I take a “coaching break” every 3 months. The no-coaching time zone allows me to focus on other areas of my work. It also gives me a chance to look at the ventures with fresh eyes and suggest new approaches to the challenges they face.
My last “coaching break” happened to coincide with the summer holidays. Upon my return, I found a sea of exhausted faces and the issue that was trending and that came up at each session was that “suddenly everything had slowed down”.
Suppliers were not responding, mentors were unavailable, clients had gone AWOL and coaches had donned their invisibility cloaks. My hard working entrepreneurs had allowed the heavy rain and the strange weather to deceive them and had not realized we were in the middle of summer and that “normal” people took holidays.
Therefore! The Judgemental Princess’ golden advice nugget for the month is: “nothing happens in August”! I found myself explaining over and over again: this is the summer, everyone is away on annual leave – even my usual spot for coaching in London, a lovely French café in the heart of South Kensington shuts down for a whole 6 weeks of summer closure, because “nothing happens in August”
So what does one do if nothing happens in August?
Stop chasing people who are not there. And actually, why don’t you just STOP. The normal startup rhythm is frenetic. The beat is faster than any music my teenage daughter listens to. Given that “nothing happens in August”, why not spend some time stopping the action and engaging in reflection?
Think about your journey so far, think about how much you have achieved. Think about what’s next? I hate to use the word strategy, we all know that startup strategy tends to be MBA (Management By Accident). Set a plan of action over the next 12 months, define milestones, and think about the resources you need.
Just think. Instead of spending time in the venture, spend time on the venture.
Innovate, set yourself free and release your creative juice. Innovation happens when you are open, when you are permeable to everything that happens around you. It will not happen when you are too focused on just getting the job done and when you have locked your brains in delivery mode.
Unleash all these ideas that you have boxed away to focus on growing the business and remember that your sustainable competitive advantage is in your ability to innovate.
Invest time in your family. “Nothing happens in August” so spend more time in August with your loved ones. They are your key partners, they are the ones who are there in the shadows, very often neglected.
Invest in yourself. When is it last time you went for a run? Or a swim? Or to an exhibition? Take time for yourself. Catch up on your sleep. Get rested.
Your competitors will have taken a vacation and they will come back full of creativity and energy and this is a risk to your competitive edge.
Your clients will have taken a break too and will come back refreshed with new demands. How can you keep up if you are exhausted?
Upon my return I did find one entrepreneur who was not looking pale with tired eyes. Sitting in the sunshine (in between two monsoons) at the terrace of a nice café in South Kensington, I had a great coaching session with Rael the extremely hard working CEO of Mediagamma
He looked really well, was full of energy and buzz. I commented that this startup lifestyle seems to suit him and that he was looking well on it! He smiled one of his mischievous smiles and reminded me of a coaching session we had a few months back when I told him” he looked like s… “(in so many words) and ordered him to “get some sleep, go to the gym, lose weight and spend some time with his loved one”. Apparently he and his girlfriend often joke about how I whipped him into shape.
Of course, the stress is there. He is hiring, sealing partnerships, closing sales, raising a first seed round… he has however injected some sanity in his life and that makes him more successful and more investable.
Investors do not want to invest in burnt out entrepreneurs. Investors want entrepreneurs to be hard-working, they want them devoted and chained to their ventures – but they also want them alive and able to perform!
“Nothing happens in August”. Take a break. Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. Taking these simple steps will make sure everything happens in September.