8 Business lessons from 2017

I have had the unusual opportunity to spend the last 6 days mostly in bed, the final family member to fall from the powerful virus traversing up, down and across our lands at this time of year.

On one hand, it has been extremely inconvenient to be unavailable at the time when clients and projects need me most.

On the other hand, it has encouraged a surprisingly deep reflection on life in general, business, priorities and plans.

I have not been close to this sick all year. In fact, I think it is the only time I have been sick all year. I feel much better and am slowly getting back to work, so no worries.

But before I close down shop on Friday for the year, I wanted to share some of my reflections with you.

Lesson 8: Close the loop immediately

This year has gone by like lightning. It is one of the busiest years I can remember, with huge new projects, a lot of 1:1 clients, all while working without any assistant.

I learned, often from painful lessons from kindhearted clients, that if I did not get back to them immediately with a link, resource, introduction or piece of feedback, that my response could lag for over a week. This would make me feel sick every time I saw their name pop up in my inbox.

So I started to practice closing the loop as instantly as I could, as in sending the intro email right when we were on the call. Or asking the question they wanted to ask my Facebook community at the top of our coaching call, so we could discuss the feedback by the end.

When resources of time are limited, you must figure out ways to engineer the immediate closing of loops.

This can look like organizing resources so they are available instantly on a tool like Trello, using shortcuts like TextExpander, or, importantly, saying no when you want to say yes.

The more open loops remain in your head, the lower your creative capacity, and higher your stress level.

Close the dang loop.

Lesson 7: Want momentum? Create momentum.

I have not met a single business person who does not want to have a smoothly functioning, ever-growing business with right-sized effort.

When you are in the earlier stage of defining what your business is, and naturally shift between audiences or ideas, it is inevitable that momentum will start, roll, then stop. It takes energy to pick it up again to pursue your next idea.

This can be frustrating, but it is natural. Pace yourself and your expectations. Then, when you know you need and want to make something happen, choose a direction and salt and pepper it with Tiny Marketing Actions over a consistent, extended period of time.

You may not see immediate results. What you will start to feel is resonance and consistency. You know what you are selling, who you are selling it to and why you are selling it. Your friends know what you are selling. Your content and conversation is consistent with it.

You may need to fill in some financial gaps with other work to stabilize you as you grow toward your goals. This is normal and prudent.

Remember that momentum is built with consistent action over time.

Give momentum time to build.

Lesson 6: Beware of the Magic Door

We get so excited about our “thing” (brain health! inclusion! wellness! transformational leadership! tiny marketing actions! innovative software design! living a happy life!) that we forget that we have already been through the Magic Door of transformation and know all about life on the other side.

For people (like your potential clients) who have not yet quit their job, or gotten in healthy relationship with their body, or practiced small, consistent wins, or built their first app, or learned that they don’t have to suffer when going to family gatherings, all of your exuberance and specialized language about your “thing” doesn’t mean anything.

As Susan Baier always says, know them intimately by describing their exact problems in their language. Empathize with what it still feels like to live in the situation they have come to you to help fix.

When you are with your internet marketing buddies, you can talk about funnels and upsells and tripwires all day.

When you are meeting with potential new clients who know nothing about internet marketing, you talk about ways to remove the stress and confusion from marketing efforts.

Then, when they do the work and walk through the Magic Door themselves, you will have a new ally to spend hours talking shop with.

Meet people where they are.

Lesson 5: Consistent action is boring. But it works.

My coach Mark Otto does not hesitate to speak the truth.

“I know it feels hard to do, Pam. You still have to do it.”

He has no sugarcoat whatsoever when I try to explain the 125 loops I had to complete the week before (see Lesson 8!) that got in the way of me completing my critical strategic tasks.

It isn’t because he doesn’t have empathy. He does. But he knows that if I want to achieve my vision of building a truly innovative new business, that I must take consistent action on the key things required to bring the strategic business forward.

I resist (internally) mightily.

Surely, it cannot be as easy as consistently (as in every day), doing a difficult, but small, concrete step toward building the long-term plan.

As Mark says, it is that easy.

We resist boring. We love new ideas, and being swept away by the glamour of designing a new product or program.

We resist hard. We want things to be effortless, easy and fun.

We resist uncomfortable. We want to be in our zone of genius, control and power.

The thing is, when you develop habits of consistent action toward the important stuff, it does become fun. It is both a peaceful and powerful feeling to know you are creating something truly meaningful.

Do the boring stuff. Every day.

