Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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The Invisible Skills You Need to Build a MicroBiz

Since after less than a month of the #InsideMyMicroBiz experiment, the results are merely preliminary, I thought I would interview Abigail about what the process has been like so far. Got questions for Abby? Leave them in the comments.

Shanna: I figured what we could do is a bit of an interview. After your site launches, [Edit: It’s live!] we can talk a bit more about specific techniques and strategies.

So let’s just talk a bit about the process, and what you’ve learned so far.

So, first question: What’s been the most surprising part of the process so far?

The Invisible Skills You Need to Build a Microbiz

 

 

Abby: You know what? It’s probably how enjoyable this whole process has been. How much fun I’m having. I mean, yeah, it’s still a LOT of work, in the sense that there is now a mile long list of things I now need to do that I’m constantly working on, but now, it’s work I’m excited to do. I am actually really enjoying the work I need to do.

I was a little worried that I’d be doing a bunch of Standard Business Stuff that I HATED, but instead, the focus has been on establishing systems that work for me, that I can maintain. I can’t even begin to tell you HOW AWESOME that is.

Not the most surprising result, but definitely an awesome bonus to finding My Right Systems has been that I’m seeing results from the work and have better understanding why I’m getting those results. Which means I work more, because I like this getting results thing, which means I get more done and my business does even better. (Which, yeah, is the equivalent of a mouse pressing that lever to get a treat. I’m totally okay with that, I like these treats!)

Bonus! The more results I get from the work I do, the more willing I am to DO the work, the more comfortable and less anxious I am about if there will be results. That snowballs, too, so the more I do the work, and the more consistently I get results, the calmer and more confident in my own abilities I become.

I go to bed pretty much worked-out, but it is SO worth it.

 

Shanna: There’s something really addictive about knowing that YOU KNOW what to do to get the results you want. That’s what I love about self-employment. I don’t know about you, but I always felt like I was begging for sufferance when I was trying to get a job. It was a horrible feeling, like I had to please fickle, narrow-minded tinpot tyrants (who often didn’t want a worker with too many ideas of her own) and knowing there was no way to succeed at this game. I guess that’s the big thing about entrepreneurship– this is a game we can win. And the possibility of winning makes it fun, and it drives us.

I think you mentioned in your intake interview that, once your jewelry started selling, you stopped hating taking catalogue photos. Is there any other formerly distasteful activities that have begun to grow on you?

“I always felt like I was begging for sufferance when I was trying to get a job. It was a horrible feeling, like I had to please a fickle, narrow-minded tinpot tyrants (who often didn’t want a worker with too many ideas of her own) and knowing there was no way to succeed at this game.”

 

Abby: YES. THIS. Looking for a ‘job’ is humiliating. Not humbling, humiliating.

It’s a process of showing people why you think you’re qualified only for them to tell you you’re not, and then pick, exactly as you said, someone who won’t challenge the status quo. Someone who isn’t necessarily a better asset to the company or business, but someone who just won’t make waves, who won’t make management have to think and work. (Seth Godin talks about this phenomenon, calling what businesses want Sheeple.) They want people who will make THEM look good, not people who will be good at what they do and make business better. I could go on, but… another time.

So, because we’re Leader Types, innovators and envelope pushers, we tend to drag people along in our wake, and these people would rather just keep treading water, instead of swimming for that glorious tropical island just on the horizon. Tyrants is a very good word for that kind of system/manager.

Thinking about that, treading water vs winning and reaching that shore – I think one of the things I love about running my own business is that I can alternate between swimming in the current and seeing just how far out I can go, or chilling out on the beach. I’m making my own island here; there’s not swimming in a current or treading water because I need the paycheck. All the work I do for my business is to go after a goal important to me.

Which is probably why I’m quickly un-developing an aversion to newsletters and blog posts since we started this project. I see the value they bring, not just to me, but to the people who love the work I do.

I’m kinda a stickler for making sure it’s good for the people I do business with, too, not just me. Good business should be like great sex: good for everyone involved. (It should be!)

