Shift Over: Making a Successful Career Change

So, you’re thinking of making a big career change, maybe starting your own business, but not sure what you want to do? As you’ve probably already discovered, choosing a new path isn’t as easy as you might think. Without some careful planning you could find yourself mulling over career changes every few years without ever landing on something that leaves you feeling satisfied.

For this article, let’s assume that you want to become an entrepreneur or business owner, and not an employee.

When business owners are looking to get new business their first thought is “I need to get clients.” Makes sense. Clients = business. But beyond that initial thought, how much real planning goes into seriously drilling down into who those clients are, how to reach them, and then how to get and keep their business?

If you sell shampoo, then it’s easy to know that shampoo buyers are generally going to look for your product in pharmacies and supermarkets. Speaking to the owners or managers of those stores is a good first step to getting your product on their shelves. Supply and distribution of your product unfolds from there.

But what if you’re selling a service and not a product? Many times there isn’t a store that people can walk into to buy a service, so knowing where you need to go to get new business isn’t always straightforward. This is why analyzing both yourself and your customer base, and having a plan to reach them is critical to your business’ success.

Who Wants Your Service?

By the time you reach the stage where you’re looking for clients, you’ve obviously been through the initial process of determining what service you’re selling, so let’s jump to who is buying it. (As an aside, this information is also helpful for those selling a product).

David Spector who works for Google’s measurement and analytics services says, “Companies need to be laser-focused on their customers and the customers’ challenges, always making sure to answer the question,

‘How can what I have help you succeed?’

With that in mind, each service that is sold needs to be tailored to a particular customer. For example, if life coaching is your service, consider what area or niche is of particular interest to you? If you’re not particularly spiritual, it’s going to be difficult to identify with and coach someone on challenges around spirituality. Same thing if you are coaching on family dynamics as a single person with no children.

Having, and knowing your niche will make your marketing a lot easier. There is nothing fulfilling in working many hours each day on something that doesn’t personally interest you. Even if you are an ‘expert’ in a particular area based on past work experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean that going into going to work each day will excite you. And after all, you’re shifting careers because you want to be excited, right?

In developing your niche, consider what you’d like to spend your day doing even if you couldn’t get paid for it. In the wise words of Confucius, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Know Yourself, Your Business and Your Clients

As you establish your business, you’ll need to ask yourself a lot of thought-provoking questions and be very honest about your answers. You won’t be doing yourself any favours if you’re not honest in your introspection.

Envision your ideal business model and client.

Take a good amount of time to write down an exact description of your business, including all the services or products you’ll provide, the market you will serve, your value proposition, the benefits your services will bring to your potential clients, your unique selling feature, and what else you believe makes you different from your competition.

Contemplate too, how much time you want to spend working in your business. Maybe it makes sense to work part-time with a regular base of clients and part-time in a job for extra money or personal interest. All this should factor in to your ideal business model.

Consider also:

  • Whether you have the skills to provide exceptional service to your clients, and/or is additional training going to be necessary to get you there?
  • How much money will you need to get your business started?
  • How much money will you need to be profitable? This will depend on the number of clients you have, how often you service them, your rates, minus the cost to market and support yourself and your business.
  • How much time are you willing to spend on getting business, and working your business?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • How long do you want to be in your business and what are your short, medium and long term goals for the business?
  • Where is your competition? Does it make sense for you to be in the same location as they are?
  • What are your competitors doing/offering that you like and don’t like?
  • Could you be successful using the model that the competition is using?
  • What information can you obtain from a competitor on their rates and business model?
  • Could one of your competitors be a potential mentor for you?
  • Are there other mentors who might be available to advise you on establishing your business?
  • What past work experience and contacts can you draw upon to help you get to where you’d really like to be?

Creating and Using a Business Development Plan

So, you’re about to do something drastic and change careers. That is a really big, and potentially rewarding move. Obviously, if you’re going to make such big move you want your new gig to work out. So, what’s the next step?

Make a plan!

A business development plan is different from a business plan, but both are critical to knowing how to best serve yourself and your clients. Without them, you might as well be throwing a large axe at a small target while blindfolded.

(Just so we’re clear, not a lot of people could hit that.)

A business plan focuses on establishing and operating your business by outlining your company’s financial goals and timelines for short and long term growth (quarterly, yearly, multi-year), including employees, products or services, and locations. It’s an important and necessary document and you should create one even if you’re going to be the only one who works for you.

Alternatively, a business development (BD) plan clearly spells out what you’re going to do to get and keep clients. It specifically lays out, on an individual basis, what actions are required to achieve daily, weekly, and quarterly marketing and sales goals.

