Building a Business from Formulation to Momentum

Growing a business seems relentless, asking constant dedication. Too many business owners give up just when they are ready to take off. Why? Because they lack a framework for where they are and what’s next.

This business coaching exercise is often part of the work I do with small business owners and it gets results every time. In my entrepreneur coaching program we frame the work we will do together by figuring out what stage of business development they are in. Then, set a goal based on that stage and begin to envision what is possible in the next stage. Too often we go first into goals and vision, without first identifying where we are! It’s hard to plan to get to Alaska if you don’t know that your starting point is Florida. These stages help you plan your journey.

Several years ago I worked with a number of photographers as part of the SOAR! Scholarship Program, sponsored by Sony and Photographer Me Ra Koh a Sony Artisan of Imagery. Each woman’s photography business had it’s own momentum, and it’s own starting place. A recipe for one wasn’t going to work for the next.

We started with the What is So Exercise assessing what IS SO. One woman told me she had a camera, one lens, a shared family computer, a “good eye”, and beginner level skills. She does not yet have a separate bank account or the software she needs. Another mom had 2 cameras & lenses, studio space, established bank accounts, a CPA, advanced technical skills, a local photographer network and more. They are at different levels of bringing their company into existence and should be expecting different results. But they weren’t.

I find that lots of women judge themselves when they describe how far they’ve come with their business. “I’m confused. I don’t know how to do it.”  “I’m not enough. I’m never going to succeed.” Sound like anyone you know? And this kind of self ‘dis’ was just as common with both moms I described above! It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Did you learn to appreciate what works when you were a kid? Most of us didn’t. We learned to focus on what needs improvement, on a “critique” as the best way to grow. Well, we took it too far. So many of the women that I coach feel stuck in some variation of ‘not enough’! We all do it sometimes, but when it gets in the way of acting on what we want most in life, it’s got to go.

What’s the antidote to that bad habit of cutting yourself down? Appreciate what is so – what you DO have in place that you can claim as part of your business foundation. Own what is “good” instead of focusing on what you “lack”. This is key to building the business and a deeply satisfying life. Appreciation is powerful! With self-acknowledgment you start to access strengths that come from experience, strengths that you can count on.

Use this business coaching exercise to build any business, and not just start ups. Every business cycles through these stages more than once with new product launches or revised strategy to respond to opportunities or threats.

First, use these stages to identify where you are in building your business. Where is your business right now? Here’s how it looks applied to a photography business:

The Stages of Bringing a Business into Existence and into Momentum

  1. Pre-Formulation: This is the time of conception, just starting to put your ideas and vision together. When I’m coaching a woman at this stage she says things like, “I love taking pictures and I wish that I could use that to earn some money for my family. But, I’m not sure I’m good enough.”

  2. Formulation: Like being 4 months pregnant, you are on the path to building a business. Maybe you’ve set up a blog (but you’re barely writing in it), opened a bank account, came up with a company name, learned your camera inside out, and offered free photo shoots to friends and family to build your portfolio.

  3. Concentration: This is the intensive “doing” stage (remember the first couple months after birth!). You are putting 10 in to get 1 out as you work on website, financial systems, designing logo and ads, learning new software, setting up online accounts, and getting some clients. If someone asks, you can finally say (without choking) “I’m a photographer with my own business.”

  4. Low-Momentum: Whew! Finally, that intensely concentrated time of doing, doing, doing starts to pass and now you are putting 5 in and getting 1 out. Things are starting to happen on their own. Happy clients refer more clients. You trade tips with other photographers and they start asking for your advice.

  5. High-Momentum: Like a snowball rolling down the hill, things are really starting to grow. It’s still a lot of work but your systems are in place, your reputation proceeds you, and it’s more like putting 1 in and getting 5 out. You start to look for ways to innovate, improve efficiencies and quality, and extend your reach. You are a confident photographer.

So where are you? Take a minute and write down the stage you are in and what you are in the midst of doing right now that is building your business. And, this applies to any business large or small. (Remember, this is not the list of what else you need to do! This is the list of what you are currently doing. What is So is good, right, and…what’s so!)

In our Business Building Webinars everyone found these stages “extremely helpful.” They said, “it’s a relief to stop feeling like I should be in stage 4 even though I don’t yet have the system and structures in place! I see now I’m in stage 2 and I’ll get stage 2 things done.”

I can’t wait to hear about what you discover.

P.S. This was first published on Me Ra Koh’s SOAR blog monthly business coaching.