groups were the best thing to grow your business. By now I hope you realise that there’s a lot more to it than building the Group and hoping people will come. An active group require active and engaging content & that requires an understanding of your customers’ psychology. Before you go too much further, scoot off and read the following article and come right back: https://www.karalambert.com/facebook/whats-facebook-group-think/
So I’ve covered off running a Facebook Group for your business, what about gaining business from other people’s Facebook Groups? Yes, it can be done and I’ve generated thousands of dollars in revenue from working other groups. Now, this should be part of any business strategy, with or without your own Group. So I encourage you to read this article I wrote on how to use psychology to game posting in other people’s Facebook Groups: https://www.karalambert.com/facebook/responding-facebook-group-post/
Customer satisfaction & psychology
So the customer satisfaction survey results are in and Management come back with the standard, “Customer Satisfaction is slipping. YOU need to get it up!” How often have you been told that you need to lift the customer satisfaction rating for your area, team, or business? Then shook your head and wondered just how to make it happen. There’s no magic wand or crystal ball for this one. It’s totally out of your control if they’re happy with you because you’re doing everything you can; special offers, follow up, personalised service. You’ve pulled out all the stops for the customer. You’re giving it all you’ve got!
Traditionally, improving customer satisfaction takes on the form of “What else can we give them?” or “What else do they need?”
What if I was to tell you that there were 2 more effective ways of improving customer satisfaction than throwing more money and things at the customer. (metaphorically speaking)
70% of Americans say that they look at reviews before they purchase and 90% of customers say that their decision was based on the reviews they read prior to purchasing. Online reviews and other forms of social proof form an important part of a business’ social media marketing. However, as we are talking about the human behaviour of making a purchase, be it online or offline shopping, then we need to consider the psychology of reviews and social proof.
Drivers in Customer avatars, client personas, USPs & use in neuromarketing
To be honest, whatever you call them, you better be including what drives your ideal client. Why? Because understanding why they do and react how they do is as (I’d say more) important than knowing their age/gender/marital status etc.
So why do the standard client avatars fail in my eyes? Here’s the thing. With a degree in psychology, I know that we are more than what we do. I understand that diagnoses and labels give us meaning and structure to our lives, it makes things easier. But labels are just that, they stick on top of a number of behaviours and/or symptoms which make up the labels.
I don’t know about you, but I’m more than the labels society puts on me. Yes, I am a mother, daughter, sister, wife, graduate, business owner; but so are many other women I know. Does that mean that we are all the same? Does that mean that all of our behaviours are the same? No!
So why do marketing experts and business owners still believe that these client profiles based on labels work? At best they are generic, but how are they used and what lies behind them?
These avatars are used to help business owners with their marketing and messaging, what is now being called neuromarketing. They exist to help with what words to use, where to focus marketing efforts; but where does this come from? The business owner’s interpretation of the labels. And this interpretation comes from their lived experience and opinions of these labels. This interpretation comes from our biases. What if they’re wrong?!
So what happens when a business does a standard client avatar exercise and finds it doesn’t work, and I have had many business owners in tears because this is the case but they were lead to believe it would work and was crucial. Their marketing efforts are misguided, they don’t make the money they feel they should, they are demotivated, and some even close their businesses believing they were a failure.
All because they relied on labels rather than what sat behind them.
One of the common things business owners say to me during training on the psychology of social media is that they have an issue with marketing to their customers’ fears. They said that they had paid for neuromarketing advice and been told to market to their ideal client’s fears. But they didn’t like it and in fact, they no longer used that advice. Sound familiar.
This is what annoys me. There is so much information out there which we throw by the wayside but believe it to be true because everyone says it. It’s like learning lemmings. (My Mum would say, if everyone jumped off a cliff would you too?) Ok, so that’s a little harsh but it seems like a big waste of money to pay for advice and not use it because you’re not comfortable with it.