Obviously, it’s equally important to have a BD plan to ensure your company’s success, but what isn’t always clear is where to start or how specific you must be. Writing “Get 10 new clients this quarter” on your plan will definitely not get you there. Your BD plan must be specific:

“Contact Chamber of Commerce by December 31 to see about establishing a 2017 guest-speaker series on sole proprietorships.” is more along the lines of what you must write on the plan.

In order for business development plans (this goes for business plans, too!) to be truly effective it has to meet certain criteria:

1.   It has to contain achievable, realistic goals;

2.   It has to be short and concise (do not have more than 10 goals per quarter);

3.   It has to allow for flexibility and growth; and

4.   It has to have measurable timelines and results.

Your success also depends on how often you populate and adhere to the plan. If you fill in the fields on the plan one day and don’t look at it for a month, it won’t do you much good.

You must get in the habit of referring to your plan every day, and strive to address all or part of a goal each day. Cross something off your list daily. This creates the momentum that you need to know you are working toward your goals. You can see what you’ve already done and remind yourself that you are working toward a larger goal. Your success!

Most of us can’t work in a vacuum and we require accountability to keep us focused on our goals. It’s just the way that the majority of us are built. If we weren’t this way the world would be chock-full of Warren Buffets, Elon Tusks, and Richard Bransons. But we are more like others than we are not, and sometimes it takes more than dedication, and a clear path. Sometimes it takes accountability to get us where we want to be.

For those of us that need it, I suggest that you share your plan with someone else, and let them follow up with you on a regular basis to check progress. When others hold us accountable, we are often more motivated to hit those goals.

Final Points to Consider

Know Yourself and Your Competition. You should be able to clearly explain your services in under 30 seconds (this is called your “elevator speech”). You should also be able to succinctly describe the difference between yourself and your competition if you’re ever asked.

Know Your Prospect. What are their needs and how does your service help them? This will help you identify a potential client when you meet them.

Customers Are Everywhere. Dressing for success is very important, so is having confidence in yourself and the service you offer. No matter if you’re at the grocery store, the dentist, or out for a jog, you should look tidy and clean, and your confidence should be pleasant and not overwhelming. Leave the prospect feeling glad that they spoke with you. It will make them more willing to answer the phone when you call to follow up.

Satisfaction guaranteed? Selling services requires satisfying clients more than other business models. Consider a satisfaction guaranteed policy after your initial consultation with the client. Assuming they want to continue working with you, use that time to ask your client if they’d be willing to give you an endorsement or referral. When you’ve made a customer happy, their willing endorsement of your service is critical for word-of-mouth business. Keep a list of all your satisfied clients, in case you’re asked for references.

Be flexible. Not everyone buys a product or a service in exactly the same way. When you are flexible with timing, delivery, pricing structures and payment methods, you open your business to more people than you would if you offered only one fixed plan. But remember, being flexible for your clients must also work for you, otherwise you won’t enjoy building your business and it will take its toll on you.

Time is money. If you’re selling products, the passive income from the sale of that product comes once it is sold. Service providers sell their time – usually based on appointments, and at some form of hourly rate scale. No appointment means no income. If an hour passes unbilled, it’s lost income, never to be recouped. Have a reasonable cancellation policy in place to help minimize money lost by missed appointments, and ensure your clients know the policy upfront.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Remember that your service is not for everyone so don’t take it personally if you are initially turned down. It can take a long time to incubate a relationship with a prospect. Everyone who has ever achieved successful has first faced failure and disappointment.

And finally, get feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients how you’re doing and what you could do better or differently to make a happier relationship. Keep an open mind and be willing to listen to both praise and criticism. How else will you be able to grow unless you listen and learn? Remember to follow suggestions you receive from the feedback. As a client, nothing is worse than feeling like the feedback you gave has been ignored..

We can all use a helping hand and a different perspective. I work with individuals and businesses to help them identify and achieve next-level success through measurable goal setting and accountability.

When you’re ready to discuss shifting your career, get in touch for a complimentary consultation and find out how developing a plan and working with a coach can help you focus and reach success faster.

For a sample business development plan that you can populate with your own goals and actions, visit the Useful Stuff section on my website.


Integrating Marketing Into Your Daily Practice

Sometimes it can be pretty easy to know where to start when you want to begin building good habits into your daily routine, e.g,. when you want to start working out, you know you can just put on your gym clothes and go.  But sometimes the path isn’t always so clear. For example, it can be a daunting exercise to increase your business development efforts when you don’t know specifically what that means or what you should be doing.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a one page list of things that you can be doing to help you build those positive daily habits. Below are just a few tips for you to start with. You can download a more comprehensive list and a handy goal template from my website,

  1. Develop a simple, easy to follow goal sheet (example available from my website).
  2. Write out all marketing actions in very specific language, e.g., on your goal sheet, write “Call Pat Stanley by April 20 and ask how their company is doing with the roll out of their new audit software.”, instead of  “call Pat Stanley”.
  3. Book time in your calendar at least once per week to focus on some aspect of marketing. Don’t cancel the appointment. If you find the efforts are easy for you after you’ve consistently met your initial goals, you can consider increasing the frequency of your efforts.
  4. Put a reminder note in your calendar to follow up with your contacts to see what they did with your advice. (See item #2 for how to do that.)
  5. Start small and stay focused. e.g. don’t ask yourself to contact 25 clients in a week; focus on three per week. Make the goal reasonable and you are more likely to hit your target.
Photo by Jen Fritz 2016

The Winter (Spring, Summer and Fall) of our Discontent

I just read a Gallup statistic that an incredible 70% of US workers are disengaged from their jobs. Seventy percent!

