“Do you know who I am? I’m kind of a big deal.”
Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman

This was my thinking for many years as a keynote speaker in the corporate and healthcare space. I admit I liked the attention, traveling across North America doing keynotes to large audiences in the healthcare space. (I live with Type 1 Diabetes, and host an inspirational online TV show called “The Sugar Free Shawn” Show). Conference planners, marketing managers of pharma and medical companies kept me busy year-round with speaking requests.

In addition, there were the corporate speaking engagements to sales and senior management teams on innovative thinking, brand loyalty and much more.

In short, life was good, or at least that was what I was telling myself.

But things were far from good. I was burning myself out, while not building a sustainable business, or helping my clients solve their challenges.

Oh sure, they liked, or sometimes loved, my presentations and programs, but three things rang true:

  1. I was burning myself out.
  2. I was not building long-term solutions for clients.
  3. This could be not be sustained.

But how could I leave behind such great opportunities, and build a sustainable business?

It was time to have a conversation with the person that was holding me back — me.

As I thought through what needed to change, the following three questions helped me immensely.

1)  What did I want?

As a coach, “what do you want?” is often the first question I ask of clients. Now it was time for me to return to answering that question for myself.

My list included:

  • Stop trading time for money.
  • Less travel.
  • Working with fewer companies/people, but establishing a deeper more meaningful relationship with each.
  • More time off.

It was time for me to see a new vision, and work daily to make it happen.

2) What did my clients want?

The great news was that my clients were very happy with my work and continued to hire me. The questions I needed to ask them were: “What is the real goal here?” and “At the end of the year what outcomes would you be thrilled with?”

Just asking these questions got them thinking longer term, and with a higher ROI.

The real goal was not having me speak to their sales teams and give them some tips, but rather coach them on a long-term basis and support them on reaching their goals.

Now both the client and I were working together on the same goal.

The answer also got both of us thinking differently about solutions, and not just going back to the “hire a speaker for a day” model. They wanted deeper solutions that added bigger value to their business.

3) How do I start with the new vision?

Ten years ago, I read the amazing book by Michael Gerber called “The E-Myth“.  The book was focused on challenges that entrepreneurs face in building their business.

One concept that hit home for me was “work on your business, not in your business.”

I loved that idea, problem was I had no idea how to do that.

Here are the first three things I did to start my new business vision.

Find examples of other people that have sustainable businesses and learn from them. I reached out to people like Michael Port, Elizabeth Marshall, Jenny Blake and Chris Taylor and asked them the questions I wanted answers to, and applied them.

Return to a beginner’s mind. It’s easy to revert back to what we already know and are comfortable doing. For me, that was doing a lot of one off speaking gigs. I needed to forget what I already knew, and be an active and engaged student in learning a new model for me.

Take immediate action. Instead for reading, talking and planning it was time to jump in and experiment.  There will never be a perfect time to launch, and the real learning happens while doing.

When I launched my online TV Show, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I started.  Show them, don’t tell them.

I’ve decided to leap again this time, and find a new sustainable way forward.

Building a Sustainable Business