Thanks to the work you and I are doing, I’m okay with feeling out my own style and approach, and I feel less awkward about long form writing to clientele as a result. It shows, thankfully, and the response has been AMAZING. People have more fun engaging with what I write and share, and that is fun for ME. (Again, that awesome Feedback Loop of Success.)

 

Shanna: The Feedback Loop of Success, is I feel, a large part of what makes entrepreneurialism so addictive. I mean, where else can you get such immediate feedback on your efforts? It’s the reason why working with your hands is so satisfying (which you know better than anyone). In business, your efforts are directly tied to success. Sure, there’s maybe a little lag time, but you can also tell when you’re pointed in the right direction. You might not see big results, but you’ll see a lot of little results that tell you you’re doing things right.

It’s great that you’re learning confidence. Honestly, I think that getting that feedback breeds that confidence– you learn that you can read the signs and adjust, and that you can handle a change in plans.

And that’s what all the management books say, right? Train people by letting them have more control, then they’ll be able to do more, do better, and solve problems more creatively. It’s just harder when you’re on your own, because you don’t have anyone to give you that first little push, that confidence it will be okay.

That confidence is what shows through– not just because it’s easier for you to communicate to clients. But because now you are comfortable enough in your own skin and your own needs (both personally and business-wise) you are way better able to identify and serve your customer’s needs (yes, just like sex.)

 

Abby: Agree, that loop is a huge part of what keeps me coming back and what keeps me working as hard as I do, willingly. Happily, even.

And I agree wholeheartedly that success, on any scale, at any point in the timeline, will breed confidence. That confidence, that trust in oneself, that’s what makes those lulls and, as you said, the lag time, bearable. You know you’ve done it before, you know you can do it again. It may take some time, or a bit of tweaking to what you did the first time, but you eventually, with little successes, learn how to read the situation, the conditions.

I think this is part of what determines if someone succeeds as an entrepreneur (not if the particular venture succeeds, but the person) – if they can learn to read the weather. If you know how to work out if your business needs a parka, or a bikini, or shorts, or an umbrella, or jeans and work boots, you’re more likely to succeed. And you can read all the books in the world about what works for other people, but until you understand the weather they were dealing with, it’s REALLY hard to apply that advice with consistent success to your own goals, ventures.

Of course, writing a “How To Read The Weather for Your Business” book would be a massive undertaking. Not just because the weather can be so nuanced, and how each person responds to each weather condition varies, but the data that would be required is intense.

(If learning how to read Business Weather is the only thing someone needs, I’d really suggest hiring a good coach/consultant that you click with, over reading hundreds of How-To blog posts or buying Lowest Common Denominator marketing courses. You’ll really learn how to read the weather for your business faster that way. It’ll save you some major grief of trying to figure it out the hard way. You know, like we did. Ouch.)

 

Shanna: I actually read one time that the difference between a middle class kid and a poor kid isn’t in skills or ability. It’s in how their parents teach them to interact with authority. A middle class kid will be taught that people in positions of authority are there to help you, if you ask and plead your case effectively. They learn to interact with others as equals, to have an unquestioning belief in their own self-worth.

Poor kids learn, implicitly or explicitly, that people in authority have a lot of power over you, which they can wield cruelly or capriciously. They do not inherit a sense that they can navigate effectively within societal power structures. The best they can do is keep their heads down and try not to attract the attention of authority figures, because it’s a battle they will never win.

Whether that’s “true” or not is an argument for sociologists, but I think it’s a good way to express the innerreality of being able to do, as you say “Read the Business Weather.” Do you have confidence in your ability to effect change necessary for the situation? It’s both a learned skill and a paradigm of yourself and your world. It’s probably the hardest thing to teach, because the only thing I can do is tell you when your instincts are good. You have to take the leap into the deep end on your own, and find out from your own experience, if you can swim. It might be an ugly, floundering dog-paddle, but you’ll know if you survive, you’ll do it better next time.

And that’s what you’d be doing anyway. Having someone to talk to about it makes it just a little less terrifying.

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