Tell the story (disasters and failures and all)

Tell the story (disasters and failures and all)

Tell the story (disasters and failures and all)

I’m so tired of hearing success stories with a little one-liner to hard times. “I lost three businesses, was 100k in debt, and THEN I TRIUMPHED and am the raving success you see now.”

That’s not a story: it’s an ending.

(And it’s not even a true ending, because they’re still going.)

This week I had the privilege to be at the GoProposal Growth & Profit Masterclass in London, at which Will Farnell was speaking.

I’ve heard Will speak many times on the concepts within his book about the ten elements of a digital firm, and presumed he was speaking on that again.

“No, this time I’m just telling my founder’s story,” he said. “The story behind the story that the world sees.

That got my interest. As a business owner i know about working on keeping the balance of showing a good face to the world, and dealing with deep business issues or personal demons at the same time.

I’m a big fan of vulnerability. Telling a little more of the hard things here and there so it doesn’t look like everything is perfect.

As I’m doing that, I’m discovering you have to be wise with your vulnerability. Business goes up, business goes down. You have good days, you have hard days. You have amazing days. There are times when you literally feel you’re on top of the world and no one will catch you.

Vulnerability doesn’t mean telling everyone everything all the time.

That would be a false picture, too.

It means being honest about how hard things are (or were), at the right time.

Some things just don’t need to be shared. I’ve had some business experiences I could share and be honest and vulnerable and open…but in terms of usefulness it would probably end up sounding like a complaining session about someone else or something else or hard things that happened to me.

So when Will got up and told his story, he told it 1) to the right people and 2) at the right time.

He was in a trusted group of accountants who know him and his business. They were there for a full day and the stage had been set earlier for them to be honest with themselves and each other – and the speakers were showing an example of that too.

And Will is now a little further out the other side. He would be the last person to say he’s “arrived” (if you think you’ve arrived there’s usually a cliff coming up), but he’s learned a lot from failures and mistakes, and now he had the opportunity to share some of those.

When you share mistakes and failures and difficulties – with the right people, at the right time – trust is built in a deeper way. They appreciate the pain behind all the good things, and they don’t put you up on a pedestal somewhere, as if everything got handed to them on a platter. They stop making excuses in their own business, because they realise hard things happen to everybody.

I won’t share all of Will’s failure stories here (they were for the group), but some of the things he said which stood out were:

“It’s really easy to grow an accounting firm. What’s difficult is scaling one.”

This is so true – and not only for accounting firms! We’re in the middle of the scaling process at PF, and i tell you what this stuff is hard. Will calls it “de-Willing the firm” (so it’s not dependent on him), and we call it “Karening up” our business. We’re going to take everything Karen knows and share it out to the whole team…and in doing so they’ll bring their own skills and talents and approach to the table, making them way better than I could ever be solely on my own. And this requires daily, continued effort. Every day I’m working with team members on approaches to meetings and emails and client questions. I’m reviewing content and directing the team in the why, not just the how. They’re taking responsibility for priorities within the business. Growing is easy: scaling is hard. True story.

“Our conversion rate went down from 100% to 40%, and I’m really happy about that.”

Having a high conversion rate (or a prospect who signs up for something with your firm) seems like a good goal. And at first it might be. But it’s also true that you don’t necessarily want a 100% rate, because that means you are literally taking everyone. Never saying no. Always saying yes. Accepting any prospect, any client, any type of business, any fee. Reducing your conversion rate can be the best thing that ever happened to your business, as long as it results in higher profits. (Which it did, in Will’s case.) “I was guilty of selling what I thought they wanted,” Will said. Rather than really listening to what they actually wanted and needed, which his team now does.

“We hit a wall. We were going about a hundred miles an hour, and a wall was coming. And we hit it, full force, without slowing down. It hurt. A lot.”

There was one point, Will says, where the firm was driving forward at really top speeds. Everything was moving forward, more people were being hired all the time, clients were signing up right and left. They were on the motorway making great speed. And then they hit the wall. There were a variety of reasons for this wall, which Will went through – but the important thing was that they stopped, recalculated, adjusted, and started moving again with the right things in place. That’s hard to do – and Will’s admission of “It hurt, a lot” is so honest. Something we can all relate to.

“Why would you only communicate 7%?”

Email communication covers only 7% of the total available. Just the words. No tone of voice, no body language (both of which make up the remaining 83%). Will said he realised they were primarily communicating with only the 7%, and they’re working on more phone calls and video calls as a default. I’ve noticed the same recently – emails or messages are great for sending a link or some info you were talking to someone about. But for real communication, a phone call (which brings you to 45%, words and tone of voice together) is more powerful. Even more so is a video call or face to face meeting (full 100%, with words, tone of voice, and body language).

