What do a translation service, an orthopaedic care provider in the developing world and a software solution company all have in common?
They all began life because a passionate entrepreneur once dared to dream big. Setting out to make a positive difference to someone’s life, using their unique gifts and talents.
Somewhere along the way, that very same entrepreneur started to forget who they were serving and for what purpose. They got dragged down by processes, growth became more difficult to find, and they lost that feeling of belief that had inspired them to start their business in the first place. Eventually the joy their business once brought them, became tainted and the feeling of freedom, so important to the spirit of entrepreneurship, suddenly began to be replaced with frustration and burden.
Each one thought they had to accept that hard work, frustration and the ups and downs of joy was an inevitable part of their journey. Despite each of them facing different challenges, they were all experiencing the same pattern and blocks to growth.
The tale doesn’t end there though. They’d reached a crunch point and knew that to move forward, they needed to do something different – for these three businesses it was time to pause, to take a step back – a step back to growth.
Luce – a Chinese national who was inspired to support fellow citizens getting into a European education with her translation service – realised her business was stuck, “I seemed to be moving around in circles and certainly not moving forward. And I faced competitors who were larger than me and could easily beat me on price”.
The particular difficulty she faced was that she provided only one component of a much bigger service, so her value to customers was hidden. “As long as everybody saw me as only a stepping stone and not the greater value my company had to give to my community, it would always be hard to be the ‘go-to’ choice.”
Merel, whose passion was to provide “orthopaedic care – right in the backyard of those who need it most”, found she’d become led by processes that were required for legal compliance, but in doing so, she’d lost sight of the difference she was making to her customer, the very people she was doing it for.
Before long, Merel found herself submerged beneath an overwhelming workload. “I had been answering to lots of people, taking into consideration everybody’s needs. In serving so many I ended up losing myself and tried to solve this by doing more.” In trying to be all things to all people, how could she ever find the space she needed to grow?
With a high demand for her software solution, Linda’s product wasn’t hard to sell and her concept naturally took off. But as her business evolved and achieved the success she’d previously only dreamt of, she became inundated with opinions on how to expand, while at the same time trying to do it all herself. “I was running at a million miles per hour and was completely immersed in every part of the business. I knew it was time to grow but how was I meant to find that time?”
Slowly Linda was doing more and more, losing the spirit that had ignited her journey in the first place.
Rewind and review
Julie Perkins, Founder of Wyseminds, drawing on her 30 years of expertise of real, raw experiences from the business world, recognises these familiar patterns in business growth. She saw that these three overwhelmed entrepreneurs were becoming trapped by the very thing that once symbolised freedom. However, she knew that the way out was simpler than first thought. “It’s all about getting back to the big dream they dared to have in the first place – in other words, getting back to their purpose and building a stronger foundation around it. And once they did that, that’s when growth really started to happen”.
After reconnecting with their purpose and how it translated to their company, Wyseminds guided these leaders through these key stages to direct their business into a new era of growth.
- Get to know your customer and the core of who you serve
Revisiting your customer’s profile, or avatar, is the critical first step in finding your direction again. After all, your purpose, one way or another is centred on a strongly held desire to serve a need for somebody. Getting in touch with your customers’ hopes and wishes provides you with that all-important emotional connection, which can snap you back into focus, ensuring you are making the difference you set out to do in a way that is crystal clear to your customer. And ultimately providing clarity for all and reigniting your passion in the difference you want to make.Linda found that after this process “I created such a clear avatar that it acted like a mind filter.” And Luce’s connection with her purpose inspired “a call of duty to my avatar, wanting them to have the experiences and opportunities I had.” Merel discovered that becoming customer-centric provided meaning to her business’ bureaucratic processes and “allowed us to be something different in the market.”Julie reflects “What you know about your customer is your competitive advantage. This enables you to go beyond thinking you’re ready for growth to knowing you’re ready for growth.”
- Create value
Knowing your customer, naturally leads you to your ‘value creation process’ – or put another way, a step-by-step guide to getting your product right for your customer, incorporating what makes you unique, ensuring impact beyond the transaction itself and creating loyalty for the future. Taking all within your organisation on this journey, ensures everyone understands their contribution, resulting in a seamless experience for your customer.
Linda realised that right from the start of her business she had been caught up in “getting my product to my customers in any way I could.” But in redesigning the value process, she was able to review it with her new customer in mind.
For Luce, this process allowed her to establish “an emotional relationship with my customer and seeing this powerful connection enabled me to develop a new communications strategy, something which made us stand out in a highly competitive market.”
- Free yourself to lead
The final piece in the puzzle is to remember where you, the entrepreneur, fits within the whole picture. Even though you may have started as a one-woman band, it’s important to provide yourself with the space and freedom to be the conductor of an entire orchestra. In this way, you can lead and inspire others to deliver an outstanding performance, for your customer – the audience. Linda found that liberation for her was to relook “at where I should place myself to get the best out of my business. It was easily the best decision for the growth of my company taking a step back from the hands-on running of the business (after paving the way), giving it to someone more technically qualified.”
As leaders, who have been driven in the first place to begin these inspiring enterprises, this may not be an easy thing to do. But, as Julie notes “the entrepreneur has to place themselves where they want to sit in the process. It’s the most emotional part of the journey, it can be hard, as you need to take a step back from your dream. But you need to consider – where do you best sit to deliver the biggest contribution?”
Stepping back to grow
For these three passionate entrepreneurs in their first flush of new business, they probably never imagined that somewhere down the line the thing that would enable them to grow, would be to take a step back and honestly look at whether the dream they first imagined was truly unfolding.
Linda sums it up eloquently in her advice to other businesses on the same journey – “Rapid growth brings the risk of forgetting why you are doing it in the first place. Keep yourself grounded in what is actually important; the customer, their needs and the value you want to bring to them.”
Here at Wyseminds we’re committed to supporting you on this journey – helping you to rediscover your purpose and value, find your freedom and help you take your right next step. Start by signing up to our introductory Lift-Off programme – it’s our gift to women entrepreneurs everywhere and you can get involved completely free.
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