I haven’t been taking my own advice. And I’ve been giving advice that, upon reflection, could have been misinterpreted and put undue pressure on you. Since early 2008, I’ve been writing about the importance of refining your message, of staying on topic, and pursing your big dream – keeping this at the centre of all you do.

But I haven’t been staying on topic. Lately, I’ve found it almost impossible to keep quiet about certain things I see as detrimental to our industry, to over-simplification in business education, and ‘success’ in business is and how it can be achieved (in just seven-simple-buy-now steps).

Sometimes, I’m almost a liability to my business as I can’t seem to, stop myself calling out things I see as a problem, things which have nothing to do with creative communications and online marketing.

Your big dream (and mine)

I also write, coach and talk a lot about the importance of getting clear on your direction and keeping your big picture dream at the centre of all you do. Of continuing to take small, baby steps towards it, even if it feels a long way off.

It recently occurred to me that I might have been inadvertently putting pressure on those of us who don’t really know what our big dream is. I say ‘us’ because that includes me.

I have always been a little envious of people who know exactly what they want and pursue it single-mindedly. I am not that person. In my 34 years on earth, I’ve taught yoga and meditation, worked in public relations, led small groups across south-east Asia as a tour leader, presented on marketing to small groups around Australia, and written on all manner of topics on behalf of businesses, large and small.

I have no big dream, no clear picture. I just know what I like doing and what I don’t like doing. I know the kind of people who are a pleasure (for me) to deal with and other types who drain me. So I do a little more of what I like, which tend to be natural talents, and a little less of what I don’t like, which tend to be things that aren’t natural.

And the ‘big dream’ doesn’t happen in a lineal fashion – my career, to date, only makes sense to me in retrospect. I’m developing expertise and my specialty, but not in any straightforward fashion, as least not to the casual observer.

Start with who, and why

When I’m coaching someone just starting their business, or looking to change direction, I advise them to start with the who and the why – who do you want to work with? Called your ideal client (and we each have different ideal clients), these are the people who are most suitable for your business, who stand to gain the most, and who will make things so much easier and more pleasurable for you and your team.

Your why is the intersection of you and your ideal client – why are you so passionate about helping them? What aspects of your personal and business stories relate to your ideal clients? What’s the bigger conundrum that keeps you up at night? What needs to be changed?

Once the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ are sorted, the brass tactics are fairly straightforward. I tell my clients not to rush this foundational work. It’s messy, uncomfortable, vulnerable, and you want it to be over. It’s tempting to grasp the first solid-looking idea and run with that.

I tell my coaching clients to take some time to marinate in the who and the why, so I’m trying to take my own advice, even though it kills me to write something so vague and open-ended piece. I’m working with a business coach to talk this through.

Changing direction

Businesses evolve; they must. A business that doesn’t evolve grows stagnant and depends heavily on the business owner and team to make it run. An evolving business takes on a momentum of its own. It’s closely aligned with the changing needs and desires of its ideal clients.

We all need to review our business from time to time to ensure that we’re heading in the direction that makes sense to us. We don’t need to be racing ahead, achieving massive growth. Sometimes businesses go into a holding pattern for a while as necessary things take place (such as the business owner having a baby, working on another project, or uprooting their lives to move).

A sustainable business is not necessarily wildly profitable. A sustainable business certainly makes the business owner and any team a good salary but it must also be based on firm foundations – improving the lives of its clients, participating in its local economy and community, and challenging the business owner and other staff at whatever it is that they’re doing – whether it’s their modality, products, new ways of delivering these, marketing, sales or a thousand other things.

Your business needs to sustain you – financially, intellectually, and spiritually. It doesn’t have to look a particular way, it doesn’t need to be respected or understood by your friends and family (though respecting and understanding you is a different story), and it doesn’t have to stay the same, forever and ever.

In fact, it should be regularly reviewed and evolved over time. Much like I’m doing now.

Are you changing direction in your business, or wanting to? Then check out Hustle & Heart.