Come with me in the way-back machine, to a time very different from today. I’m thinking of 2009. As the year began, Lehman Brothers had recently collapsed and everyone had learned the phrases “mortgage-backed securities” and “toxic assets,” even if we didn’t know exactly what they meant. For a time the business world held its breath. Everyone waited to see what would happen as we changed presidents while the economy was – what, in free-fall? Undergoing a needed correction? Depended on who you asked; no one really knew.
My phone got real quiet that winter. Did yours? I am not a big fan of blaming the economy for my business woes, but this was different. For a short while, everyone did seem to freeze in place, and while my existing clients kept going, new business was scarce.
And that was actually okay with me, at least for a while. One reason was that I had set a goal of delving into a new subject during 2009. Specifically, I wanted to learn all I could about emergency preparation. I had seen clients who had lost data in a power outage, lost inventory to flooding, lost priceless things in a fire, lost money during all sorts of disasters. So in those winter afternoons I was spending happy hours figuring out how to de-mystify, un-tangle and simplify those tasks that everyone needs to do (but almost nobody wants to do) to be prepared.
I started a blog, then built a whole website around it. I called it Preparation Nation. Lord knows I’ve never been a disaster geek, and I don’t share the attitude of survivalists, who predict (and sometimes seem to welcome) the collapse of society as we know it. No, I wanted my site to be friendly and helpful, not scary and alarmist. I took Red Cross training and CERT training. I studied books and websites – the good, the bad, and the WTF! I gathered the best information I could find and shared it in the easiest, friendliest, most do-able pieces I could manage.
And in September I was asked to speak on this topic. So after working quietly on the project for nine months (!) I decided to actually launch my secret project as a second business.
For three years I maintained two blogs – this one and the emergency preparation one. I wrote two newsletters and updated two websites. I spoke at conferences and taught classes, sometimes on my first love — real, life-changing productivity — and sometimes on my new interest, emergency prep.
I had always recognized a core problem between these two businesses: they were aimed at completely different audiences. I write for you here as a business owner bound for success and a person who wants to make an impact. But Preparation Nation spoke to homeowners, retirees, farmers, stay-at-home moms, military families – anyone, really, who is old enough to be responsible for themselves.
And this pulled me in two directions.
I tried maintaining two of everything, but there is only one of me, and New Leaf keeps me plenty busy bringing you new things (like my free teleseminar series Thrive 2013, and my soon-to-be-announced wee book, so stay tuned!) It became clearer that I couldn’t manage two separate businesses.
But I loved Preparation Nation! And so did lots of readers. And my professional organizing colleagues who referred their clients to me. As a business, it made so much sense to me! I’d love to keep it going and growing — if only I had the time.
Reality demanded to be recognized. As I remind my clients, you can’t put 10 pounds of sugar in a five pound sack, and trying to do it will just create an unholy mess. I decided that New Leaf had to get my work week. If I was going to maintain Preparation Nation, I’d have to do it as a hobby, on the weekend like any other hobby.
It only took a month or so to remember that I. should. not. work. on. my. days. off. Hello, exhaustion.
I shared my problem with a few of my favorite understanding + wise business heads. Some of them said, please don’t take down Preparation Nation – I refer people there all the time! And some asked, so what are you going to do about it?
It took a while for me to take action. I still imagined that I might figure out a way to magically do two hours of work in one hour and so make time for my second business child. Didn’t happen. (Could you see that coming?)
So I renewed the url’s at www.preparation-nation.org — hey, it’s the least I could do for my colleagues who supported this venture and wanted it to stay, at least for a while. And I took down the pages that let people sign up for my classes and my newsletter. And I let everyone know, on the site, what I was doing and why.
I’d love it if someone would come along to buy the business – I still believe it’s a great niche! But even if there’s another great economic meltdown around the corner, my main business will get my full attention and energy. That’s what makes it “my main business.”
What are some lessons we could take from this story? Well,…
- It is possible for a project to grow in ways you never really intended. Be on the lookout for that.
- Just because you’re getting ego strokes for something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to keep doing it.
- Be very clear about what your main business is.
- Good ideas are a dime a dozen. There are way more good ideas in the world that there are hours to make them happen.
- Don’t use money as an excuse. Money is almost never your main limiting factor. Time is your greatest asset, and the one that can’t be increased.
- Don’t just stop what’s NOT working; sometimes it’s crucial to stop what IS working, if it’s getting in the way of something better.
Wondering about bowing out of something that’s not entirely working? Contact me for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Let’s talk about how to say good-bye to your less-than-ideal projects and hello to your heart’s desire.