If you are thinking about starting something new, it can be easy to jump in with both feet, sometimes without looking to see where you will land. But that may make it hard to create sustainable change that lasts beyond the first roadblock. You need a plan that will give you the personal support you need to commit to change over the long haul.

This blog is usually focused on the practice of writing. Blogging, in particular. But it has always done so with the idea that my readers are trying to build their business, whether that is a law firm, or some other small business. With that entrepreneurial spirit in mind, I’d like to take a departure from writing about writing and focus on what it takes to make a business thrive.

My business partner and I recently signed up for a Build Institute Basics workshop to help develop a new idea for our business. For the next 8 weeks, I’m going to be sharing with you my insights from that class, with an eye toward helping you take your law business to the next level.

Creating Sustainable Change

Whether you are founding a new company, or just taking your own practice to the next level, you are going to have to make changes. But just like New Year’s resolutions, commitments to corporate change can fade quickly over time. If you want your new business venture to be successful, you need to focus on sustainability.

Creating sustainable change involves 4 steps:

  1. Defining your ideal state
  2. Identifying what makes your current state less than ideal
  3. Planning how to move toward your ideal state
  4. Putting that plan into practice.

Sounds easy, and daunting, and maybe impossible all at once. After all, it’s a straightforward process, but what does “ideal” even mean? Setting goals and creating a plan to reach them can be so intimidating, many lawyers and small business owners give up before they even get started.

Creating Sustainable ChangeBut, Ursula Adams, my facilitator at Build Institute and the founder of She-Hive, gave us this brilliant insight into creating sustainable change: You can’t do it alone. At every step of the way, it is the relationships you maintain that will help you accomplish your ideal state. Relationships with the right kinds of people will give you access to resources you didn’t even know you needed. And they’ll hold you accountable when that monthly plan starts to look like it may take a year to complete.

Just because you are starting a firm doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Take advantage of the relationships you’ve made to find mentors, support team members, accountability partners, and vendors that will make it easier to make a change and stick to it.

Protecting Yourself from Sacrifice Syndrome

Taking the lead on a new project is stressful. When exercise our influence and exert our power, neuroscience says we experience Sacrifice Syndrome, which involves an aroused sympathetic nervous system response. In other words, stress. We are ready to fight for ourselves and our businesses all day, every day.

But our bodies aren’t designed to be on high alert all the time. When our survival instincts go into overdrive, it can cause digestive problems, sleep issues, depression and anxiety, and make us more susceptible to illness. When we are all-in on a new business venture, we can literally sacrifice our own health for our entrepreneurial vision. But that can and will make you get tired. And your great idea will start not to look so hot.

Far too often, in our drive for success, we cut into our personal margins to make space for another meeting or to meet another deadline. When we do that, we take the focus off of these cures, leaving our personal priorities behind in favor of the business.

That’s why self-care is essential to creating a sustainable business. Self-care builds in a cycle of renewal — a break from the constant stress of leadership. The cures for Sacrifice Syndrome are:

  • Hope
  • Compassion
  • Mindfulness
  • Play

In other words, time off. If you don’t leave space to relax, recharge, and get out of survival mode, your business, and your health, will suffer.

Developing a successful and sustainable business isn’t all marketing and rainmaking. If you want your business to last you need to support it, and yourself, with meaningful relationships and self-care routines designed to refill your reserves so you can keep working.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides blogging and web content for lawyers and small businesses. If you need support taking your business to the next level, contact Legal Linguist to schedule a meeting.