By Jeanne Ellen Russell
One of the biggest advantages of having a small business is the flexibility. If things aren't working, you can switch gears quickly to head in a more profitable direction.
In my case, being a "solopreneur" means I can reinvent myself and my business as often as necessary to survive. But how do I know when it's time to end a dream? How do I know the difference between the resistance I get just before things are about to work out and a sign that it is time to let go?
I am a firm believer in having multiple profit centers, both from an economic standpoint and because having multiple streams of income is more interesting. That said, I tend to get so many ideas that I allow myself to start more projects than I can comfortably maintain. Paying clients come first, but after that I often find myself in the horrible position of trying to decide which (metaphorical) children to feed.
I love all my business ventures like a mother loves her babes. I created each one with joy, enthusiasm and great expectations. But then another idea comes along and I let the first one linger and wait while I nurture the newest addition to the brood. I've gone on like this for years, creating all sorts of wonderful and imaginative profit centers that start with great promise but ultimately sputter to a point just before death. That's because I end up neglecting each one for whatever new idea catches my attention. Consequently, none of my profit centers are very "profitable."
I've known for some time that I need to take a good hard look at all my enterprises and drop the ones that don't work so the rest have a chance to succeed. I know I should do this, but whenever I decide to drop a particular venture, I find myself filled with all sorts of ideas to make it work. Then, while I'm working on implementing these ideas, my mind flitters back to the other projects that I'm neglecting. In short, I'm scattered.
Recently, the universe gave me a wonderful gift. The hard drive on my computer died. Now I've got to admit that initially, I didn't see the gift. I lost two book projects in their final phases, all my digital art, all my photos, marketing materials and everything else. Add to that the fact that my external hard drive where I backed up my computer files had died several months before and you can picture the situation. All my brain children were wiped out in one fell swoop.
And for a few days, I felt desperate. What was I going to do? All my work, all my babies were lost. And then I recognized the gift. I would use this event as an opportunity for focus.
Everything I lost was something creative that came from inside me. The book on natural cleaning was all still there in my head. I could re-write it if it was important enough. I could also create more Feng Shui mandalas to replace the ones I lost. And I could re-build all my other projects as well. Or I could decide to let them go.
I resolved that I would only re-create projects that I was willing to nurture and feed. I would take some time to decide which projects were important. Then, if I decided I wanted to recreate something or start something new, I had to be willing to commit to it. This meant I had to be willing to do the research and write a business plan for any venture I wanted to undertake. I hate writing business plans. But creating a business plan complete with facts, figures and projections is a sure sign of commitment, so that is what I would do.
Almost immediately, I got several orders for mandalas from fengshuimandalas.com and decided to make resurrecting that venture my first project. This time I would do more than create the mandalas. This time I would do what was necessary to make this baby thrive. So I decided to get some professional advice. I made an appointment with a consultant from Work Force Solutions at Lord Fairfax Community College to get some marketing advice and I started working on a business plan.
I'm excited about moving forward on a firm footing. I'm really committed to doing things right this time. But I gotta tell you, this morning I got this fantastic idea...
Jeanne Russell is a guest columnist and a creative services professional who lives in Edinburg. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org