A good friend of mine is in the process of growing a small business and has been struggling over the past several years to get real traction. Eight months ago he finally found a niche in the market that he not only loves, but one that is also full of clients who need and want his service.
As my friend made the shift in focus, honed a few new skills and started making his offer known, his business really started to grow. In two months, with plenty of hard work, he picked up seven new clients who were calling him with new jobs on a regular basis.
Suddenly, without any notice, it dried up. All seven clients stopped calling.
At the same time, my friend was working with what he considered to be a challenging client. He was putting in long hours, doing things outside of his new focus, and he wasn’t charging his standard rates.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
One week after he decided to part ways with this client, all seven of those who had previously disappeared suddenly started calling again. He hadn’t reached out to them and nothing else had changed.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence and all seven absent clients were going to suddenly call him at the same time, even if he hadn’t parted ways with the one. But would his workload have allowed him to say yes? Probably not.
Would he currently feel so much more satisfied with his business and his life? Definitely not.
This story is a good reminder for how we allow our lives to get filled with so much excess that doesn’t serve us. It may feel good, but it’s clutter, plain and simple.
My friend cut back on business clutter in two ways:
1) He narrowed his focus and service offer.
He was previously a jack-of-all-trades, doing whatever job would come his way. Why? He was afraid that if he didn’t take anything and everything, he might not make enough to support his family. However, this practice prevented him from becoming an expert at anything, and it often made him too busy and too under-paid.
2) He dropped a challenging client.
It’s important to note that a challenging client doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. It just means that they aren’t right for you. They could be causing too much stress or taking too much of your time, leaving little for what you love or for what grows your business.
Not a business owner?
This anti-clutter lesson is still relevant to the rest of us, too.
1) Choose what you want to be known for & start honing it.
Jack-of-all-trades get stuck in the middle. They advance quickly at the start because of their general aptitude to learn and fill in where the business needs it. However, getting to a higher level requires more specialized and advanced expertise.
Having your finger in every pie can certainly make you feel important, but it lowers the lid on your marketplace value. It also steals from the time you need to become truly great at anything.
You’re so busy bouncing around between different demands that time flies by and you suddenly realize that you’re still where you were ten years ago.
2) Do more of what grows you and less of what spreads you too thin.
This isn’t easy when you work for someone else. At the end of the day, the one who signs your cheques has the final say. However, you can try to find ways to do more in the areas you love and want to grow.
Volunteer for a project you want or, if one don’t exist, build a case for why the business needs it and then get going.
At the very least, read a book or take a course in the area you want to grow. Because at the end of the day, you have to choose yourself.
You have a responsibility to the business to do what’s required. However, you also have a responsibility to yourself to take your expertise to the next level.
It seems to me that opportunities are presented to, and accepted by, those who have less professional clutter.
Repeat after me: “I refuse to be a jack-of-all-trades.”