image by Dustin Spengler on Flickr, Creative Commons

A few weeks ago I asked a friend to put on a workshop on “creating a mission and vision statement for your business” for some members of the women’s group that I convene. I had asked her to do it because it was something that I really wanted to attend myself! I’ve been in business for myself for over two years now and I realized that I didn’t have a mission statement and I didn’t have a vision. Sure, I know what I like to do, but I hadn’t really stopped to consider the crucial question of why I was doing it. And my business planning for the future was essentially all in my head.

The session jumpstarted me into answering crucial questions about the “why” and “what” of my business. What do I do? What is my purpose? What am I passionate about? What will I accomplish in the next five years? I put these questions and more up on two big Post-It flip chart notes up on my office wall and I’ve been staring at them, mulling them, and answering them over the last few weeks. Every now and then I have a flash of inspiration and add something new to it or make an amendment. Finally I’m getting things down on paper!

The process is definitely helping me to figure out what focus I want my work to take in the next several years. And yes, I should have done this more than two years ago when I started Beth Cougler Blom Facilitation but I’m going to go with the “better late then never” philosophy here! (Luckily I think I’ve been doing pretty good work during that time, but still…) Two years ago I would have come up with some different answers, so it’s curious and telling to look backward now and see how far I’ve come in the last two years. To see what work I have let go and what I’m still very passionate about. A couple of false starts, perhaps, in focus area. No one can fault me for that. In fact, I expect to be consistently checking in with myself for the rest of my career to make sure I’m doing what I’m passionate about doing. It undoubtedly will continue to morph and change slightly as the years go on. (I am probably not alone in this!)

The crux of the matter (always) is thinking about what I love to do and at the same time what the market is looking for and what I can make money doing. This year I’ve tried to get more clear on what I will do for free for community benefit (something I will always believe in doing), and what I need to do for money. The lines are going to be always slightly blurry as there are exceptions to every “rule”, but overall this boundary-setting is oh-so-important as to where I spend my time and how and when I get paid. I do need to make a living after all.

I am blessed to be able to say that I am a woman of many skills, but focusing those strengths into something akin to a niche is starting to become more important to me. (Believe me, I’ve been resisting against the concept of “the niche” for a while now but I just might be getting convinced…) I’m starting to come around to the idea of a focused niche for clarity and so people understand what I do, but also to help dictate the kind of work I take on and where I spend my professional development time and money. Niche for me encompasses different types of work within it – facilitation, curriculum development, instructional design, writing, group convening – but it all is turning out to be wrapped underneath a central theme. (More on my niche later when I’m ready to reveal my mission and vision statements!)

Some people say that “the devil is in the details” but I feel that figuring out the details is so extremely necessary right now. I’m at a tipping point in my business where it is starting to explode (in a very good way!) and so it feels right to be stepping a bit backwards in order to move forward with more intention. I’m getting my business house in order and have already experienced some great synchronicity in what I’m looking for and what has come my way. Becoming clear is clearly working so far! Can’t wait to share more with you soon.

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