Soon after I started Office Hours I made the commitment that a monthly class would be included in the program. In that class I said I’d dive deep on different business topics. There’s just one problem: I’ve dreaded the monthly calls from almost the second I said I’d do them.
I love teaching and learning, but I’ve never been a classroom lecture-and-listen person. It’s just not how I learn. I like to learn by trial and error. This means it typically takes me longer to learn things, but I think it’s more fun, more interesting, and might even lead to deeper and broader knowledge.
Since my learning style isn’t lecture, listen, and “here’s the right way to do this, now let me check your work,” it’s always felt inauthentic to schedule a call with you every month where that’s the assumed format.
I also think a “do it this way” approach to business learning is bad for the student’s long term results. It can (and often does) lead to faster results. But it can also create a situation where a business owner develops the feeling that she can’t make a move (or do an experiment) in her business without running it by her mentor–the source of Business Truth.
Not only does that rob the business owner of the deep learning that comes with experimentation and mistakes, it minimizes the possibility of happy accidents in her business.
The style and format of these summary emails is one of those happy accidents. It started with my desire to make Office Hours recordings easier to consume. I thought I’d included time-stamped links to the audio, and maybe include a short (as in 2-3 sentence) summary with each link.
I turned the task over to Heidi (my right-hand in the business), and she took my instructions to create a “short summary” and went way above and beyond (as is her habit). She spent four or five hours creating very useful summaries of each segment.
When I reviewed her work, my first thought was “this is probably too expensive, and not even necessary.” I even showed it to a peer of mine who said the summaries were way too much work and totally unnecessary.
But then I thought, “Wait a minute: if we do the summaries this way it allows members to quickly, easily–maybe even while they’re waiting in the pickup line at school–get great value from their membership. I’ve never seen anyone do anything like it. This is worth a shot.”
I took over the writing of the summaries. Heidi handled the formatting, adding the links and the images (which I think are a great touch). And every time we send out one of these emails I get one or two replies telling me how valuable they are. And as far as I can tell, very few of you listen to the audios or watch the videos. I’m fine with that. We’ve happened on a way for you to get great value in a fraction of the time. That feels great.
These summaries would not exist in their current form if I weren’t willing to spend some time and money exploring an idea–even an idea that a trusted peer told me was a waste of resources.
That’s why I don’t believe in “here’s how to do it right” classes. I trust you to start with an idea, put it in front of the people you want to serve, and let their reaction guide you.
There’s no right way or wrong way in business. There’s only the truth of your clients’ reaction to your work, and your willingness to experiment.
You’re smart. You’ll figure it out if you’re patient and willing to try things.
During the early part of the call, I made the point that you may find yourself on a content treadmill if you feel like you have to constantly come up with new ways of saying the same old things. It can lead to burnout and/or weird content that you only produce because of the pressure to say something new.
So Riece’s question was this: if you don’t want to be on that content treadmill, how do you create content to stay top of mind with your audience?
Such a great question, and my answer is simple:
Have experiences with your clients and your audience. Then tell the stories of those experiences in ways that support your core philosophy. The benefit is that stories are inherently more interesting and memorable, which makes your content more consumable.
So if you find yourself struggling to say or teach something the thousandth time in a totally new way, try creating experiences and sharing stories. It might be more fun and it might help keep things fresh.
Sara said she appreciates the idea of developing her own wisdom and not relying on a guide to tell her what to do and how to do it, but it brings up all her self doubt. What if she’s wrong and wastes a bunch of time? How can she trust her tuition to get it right?
I told her she only has to trust her intuition to give her ideas of things to try. If she has an idea for some content, or a new angle on her coaching, or whatever it is, she only has to use her intuition to start the experiment. Once she gets going she can use the response of the person/people she’s serving to decide whether to keep going with it.
Fine, she told me, but even then how would she know if that feedback was enough evidence to keep going? How could she feel confident that the time and energy invested will be worthwhile?
There’s no clear answer for me. But here’s how I go through this process myself:
If I see an opportunity to try something new or experimental in my business, I ask myself if it’s likely to benefit at least one paying client. So even if I spend tons of time and energy and it doesn’t go anywhere meaningful, I can at least say it was beneficial for that one client.
The example I gave was a giant report I created for a client a few years ago. It wasn’t absolutely necessary, and I didn’t have the skills at the time to create it. But I had an instinct that good things would come from the effort, and if nothing else that one client would thank me for the work. I ended up spending a couple hundred hours on it. The client was grateful, but we didn’t end up working together that long anyway. But the skills I developed on that project now benefit every other client I have (or will have).
Sara said she has an instinct about a specific topic (money) that her clients (doctors’ wives) bring up all the time. She didn’t know quite where it would take her, but we agreed that she could learn a ton just being willing to make that topic the focus of a bunch of interviews (and maybe even a book). The “risky” part is this would be going much deeper than knocking out a quick Instagram post or newsletter, and the goal of the interviews wouldn’t necessarily be to pursue clients. The goal would be to make new discoveries that serve her and her clients in the long run, even if it means running into some dead ends in the short term.