That is a huge number of people who do their jobs day in and day out without putting any heart behind their actions. And it begs the question, how do companies survive when more than two-thirds of their workforce could care less about its future, its clients’ needs, or even their own futures?

As a manager, business development professional, and coach who has spent the last couple of decades trying to engage professionals to be more than an office zombie, it immediately makes me wonder how I would go about diverting a boat heading straight to a waterfall when most of its crew are rowing in different directions, or just not rowing at all. What a position to be in!

Comedian George Carlin once quipped: “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”, and this is a sad reality for many people. I know from personal experience that what tends to happen in companies where the vast number of employees are disengaged, is the engaged workers end up being the ones assigned all the urgent and important tasks. Some employees can thrive in such an environment because being the ‘saviour’ gives them a sense of purpose, but eventually a cycle emerges:


Companies invest a huge percentage of their bottom line in training and employing staff. When an employee leaves, so too does that investment. The more senior the role, the more it will cost to replace them. It is an expensive process to bring someone new on board and have them reach the level of competency that the previous employee held. Even for a role once occupied by a Disengaged Employee. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes letting such an employee go is a necessary amputation, but it needs to be a thoughtful and introspective exercise. The worst thing a company can do is dump the hiring process on their HR department without anything more than a job description, leading the company to repeat the cycle with a new person.

Before a replacement comes on, management must consider what went wrong in the relationship – including where they failed the employee – and commit to making changes that will result in prolonged employee engagement at all staff levels.

So, where do companies often fail their people?  As the chart indicates, employees who are rewarded (either through compensation, feedback, growth, and other perks), will feel like valued members of the company, and continue to feel fulfilled. Though it does happen, it is rare for an employee who loves their job to leave it.

Take a look at this terrific Employee Engagement Tips list from Dale Carnegie Training for ideas on keeping people happy. Implementing even a dozen of these can work wonders for staff morale.

The worst thing a company/its managers can do for employee morale is ignore their people. The productive employee that asks their manager for a conversation about their future, and expresses a  desire to do more at the company is the employee that should be nurtured. They are the Engaged Employees – one of the 30% who want to succeed along with your company! Even if the company cannot at that time give the employee what they want, the honest conversation needs to be had. Efforts need to be made at the management level to keep that person engaged, or help them grow in other ways. But be aware that putting off your Engaged Employee for a prolonged period will result in a Disengaged Employee and once that happens, it will be even more difficult to bring them back over to the Engaged side.

If there will never be an opportunity for that Engaged Employee to experience growth within your company (because sometimes there really isn’t anywhere for them to grow), it is better for everyone involved to let them know that sooner than later.

Don’t begrudge them for wanting to be more. Acknowledge that not all your people were meant to stay with you, and willingly give them the freedom to move on.

And employees, don’t begrudge your employers for not being able to give you everything you want. Sometimes you need to move out in order to move forward.

That’s just the way life is.


What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger, or Does It?

For many people around the world September 1 is the reminder that a new school year is almost upon us. With that comes the morning scramble to get kids out the door fully-prepped with lunches, school supplies and matching shoes.

My shoulders still tense at the memory of those busy mornings when my stepson was little and we juggled bathroom time, clean clothes, safe school snacks and a good breakfast before heading out to school and work. I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time but I began most mornings with a tension throughout my body that caused me to take short, shallow breaths and created a crease between my eyebrows that no amount of wrinkle cream can erase. My commute and work day were continuations of my stressful morning and day after day I couldn’t seem to get out from under this overwhelming pressure. Like most people, I was living with stress.

Eventually, the stress became too much for my body to handle and it lashed out. I lost a lot of weight, and hair, couldn’t sleep through the night or focus at work, developed IBS-type symptoms. All indicators of a body living with stress.

Anyone who’s seen the public service announcements knows that Stress Kills.

So, as we head into a new school year, or new work season, it is imperative for our mental and physical well-being that we learn to manage our stress. I don’t know anyone who leads a completely stress-free life, but there are definitely ways to minimize its effects on our body. Here are a couple of discrete things you can do throughout the day while sitting at your desk.

Breathe. As deeply as your lungs will let you. Do this right now three or four times.

