This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Finding Your Unique Business Path

Find your business pathWhen I left a corporate management career 4 years ago, I was forced to start over. I had spent 15 years in the financial planning and wealth management industry.  Due to changes from within my firm and in the industry at large, it was the right time for me to leave and set out on a new course in life. I was 39 years old at the time.

It's pretty scary to jump off of a cliff and out of your comfort zone into something new, especially if you don't really have a clear plan. I was fortunate to have a 6 month severance which bought me some time to “think”, but many don't have that opportunity.

Change forces you to go through the process of evaluating all the possibilities and facing your fears. There is tremendous personal growth that comes from having to reinvent yourself. I became convinced that if I could get on the right path toward where I felt I was being led, everything else would eventually fall into place. For me, that path was leading, teaching, and coaching through my digital platform.

Below are 7 tips that I'd like to share with you based on my own experiences and lessons learned along the way. I hope you find them to be helpful!

7 Tips for Finding Your Unique Business Path

1. Identify your strengths

We are all good at some things and terrible at others, and we tend to navigate toward what we like and enjoy doing. One of the best ways to find your natural talents is to go and do the StrengthsFinder assessment online (you should also read the book). Why be in the dark about truly understanding your strengths? Not only did I go through the process several years ago, but I review the insights frequently as a guide when making big decisions. Leverage your strengths, and outsource your weaknesses.

Another tool I recommend is Sally Hoghead's Fascination Advantage Test. This test will tell you exactly how others see you. I found her test to be a great validator that I'm on the right path for what it is that I do best, and I think you will too.

It's not enough to identify your strengths without also really getting honest with yourself about what you enjoy doing. Lately I've been working on weaving out the parts of my business that I don't enjoy, because they can really drain your energy. You may have all the talent in the world for running a particular kind of business, but if inside you're not motivated or don't enjoy what you're doing you won't be successful in growing it. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. Get honest with yourself and don't just do something because it's the path of least resistance. Also, you may be tempted to take on projects that pay well but potentially won't be a good fit. Don't do it. It's not worth it.

2. Tap into your personal and professional experiences

What have you done over the course of your career and what skills have you gained from your experiences? What market or demographic do you understand? What are your passions and interests?  I think you need to blend each of these to truly tap into what it is you are uniquely qualified to offer.

I had been a high school business teacher and basketball coach my first two years out of college, and from there I spent 15+ years in the financial advisory industry. There I was engaging in strategies to attract, build, and retain high-trust client relationships as well as teaching my clients how to make good decisions. Differentiating your brand, developing trust, teaching and serving clients (relationships) are still very important skills in building an online business today!

Also, I'm a singer/songwriter/musician, which is a hobby I'm very passionate about.  I've tinkered with complex music production software and recording equipment for years (way before Garageband made it super simple). Simply put, I love technology, software, and systems. Today, learning technology and integrating all kinds of digital tools into your business will make you more efficient and effective. Having somewhat of a software background has helped me to identify the best tools for running my online business.

Ultimately, it was the combination of each of these personal and professional experiences that have shaped and continue to shape by business life today.

An exercise for you:  Make a list of all of the different experiences you've had over your career and in your personal life. Circle the experiences and roles that really resonated with you, and look at the skills that you've developed over the course of your career that are transferrable. What can you share, teach, or provide within the context of who you are, what you enjoy, and what you've been through? Now, anyone can build an audience through a digital platform in the age of social media…even you. You just have to get clear on what your uniquely qualified to give.

3. Build a Personalized Digital Platform

The very best way to lead, build influence, and grow your network today is through building a personalized digital platform.

A personalized digital platform is the conduit for helping you achieve success on your own terms. The tools are affordable and easy to use (you will have to learn them and practice). You can publish your insights, ideas, strategies, programs and offerings with the click of a button, and there are very few barriers in building meaningful connections with influential people!

Without leveraging digital tools, it is going to be difficult to expand your reach and grow your network. In today's world, I believe that everyone should have their own powerful online presence. Once you establish your online hub (this should be your website or blog), you can begin to build your franchises on social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.

Building your personalized digital platform will build equity for you for years to come…Start now!

4. Build your influencer power list

There are always going to be people who are ahead of you. Success comes in many different flavors and colors. Work to identify the thought leaders and influencers you admire most. Model their successes and learn from them!  You will begin to realize that there are common traits in the influencers that you are drawn to. My business has evolved into somewhat of a mashup of a number of the best practices I've learned from my favorite influencers. Keep in mind, your influencers are not necessarily going to be mentors to you. It's also important to find mentors who can help guide you.

I tend to model business leaders who are very present in their companies. They are the visible experts, publishers, and thought leaders rather than CEO's who stay behind their brands. These leaders are the ones who have built a digital platform (and business) around either their own name, or alongside a brand that is synonymous with who they are and what they represent. If they were to step back from their brands, I truly don't believe they would continue the level of success they have today.

Here are some of the people on my list who have influenced me along the way:

Michael Stelzner – Social Media Examiner – He's built a great business by building up others (thanks Michael)

John Jantsch – Ducttape Marketing – the top small business marketing expert, hands down

Michael Hyatt – Author, speaker, and entrepreneur who restored my belief in the value of leadership (I aspire to become the female version of Michael Hyatt 🙂 )

Mari Smith – Facebook Guru AND just a super smart business woman as well

Go out and find your own influencer power list. Follow those leaders whose words and actions really speak to you and represent the kind of business you want to build.

CLICK HERE to read Part 2 of this article!

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

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