Andrea’s been struggling with some no-shows for her consults. They might even sign up on a Friday and no-show for a consult on Tuesday. She’s wondering how to address and improve the issue.
It turns out Andrea already had all the important insights:
The no-shows were nearly always people who’d found her through Facebook Ads, and then signed up for a consult without any further interaction.
If she had any pre-consult interaction with a prospect, even just a few lines exchanged via email, the show-rate is close to 100%.
That makes perfect sense to me. I believe people no-show for two related reasons:
1 – They fear judgment, criticism, and the shame that might come with sharing their problems out loud with a coach. If they don’t have some trust in that coach it’s going to be harder to keep that appointment because they might view the call as pure pain.
2 – Since there’s no established relationship with the coach, there’s no social contract to keep. They won’t be letting down a friend by not showing up, they’ll just be choosing not to keep an appointment with a total stranger.
How do we solve this? We do our best to address both of those points:
1 – We do what we can (through a pre-call video or email, for example) to let them know the consult is a safe space. No shame, no judgment, no criticism. We can do this in automated ways (email sequences with text and video) and non-automated ways (personal emails and videos).
2 – We try to develop some real connection with the person pre-call so she finds it harder to flake. Specifically, we ask her to take some pre-call action that creates a social bond. This is where the non-automated solution will probably work best. If I send her a personal email before the consult and she replies, now she is the one who’s broken the ice. It will be more difficult to break the appointment because she’s invested something in the relationship.
Andrea said she’s on board for experimenting with different ways to help more of her consults to show up. Perfect.
We also talked briefly about the fear she feels around trusting herself to do that kind of experiment. She’d feel safer following instructions for best practices. She gave the example of a newsletter she subscribes to as an example.
She struggles, she told me, to make her newsletter as short as that one. So some part of her feels like she’s doing it wrong. I told her I happen to subscribe to the newsletter too, and I don’t particularly care for it. It’s just not my style. But I know other people do love it, and that’s great. There’s no wrong or right way to write a newsletter or do anything else in your business.
There’s only what feels good and true to you, and what your client tells you about it. The goal is to find something you like making and they like consuming. Doesn’t matter if it’s different (or the same!) as what someone else is doing.
Becca is considering applying to be a coach for the Life Coach School. She says her primary motivations are 1) getting more practice as a coach, and 2) earning money to offset the cost of the nanny she’s hired to help her free up time to work on her business.
Under just a little bit of pressure (maybe) from yours truly, she also said that it would be nice to work at the Life Coach School so she “wouldn’t have to be so needy on Instagram, asking people to schedule consults all the time.” I said, ok, that’s definitely something we’re going to need to talk about.
But first, tell me about the costs and benefits of working at the school. The benefit is, of course, lots of coaching practice, and a simple job: show up at the appointed time and coach. For some people it’s a great deal and they love it.
What about the costs? For Becca there are two main costs: the time required (20 hours per week, and maybe more), and the relatively rigid structure. Becca mentioned that having a business has been an adjustment for her: she’s used to being able to dedicate her time exclusively to her family, and now she’s spending eight (or so) hours per week on business tasks. She feels some loss of freedom.
If you feel some loss of freedom putting in eight hours on your own terms, I asked her, how will you feel about working 20 hours on someone else’s terms? How will you feel about having to say the phrase, “I can’t. I have to work.”
Yes, she told me, that doesn’t sound great.
And that’s when we were able to come back to the idea of not having to be “needy and desperate” on Instagram. As we talked about it, Becca confessed that the biggest benefit of working at the Life Coach School would be not having to ask herself why “this isn’t working for her.” As in, why she’s giving great presentations and sharing content…and no one is asking her for consults. She’s tired of wondering and waiting, and it would be a relief to leave it behind and work for the school.
I completely understand. The wondering and waiting and feeling behind and feeling like a failure is exhausting. So no one would blame her (including me) for taking a job at the school as a mental break/escape.
On the other hand, she could reframe the business completely in her own mind: she could stop seeing it as a failure and start thinking about it as an interesting project. A puzzle she’s trying to solve.
Instead of thinking of that lunch presentation as a failure, she could get very vulnerable and ask some of the attendees why they didn’t ask for consults. And then she could get really brave and try to find the real reason after they give her the standard objections: time, money, spouse.
Those could be interesting and useful things to do, IF she stopped looking at the business and her current results as signs of her failure.
The reality, I told Becca, is that I don’t think you want that job. I think you hate the idea of having to show up on someone else’s terms. I could be wrong; plenty of people love coaching for the Life Coach School.
No, she told me. She said she already felt better just thinking about not working there.
My last two thoughts for Becca were #1: to really think about her why. If she were very clear on her primary motivation for being in this business, all these mini setbacks wouldn’t seem like such a problem, and #2 the reality is many people don’t even want to have a business. They want to do other great things in their lives. If a person truly doesn’t want a business, I hope she accepts that from herself sooner than later.
It’s one thing to go through the slog of starting a business if you know your why and you know it’s something that matters to you. It’s a whole other thing if you’re doing it out of a sense of obligation or just not wanting to “quit.” The first one doesn’t feel so bad. The second feels terrible.
See the last section of the video above to watch the spreadsheet demo.