Darren Lawrence

Taking a Birds-Eye View of my Small Business – 18 Months In

This blog is a little different in that this month, I am a ‘small biz blogger’! I am taking part in a Blogfest at the invitation of Judith Morgan, who has recently published a book entitled ‘Your Biz Your Way’ – I would recommend this as an inspirational read for any entrepreneur or small business owner – www.JudithMorgan.com/book

This blog started out as one thing, and quickly developed into something else! But I hope that a lot of what follows is transferable and applicable to you in your world.

Tackling My Own Limiting Beliefs

At home, I had a dripping downstairs toilet recently (bear with me). It had been getting progressively worse week by week, until suddenly I couldn’t take the dripping noise any more. Sort out the dripping toilet! Part of the reason I had been putting it off for a few weeks was because I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I knew it would not be a 5 minute job. This goes for most jobs around the house, requiring a ‘handy’ person.

I have always thought I was hopeless at DIY, absolutely hopeless, I think it is a skill, a mindset that has not been passed down to my generation, in general. In coaching, we call this a ‘limiting belief’. Anyway, my Dad was round and we had a look at it, then later on and with a bit more help from a You Tube video (genius!) I’d identified the issue and managed to stop the drip. Whoop! It was a Saturday night too – I know how to live!

How do you think I felt after that? I felt relieved (no more dripping), empowered (yes! I can do anything!), and, for once, pleased that I had managed to deal with an issue in the house without 1) causing damage 2) bringing in reinforcements or 3) throwing money at it. So, and it might sound a bit silly, I felt a sense of achievement and progress. I can do DIY.

Learn As You Go

It’s slightly unfortunate that the most memorable recent example of achievement I have is to fix a dripping loo. But then, when I think about it, it really could have been anything. I could have said – working out how to do something tricky in Excel for a client’s data analysis project, or last year, changing a flat tyre on a neighbour’s car. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, but I learnt as I went (I hope they never read this – their car is operating perfectly fine now). And as a parent I am often placed in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations – but I always find a way to deal with it.

Everything is difficult until you know how to do it.


Achieving these things was empowering and I’m now much more likely to tackle other similar jobs in the future, knowing that I don’t have to know everything before I start – I can learn as I go.

Do The Thing!

It could be applied to anything that we do in life, from the mundane to the major – cooking using a new recipe, jumping out of a plane, public speaking, taking a driving test, learning a language, so on and so forth. Things that might fill us with fear or dread for whatever reason. Get involved, get your hands dirty, learn something new, do the thing, and feel great afterwards!

This is sometimes difficult for me, as I have spoken about my DISC profile in a previous blog. As a ‘C’ profile, my default preference is to be more reserved, thoughtful, careful and cautious. Whereas, a ‘D’ profile would act more decisively and quickly.

I am sure you have your own examples of things you have avoided, and then when forced, or forcing yourself, to face them you find that actually they are not as difficult or as bad as you imagine. One exercise that I find is really helpful here is to write down 3 areas/things/tasks that you are not confident about, or give yourself a hard time over. E.g. ‘I wish I was better as this’ or, ‘I’m failing at that.’ Then, write down 10 things that you have done well this year (5 of which could be ‘new’ things). How do you feel now?

A very wise ex-colleague of mine, Roger, once said, when I started a new job requiring an unfamiliar and seemingly insurmountable area of technical knowledge – ‘Darren, it’s like being in a forest. You just make a little clearing, and each day you make the clearing a bit bigger.’

An ex-boss, Brian, once told me that he spent his time identifying those things he didn’t know about, or couldn’t do, and worked on those as a priority, thus making himself more valuable and more confident. Guess what happened? Brian found a brilliant new high flying job. Self-development right there!

Running My Business, My Way

What’s the point of all this toilet and forest talk? Well, life often throws up metaphors and lessons and, for me, I have found that running a business is a bit like this.

