Alex Okell

Is it time for a slow business approach?

This is a transcript from The Compassionate Business Collective podcast. If you prefer to listen to the audio, listen to episode two here.

The idea of taking a Slow Business approach is a relatively new revelation I have had. I was working through my burnout with my therapist which, if you are nosy like I am, you can hear more about in episode one. During this time I was piecing together what felt good about business and working, whilst simultaneously figuring out what didn’t feel good. From this, I built my Slow Business Framework which, based on the Slow Living movement highlights living by your values, streamlining your life and business, focusing on inner work and prioritising your physical and mental health, whilst ensuring a focus on social justice and liberation, building a diverse business and one that puts your clients at the forefront.

This rejection of hustle culture and “bro marketing” techniques really felt like a breath of fresh air. Last year I was in a business course and, in awe of the 7 figure testimonials, decided to follow it by the letter. And trust me, it worked. I was building up a large following, going live at least every week, sending out emails weekly, launching regularly and, in turn, making a lot of money.

But, it wasn’t sustainable. I was burned out, exhausted and lacking all interest in life and business. What was the point? Do more followers, clients and money ultimately mean happiness or success? Sure, more money does often equal less problems – I realise we all have rent to pay and food to buy. But at the detriment of our health and happiness? I was so deep into this way of thinking, using traditional marketing techniques, following the latest online business coaches advice to a tee, that I couldn’t see that there could be another way.

Last summer I started struggling with pelvic pain and, a over a year on, I am still trying to get some form of diagnosis for this chronic pain. It results in me suddenly having to take time away from work and just lay flat on the sofa for a day with a hot water bottle or having disrupted nights sleeps leaving me feeling like a zombie the next day. And as it isn’t cyclical, there is seemingly no rhyme or reasoning to it which means I can’t plan ahead.

The occurrence of this chronic pain made me suddenly realise how I needed to change the way I was operating my business. I couldn’t keep up with constant client calls. I couldn’t give my full attention and good service to each client either. I couldn’t keep up with regular lives and would dread having to show my face when I really wasn’t feeling it. So, I decided to embrace the Slow Business approach and try to ease the stress, anxiety and hamster-wheel approach to business I had created.

So, I’m wondering, how is this sounding to you? Does constantly launching feel sustainable to you? Is posting daily to Instagram feeling good and rewarding you with new client leads consistently? Is only offering 1:1s and spending all day on calls fulfilling you and giving the best service to your clients? If it is, then continue. I am no expert and I am just sharing my story with you. If my story and experience does resonate with you then I’d love to invite you to take a step back and see if this is sustainable for you and your business in the long term.

I ask this because surely longevity is exactly what we are looking for in business. We want to build businesses that we can feel confidently aligned to and work happily in for a long time right?

This isn’t to say that if you take a Slow Business approach that you will never have days where you just don’t fancy showing up or crave a day off. We are human after all. This isn’t a perfect system because a perfect system doesn’t exist. We have to mould our way of working to the capitalist construct that is so prevalent in our society, even if that doesn’t feel 100% aligned.

Also, our energy works in cycles. Sometimes we are ready to show up, feeling full of inspiration, ideas and excitement for our work. Sometimes we feel low, uninspired and ready for a break. Leaning into this intuition and creating a flexible diary can help us move with this energy, showing up and implementing within our businesses when our energy allows it. I personally like scheduling calls only on two days of the week, and always allow Mondays and Fridays to be completely call-free. This gives me time for the introverted time I crave when I work on my business rather than in it, and this also allows for flexibility if I do have a pain flare-up – I can reschedule clients and other calls to these “blank” days.

A core component of the Slow Business framework is to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing, prioritising the “you” within your business. I always aim to use proactive techniques to prevent burnout, overwhelm and stress like regular therapy, mindful activities, time for reflection, regular movement and adequate nourishment if invite you to do the same, if the resources are available to you.

So, how do you know if a Slow Business approach is for you? To put it simply, I think this approach works if you are anyone who considers compassion and inclusivity core values in your personal and professional life. If you are someone who has tried the classic sales techniques but they make you cringe, if you are someone who has felt burnout in business, if you are someone who feels lost in what they offer or if you are someone who doesn’t love spending 24/7 online, then the Slow Business Framework could be something for you to investigate and see if it feels good to you. So, allow me to introduce the Slow Business Framework to you now.

The Slow Business Framework has three pillars. The first pillar is titled Live By Your Values and asks you to spend time identifying your values before simplifying your life and business to remove distractions. It also invites you to add automation into your personal and professional life to streamline and save time. This first pillar is all about figuring out what is authentic to you and giving yourself the mental space to live by them.

The second pillar is Looking Inwards. Here, we focus on prioritising your wellbeing so you can pour from a full cup. This is so important in business, especially as service-providers. If we aren’t refilling our own cup then we won’t have anything to give our clients and this is when burnout comes into the equation. Within this pillar we also consider reflecting and assessing your life and work to ensure that you are embodying those values we established earlier. We can then take time to see if it is time to reach out for support. This could look like engaging in personal therapy, finding a supervisor or a coach, or bringing on a freelancer or staff member to delegate to.

The final pillar is Creating Outward Change. Something I am so passionate about is focusing on social justice. For me, some ways I practice social justice is continued learning from marginalised groups, promoting equality by offering scholarships and regularly donating to causes that promote justice and liberation. This is something I think should be baked into your business from the start, you are never too small of a business to insight change. The next stage of this pillar is the diversification of your business model. This is to allow you to offer a diverse service and product suite to your customers and clients, allowing access to support at a variety of price points. This diversification also allows you to take time away from your business for rest, re-cooperation and recovery without compromising your income. The final stage in the Slow Business Framework is to provide excellent service for your clients which, if all of the other stages like value work, streamlining systems and filling your cup first are covered, can truly begin.

The Slow Business Framework is something I am so proud of and what I use within my businesses to build a happier, easier life. This is the exact framework I use with my 1:1 clients and you can download the framework for free.

Download the free Slow Business Framework here

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