What are the warning signs that you are stuck in your business?
Introducing 'The Loop', The Ask's next level of support for founders of new businesses who want to get unstuck.
Hi again — another week exploring another theme I’ve observed through working with early stage entrepreneurs.
This week: The warning signs you are stuck in your business.
Read on to find out if you’re stuck — the stage of The Loop that my clients are in when they work with me, and how you can receive more support in your business building journey and gain more clarity and confidence.
Hint: It’s by signing up to The Loop, to access support I’ve designed exclusively for founders who want solutions to getting unstuck in their business building.
Or keep reading to learn more about stuckness, and what I mean by The Loop.
Symptoms of stuckness
So let me first ask if you recognise any of the following signs in your entrepreneurial path?
You know you want to run a business but still don’t know which one, or what that would look like in the context of your life overall. You might even have some fear about your new business; worried that in launching it you will no longer have the money or the time you are used to.
Perhaps this involves leaving stable employment, or switching from one business that isn’t working for you in favour of a trying your hand at a new one (as some of my clients are doing).
Maybe you are overthinking, finding yourself in that mental trap of stagnation, going around in circles on your ideas or to-do list questioning everything. So you procrastinate, not because you’re lazy, but really because you’re unsure which actions to take. All because you don’t actually have clarity on what would be the most impactful tasks to focus on.
Or are you are struggling to choose between passion and profit or knowing which business will actually be the one you’d enjoy running, because you don’t know what would suit your unique strengths, skills and interests
If you’re a little later on you in your journey you may be at the stage of not knowing how best package your service/product in a compelling way, or you are unsure if your ideal client avatar is actually your ideal client (if they aren’t buying from you consistently yet then they may not be).
You likely go through confidence highs and lows, typically right after you realise how much you still don’t know about the business the industry you’re in but you’re in too deep to change it up, so maybe you feel like an imposter, or feel like you have to be perfect before you can do much more.
Then chances are, you are stuck in ‘The Loop’.
WTF is The Loop?
So glad you asked.
After working with enough early stage founders through one or all of the above problems, I have realised that they all share the same thing in common.
They’re stuck in The Loop.
The Loop, as I have come to call it, is the stage of building a business when you are still unclear about what you are building, how you will build it, and which actions to take to see real results.
When your business is past The Loop and up and running then actions dictate themselves. For example you then spend your time responding to client requests, tweaking the product or adding features, streamlining processes, buying more stock to keep growing what you’ve built, or at least keep it alive.
But in the early days the actions do not dictate themselves. You have to figure them all out for yourself.
When you’re in The Loop you may still be thinking about the business you want to build, be trying to make the one you have work or even start again. You don’t have clarity about what to focus on in order to get the results you are looking for, whether that’s in terms of money, growth or lifestyle.
But that is okay!
First of all, because I am here for you.
The sheer number of challenges inherent at the early stages of business building is exactly why I coach people at this stage. All of these challenges can be ironed out through powerful coaching conversations focused on finding solutions — and set you on the path towards clarity, direction and action.
But second of all, because The Loop represents an opportunity.
The opportunity to decide what it is that you want to build and work on (probably for a really long time if it all goes well) and the opportunity to use the blank slate as a moment in time to have fun, learn about yourself and your desires, and experiment to see what sticks.
Source: The Ask
In computer programming the term ‘loop’ means:
‘An instruction that repeats until a specified condition is reached. In a loop structure, the loop asks a question. If the answer requires action, it is executed. The same question is asked again and again until no further action is required.’
Much like in programming, I believe that early stage founders go around The Loop, until they make what they are doing click.
There is an a-ha moment in the life of every entrepreneur.
When what they are working on finally makes sense. Be it a pivot, a niche, a technological breakthrough or innovation.
There is a point in time when they get off The Loop because they have cracked the code… but until then will go around The Loop trying, failing, experimenting, and seeing what sticks.
I liked this infographic about moments in time that famous entrepreneurs or inventors realised they were onto something special.
But until this breakthrough moment you are still unclear what it is exactly you are building and how you’ll do it. The A-ha moment is just one phase, the next include the mechanics of how you will bring this business to life.
