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stepping out of your comfort zone

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be quite intimidating to the small business owner. How much debt is too much to take on vs. the ROI you would get in return? What if you hire someone and they mess up your business? How risky is it to confront that client who is walking all over you?

These questions come up every day to the small business owner. And, when you’re avoiding the concept of stepping out of your comfort zone, the answers can be stressful. While I’ve only been my own boss for 2 1/2 years, throughout my career I have almost always reported to the president/owner of a small business. My father has been a small business owner since I was about 5 years old. My sister and her husband own restaurants, a catering company, and an event center. My best friend and her husband own their own allergy clinic. I’m in a Mastermind group with 5 other women business owners. So, I have a network of people to ask these questions. Plus, I have a world of experience to tap into beyond just my few years worth.

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Success requires stepping out of your comfort zone. I’ve learned that concept from all of these people. I can’t tell you how many loans my dad has taken out to enhance his manufacturing businesses. My sister and her husband? They own restaurants… risky just by the concept. (But, to be fair, that’s mostly because of bad management, bad food, bad service or poor marketing – none of what they suffer from.) My best friend and her husband bought their own space for their practice before they had enough doctors – and patients – to fill it. These leaps of faith are scary! They come with consequences if you don’t succeed. And, in my opinion, that pressure forces you to succeed.

Late last year, I took a leap and practiced this concept of stepping out of your comfort zone. I hate sales… especially cold call, expand-your-market type sales. And, all business consultants will tell you that if you hate a part of your job, you should hire someone – consultant or employee – to do it for you. So, that’s what I did. I hired a company to do my outreach and to handle the initial qualifying calls for me. They are supposed to give me 4-5 qualified leads per month. This undertaking was not an inexpensive investment, and I did have to take out a very small business loan to pay for it.

Investment vs. Cost

But, notice, I said “investment.” I think that’s where a lot of us go wrong when we are considering risk. We don’t look at the ROI hard enough. I don’t look at this service as a cost, even though it is. I look at it as an opportunity to grow, expand, and serve new industries and people.

Oh, and I did the math! You can’t overlook that step. I am making this investment for a minimum of 4 months. If I can close 2 of the (hopefully) 20 leads they send me, I will pay it back plus create a profit. And, if I can’t close 10% of the people I’m talking to regularly, then I have other problems to solve! So, this wasn’t a “bet” or a “hope.” I just had to evaluate the opportunity.

What’s even better is that I can learn from their methods. I’ll see what works and doesn’t work for them. Maybe I’ll learn which industries are more open to my services. Maybe I’ll get a few marketing gems in an area I am uneducated in – and frankly, that I don’t like!

Additionally, let’s not forget that by stretching, the next time you try, it becomes easier. Put it in the context of yoga… if you never push yourself, you always stay exactly the same amount of “bendy.” If you practice stepping out of your comfort zone (literally… since it is yoga), you will be amazed at how much easier it is the next time.

My Evaluation Method

Here is my evaluation method:

  • What will the risk cost?
  • How will you pay for it?
  • What is the long-term, dream-big potential result of this opportunity of stepping out of your comfort zone?
  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • Is there a way to prevent that worst-case scenario?
  • How much effort on your part will the process take?
  • What is the most likely outcome?
  • Is it worth it?
  • What happens if you don’t do it?

That last one is a big one. Because “nothing” could very well be your answer. And in my case, “nothing” was my answer. But, “nothing” was unacceptable and uncomfortable. If I hadn’t engaged this firm, I would remain stagnant. Stagnant is not the place that most business owners want to stay. And, I’m definitely in expand-my-wings-and-grow-mode.

You can use this evaluation method for pretty much any business risk. And, note that I am a fairly risk-averse person, as demonstrated by waiting so long to start my own business. But, if I hadn’t taken that risk, I would not have reaped the rewards that I have already experienced.

Grow Your Comfort Zone

While I don’t know the outcome of my current risk, I am comfortable with it. I didn’t just jump in. I thought through it. I believe it will reap the company some great rewards. Just like it did when I hired Laura. And just like it did when I fired my first – and only client at the time – who was walking all over me.

Practice stepping out of your comfort zone, even if it is baby steps at first. You’ll be amazed at how much your comfort zone grows each time you take that next risk.


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