I met Alan Furst, the growth coach when he and his wife stayed at my bed and breakfast. I asked and he gave me a session about my business. During the session, I was so inspired by what he conveyed, I said, “sign me up!”

Alan came back to work with me one on one. It was an intensive process.  Using a workbook he’d brought, we began looking at my strengths, values, and vision, an inspiring start that illuminated why I was in business, my higher intention.

Then he explained the seven key functions involved in business emphasizing the importance of clarity about what each of those were.

1) Leadership, 2) Management

3) Marketing, 4) Sales, 5) Back Office, consisting of accounting and Human Resources, 6) Customer Service, 7) Customer Fulfillment.

“Your business needs to be an asset separate from you,” he explained. “Understand the seven boxes and how they need to function, what the job descriptions are for each one, and the desired outcomes. Eventually, you need to fill them with other people, freeing you to step out of them.”

“The art of business is creating a functional system that works without you. You can then sell or replicate it. You are not an employee but a strategic planner. You need to take time out to think strategically.

“Prioritize, look at each aspect of the business (the seven boxes) what needs to be done in each, in what order. You need to work smarter, not harder, to take time out to relax and enjoy your life, to do the things you love.

I was stunned by all the things I ‘d been doing wrong, the diametric opposite to what I now understood was needed. When Alan mentioned competition, I winced. Competition has always been a dirty word for me. I’ve considered my values to be  loftier; harmony, sharing, peace.

“Are you ready to swim with the sharks?” Alan asked.

The image was horrifying to me, evoking all my resistance, “Why am I doing this? It’s too much, I can’t! I don’t want to.”

My parents struggled in business to give me the privilege I now enjoy. Yet in the past, I rejected business having no interest in it. I gravitated towards painting, writing, creativity, healing, and working with people. It was in these more left- brain activities that I found my gifts and strengths.

So what am I doing in business? For some mysterious reason I am here in the midst of it, struggling to make it work.

(I enjoy the Tico expression “en la luce”, in the struggle.) Oddly enough, I’ve never felt more committed to anything.

I have been a dilettante most of my life flitting from one thing to the next, never quite invested enough not to quit when the going gets tough. “The best salesmen are the ones that are hungry,” Alan remarked. I certainly don’t fit that criterion.

At the end of the four timeless days I spent with Alan we sat in my office. While I worked filling in the skeleton of the seven functions of business and the action list of what I needed to accomplish in each in the current life of my particular business, Alan sketched a chart for me. Formerly the owner of a successful graphic design firm, he is a gifted artist.

“The Crucial Zone “ is in a black outlined box surrounded by a humorously depicted devil and a crooked thunderbolt,. underneath appear the words, criticism, doubts, overwhelm, setbacks. Then a rectangular box with  “How I respond”, strategies I’d come up with to deal with the demons of the crucial zone like, prayer, pause, take a walk, call my coach.

It’s been over a week since Alan left and I’ve spent time in the crucial zone as well as beginning to implement the understanding he imparted. The outcome is yet unknown but I’m actively involved, in the fray, trying to swim with the sharks.


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