Lesson 4: Be the weirdo in the room

It feels really good to be in a room filled with “your people.” People who share a vocation, similar values, and shared experiences.

The problem is, if you are looking to greatly expand your influence, audience and innovation, you need to start going to places where no one knows you, nor anyone in your network.

You will bumble a bit explaining yourself and what you do.

You will feel awkward as you scan the room and realize you know no one.

But after awhile, you will learn to shift from awkward to curious.

You will meet a whole array of people in markets and professions that you knew nothing about. You will learn new business models. You will see opportunities for partnerships and alliances that you never would have considered because you were too entrenched in “the way we all do things in this market.”

Be the weirdo.

Lesson 3: Breathe

Every morning before we leave the house, my husband, my kids and I take five deep, slow breaths together. Before we enter our office space, my husband and I take a deep, slow breath together while touching the outside of the building.

You may think that doing this every day makes me very familiar and comfortable with the practice.

The truth is, there are days when every fiber of my being resists it.

My head screams “There is so much to do! We will be late to school! I want to get a jump on emails before getting to my calls!”

My husband calmly reminds me that taking 30 seconds to breathe will not delay anything. Most of his traditional healing work involves helping people stop, be present, and learn to connect with their breath.

As soon as I get present with it, I can literally feel the stress descend from my head through my body into the ground. Breathing is extremely calming, and grounding.

In the extremely heady work I do as a coach, holding space for ideas and fears and lots of emotion, it is critical to remember to breathe before and after doing the work.

It is not a marathon. Accelerating pace is not the key to being a better coach.

Getting more connected to myself, my place and my client is the way into great work.

Take the time to breathe.

Lesson 2: Attitude is everything

This year, my colleagues Susan Baier, Chris Lee and I, in partnership with the Cloud Software Association, put huge energy into Crack the Challenge Code, a research study that examined small business owner attitudes towards obstacles. We are digesting and slicing this research, which is the foundation for our work moving forward.

As a business coach, I know that two people can have the exact same set of skills and opportunities, and the one who will move forward is the one who has a growth attitude when obstacles appear.

The research played out my experience: Over 94% of the respondents said attitude had from significant to tremendous impact on their business.

Yet how much time do we spend to become aware of our own attitudes towards obstacles, and how they might be inhibiting our success? How much energy do we spend preparing our minds for the day, instead of rattling off the hundred things we must accomplish?

Attitude matters.

Lesson 1: Listen first

Of all the lessons this year, Listen First has unlocked my biggest inspiration and innovation in the last 10 years.

When I first opened the doors at K’é, our Learning Laboratory in downtown Mesa, everyone asked me the same question: What is this place?

Them: Is it a coworking space?
Me: No.

Them: Is it an incubator where you provide full support to a few companies?
Me: No.

Them: Is it an art gallery?
Me: No.

Them Is it an event rental space?
Me: No.

Them: Then what is it?
Me: I don’t know yet. I am waiting for it to tell me.

Them: <Puzzled look.>

Even though it was extremely uncomfortable to not have an easy answer that made me sound brilliant and scalable and fundable, I had a huge aversion to giving a pat answer.

Because the truth was, I was essentially a stranger when I moved onto Main Street in Mesa. I had lived in the suburbs of the city for 14 years, but I never spent time downtown. I didn’t know anyone, and they didn’t know me. How in the world could I roll out my welcome mat, assume what everyone wanted and needed, and expect them to come attend my programs?

So I spent a year listening. I had hundreds of conversations. I said yes when people needed a space to host an event, whether it was a startup group meeting, a community art show or the Southwest Maker Fest planning committee. I spent hours talking to local community leaders at while sipping coffee at Jarrod’s.

I hosted my own clients who flew in from around the U.S. (and Canada) and solicited their insight and input.

I sketched hundreds of iterations of the business model on the giant whiteboards, getting feedback, and making adjustments.

Until one day I saw it. Something I have never seen anywhere else, and something that I think will revolutionize how we can serve the global small business community. I can’t wait to reveal it to you in January, 2018.

We get so busy hustling, building, responding and trying to make everyone happy that we forget that the essence of any great design, or invention, or business, is to deeply listen to the people it is meant to serve.

It will tell you.

Listen first.

Reader Interactions


  1. The Chosen One says

    Wow! Holly freaking wow! The beat written I have read in a long while. I almost always scan an article as most do to see if it’s worth my time. You sucked me in and I read slowly every beautiful genius epic word. Love this so so much. Do More of this you are damn good at it.

    Genius absolute genius!!!

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