I’ve been in some difficult situations in my life.
For me, two immediately spring to mind. The first, the birth of both of my children. On one hand a beautiful, joyous, life-changing experience, on the other, one of the most stressful places a man can find himself in.
In childbirth, quite rightly, the mother-to-be takes centre stage. I remember being in complete awe of my wife as she navigated the course of her labours and brought my kids into the world. Understandably, the father’s predicament isn’t given much thought but I can safely say, in my experience, it was one of the most difficult I’ve faced.
For a start, there’s the helplessness. You can’t control much. This is the one time where, aside from what the medics take care of, you just have to “let go and let God”….easier said than done when the two most important beings in your universe are on the brink.
Childbirth can seem pretty rudimentary these days. God knows there’s enough of it going on. Even so, it’s still a precarious process for mother and baby. That makes it equally as difficult for the man…just in a different way.
The second situation was just as difficult, if not more so for a man who, as my therapist once said, has “responsibility” carved in his heart. It was the only time in my life I feared I wouldn’t be able to meet the responsibilities I’d chosen for my life.
Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired, because I know it’s not the same for every father but for me, the idea of not being able to put food in the mouths of my children and clothes on their back and to ensure their mother wants for nothing, literally terrifies me.
Fear can serve a man to some degree. It can drive him on. The problem is, if fear becomes your dominating thought over a sustained period, you call forth its fruits into your reality.
What you fear, you ultimately create.
And so it came to pass. Life served up the biggest entrepreneurial spanking of all and my business went under. This was late ’09, early ’10. In the previous 3.5 years I’d been in a bubble of utter entrepreneurial naivety, enjoying the fruits of two very lucrative contracts won through the recommendations of the “old boys network” from my decade-long employment in the telecommunications industry.
I still had to work for the deals – they didn’t just land in my lap – but the point is, they were sourced through association, not marketing prowess.
I was living in a completely false sense of security, earning a lot more money than I’d done in the six-figure job I’d left behind and answering only to myself. As far as I was concerned, this entrepreneurial lark was a doddle.
The second most dangerous number in business is 2. I won’t insult your mathematical ability by pointing out what the first is. And when BOTH of my lucrative contracts were terminated abruptly within 6 weeks of each other in the summer of ’09, both for entirely different reasons I had no control over and on my desk sat a big fat, five-figure corporation tax bill, I was up to my neck in the proverbial brown ‘n’ sticky.
What does a man do when his back’s against the wall? He comes out fighting – the only way he knows how. I hit the phone. If there was one thing I knew how to do standing on my head, it was cold calling. Not that I relished the task. It’d been a long time since I did it for a living (and I enjoyed it back then) but I wasn’t the young sales buck taking his sword to the world anymore.
That said, I’d clean public lavatories with a toothbrush if it meant I could put food in the mouths of my kids, so as uncomfortable as the idea of cold calling was, getting on the blower to get some commercial traction in my business wasn’t a big ask.
Trouble is, despite my now well established credibility in being able to transform the performance of culture of large organisations, I faced three major obstacles.
- The first was the date. This was ’09 and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you we were in the middle of a major economic correction. The world and its dog was convinced the financial meltdown was armageddon. Fear reigned supreme. The masses, in general, were battening down the hatches preparing for the worst. Only the smartest amongst us increased investing.
- The second was my market. Back then, because I’d come from that world, my target market audience was corporations – and the first thing to go on “Planet Corporate” when the shit hits the fan is the last thing that should ever go – employee education.
- Finally and most tellingly, I didn’t have any relationships outside the corporations I’d either worked for as an employee, those I’d consulted back into since being self-employed, or a few where my network had dispersed to. My business was horribly constrained, propped up by one, ineffective (and now redundant) channel to market. Despite all of my efforts, no one outside of my extremely limited sphere of influence was hiring.
I was screwed. Big time.
Inevitably the inevitable happened. The tax man wasn’t interested in giving me anymore time and I was left with no other option but to liquidate. I was devastated. My greatest fear had come home to roost.
Give fear enough bandwidth in your consciousness, it’ll deliver right on schedule.
My problem wasn’t unscrupulous bankers and the fallout from their negligent exploits. It wasn’t my target market audience either. It wasn’t even the state of the economy.
My problem was that I didn’t have an effective marketing engine feeding my business. And by effective I mean PROFITABLE. As I quickly found out, a business without a profitable marketing engine is like a fetus without an umbilical cord; weak, flailing…and without much of a future.
I look back today and shake my head at my utter naivety. I mean, I’d worked alongside corporate marketing departments for most of my sales career. I’d even got a Diploma in Business Management for God’s sake! You’d have thought I’d have grasped the notion that no marketing means no prospects coming to the business, no prospects means there’s no one to sell to, no sales means there’s no profit and no profit means there’s no personal income…or indeed, before you know it…no business at all.
You’re no fool if you’re ignorant. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. But if you’re willfully ignorant – you do know and you still ignore the truth…then you’re a cast-iron fool.
And I was.
That’s why, when I dusted myself down and got over my self-imposed “pity party”, I knew I had to learn how to build a highly profitable small business in the most effective manner. Which presented a challenge in itself. Where the hell do you start? Even back then the world was full of self-anointed, self-evangelising, so-called marketing and social media “gurus”. Even I could see through their wafer-thin rhetoric.
I needed the big guns. I needed to find the big hitters, people who’d demonstrated their credibility in what I needed by their results.
I needed REAL entrepreneurs who were willing to educate other small business owners in how to market their business successfully – REAL entrepreneurs who’d got the knowledge and experienced the impact of it, REAL entrepreneurs who walked their talk and put the strategies to work to great effect in their own businesses…and then had the desire to “pay it forward” and educate others in how to do the same.
Aside from the significant sums I’ve invested over the years to improve myself (everything has been determined by that), my investment in my marketing mentors has been the best money I’ve ever spent.
Not that I really spent it. This is an investment, one that’s paid me back handsomely – over and over again.
Does it require hard work? You bet it does. Nothing of value comes easily. But if hard work’s a given for you, which it is has to be if you’re going to make it in entrepreneurial life, then it pays to work hard at something smart – something that truly makes ALL the difference.
And what makes all the difference is putting powerful and proven profit-boosting strategies to work in your business. After all, your personal income, financial security, and quality of life for you and your family depend on it.
Does it get more important than that?
I think not.
Christian Simpson is the UK’s leading coach and mentor to business owners and entrepreneurs. For COMPLIMENTARY ACCESS to tried, tested and proven entrepreneurial success strategies, click here