When to Speed Up, When to Slow Down

2014 02 21 Slow Down Road Sign Grist Org

I remember about two years in the early part of my Evolve to Grow journey standing in a hotel room in Manila.

There I was surrounded by five business owners who I’d taken on an outsourcing fact-finding mission. Just before we all went to dinner I told them how I’d quickly scaled my coaching business. I said something like this:

“People, I want to tell you that your hard work will pay off too. Just look at what I’ve done. Evolve to Grow has only been in business for a short time and I’ve already surpassed the success metrics I’d had in place,”

“Bringing in $30k per month from a shitload of clients. They see the value and I see the money.”

Everybody in that room was in awe of me. They said things like:

“Tristan, I’m impressed. It took you months to do what most business people take years to do. I hope I can follow what you’ve done.”

In fact, I’m pretty sure there was even a round of applause for me. We all left for a night on the San Miguels. I was feeling powerful and untouchable (until the hangover kicked in).

Less than two months after this night and back in Australia, things took a turn.

In what would have been similar to many small business owners during this pandemic, the phone was running hot with clients cancelling on me.

I’ll never forget these calls as they now serve as a lesson for me. Here’s how one call went:

“Tristan, you’ve promised a lot and we’re paying for that to be delivered to us. You’re hard to get a hold of. You’re unfocused when we do meet for a session. You seem stressed which is what you’re telling us to avoid,”

“We don’t want to continue on with this right now, mate.”

When the second call of this nature came through, I knew I had a problem.

Like the Titanic, The Voyager Evolve to Grow had sprung a leak and was in danger of sinking.

Here’s what I learned during this experience.

You can’t always operate at maximum speed

After these phone calls died down, I came back to the pack quickly. No longer could I boast of business coaching success.

Suddenly, I was like any other business owner competing to find clients and beginning to devalue what I do by lowering my price point to find new work.

I was getting depressed and didn’t want to meet with the people I took to Manila again in case they asked questions. I was tired, confused and under pressure – I had staff to pay, overheads and personal doubts to deal with.

I took a few days off to relax.

While sitting at an estuary overlooking where I live and reflecting, I came to a stark realisation. My strong start was unsustainable and an impending crisis was always going to happen.

That’s because I was operating at maximum speed on everything I did. I’d have a coffee with a somewhat potential, then without proper qualification, I’d try to sign them up to my coaching.

It worked consistently, but with every new client onboarded came a requirement and expectation on my time and (more importantly) meant the workload of my staff increased.

But I didn’t care. I was about growth and scaling my offering is what I wanted.

And that was the problem. In every situation, no matter what, I’d be acting with maximum speed with no understanding of the flow-on-effect.

Why you must (sometimes) slow down in business

Operating at 100% in business all the time will end in disaster, trust me. That’s why you need to slow things down and have times that are more chill.

Think of it like this, as soon as the round one bell rings a boxer often comes out swinging. They punch with force, duck with agility and defend with aggression. But that doesn’t last the entire fight. Every successful boxer knows when they need to act with speed or when to slow it down to take the heat out of the bout. This is often the difference between winning and knockout and a boxer that can do it doesn’t run out of puff towards the backend of the fight.

Business is not different.

In any business journey, they’ll be times that an owner needs to slow down, recalibrate and relax. A slight easing of the accelerator doesn’t mean you’ll be overtaken by your competitors.

That’s why I suggest small business owners should work in 90 day cycles for optimum and sustained energy levels. This means for 90 days you set targets that are going to be achieved and then you work hard for three months to achieve them.

If you do, you get to take a few days off – no mobile, no email – just time with who and what you love most. That’s a big incentive to work with maximum speed for a period of time before rest.

Looking back on Manila I now realise it needed to happen. While that’s no comfort to the clients I lost during this time, it taught me a valuable lesson.

My assumed ‘success’ was fragile and came off the back of an unsustainable work habit that eventually caught up to me.

Fortunately, I was able to fight my way back and build up my client base again, but this time it didn’t mean throwing furious punches from the get-go. I was slower, more methodical in approach and it’s working.

While a growth mindset is ultimately positive the application of it needs to take time. Trying to work 24/7 at 100% maximum speed is unhealthy, places pressure on yourself and your team and won’t get you any quicker to your goals.