Whichever stage you’re at, know that The Loop is ripe for overthinking, procrastination, self-doubt and wasting time on things that are ultimately not going to work on.
A phrase I like to say is “You don’t know until you know”.
Simple, but what I mean is that you are stabbing in the dark, trying to feel around for what works, because you literally do not know.
With The Ask® I am on a mission to empower entrepreneurial people to build the right business for their unique talent and find conviction in their idea in the process. This is not an overnight event.
It’s a process because it takes time to make it work. But that is the premise and beauty of entrepreneurship: if it were easy everyone would do it. Many people never get off The Loop and make it work, which is why the failure rate for new businesses is so high.
So when you do make it work, because you got off The Loop and made a success, the rewards are so sweet because of the graft you knew it took you to get there.
So how do you get off The Loop?
Short answer is time. Time, energy and commitment keeping at it.
But there are ways to make this period of time shorter, more enjoyable, and less lonely.
Joining communities, getting coaches, mentors, collaborators and learning the right tactics at the right time are all key.
Knowing what you need to know is a key part of the equation though.
Mel, who you heard from the other week in her e-commerce business, has spent a while feeling stuck and not knowing who to ask and what next steps to take. Sometimes you need clarity on the question itself, not just the answer.
Coaches ask the right questions, so you can find the answers that lay inside of you, or solutions to where you will find the answer.
Riikka who I worked with for six months said coaching helped her to “clarify how I plan to build value and in what type of market, by helping to ask me the right questions”.
Coaching is not a magic pill, you still do the work, but it’s a way of shortcutting this process.
Sounding out your thoughts, ideas and plans with a coach each week is a sure-fire way to speed up your decisions, gain more confidence and take action with accountability. Recent clients who have finished working with me have secured funding, built teams, and launched tech products or services that they are excited to build for the long term. Truly aligned to their values and goals. Many in just three months of working together.
But coaching may not be right for you right now.
My mission extends beyond one-one coaching and offers content and other resources like this newsletter. Which is what I’m here to share more about today.
Psst. If you’re new here, you can expect long form answers to commonly asked questions early stage founders are asking themselves. Published every other Wednesday.
I have been analysing the problems that early stage founders have in this newsletter.
Think of this like the diagnosis. I’m WedMD for your symptoms and ailments in entrepreneurship.
But what about the solution to fix it?
That’s where The Loop will come in.
It’s a community and place for those who have yet to make their business ‘click’ and want more support and resources tailored to this stage of their business building journey.
So if you’re ready to go that next level in and get the support you deserve you’ll want to sign up.
What to expect from The Loop?
After working with thousands of people as a coach, recruiter and startup accelerator programme manager over the last decade, I have designed the following which you will gain access to over the following months as part of The Loop:
Interviews with founders and creators who have made it through The Loop and their learnings along the way
Bespoke tools and resources from The Ask® to guide you in your company building journey I’ve created for my clients and community
Case studies and stories from clients in The Loop or who recently navigated their way out of
Curated links to articles, books and podcast episodes to guide you through The Loop
News, offers, workshops and courses from The Ask® — The Loop subscribers will always be given first look and access to discounts or beta tests of products
Join a community of early stage entrepreneurs also in The Loop to lean on for support and guidance
How to join The Loop?
Right now The Loop is is entirely free. All you need to do is sign up below. Yes even if you’re subscribed to this newsletter — your email is needed to know you want this next level of support :)
When you sign up, you’ll get free monthly emails to begin with, and options to upgrade for more support when it makes sense for you to do so.
You can of course opt out of The Loop at any time, and in fact, we would view it as a success if you ‘graduate’ and move onto other types of support. And if you don’t join The Loop? You will continue to receive these newsletters as usual. Just know you are missing out on the solutions, resources and next level of insights that those in The Loop receive.
So if you haven’t done so yet here’s your cue to sign up for The Loop emails and follow on support knowing that you will be taking that next step towards navigating these early stages of entrepreneurship with the guidance of someone who has seen it all before. To ultimately speed up the time it takes to get clarity and confidence in your business.
Ready to work with me one-one in coaching?
Until next time ✌️
Ellen Donnelly, Founder + Chief Coach, The Ask.