Drop your shoulders. Pull them down toward the ground and rotate them in circles a few times, clockwise then counter clockwise. Women especially tend to carry most of their tension across the top of their shoulders, as if we are carrying the whole world. We’re not. So just let that weight slide off the edge of your shoulders.

Bend. If you prefer to do your exercises with some privacy find a quiet spot and add to the above by bending forward at the waist and hanging with the weight of your arms pulling you down toward the ground. Don’t bounce. Hang there for a count of 30. Slowly roll yourself up into standing position and with a slight, slow twisting motion continue to stretch your back muscles by swinging your arms in front and behind you gradually increasing the twist. Continue to take deep breaths while you exercise.

If you’re concerned about attempting any of these activities, speak to your doctor first, and do not attempt if you already have a bad back.

If you find yourself forgetting to take breaks throughout the day to do these activities, try setting a reminder on your computer or phone that goes off every couple of hours.

These are obviously physical activities you should do to alleviate stress in your body, but there are more important techniques that will take a great amount of courage and confidence to implement. You must learn to actually decrease or eliminate the things in your life that cause you stress. Two critical ones that many of us find difficult to do are:

Saying no. Chances are you take on a lot of things at home and work that you don’t need to. It’s natural for us to want to be able to do it all for everyone, but it is unrealistic. Do you really need to attend every single office meeting, or show the new person around? Do you really need to bake a batch of cookies for the entire class, or take five other kids to soccer practice?  You really don’t. So just say no, firmly but graciously, when you find yourself faced with these types of nice-to-do, but unnecessary requests. Just say no.

Delegating. Just like saying no, delegating can free up your time and sanity. We do not need to do it all and if we want people to ever be self-sufficient (and we do want people to be self-sufficient) then we need to delegate to others. Your co-worker is capable of learning to maintain that tricky metrics spreadsheet and researching company intelligence. Your six-year-old can gather their dirty laundry and lunch items, put dishes in the dishwasher, and feed the dog. It will take a few gentle reminders, without you taking over and doing it yourself, but many of your regular tasks can and should be delegated.

I know these sound counter-intuitive for time-stretched individuals, but other habits you can build to minimize stress include:

  • Getting enough sleep every night. Do not watch TV or poke around on your laptop or phone for at least 45 minutes before hitting the sack.
  • Reducing caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Eating well-balanced meals.
  • Walking your dog. I mean really walking your dog. It will benefit the both of you.
  • Exercising or meditating regularly.
  • Establishing a past-time just for you such as reading, writing, doing crafts, learning a language or instrument, or taking up a sport (and not feeling guilty about it!)

Remember that stress can build in our children just as easily as it builds in us. Look for signs of stress in them and teach them to manage or eliminate it. Don’t overload their schedules or try to manage every hour of their day. Just like adults, kids need their own guilt-free down-time to be creative, play, or even help out around the house in an unpressured environment.

As always, I am available to work with you to help build healthy habits. To find out how, email me at for a complimentary consultation.

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed again take a good, deep breath. Then follow it up with another.

Successful or Proficient?

A man is standing on a busy street corner in New York City looking lost. He stops a woman and asks her, “Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

She replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” then continues walking.

The old joke is funny because there is an underlying thread of truth to it. To be successful at something takes a lot of practice – no one walks out of school a master in their field.  School may (or may not) have given a person a foundation for their career, but they will need to continue to practice, learn and evolve before they can call themselves experts.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers: The Story of Success“, believes that it takes an average of 10,000 hours of consistent effort to be successful in an area. Even people we consider prodigies had to practice and hone their skills before they could be considered extraordinary. Though they may be instinctively gifted, the prodigy’s key differential is that they also consistently spend significantly more hours at a task than the average person, thereby reaching their 10,000 hours sooner.

So what happens when someone doesn’t make the effort to put in their 10,000 hours? Maybe they frequently decide to change the focus of their career or jump around at jobs, or neglect an area of interest such as a hobby or vocation. The obvious outcome from stopping an activity is that success is never reached, but even stopping and starting has its drawbacks. One can be proficient in an area without ever being successful. Each time we stop and start we lose momentum and have to play catch-up to get back to where we left off, thereby delaying or completely avoiding success.

Aside from wanting to be successful in their chosen field, many people also want to be successful at winning new business and servicing clients. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly can’t be done without applying consistent effort. To be successful in these areas one must work at it every day. As I suggested in my previous post, one needs to build good habits, and from regular application of good habits, success and increased confidence will result.

Unsure where to start? Set a reminder in your calendar to read my regular Business Development Tip of the Day posts on LinkedIn and apply that day’s tip. If you want more intensive help, I am available to coach you toward a specific goal or habit. You can reach me through LinkedIn, or via my website at

Don’t just be proficient, be successful.