This week, we feature Tony Coretto, the Co-CEO of PNT Marketing Services.
Originally I had intended to write this post about my own particular expertise, which is customer intelligence – helping companies leverage their customer data to develop actionable insights that create deeper, more profitable customer relationships. As I was mulling this over the other night, it struck me that I could tell a much more interesting story about how I lost my own mojo a few months ago and how I got it back – and how you can do the same thing if you’re ever faced with a crisis of confidence.
Losing it is easy
Several months ago, we received notice from a large client that they wanted to pull a significant chunk of business away from our company and do it in-house. We had been serving this client for over 20 years, and now we were being cast aside? There was no negotiating: the CFO’s office had already decided and now it was just a matter of transitioning projects.
After the initial shock, paralysis set in as I suffered a real crisis of confidence: this was all my fault, I should have seen it coming, I could have made plans in advance, our business development efforts were too sporadic, and on and on. I was catastrophizing and incapable of responding in the way I needed to in order to attack the problem properly.
Back to basics by strengthening my mental and physical health
The first thing I set about doing was regaining control of myself. I needed to reduce my anxiety level to be able to think clearly about what to do. I decided to go back to basics, focusing first on my mental and physical health:
- Relaxation and meditation. I needed to get my anxiety under control so I decided to learn some new techniques. I saw a hypnotherapist who taught me how to self-induce a hypnotic state and auto-suggest calming and confidence-building thoughts (like “I am calm,” “I know how to relax,” “I am capable,” and others) which helped break negative feedback loops that were causing anxiety and paralysis.
- Exercise and sleep. I made it a point to continue my regular exercise routine (I’m a bicyclist and runner) and even to step it up a notch; regular exercise has always calmed me down and given me terrific amounts of energy, so I couldn’t let that slip. I also wanted a goal to focus on, so I signed up for a “mud run” and even decided to do my first “sprint” triathlon with my wife. All of which naturally made me want to . . . sleep! Being really tired at the end of the day was a great way to fall asleep naturally and to chase away those thoughts of disaster that used to keep me up at night – I was just too tired to think negative thoughts (or to stay awake!). I also tried to get to bed by 11 and get at least 7 or 8 hours of rest.
- Eating right. I was surprised by how much energy I had when I started eating better. By “better” I mean just not eating cookies, ice cream, chocolate (always a weakness!) or candy after dinner, staying away from corn muffins for breakfast (Greek yogurt has become a favorite in our house), eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and not eating a huge dinner five nights a week. My attitude also improved when I wasn’t fighting off post-meal “blahs” caused by being way too full or eating way too much starch.
- Get perspective. Finally, I tried consciously not to catastrophize and to gain some perspective on my plight. We still had a thriving business with happy clients (just fewer of them!); we still had our health; I still had a wonderful wife and terrific kids; I still had my sense of humor; and I still had a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my fridge. We tend to get so self-centered in times of crisis, so caught up in our own “poor me” story, that we need to get some perspective and practice some gratitude for all the things we do have – taking some time every morning just after waking to realize I was alive and that I had a lot of wonderful things in my life gave me the perspective I needed to help regain my mojo.
Ready to refocus and turnaround the business in 6 steps
With my newly-acquired (and re-acquired) skills in anxiety-reduction, my re-commitment to exercise, better sleep and eating habits, and a “get real” perspective, I was ready to focus on the business problems at hand.
First, with reduced income, we had to reduce expenses. As painful as it was, we had to make the decision to let some of our staff go. Second, we needed to engage remaining staff and that meant creating a plan and communicating it. So we developed a multi-pronged strategy for building new business, including:
- Increased sales momentum. We hired a firm to help us develop better sales strategies and to help us execute on them, and worked with a marketing firm, SpiralWorks Marketing, to develop a marketing plan. We worked to improve our website’s content and enhanced our search results using SEO and SEM, and developed new sales materials.
- Produced events. We instituted “Customer Intelligence Gatherings” to build our profile in the marketing services and direct marketing community, and these events provide a great way to get our message out and to meet like-minded practitioners, vendors, partners, speakers, and prospects.
- New partnerships. We aggressively courted other firms with complementary services to build our base of referral partners.
- Possible acquisitions. We also started working to find other firms in our own space that we could acquire to continue our growth inorganically as well as organically through sales and referrals.
Now, eight months later, we’re really seeing the fruits of our labors. Our profitability has increased, we’ve signed 4 new clients, we’ve hosted 2 successful events, we are in the midst of discussions to acquire stakes in other firms, and our marketing plan is better integrated with our sales plan, thereby improving sales results.
Getting your mojo back: my 3 Mojo Moves
It took me a while, but with perseverance, patience, and focus I got my mojo back. Three “Mojo Moves” I’d like to leave you with are:
- Meditate, don’t ruminate. By getting back to basics and concentrating on my mental and physical health, I was able to put a stop to my anxiety and endless ruminations on disaster, and create a plan to move forward.
- Always be in motion. In the words of Lee Brower, a mentor of mine from the Strategic Coach program (www.strategiccoach.com), when times get tough, remember the mantra of “be in motion, be interested, and be useful.” That is, don’t sit around waiting for things to get better or for your situation to change all by itself – it won’t.
- Take one day at a time. Finally, don’t try to do everything at once and don’t be overwhelmed by your plans and goals. Solving the problems right in front of you and moving on to the next ones methodically and calmly, will help you make amazing progress.
Tony Coretto is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of PNT Marketing Services, Inc., a database marketing consultancy and a member of the Inc5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in America.
Got some stories on how you got your mojo back? Tell us in comments.
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