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Long way only (no shortcuts)

long way no shortcuts

I’ve been having various levels of back pain for the past seven weeks. 

(Just in case you don’t read the full note: don’t worry. I’ve seen a doctor, several physios, and am doing the work, and it is getting better. It’s just slow. That’s sort of the point of the note.) 

When it first started, I thought oh, I’ve had this before, it’s frustrating but it will go away after a few days or maybe a week. Just have to rest and take ibuprofen now and then and not antagonise it further and all shall be well. 

Turns out, this time, the kind of resting I was used to doing doesn’t help (but actually makes it worse). Lying in bed, or sitting reading, or any kind of sitting at all … those are all not good. 

What I need is to walk, every day. To do regular exercises (at first it was literally every 30 minutes, on the dot) of the kind which stretch it properly. To stand at my desk instead of sitting all day. To vary my standing, sitting, moving. To eat as healthy as I can and drink lots of water. To take ibuprofen regularly to help with the anti-inflammation, and not to wait until I feel in pain and THEN take it. 

But I don’t want to do all those little things. 

I am tired of doing regular exercises (even though it is much better and I don’t feel as enslaved to my watch timer as I did before). 

I don’t feel like taking a walk when it’s cold and dark and grey and windy and rainy in wintry Scotland (even though I know it helps and I’ll feel better when i get back). 

I don’t like taking pain relievers because it feels like weakness, and I want to see where the pain is actually at so I know if I’m improving (even though I keep getting told to take them, because it will HELP with the healing). 

But I do these things anyway. 

Because that’s the deal.

That’s how you get to healing, to improvement. Little tiny steps, one at a time. There really is no shortcut. Even people I’ve spoken to who had back pain so severe they had to get surgery…even then the surgery wasn’t a miracle fix. They still had to heal from that, and go slowly, and take it in stages. 

I was telling one of the team how I didn’t want to do all the little work to get to the good healing ending…I just wanted to magically be there. 

I wanted the shortcut. 

And then i said, “ohhhh, I’m like one of those accountants who comes to PF and says, I just want marketing to be done and get a 10x ROI as quickly as possible”….and we tell them, there’s no shortcut to good marketing. 

You have to do the work. 

You (and/or your team and your outsourced agency) have to….

  • Write the blog posts
  • Post on social
  • Share, comment, engage on social 
  • Send the emails 
  • Gather the testimonials
  • Record the videos, and share them (even when you feel they’re rubbish)
  • Think about your values (and discuss them and work on them daily) 
  • Run the webinars or live sessions 
  • Document the questions your clients ask
  • …and on, and on, and on

There are so many little things which all combine together. A client asked me this week how PF built up our own customised stock library of images, and I said it really is the accumulation of an image here and an image there, arranging photoshoots and editing and gathering the photographs from those, finding good stock photos and having our designers adapt them for the PF brand, each of the team taking photos when we’re out and notice something on PF brand… and over five years we now have hundreds (if not thousands) of images we can choose from which all fit within our brand. 

But getting that same result today would take days or weeks of nonstop work.

And it wouldn’t have the same impact – we wouldn’t have the photographs we took that one day I popped into a shop in London, or that painting a team member did with the PF colours, or the time one of the team snapped a pic of her son wearing the (huge) PF hoodie. You do those small things, one by one, and they add up. 

The same goes for social media. The PF account on Twitter has nearly 3000 followers, and I remember distinctly the day I set it up, and we had about 3. Then we had 30. Then 300. Then, it seemed like for years, we had around 1000. It just didn’t seem to grow – but we kept doing the things. I set up my own personal Twitter and it started growing just as fast as the PF one. I posted, here and there. I got the team involved in posting on all the socials. We had social trainings as a team and each person chose a social media platform they were going to make an extra effort on – and they did. 

Or blogging. I used to be the only person at PF who wrote the blogs, and I did it, every week, day in and day out. I wrote the “PF marketing tips” (which used to be Karen’s marketing tips) every Friday for eight years. Longer, even, since I was writing them even before I started PF. Now the team members are all involved, and each week a different person writes a PF marketing tip, and I write these Karen’s Notes to go out on Saturdays. 

Or gathering client questions. As part of “They ask you answer”, we set up a #they-ask channel in Slack, and whenever we get a question from a client or any accountant, we put it in the channel. Then we add it to our Vault list and prioritise them, and that’s the list the team use to pick their tip for the week. We’ve had clients say “I’m going to make it a goal to find a question you haven’t answered on your blog yet”, or “How do you have so many client questions on your Vault list? I don’t think I’d have that many!” The reason we’ve got hundreds of them to choose from is the little two minutes here, three minutes there, remembering to jot it down in the moment, over and over for years. 

It’s the good small things, accumulated, systemised, repeated. Day after day, week after week, year after year. 

Until one day you realise you have hundreds of blog posts by different team members, and on brand photos to choose from, and a system of writing, and stories and case studies and testimonials, and photographs and a solid team involved in your marketing and prospects appearing regularly and quotes being signed and quite a good marketing thing going. 

Eight years ago, when I sat with my laptop in the second bedroom of my flat, wanting to help accountants with marketing, I decided to commit to writing for my audience of accountants, consistently, weekly, on things they asked about. And I did it and kept doing it and trained a team to do it and…here we are.

Doing the small things continuously matters. 

It gets you where you want to be, but you can’t shortcut it. 

The daily exercises for my back can’t be done at one fell swoop. If I skipped them for a day, I couldn’t just do 200 of them all at once. I won’t get the same result as doing 10 of them every 30 minutes for a day….as a matter of fact, I’d get a worse result. I’d feel worse, it would hurt my back more, and there would be less healing. I’d go backwards, not forwards. 

When I think about where i was 7 weeks ago, it is a lot better. I know what to do and what not to. I know how to move and when to start and stop. I know the exercises to do and I have minutes or even hours at a time where I forget i have a back. (Best. Ever.) 

And 7 weeks from now, it will be better still, as long as I keep doing the small things, daily. 

No shortcuts.