What are some of your walls, your fails, your difficulties?

Some of mine have been…

  • Going into business partnership without a written agreement (other than some emails). Cost me a lot to get out. Learned a lot.
  • Saying yes to prospects outside our niche market. Distracting, and we didn’t serve them as well because of it. We don’t do that anymore.
  • Saying yes to every speaking opportunity, rather than evaluating the event, attendees, purpose, outcomes. I’m still working on this one!
  • Hiring people because I like them, not with a systemised hiring approach based on fit with our values and culture. Or, diverting from our hiring process in any way. (For the record this does not apply to any of the existing PF team!)

Looking over even those ones reminds me of what a blessing each of those mistakes has been in my life. I would not be the business owner and person I am today without them, and countless others which looked like disasters at the time but were actually working to help build something far better.

I’d love to hear a few of yours.

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Popped into a fave local coffee shop in York this week and this was the mug they gave me. ❤️✨

Wasn’t feeling so superwomanny when I got it - this week was very full, plus period cramps and multiple migraines and my ankle being wonky and more travel than I’ve done in a while. I had intended to get coffee but the cramps were so bad I had to go for mint tea and just sit until they faded enough for me to walk again. 

At the same time, I also had an amazing time during this week with the @weare_pf Board meeting in person for the first time. Getting to know each other better as humans and sharing ideas and making plans and most of all appreciating that the weight of all the business decisions doesn’t rest solely on my shoulders. 

This is just one of your reminders that being a superwoman looks different at different times, and whether you’re striding along strongly or sitting weakly with mint tea, your superwoman status still applies. 

#justkeepgoing #superwoman #muglife #wegotthis #onedayatatime
Every single time I go sailing past this lighthouse on the mull-to-Oban ferry I think “this time I’ll just watch it and not take any pictures” 

And then something wild happens like A SAILBOAT GOES BY and of course I have to capture that, surely I haven’t taken that photo before (spoiler: I have), and then I have about seventeen lighthouse photos to add to my collection of seven thousand lighthouse photos from the last twenty years. 

But, I figure, what’s the harm anyway. It’s my photos and my memories and it brings me joy. I love the lighthouse as a visual of my journey from the mainland to the island (or a reminder I’ll be back soon). 

So, see you soon lighthouse. Thanks for standing there. 

#lismorelighthouse #eileanmusdile #lighthouse #lighthousesofinstagram #oban #ferry #calmac #isleofmull #sailaway #sailboat #scotland #travelscotland
I read. A lot. My list of “books to read” has over 100 titles listed, and every time I mention a book I’ve appreciated, I get another recommendation of a new one and the list gets longer. 

One of the books recommended to me years ago was “The Buddha in Me the Buddha in You”. She mentioned it had some helpful principles about how we navigate life - and whether you’re a buddhist or not, there are principles you can learn from and apply in life.

I wrote it down, forgot about it, and moved on with life. Read lots of other books.

And then when I broke my ankle, and was sitting and resting a LOT, with loads of time for reading, I went back to my list and started reconsidering some of the titles on it.

When I looked up “The Buddha in Me the Buddha in You”, the subtitle was “A Handbook for Happiness”, and that struck me.

Dealing with an injury is difficult. Sad. Wearying. It can be hard to find happiness and every day feels about the same. (Very Groundhog Day.)

So I bought the book, and put it by my bed. I started getting into a pattern of reading a chapter every morning with my coffee.

I thought I’d share some of the principles I appreciated and which are already helping me as I continue to navigate my life right now: 

[the full post on these is too long for an Insta post so click the link in bio or story if u want to read more!]

Thank the spoon - a spoon stirs up the mud in what had appeared to be clear water. Same with life: hard things stir up what you haven’t dealt with yet. So you thank them. “Thank you, spoon”

The Fundamental darkness (FD) - the “Survival Obsessed Self” who responds in a way based on survival but not growth

There’s a gift in the struggle - He describes it visually as “the lotus flower in the muddy pond”. You can focus on the mud, or on the flower, but they’re both there.

Nam - myo - ho - renge - kyo : The happiness soundtrack - I pulled out the core concepts of each of these words as they applied to me, and they are: 

Bloom in the struggle
Flow of life

#karensnotes #buddhainmebuddhainyou #books #reading #happysaturday 

[full note link in bio!]
The snow is swirling the wind is howling IT’S FROZEN OUT THERE 
#snowing #happyspringeveryone #inlikealion