Everyone has a unique COVID experience when it comes to their business and I am no different. My story is that last February, I exited my company JUST as the virus was sweeping through North America. You might say, I lucked out. But… my intention was to immediately build something new, based on a business plan I had developed. I was eager to get to work applying my years of experience as a communication coach to help smart leaders transform into thought leaders!
Unfortunately, things just slowed down. Everyone seemed to be pausing and reflecting. Some called it “The Great Pause.” Like many other entrepreneurs, I found myself rejigging and pivoting before I could even get my new business off the ground. To get some traction, I decided to join a business accelerator which focused on helping small businesses leapfrog growth. So, late in 2020 I dove into the first module focused defining some key areas of the business. Within the first few hours of coursework, I had redefined and articulated my values, my ideal customers, and I had identified what I assumed were the pain points I could solve for them. I had sent out a survey to gather this data and had used it, along with my years of experience working with these clients, as a starting point. Here are the three problems I identified:
- Time – All my clients were time starved and didn’t have enough space in their day to truly sit and think and focus on some of the issues that could help differentiate them or their businesses.
- Clarity – Most of my clients are leaders who are experts in different areas, whether it’s marketing, data science, AI, operations, or subsets of these areas, and have real the challenge of helping those who are not experts in their field (almost everyone else!) understand their messaging or their unique point of view. Of course, not having enough time or a process to help facilitate this contributes to the clarity problem.
- Leadership – Lack of time and lack of clarity results in either perceived or real leadership deficiencies. People need to see and hear you to understand you, and you need the time to either develop a message or share one that engages and connects. Without this, people will fill in the communication void with their own ideas and messages.
Time to think, creating a clear message, and standing out as a leader. These were the top client problems my experience and research had uncovered, but I had not tested my hypothesis. Only a few hours after I had completed this exercise, I found myself on a zoom call coaching one of my favorite clients. She is a brilliant leader, a deep forward thinker and collaborator, named Susan. For some sessions she comes with an identified problem for us to work on, and today was one of those days. She shared her challenge: a series of articles that she, and a handful of other leaders, were responsible for writing about what the upcoming year had in store for the organization, specifically from the perspective of innovation and change. She said to me, “I have a bunch of ideas, but I just haven’t had the time, due to competing priorities, to get it done. I just don’t know where to start or what I want to say. As you can see the other leaders have already written their pieces…Can you help me with this?”
I almost fell out of my chair. Time. Clarity. Leadership. The universal truths of my client challenges were articulated in real-time without any prompts. What are the problems that you solve for your clients?
As we dive into 2021, I encourage all entrepreneurs and leaders to identify the pain points of your clients or stakeholders that YOU CAN SOLVE. It will ensure you are speaking the same language and, more importantly, you can then craft your products and services to meet their needs.
By the way, I don’t intend for it to sound quick and easy. It isn’t. It takes time for us as business leaders to listen and gain a better understanding of our client’s problems. It takes focus for us to distill what we’ve heard and seen in action into three core problem areas. And it takes consistent effort to continually test if these are the problems that need addressing and refining the products and services to ensure they are doing exactly that. But it’s worth it.
For many 2020 happened to them. Let’s make 2021 happen for you.
Nick Kindler | CEO, Keynote Speaker, Author, Communication Coach, Eternal Entrepreneur
Nick is passionate about innovation and communication. A former actor, teacher, and comedian, for more than a decade Nick was the founding partner, creative director, and speaker coach at engine communication + events. In 2013, Nick opened his own coaching practice Kindler and Company, focusing on developing the communication and speaking skills of ingenious experts: scientists, technologists, academics, and business leaders. He then joined TEDxToronto as a coach, eventually taking on the role of Director of Programming. Nick is also the Head of Programming for SingularityU Canada, a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build an abundant future for all.