I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I couldn’t escape it. I tried switching off by taking an extended festive break. I read a lot, played with the kids and over indulged, as is required at this time of year. I had a great time. But every so often my festive thoughts were invaded by the inescapable truth. I was building the wrong business.
That was a year ago. Since then I’ve listened to my gut, head and heart. Sometimes they’ve been in perfect harmony. And sometimes, they’ve been miles apart. I’m an old romantic so, when it comes right down to it – when the battle has raged between the three, it’s the heart I’ve listened to the most.
On the first anniversary of the business in February this year, I made my first major decision. I changed the name of the business. I loved the name Square Tree Marketing, but the truth was, it didn’t represent me or the business. The Story Edge was born and although the road has been bumpy, it was, with 10-months hindsight, the right decision at the right time.
At that stage, I was still making my living predominantly as a copywriter. I was a writer for hire. The coaching had started, but only with a couple of existing writing clients. It wasn’t until the Content Marketing Academy conference in Edinburgh that I first introduced myself as a ‘storytelling coach’. I’d like to say I did that with utter confidence, but, that would be a big fat lie. Here’s a short re-enactment of how that ACTUALLY sounded.
As you can hear. It was delivered as a question, not a statement.
But after I told my story on the stage in Edinburgh, everything changed. The 120 folks in that room taught me two valuable lessons. One, I can tell a story. And two – I could be a storytelling coach. The reaction gave me a huge personal lift and also reaffirmed my belief that people care about the person behind the business.
On the Monday following the conference I launched my first coaching programme, and by Tuesday, I’d secured my first dedicated coaching client. (Thank you, Steve Ross, from Shackleton Technologies. Don’t think you appreciate just what that meant to me at the time.)
That was an amazing feeling. A cocktail of emotions washed over me. One part relief, one part pride, a hint of joy and a large dollop of fear. The fear part was driven by self-doubt. What if I’m a rubbish coach? What if coaching isn’t my thing? It’s the classic case of imposter syndrome. That feeling we all get from time to time where we don’t feel worthy. We don’t feel we’re good enough.
But that inner critic was told to shut its cake hole. I discovered a love for coaching. I had a sense that this was absolutely my thing. I’ve now delivered around 50 coaching sessions in 6 months. I’ve learned from each session. I’ve got better. And I’m now a confident coach. In a break from my tradition, I’m going to go a step further. I’m going to say out loud what I’ve been thinking for the last few months. Here goes… I’m a bloody good coach.
Phew. That was hard to say. But I AM a good coach. When my clients told me, I thought they were just being kind. This is a classic ‘Kev’ thing. I talk myself down and I focus more on the things I do wrong instead of the things I do right. Don’t confuse this with arrogance. Don’t think that I’m being cocky. It’s simply a realisation that being a coach and a consultant is what I’m good at. It also just happens to be what I love.
It’s taken me awhile to get to this point and this year hasn’t been easy. I made the mistake of closing down the copywriting side of the business overnight. In hindsight, I should have gradually phased that out. Not doing so has cost me money and yes, has created quite a bit of stress. But I recognised those familiar feelings and I tackled them quickly and decisively. I didn’t drown in my own thoughts. I spoke to people. I took advice. I shared how I was feeling.
That simple act of talking got me back on track quickly. Without that, I don’t think I would have got through it. Without that, I would have quit. I would have surrendered to the negative thoughts and sense that I was failing. Here’s the thing, I wasn’t failing – I was learning. Learning about myself and what drives me. Learning what I’m good at. Learning how to be a better coach. And learning to cut myself a bit of slack.
I’ve achieved a lot since February 2015. More than I really appreciated. The real gift can be summed up in one word – clarity. For the first time in my life, I know what I am. And, I know what I need to do in 2017. I’m more organised than I’ve ever been. 2017 is going to be a massive year for me and The Story Edge. This Christmas I know that I AM building the right business. I know that I’m going to help way more people than I did in 2016. And, I know I’m going to make a bigger difference.
I’m not naive, it’s not always going to be easy and there will be times that I fail. I’m good with that. Perfection is an illusion. I’ll learn from my mistakes, dust myself down and get back on the cliche. And along the way, I’m going to laugh more. I’m going to have more fun. I’m going to meet more people. And, every so often, I’m going to pause, dismount my humble cliche and enjoy the view.
2017 will see me launch more coaching programmes, more courses and a lot more content. It will also see me get out from behind the laptop. I’ll speak at more events and I’ll stop being as reclusive as I have been. Oh yes, and I might even have a podcast or two to share with the World.
This wouldn’t be possible without the clarity I now have. And that clarity has been a collaborative process. I couldn’t have got to this stage without a lot of help. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the journey so far. It means everything to me and the family.
So from my family to yours, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and fab New Year.
See you in 2017!
I'm a case study consultant, coach and writer. I'm the Macgyver of case studies. If you want to use customer success stories to grow your organisation – I can help. And, if you have a case study question, just holler. I promise I'll answer.