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The Surprising Secret About Growth and Change

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Innovation and change drive business growth, but there’s one piece about growth and change that business owners and entrepreneurs often overlook. It’s not the most fun or glamorous piece, but if you recognize and accept it, the payoff is huge. This is particularly crucial for self-employed business owners when there’s little to no separation between yourself and your business. When your level of success equates to how much you have personally developed. I call it Growth Jet Lag, and when you know how to navigate it, you set yourself up for lasting success.

The essential nature of change

The past several months have been a master class in change and adaptability. For some, myself included, it’s been a time of gaining incredible clarity. This sharpened understanding and focus necessarily brings about change. Positive change, but change nonetheless. 

For others, it’s been about pivoting or evolving. Maybe you made changes to how you work or the services you provide. Maybe you had to reinvent yourself or find your way back to solid ground financially. While these changes may have been born out of necessity, they are still a positive step forward. 

It stands to reason that if you’re doing what needs to be done, it will pay off in the end. But have you noticed there seems to be a gap between the doing and the payoff? 

You may be more confident than ever that you’re on the right track, yet you’re left waiting for the results. You’re waiting for people to notice the changes you’ve made. You’re waiting for the work to pour in. You’re waiting, and it’s frustrating, because you’ve done the hard work of gaining clarity and making changes. So what gives?

“In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital.” – Warren Bennis

The waiting game

I’ve seen many entrepreneurs and self-employed business owners during this time of unexpected change define their clear brand message. Others have crystalized what’s most marketable about their business and created a clear path forward. Many business owners have made necessary changes in their businesses and their branding to stay relevant in order to move forward. Even during these challenging times. 

And then they wait. They wait for more clients to show up. They wait for the world to notice. They wait for all the changes they made to make a difference. They wait because of a very real phenomenon called Growth Jet Lag. Without knowing what Growth Jet Lag is and what’s going on, too many people will get discouraged by the delayed results. And the last thing I want is for anyone to give up after working so hard to make positive changes. 

Factoring growth jet lag into change

Growth Jet Lag is what happens between you making changes in your life and business and people actually noticing them. For some period of time after you’ve evolved, rebranded, or made changes, it will seem like no one is noticing. In reality, they just haven’t caught up yet. 

You can sort of look at it as an algorithm. A universal algorithm that scans the entire world. How many times would it have to pass or scan before it picked up every little change? 

When I started my podcast several years ago, someone gave me the wise advice to always release episodes on a consistent basis. Same day and same time every week. Sticking with a consistent day and time of week makes it easier for the iTunes algorithm to pick up the new episodes.

The same is true here. For some unknown time after you’ve made changes or gained clarity, you need to just keep going. Consistently. Keep going until there are enough passes of the algorithm if you will, for it to be noticed. Factoring Growth Jet Lag into the changes you make in business and in life will motivate you to hang in until the results kick in.

Accepting change takes time

There are lots of examples from personal life that mirror the business reality of it. Think about when someone breaks trust with you. They can make the changes in themselves to regain your trust. They can vow to never break your trust again. But it’s still going to take some time and consistent behavior before you really accept it and rebuild trust. It’s not like someone can just proclaim, “Ok, I’ve changed!” and everyone around them is going to believe it.

I remember when I was divorcing many years ago, getting great advice from a therapist about telling our three kids. She said, “Now remember, you and your wife have known this was coming for a long time. You’ve been far more aware of the problems. To your kids, they are just finding out. Give them time to catch up.” Such valuable advice. 

“Change is the heartbeat of growth.” – Scottie Somers

Giving your clients a chance to catch up

Your prospective clients need that same grace. The same opportunity to catch up. When you make business changes, gain clarity, or pivot, it’s going to take time for the world around you to catch up. How much time will they need? There’s no magic number, but in my experience it often ends up being 3-6 months. Again, there’s no definite amount of time here. Just based on years of coaching small business owners. My hope is that by knowing this and expecting this to be the case, you’ll have the patience to persevere. 

I know it can seem like a lifetime when you’re so excited about moving forward. You’ve done the right things. You’ve made the right changes. You’ve gained clarity about the work you want to do and who you want to serve. 

That’s awesome, and it’s the most important work you can do. Now you just have to wait a bit and maybe a bit longer for people to catch up. All that remains is to be consistent and keep going.

Don’t give up on the business you love if the changes you’ve made aren’t being noticed yet. Wait for the world to catch up instead. You’ll be glad you did. 

Small business consultant, and speaker, Jeffrey Shaw is the author of LINGO: Discover Your Ideal Customer’s Secret Language and Make Your Business Irresistible and The Self-Employed Life: Business and Personal Development Strategies That Create Sustainable Success. Jeffrey's TEDxLincoln Square talk is featured on TED.com and he's the host of the top-rated podcast, The Self-Employed Life. Please connect with Jeffrey at www.jeffreyshaw.com or Instagram.

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