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Understanding right timing in your creative business

by Abby Kerr

in Uncategorized

About this column

How do YOU know when it’s the right time to take action in your creative business?

Laura-Simms-career-coachFiguring out right timing is a key competency for entrepreneurs. You have to develop a sense of when it’s the right time to plan, to launch, to learn, to build community, to take an hour break and watch an episode of your favorite gloomy detective series on Netflix. (Seriously, now!)

Thing is, there aren’t often clear cut rights-or-wrongs when it comes to when to bust a business move.

It mostly comes down to what feels right or has been proven (through your own observation, tracking, and natural momentum) to work well for you and your Right People. Just because MY Right People like to invest more in learning and training in the Fall than at any other time of year doesn’t mean that YOUR Right People would follow the same rule.

Understanding what’s right for your business — in terms of your prime directive, goal-setting, and daily workflow — is a huge part of what my friend and collaborator Laura Simms (vizier at Create As Folk, where meaningful careers come to life) is teaching in Ready To Arrive. Ready To Arrive is a virtual bootcamp-style experience designed to help business owners refocus and recenter on the work that’s most meaningful to them. She invited me to be a Guest Teacher, contributing work around developing a clear brand message.

Because when the right mission meets the right message at the right time, it’s magic.

Here’s a Q&A with Laura about the original impetus for Ready To Arrive, and what it feels like to get off-focus in your brand.

ABBY: How did you get the spark to create Ready To Arrive? When did it — as an idea — first occur to you?
LAURA: I run a yearlong program for entrepreneurs called Cornerstone that addresses planning, focus, and legacy building. Each month I create new action-oriented planning pack for them that tackles a specific challenge in one of those areas. It usually takes me 2-3 hours to make a pack, so when I hit hour 5 on a particularly in-depth pack, I knew something was up. I decided to sleep on it before sending that pack out because something didn’t feel quite right.
The next day, I knew that it would be a disservice to deliver that material to the Cornerstone crew; it was just too much. I knew it could help some members, but for others it would be like throwing a stick of dynamite in their businesses just as they were starting a hit a groove. (Abby’s Note: Smart. Understanding the right timing and pacing for your Right People is a whole ‘thing’ in and of itself.) The whole thing was both beyond the scope of the goals of that program, and not complete enough to stand alone without further instruction; it would have been irresponsible teaching to present it to that group in that way. I started outlining what a complete version would be like and knew it needed to be its own course.
ABBY: So how did you know that THIS program was right thing at the right time for your brand? As opposed to something else? I ask because, you know, creative entrepreneurs and decision fatigue. It’s real.
LAURA: I considered another topic to build a course around based off a half-baked e-book that’s sitting in the graveyard of forgotten projects on my computer. I was trying to decide between it or RTA, and the RTA content just flowed out, whereas with the other topic I felt like I was trying to glue popsicle sticks together — just one idea mashed onto another without real structural integrity. (Abby’s Note: Great sign it’s time to shelve that idea — at least for now — and allow something more ripe and ready to emerge.) So I went with the flow. Also, I’ve been experiencing some great things in my own business as a result of applying the RTA principles and am on-fire excited to share that with the right group of people.


ABBY: Why do you think business owners and brand creators struggle so much with understanding “the right thing to do” in their business? Why is it so hard to figure some of this stuff out, when we’ve started this businesses so that we could be more in control of decisions?

LAURA: Simple: lack of clarity of vision. They don’t have a singular mission (one big decision), so they get bogged down with lots of little decisions.

ABBY: So, when it comes to Ready To Arrive, why did you want to collaborate with me? What did you see that I could bring to the table?

LAURA: We’ve long thought of our businesses as sister brands (Abby’s Note: It’s so true.), so I’ve been on the lookout for a way to collaborate with you for awhile. I mentioned that I’d love to work with you sometime last year, but I didn’t have a specific project in mind. When I started developing the RTA content, I knew that message was an important component, but to use a term from RTA, that’s outside my Area of Excellence. But it’s right in yours! I knew you could bring depth and clarity to the message conversation that I never could. Also, I just like you and I thought we’d have a good time preparing something together.


ABBY: I’m totally flattered and I LOVE what we’ve put together for that weekend in June. Participants are in for a treat.

So, this course is aimed right at entrepreneurs who know they’ve been keeping their businesses small and ‘under the radar,’ even if subconsciously.

RTA - Twitter
They can feel that there’s a bigger purpose or destiny there, but they haven’t really let themselves step into it fully. Chances are, they’ve gotten off-track somewhere from their original intent or dream.
And honestly, haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

For me (Abby), losing focus tends to happen usually after one of three seasons:

  1. An intensely busy and productive season in which I’ve worked myself to the bone and not taken enough time for rest and self-care. What I really need is some R&R, but I make up a story that burnout means I’m off-track, and so I start wandering, and over-analyzing everything, and second guessing my instincts. That’s when I start to get fuzzy on what the heck I’m doing in my business.
  2. I’ve been taking in way too much of other people’s content — i.e. reading their blog posts, downloading their special stuff, listening to their podcast — because I admire them so much and appreciate their take, and I can no longer hear my own voice in my head because all I hear is theirs. This is the downside to being a sponge for voices like I am. I have to stay very centered and grounded in order to hold on to my voice.
  3. I’ve been in comparison mode — watching colleagues too closely. I’m undervaluing my own contribution.
So, Laura, my question for you is, how will YOU know if ever your business or brand gets off-track? What’s that historically feel like for you?
LAURA: This has happened and I HATE it, although I think it’s a totally natural part of brand evolution. I can describe it best as behavior: I start looking outside of myself and my work for the answer. I start thinking that a Pinterest board is going to tell me who I am, or try to force myself into language that just doesn’t fit, or let myself become overly influenced by what other people are doing. You wrote something once about not having to let everything that inspires you influence you. When I’m on track, I can see something great that someone else is doing and think (to quote Amy Poehler) “Good for her! Not for me.”

ABBY: One last question. What are your Voice Values?

LAURA: They are Intimacy, Depth, Power, and Helpfulness, with a dash of Playfulness.

ABBY: Yes. That Playfulness is such a great accent. Without making space for it, your brand just wouldn’t feel fully Laura.

Curious about what a little (okay, a LOT) more clarity and focus could do for YOU? Join us this June 2015 for Ready To Arrive.

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