CASE STUDY > starting a business
...it’s difficult to say a start-up is definitively one thing or another, except for highlighting that the ability to change and be different is the essence of a start-up. The energy, excitement and sense of possibility runs throughout start-ups, as well as a feeling that anything could happen.
Max was ready to give up his full-time role as a secondary school teacher, and put his efforts into his new start-up. He'd been ready for a while, but economic conditions were proving difficult to judge and he wasn't sure he'd make it financially.
A VUCA world is good and bad
The post-pandemic world had been termed VUCA - volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and be definition, it was unclear whether his idea would be a success. He felt he couldn't define sucess, so he couldn't measure it, and he couldn't plan for it. He also zigzagged between classic black and white thinking that creates false 'good and bad' choices, trying to decide between being "creative or business-minded" or "making money or enjoying my work". So he became stuck in inertia, feeling more and more demotivated as time went by.
Envy as motivator
He was asked to attend a workshop on leadership at work, which he felt reluctant to do, as he didn't feel the accepted path of a head of department would fulfil him on any level, but just take him away from the lessons and teaching that he'd joined the profession for. He then talked to a friend who had built up his own business in the 18 months since he'd last seen him, and felt the envy of seeing how his life could have changed in the months that he'd stagnated. His friend was visably happier, more energetic and brimming with anecdotes about the pitfalls and passions or starting his business.
Business plans, like life, are works in progress
Max took the initiative to get some coaching on what was holding him back. To have some support in being accountable and outlining the steps to realise his ambitions. Getting started was the first step, but his other work was in the way, and there was always something more important, more urgent or just easier than "attacking his business plan". The language he used was illuminating here, as the "dreaded business plan" had become a monster.
Play to your passions and strengths
Max helped out at an allotment, giving away vegetables to people who were struggling. He knew he wanted to build this into a sustainable business and work more creatively, in a hands-on role that made a difference to people's lives.
He worked through his blocks and barriers step by step, and made small plans to reduce them each day, each week, each month. His skills as a teacher meant he was particularly good at explaining complex ideas and energising people about a project. He started to draw a network together to collaborate on his business idea, and the more conversations he had, the more his vision came together with a shared energy and enthusiasm behind it. The plan became real, with positive associations and feelings when he started to outline it.
Feeling energised and optimistic gave him the confidence to start his new business as a food box supplier, offering voluntary roles and running courses in the 'Art & Science of Food-Growing' to keep it sustainable and financially afloat.
Are your blocks holding you back from starting your business?
Everyone is different, but these are some standard blocks to overcome:
Do you think "but I'm not really qualified or skilled in this"
Do you want to do something more meaningful but can't make it work financially
Have you been waiting for the right time to launch, but that point keeps moving
Are you unsure that people will pay for you time or expertise or product
Do you avoid telling people about your new business idea
Are you secretly afraid of failure and want to get it right straight away
Do you think that you're "really creative but hopeless at business"
Is networking something that makes you roll your eyes or cringe
Do you worry that you're too old, too young, too dyslexic, too shy
Have you done several 'how to' courses and are still looking for the right one
Are you feeling overwhelmed and can't focus
Are you letting your other responsibilities get in the way
I was torn between dread and excitement at carving out a new path,
but I'm feeling confident about making the right decisions and
how I've got here - it really helped in understanding how black and the white thinking was a block to actually getting started "
Interesting reads & watches:
TED Talk on starting a business at 66
Article on the strengths of famous dyslexic entrepreneurs
Book - Both/And thinking: Embracing creative tension to solve your toughest problems
Try this at home:
If you are feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start, try the Double-Diamond approach (originally created by the Design Council), adapted for business entrepreneurs.
This outlines the 4 stages that you should go through to make your start-up business work, where you naturally have divergent thinking where you generate and create as many ideas as possible, countered by convergent thinking where you focus and distill into specific problems and solutions.
Recognising these as different types of thinking helps to reduce any anxiety about needing to focus as you accept that the 'discover' and 'develop' stages are necessarily full of many ideas and it's ok to let research, thinking and imagination go off on many different tangents.
The 'define' and 'deliver' stages will provide the space for focus and direction, once all your ideas have been fully explored and investigated.
This is just one of models, tools and approaches that can be used in the coaching sessions. Some are from neuro linguistic programming, cognitive behavioural techniques, career coach framework or positive psychology. All are evidence-based and tailored to fit each client.