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Starting a new business particularly in an industry that you may not have all that much experience in is a journey - and today I want to take you through the stages that you may end up going through on your journey to having a successful business. And I’ll give you some examples of my own journey to illustrate this a little more.
What are the 4 stages of competence
The concept of the four stages of competence was originally developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s. Unfortunately the information out there on how exactly he came up with this is limited, but he was working as a consultant for a training company and it’s most likely he came up with this concept during his time there.
Of course as with any mental model or concept, it has been widely criticised as being overly simplistic, but it is still widely adopted in education, training and business as well.
The theory is simple.
When someone tries to learn a new skill or behaviour, they pass through 4 stages in the learning process.
- Unconscious Incompetence
- Conscious Incompetence
- Conscious Competence
- Unconscious Competence
Let me take you through these stages and how they impact your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur.
At the start of your journey towards having your own business, you are mostly unconsciously incompetent. You start out not knowing what you don’t know.
I firmly believe that this is both good and dangerous at the same time.
In my own journey starting out as a techy VA in 2016 I didn’t know what I don’t know - and in a way that is what kept me going because it all seemed simple enough to figure out for me to dive in head first.
The consequence of not knowing a lot of things though was that I regularly got myself into projects that were way over my head, because I actually had no idea what was involved in getting it done. I also regularly undercharged for my work, because I wasn’t aware yet of how challenging this project would turn out to be and how many more hours I’d have to spend on it.
Nevermind all of the other aspects of running a business I had no idea about: pricing correctly, taxes and expenses, marketing and systems for delivery.
There were so many things I needed to learn and I relatively quickly moved on to the next stage.
In this stage you have simply figured out that you have absolutely no clue what you’re doing here.
You may have learnt some of the aspects of the work that you’re doing, but everything else is left to figure out. How do you find clients? What are you supposed to do to get the word out there? What does good content look like? What do I need to price things at to make a profit? This is the stage where all the questions come up - and you realise that you don’t have the answer to them YET.
The important part in this stage is to develop the mindset of “everything is figureoutable” - that personally got me through a lot of challenging times.
I quickly learnt that I realistically have no clue what the heck I’m doing here and that I needed to get support in place to help me figure it out.
So in that time I worked with various coaches, joined masterminds, read a lot, watched a lot of videos and took a lot of notes about what I needed to do. I then learnt to sift through that information and find ways that work for me. The important thing here is to not get stuck in inaction, but to keep doing, trying and moving so that you can get better. Doing all the studying and learning and not implementing anything is only going to keep you stuck here. You need to DO a thing to be able to figure out what you know or don’t know about it.
Looking back I would say I was in this stage for a solid year to 18 months. Slowly more and more things started making sense and I had found ways that work for me.
The next stage is the conscious competence stage. You know what you know, but you still need to put effort into it. You need to remember to apply those principles in your work, they are not yet automatic.
This stage is fun, because you feel a little bit more relieved from all the “no clue what I’m doing” times.
I personally had figured out my offers, my pricing and where I can add value. I figured out how I like to work, what I don’t like to do, what stresses me out, where I’m most likely to make mistakes etc. and I learnt to put systems in place to prevent mess-ups.
I learnt to quote clients accurately, to be able to tell them when something isn’t technically possible etc. and now it came down to just keep practicing those things and getting better at what I was doing.
Eventually you reach this stage, and you almost don’t notice this is happening.
This is the stage where you know what you’re doing and you’re really not paying attention to it at all.
This is also the stage where you start believing that what you’re doing is really simple and that everyone knows how to do what you do.
It’s the stage where you start doubting whether you should charge the amount you’re charging because it’s really easy for you to do that - and therefore you assume everyone else feels the same about this thing you’re doing.
It’s also the stage where I realised that I’m kinda bored with doing the same tech setups day in and day out and then I need to challenge myself and keep growing. That’s when I personally started looking more at marketing and which clients were getting results with their work and which weren’t and I started putting my mind to work that brings more value to businesses.
And that basically returns you to unconscious incompetence in the next thing you’re learning and then cycle starts again from the beginning.
If you’re feeling the pressure of the stage that you’re currently in, then I want you to know that it gets better, and there are people like me out there who’ve been there and who know what to do and sometimes the best thing you can do when you feel stuck is to get help.
You can book a one-off session or 6-week block with my anytime.
The links to do so are below ⬇️ ⬇️