  • You recognise when something needs doing, or fixing.
  • There may be hesitancy, but you’ve got to face things head on – there’s a trigger, and this could be something or someone, or something within you.
  • It’s down to you, no one is going to do it for you – take responsibility.
  • Find out more, find out how things work, learn.
  • You might need some help (in my toilet example, my Dad, and You Tube).
  • Take action! Do the thing.
  • Observe the results – if it works, great! If not – why not?
  • Celebrate the achievement!

Since leaving The Football Association and starting my business 18 months ago, the above is a pretty good summary of what I have discovered works. I have learnt that, for me – although I am the kind of person that needs a bit of time to focus on the task, and a little patience, by taking a logical approach and doing it step by step, I can turn my hand to most things. And as a self-employed business owner (solopreneur if you will) there are a lot of ‘things’.

There is a phrase I have learnt called ‘showing up’. You have to ‘show up’ – and taking action, whatever it is, is generally always better than not taking action. Things happen! Doors open! Opportunities present themselves! I do enjoy this part of self-employment, opportunities are everywhere, and there is freedom to pursue them.

I have also learnt the importance of mindset. Having a thought and acting on it positively can make all the difference.

Learning And Growing Never Ends

Taking decisive action and learning to do something new IS like making the clearing bigger. It IS about empowerment. It IS about learning to do the things that you have never done or felt able to do. Learning more, knowing what you’re good at and sometimes getting into areas that you never thought you could or would.

I love sport, particularly football, and I am also passionate about the concept of continuous improvement – both as individuals and for organisations. The work that I do looks to combine both areas and is around helping people and organisations (predominantly in sport) to be ‘better’. I assess organisations for Quest (the UK Quality Scheme for Sport & Leisure) and have recently qualified as a professional personal performance (life) coach, in order to help people progress in (or transitioning out of) sport, their career, and life. I also carry out consultancy work for Governing Bodies and others in sport. It’s interesting, varied and rewarding work that fulfils me – in short, it’s what I really love doing.

My approach up until now has been to utilise the existing network I have built up over almost 20 years of working in sport and specifically football, and this includes some brilliantly talented, committed and impressive people I have met over the years. Those people reading this will know who they are and I appreciate every one of them immensely. I have not necessarily used recommended marketing techniques to ‘sell’ what I do in the way that self-employed people are often encouraged and expected to, via Facebook or other means. We are told to ‘Build a strong email list’. ‘Embrace sales conversations’. ‘Stand out online’. ‘Create online courses’, et cetera et cetera.

All of that will be important for me in due course, but up until now I have relied on recommendations, word of mouth, and repeat business, and this has served me very well to date.

Change and Progress

However, I also recognise that the only constant is change. I am now in somewhat unchartered territory where I want to do more executive, small business, and life coaching as part of my day to day activities. Most people don’t know me as a coach, but it is something I am really passionate about doing. The change has been gradual but in essence I have reinvented myself, professionally, since my days at The FA. I understand that I need to continue to be bold, learn, test, and demonstrate my skills to more people, show how I can help them, create new networks, get out there, attract new clients. At times, this fills me with trepidation (a bit like any household/DIY task), as well as excitement, of course.

But, my approach will be no different to that mentioned above. I will face things head on, learn, make the clearing bigger each day, take action, and then – with luck and a prevailing wind – celebrate the results!

What Does This Look Like For You?

In closing – it might be useful to ask yourself what task or tasks have you been putting off? What are you not confident about? What do you shy away from, or would rather avoid?

Now think about what the impact on your life would be if you tackled that? Prioritised it, faced it head on, took action and dealt with it? What could you achieve, if you really wanted to? How would this make you feel afterwards?

If we have motivation, and a little courage, we can do anything. Really. Seemingly ordinary people do incredible things all the time, every day.

Why can’t that be you?

‘Unless you do something beyond what you’ve already mastered, you will never grow.’

Ronald E. Osborne