I believe, and teach, that there are five key motivators of human behaviour in neuromarketing (on and offline). One of the motivators is fear. Looking into the research, fear is actually a poor motivator. If you use fear to motivate someone, they will comply and follow, they are not making a choice and they are not using their free will. It is also not the way to build trust or grow a relationship. Fear is not an incentive to take action, it’s an incentive not to. Fear is there to keep us safe.
In the end, I hope that this article (while long) has helped you to understand what drives the two main groups of people your business success depends on. If you would like more tailored advice, I am available to consult and you can book a quick chat through this page: https://www.karalambert.com/business_coaching/
Be gentle on yourself, she thought. The world has shifted access and you, my dear, are at it’s pivot.
Be kind to yourself, she thought. You might want to think you can do it all and you, my dear, can some days and others will be a struggle.
Be wise with yourself, she thought. You happily give out advice and treat those you meet with kindness and you, my dear, deserve the same.
Be true to yourself, she thought. You have spent so long coming to terms with who you are, my dear, and so now you need to be it.
This is uncertain times, she thought. You know you’ve made it through many others, my dear, you shall with this.
This is a time of change, she thought. You know that it’s the world changing, my dear, you only need to change with it and not against it.
This is a testing time, she thought. You know that you can stand the test, my dear, you have depths yet uncharted.
This is a coming of a new time, she thought. You know that it will bring new joy, my dear, you only need to look for it.
And I am asked to do so much, she thought. You know that it is not forever, my dear, it will teach as much as take from you.
And I am tired from it all, she thought. You do not have to rush, my dear, we will wait and you will make it to us.
And I am hurt by what I see, she thought. You are not alone, my dear, you do not have to hurt alone.
And I am worried for what’s to come, she thought. You are right to worry, my dear, for we are facing the unknown.
Kind people walk among us, she thought. You can be one, my dear, you just need to be kind to be one.
Kind thoughts evade us, she thought. You can start them, my dear, you just need to start with yourself.
Kind words heal us, she thought. You can say them, my dear, and sometimes the kindest thing is to listen.
Kind deeds are done between us, she thought. You can do them, my dear, you only need to smile.
I wrote this ode as I struggled to write a blog post for my business. It’s been a month since Covid-19 really took hold here in Australia. It’s been 3 weeks since I pulled my kids from physical schooling to do online learning. It all seems a lot longer.
The other day I did my grocery shopping and one of the shop assistants mentioned how she was overwhelmed. She was tired of it being all she heard of. She was tired of the uncertainty. She was tired of always being worried. She was tired. You see, I asked her how she was and her sigh told me that her “Ok” was far from actually being ok. I asked her if she was “sure” that she was ok and that’s when she told me she was overwhelmed. I’m glad I asked her and grateful I could listen.
You see, outside of my psychology degree, I spent 5 years processing worker’s compensation claims for the Australian Defence Forces. It was my job to listen to the stories the personnel told me. Over the years, I learnt to hear the subtle signs of fatigue and anguish that simmer under “ok”. I learnt that sometimes, just being heard (without fear or judgement) is all people really want and need to feel better. They didn’t need sympathy, placation, but did need to be heard. When we are heard, we know we are no longer alone.
Most of my clients understand that psychology is important to their business online but how is it important to your business every day? The following article outlines the main areas where understanding psychology will help your business, it also contains a number of links to helpful articles and resources so you can have a deeper understanding of specific tactics.
The psychology of online business
So let’s start with the one thing most people come to me with: The psychology of business online. There are three main issues I see. The first people talk to me about is engaging their audience online, the second is the fear of posting, and finally it’s FOMO or the fear of missing out.
The psychology of Engaging content
Businesses keep hearing that content is king and that they need to engage their audience. They try a number of different things, some realise that they have some success by just being themselves but wonder how they are going to repeat it AND sell.
This is where the psychology of engaging a business audience comes in. Platforms want us to produce content which is engaging and relevant. Businesses are realizing that their content may be neither of these and they have no idea what it means. They can take a best guess approach but really what do their clients’ think is engaging or relevant.
