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April 7, 2012 / mbolke

5 Things I Decided to Change About My Business After Attending a Retreat

I had two goals in mind while attending a recent envisioning retreat for entrepreneurs:

  1. Connect with like-minded business owners
  2. Be more intentional, not just productive, in how I approach my business

Achieving Goal #1 wasn’t difficult. There were some terrific leaders in attendance, one of whom is an accomplished editor. She has read my blog articles and is interested in working with me on producing my book. I wouldn’t have made that connection had I not attended.

Goal #2 was tougher than I thought. By the end of the retreat I had clarity about several significant changes I’d need to make in order for me to achieve it:

1. Say “no” more often.

I place a high value on freedom. It’s one of the reasons that I left Corporate America. I wanted more choices. Choices about how I spend my time, the type of work I do, and the people with whom I work.

I’d been acting like I had no choice for a while, however, believing that:

–I just had to work on an undesirable project in order to someday maybe perform the work I really wanted to do.

–I had to work with a client that constantly re-scheduled at the last minute, was often late in paying invoices, and insisted I do follow-up work for free.

These scenarios represent a handful of situations that completely drained me, and left me with little time and energy for the work I love and the clients I enjoy.

Recognizing that I do have choices was a key takeaway for me from the retreat. The moment I stop thinking that I do, I’ve given in to a belief system that simply isn’t true.

How I will practice saying “no”:

–Be clear with others upfront about what I’m willing to commit to and put it in writing. This approach will help avoid never-ending scope creep.

–Keep things simple by staying focused on my core business. Which means I will need to stop doing things that I don’t enjoy yet might give me the chance to work on the things I do someday.

2. Get organized. Includes technology, paper, and mental clutter that are taking up valuable space in both my mind and my office.

a) Annual touch-up with a professional organizer – I hired someone last year for a temporary project and it was worth every penny. She was able to create systems for me with ease that I am able to follow (well, for the most part).

b) Hire a part-time or virtual assistant to help me with scheduling travel, generating invoices, replenishing office supplies, responding to booking requests that don’t need my input, and other administrative responsibilities.

3. Partnerships.

Where it makes sense, collaborate with other like-minded professionals by providing referrals or partnering together on projects. Extending trust and developing others is required if I don’t want to or am unable to do all of the work myself.

4. Write more.

Creativity is a muscle that needs practice. Giving myself the freedom to take a writing sabbatical is long overdue. I’m tired of putting off finishing my book until after this one more thing.

5. Limit engagements that require extensive travel (for now)

I’m a new mom, so traveling to work in Bangkok via London just isn’t for me during this season.

How I’m doing so far…

A few days after the retreat I had a chance to put my new set of choices into practice.

I wish I could tell you that I stood firm, that I did exactly what I had committed to do…I didn’t. I responded to a request that I knew in my gut I shouldn’t have and had neither the bandwidth nor the desire to do. I spent a great deal of time thinking through my approach for this client’s problem and submitted a thorough proposal.

The client later informed me that the project would be on hold indefinitely for budgetary reasons, but that they appreciated my insight.

I’m sure they did.

However, another opportunity soon surfaced and I was determined to handle it differently. A client that I really like asked me to facilitate an executive communication session. I didn’t have the available dates they needed, so I reached out to a handful of trusted experts that I’ve worked with many times before collaboratively, yet had never sent in my stead. This time, I selected one of them to deliver on my behalf.

Not only was the work successful, but my colleague has been invited back to deliver work for the client again. This approach is beneficial for everyone and allowed me to be in two places at once.

I’ve turned down a fair number of engagements that don’t fit my business model since the retreat. I still find it hard to say “no” sometimes. But I’m also finding that I’m having more opportunities to say “yes” to the work I really want to do, because I now have the margin to do it.

Question: Are there changes you’ve wanted to make in your professional life that you haven’t? What’s been holding you back?


Leave a Comment
  1. ligh4043 / May 26 2012 11:30 am

    Yay for combining living in the moment/joy with responsibilities and getting things done. The aim ought to be harmony.

    • mbolke / May 26 2012 2:29 pm

      Thank you – I totally agree. I think I am happier now than I’ve ever been.


      Sent from my iPhone

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