Women Entrepreneur

Profit from exploring your business metaphor

Annelise Piers
15th Mar 2016
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In today’s startup world, I’d be an old-timer; someone who jumped off the corporate bandwagon about 15 years ago to be her own boss.

It wasn’t too soon, though, that I found myself running like a hamster on a wheel, begging to slow down, if only to catch my breath.

Like many entrepreneurs, driven by unfathomable passion, I found myself biting off more than I could chew. I was excited about the fact that I had people seeking me out and appreciating my work. I wanted to give them my all and threw myself into running the best I could.

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Ten years later, in 2011, I started another company with a friend and that’s when things got really interesting. As we spoke to investors and toyed with inviting funding, I couldn’t help but feel like I was inviting a stranger into my home to have a say in how I raised my baby. I attended a workshop by Andrew Austin on Metaphors of Movement and that’s when it struck me like a ton of lego bricks.

The visionary in more ways than one

Unconsciously, we conjure up images of what our business means to us. We tend to make decisions, frame our communication, and even invest in our people (or not) from this unconscious place.

For example, consider an entrepreneur who sees her business as a ship with her at the helm. Does she run a tight ship? Are the others ‘on board’ all helping her steer the crew in the same direction, or is she staring mutiny in the face? Maybe she’s scrubbing decks, keeping the boiler room in top condition and plotting the course, all while playing lookout for those nasty icebergs or pirates.

Some of us see being in business as a game. We have fun. We build teams. We play to win.

What role do you play in your team? – Owner? Manager? Coach?

What happens if you lose? Do you do the team huddle and motivational speeches or do you dissect the game frame by frame to mark out that fumble?

What if for you today’s startup world is like a battlefield or a game of chess? What’s your strategy? How are you preparing the troops to give you their all in the line of fire?

If you’re on your own, what’s your business to you? Is it a building you’re setting a solid foundation for? Are you the architect? The builder? Is it something you just can’t seem to get off the ground?

So what’s the missing piece of the puzzle?

I found that thinking of my first business as my baby, and now with a younger sibling vying for my attention, I was actually stunting its growth. I had some very capable peers who were willing to ‘sit’ for me so I could have quality time with baby number two , but I couldn’t let go … till that workshop.

Another question was where was I spending my money in relation to the business, and I realised a large chunk was in education; while I was away investing my earnings in R&D, my baby was taking a nap when it could be out there with a trusted sitter.

It takes two to tango, but is three a crowd?

It gets even more exciting when you and a business partner both have varying metaphors.

So if to you the business is like a farm, where you are currently planting seeds and nurturing them daily and your partner is seeing it like a rocket that needs to launch of the ground and zip across the sky for all to see, then chances are you’re both not on the same canvas. Get the picture?

In the work we do with entrepreneurs, exploring one’s metaphor is a very exciting part of the process. We’ve come across people who see themselves as chefs threatened by a team of equally-qualified chefs to manage to looking up at a tree with fruit in hard-to-reach places.

Creating a masterpiece

Pay attention to how you are thinking about your business. The things you’re saying out loud or putting down in marketing communication. Listen to those thoughts in your head when you’re tossing the pros and cons of a decision. Some may be working for you and others might not. For example, if you’re looking at your range of products as a family, chances are you’re struggling to ‘retire’ one that’s lived its time. Maybe one of your new products just isn’t right for the market and you can’t bring yourself to ‘abort’ it as long as you’re thinking of it as part of the family.

Today when so many of us are serial entrepreneurs, it pays to check in within to see the big picture. Know what it is you really want for your business. Explore your metaphor; bring out the paints and draw the image that you see (trust me on this). Then step back and notice what comes to you. You’ll be amazed at what you can retain, reform, and create with just a stroke of the brush.

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