The fomo is real! People hate to be left out and when we spend time online, we see all that others are doing and when we’re not – we feel left out.
I’m writing this as Australia is in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and I feel like every other person is adopting a kitten or a puppy. Oh how I wish I could adopt one, but I can’t. My kids see photos their friends are sharing of their new pets and they ask for one. The FOMO is real in our house.
If only selling were as easy as salesmen make it out to be. To be honest, it’s not a skill I excel at. One day.
I have found that there are three main arms to sales & they are the fear of selling (it’s hard to do something you’re afraid of), the psychology of pricing (we know that we all have a maximum price we will pay), and storytelling (because no one honestly likes a hard sales pitch)
So let’s get into it.
Fear of selling
They don’t want to seem pushy
Perhaps this is a particularly Australian issue, but I doubt it. We really don’t like tooting our own horn and telling people to do things. We’re more subtle with these CTAs and to be honest they come off as weak at best and ambiguous at worst.
Hate asking for the sale
Following on from not wanting to be pushy is not wanting to be salesy. In Australia there’s nothing more loathed than a slimey salesperson.
Fear of rejection
Many business owners say that they don’t use a call to action or ask for the sale because they’re afraid to be told, “no”. We want to be liked. We want to be helpful. We don’t like rejection.
There are four main ways to overcome these issues: JFDI, use courage, use psychology, outsource.
Back in 2016, I reviewed the research around the psychology of businesses choosing a particular price for their product or services. The most interesting discovery I had was how 9-ending prices came about and what were the psychological benefits of using 9-ending prices for business.
The psychology of 9-ending prices
We all believe that if we market our products with a 9-ending, the customers will believe it’s cheaper and will flock to buy it. Right? Well, in reality it’s more like a ‘yes & no’ or a ‘depends’.
The psychology quoted on why it works is 3 pronged:
– we read left to right and drop off the numbers on the right, being the 9
– perceived gain
– price image compared to those of a competitor
if an odd number (9 for example) followed a round number (0) then consumers believed that they were receiving a bigger discount. They also found that the perceived discount increased as the price increased. However, the effect stopped once the price reached FF 100. (This study was done in France prior to the introduction of the Euro) Similarly, Bizer & Schindler (2005) found that 9-ending prices meant that consumers estimated that they could buy more of an item than was actually possible.
if a consumer is not motivated to pay much attention to the price, then they are more likely to drop off the end numbers. So this is more likely when we really don’t have to think too much about the purchase.
when the store’s message fits with the consumer’s focus then the consumer sees it as being relevant and will remember more of the price. So, if a consumer is motivated by quality and presented with a low-price 9-ending item, they won’t remember the price as well as if they were originally looking for a cheap item.
for the drop off effect to be profitable, only 3% of items actually needed to use the principle. So to some degree it seems that businesses are actually overusing the 9-ending pricing to attract appropriately motivated clients. (Though I seriously doubt that they are properly considering the motivation of their customers)
However, Anderson & Simester offered the following practical advice:
If a product had a 9-ending price and was paired with a ‘Sale’ & a ‘New’ merchandising prompt, sales increased by 3.9%.
If a product had a 9-ending price and was paired with a ‘New’ merchandising prompt, sales increased by 8.5%.
The biggest thing to consider is how good your audience is at maths. In all instances, the easiest thing is to have your price ending in a 0 or a 5, otherwise you risk confusing and losing.
Here are some of the other key points from my larger article on odd and even pricing:
– Even priced products and services are perceived as being of higher quality than odd and that intention to purchase based on quality is set by what motivates the buyer.
– If you value and promote the quality of your offer, you are better off using an even price.
– The pricing of a bundle of items requires that the items be even priced but the total bundle price be odd.
– If setting suggested prices for a Pay What You Want promotion, you should only use whole dollar amounts and preferably prices that end in 5 or 0.
– Debts are more likely to be paid in full if they end in a 5 or a 0 and to consider this when looking to recover debts.
It’s funny when you read the two psychology of pricing articles together, how it becomes clear when 9 works and why you should or shouldn’t use it.
Storytelling in your business
Sales is no longer the straight forward “buy my shit because it’s awesome & I said so”, the vast majority of us research our purchase before they’re even made & with a whole internet full of information (and mis-information) – the last thing we need and want is hard old school ram it down your throat sales. It just isn’t working.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you would know that I like to know the deeper ‘why’ & if it can go back to something about human psychology even better. (Look you don’t study the stuff for 3 years and then spend another 5 where it’s the main focus of your day job without it being a part of your ‘why’) So it won’t come as a surprise to know that I found this article by Lou Carlozo outlining the psychology of storytelling for sales & the keys to making it work. So what are they?
Oxytocin – the love drug or one that bonds mother to baby is switched on when we read stories
Metaphors matter – the use of metaphors are important in telling stories, they’re the Vegemite to the buttery toast. (Just don’t mix your metaphors or it can get messy)
Relevance – there’s no point telling a great story if it’s not relevant to the product/service or your customer.
So this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve either been in business for a while, it’s not your first crack at running your own business, or you’ve spent time working/running a business for someone else and it’s time to make the break and go it alone. To be honest, I feel like I fit across all three. But there’s one thing that keeps you going and that’s the belief that your business will succeed.
If you’d read my article on having a clear direction in your business, you might have sensed that the thing which kept me going was a belief that this would work. Because I honestly do and I know that what I do has a profound impact on my clients. I’m sure you feel the same way about your business.
Business goals vs wanting to believe your business will succeed
Work outside of your belief structure and you feel like a fraud, fake, or phony. You’ll be gripped by dissonance, which has you feeling uncomfortable in your actions and doubting your moves.
On the flip side, if you behave in alignment with your beliefs you will be happy, calm, and you will achieve some incredible things. I often achieve more than I expect purely because I’m behaving in alignment with my belief structure.
So rather than the goal of having a successful business, your ability to believe your business will succeed is actually more important. Goals are great, but psychologists know that they are all poor drivers of behaviour (just look at how often New Year’s resolutions fail). However, our belief structure is at the core of driving our behaviour. So believe it can be done and it will.
Believing that your business will succeed when business is failing
When times are tough we often turn the spotlight in on ourselves. We chastise ourselves on the things we could have done differently. We rehash the mistakes we made. We generally get down on ourselves.
I have to be honest, when things go pear-shaped in my business, goals don’t help.
In fact, when I feel like a business failure, my goals are the first to go. They certainly don’t motivate me because it was my goals that I failed to achieve.
In the darkest of times, I’ve had to look very strategically at my business, and I don’t mean income and expenses or most profitable product. I mean where and how my business operates strategically. What is the why (some might call it a mission statement) of my business?
How believing your business will succeed works
When my business has been failing, reconnecting to the core belief of my business (putting the person we need to take action at the hub of our actions) has been key and triggers these steps:
– This reconnection and reaffirming of my why then leads me to look at why my clients come to me.
– From here I can look at my offerings and how I am meeting my client needs
– Then I can add or pivot to meet their needs
– Finally, I again believe that my business will succeed
I’ve been through this process a number of times. Each time I’ve uncovered more about the audience I want to serve, but most importantly I’ve uncovered more about myself & particularly the story I tell myself about success (or failure).
It’s incredibly motivating, knowing more about my audience. It’s also empowering & healing by rewriting the story I tell myself about success/failure. Both of these changes prop me up a little more and prevent me from slipping backwards. It means that I grow in more ways than just achieving a goal would.
A little secret
I always knew that what I had to offer had merit. I always believed that people needed what I have to offer. I always believed that I had a uniqueness. I didn’t always want the success. In fact, I feared it. I feared what it would do to me & my family life.
It wasn’t until I got ok with being me, that the fear of success disappeared. It wasn’t until I addressed the crappy stories I told myself about success in general and my success in particular that I was able to stand and act firmly from my beliefs.