Home-Based Professionals Need to Understand More About Success Than Their Big Corporate Counterparts!

By Susan Ford Collins

Working from home gives you the freedom to forgo exhausting commutes or be there for your kids, but it also means you need to understand success and leadership in more detail. Everyone needs this information today, but most of all you!

Success has gears

As you drive, you use gears to move ahead, slowly at first then more rapidly and easily. As you succeed, you use gears too. No gear is better than any other; all are essential. Each has its own timing and use. Like a skillful driver, you must shift up and down as circumstances require.

The 1st Gear of Success is for starting and restarting, for becoming effective at new skills and technologies. 1st Gear is signaled by familiar* keywords:can, can’t, safe, dangerous, right, wrong, good, bad, should, shouldn’t, have to, must, always, never, possible, impossible, rules, test, retest, certify and permission. (* Keep in mind, the word familiar comes from the word family.)

The 2nd Gear of Success is for producing and competing, for deciding which 1st Gear rules you can eliminate to become more efficient. Keywords include: more, better, faster, cheaper, quantity, quality, win, lose, produce, compete, deadlines, irritation, longer hours, frayed nerves, missed deadlines, higher stress, injury, illness and burnout. The 2nd Gear of success is for winning new clients and satisfying those you have, for making more money by getting more work done… on time at top quality. Most business people spend most of their time in 2nd Gear, but regularly gearing up to 3rd Gear is essential in today’s highly competitive, rapidly changing world.

The 3rd Gear of Success is for creating and innovating, moving past what used to be productive to what will work now, and in the future. For trusting hunches and embracing serendipity so you can discover new approaches your customers may not know they need yet, but they do. Keywords include: aha, realize, breakthrough, discover, create, invent, innovate, and startup.

Leadership has gears too

Each Success Gear has a corresponding Leadership Gear designed to meet the needs of individuals and teams using that gear.

Your greatest challenge as a home-based business is to be able to shift out of the gear you’re in… into the gear someone else needs you to be in…your customer, your provider, your spouse or your child. If you can’t shift immediately, you need to make an agreement to shift in a few minutes or at the end of the day. And then keep your agreement so they’ll believe you next time and they make, and keep, similar agreements with you!

When you lead in 1st Gear, you supervise new learners, building and rebuilding their self-confidence and enthusiasm, monitoring progress and intervening quickly to avoid injuries and setbacks. You are responsible for deciding when learners are ready for the increased decision-making and quality/quantity standards of 2nd Gear. (A quick reminder: Next time you meet with a new customer or provider, be sure to shift into 1st Gear and allow yourself plenty of time to learn about their outcomes and requirements, and share yours in detail.)

If you’re home-based, you need to remember that children are in 1st Gear most of the time. So if they’re around, you’ll be starting and restarting, supervising and supporting a lot! Sometimes their needs will conflict with your customers’ needs, especially when your kids are sick or on vacation from school and you’re pressing to meet deadlines. Or when someone you count on can’t come as expected. “Oh no, I don’t know that program! Where is the manual?” Even though slowing down from 80 mph to 15 is hard, once a solution is found, you’ll be ready to speed up again.

When you lead in 2nd Gear, even though you’re not physically working beside them, you are still in charge, managing their performance… in advertising, social media, design or accounting… via weekly reports, phone calls, emails and texts. You manage from more distance, explaining the job, answering questions, and providing timely feedback. (Be sure that you teach your collaborators how to use these gears too so they will know when they need to gear up or down! And ask you to do the same.)

When you lead in 3rd Gear, you are responsible for nurturing creative ideas, yours and others’. For finding the support and expertise needed to bring “out of the box” thinking into reality and profitability. And for holding dreams when setbacks wipe them out temporarily. (Remember, your customers want you to help fulfill their dreams so they especially appreciate when you remember details they forgot, or add features they have never even considered… creating a new sale and a delighted customer.)

It’s time to break a business-destroying habit… waiting for permission!

What keeps most people from gearing up to creativity is an old habit. As you grew up, you had to get permission to shift from 1st Gear control to 2nd Gear independence. But the shift from 2nd to 3rd is one you must make yourself… in your own timing and according to your own instincts. You don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission. Simply stay alert and gear up when a great idea presents itself out of the blue!

Most business people spend most of their time accelerating in 2nd and most of their coworkers… hearts pounding, nerves jangling… race along with them. But this overuse eats up the time you need to gear up to create new approaches (3rd) or down to learn and relearn skills, technologies and information (1st). Bottom line: Spending too much time in 2nd Gear makes business development and people development, including yours, next to impossible.

Who do you know who is constantly doing more, better, faster, pushing longer and harder to earn promotions and bonuses… sometimes making productivity and competition more important than future thinking, creativity and growth? Who do you work with who needs to gear down to relearn and restart (keywords: missed deadlines, stress, frustration, illness and burnout). Or gear up to create a new dream?

When financial push comes to shove, instead of listening to and supporting creative ideas, do you sometimes subtly, or not so subtly, incent yourself and others to stay “in the box”? Do you over-reward or disproportionately bonus more-better-faster behaviors? Or under-reward the learning and relearning your business and life needs? What support systems and incentives do you have in place for nurturing new approaches that could bring you, and your customers, greater success in the future?

Home-based business professionals need to understand more about success and leadership than your Big Corporate Counterparts do! Gear Flexibility is vital for those of you who have to be CEO, head of sales, admin, advertising, marketing, training and maintenance… all in one day! And who work with kids nearby, requiring you to stop, listen, get stuff, and refocus on the task at hand in between. So, especially for you, using the right Gear of Success and Leadership at the right time is essential for your sanity and future success as well!


Susan Ford Collins is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and the founder of The Technology of Success. She began her career as a young researcher at the National Institutes of Health with a radical idea: to focus her research on healthy, highly successful people (HSPs) rather than dysfunctional ones. Her Technology of Success book series includes: The Joy of Success: 10 Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want, Success Has Gears: Using the Right Gear at the Right Time in Business and Life, and Our Children Are Watching: 10 Skills for Leading the Next Generation to Success. Find Susan Ford Collins on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and

10 Responsibilites of a Highly Successful Leader

By Susan Ford Collins

As leaders, what is expected of us at work, at home and in our communities? What do those who follow us need so they can become successful... effective, efficient and ultimately creative? So they can bring forth the next generation of ideas, systems, inventions and innovations?

Here is a deep and sensitive look at what others really want from us. Isn't this exactly what you want from your leaders now... or you wish they had given you in the past?

A Declaration of Leadership... 10 Responsibilities of a Highly Successful Leader

1- We are responsible for being trustworthy leaders, for allowing those who follow us to have confidence in us until we can help them build confidence in themselves... self-confidence. We are responsible for protecting and educating them until they can effectively take over these responsibilities themselves.

2- We need to recognize when those we lead are ready for independence when they need more freedom, less control and supervision. We must sense when to shift from acknowledging compliance to our rules and regulations, to acknowledging their productivity and competition, their creativity and innovation.

3- We need to support them as they begin dreaming their own dreams—pre-experiencing desired outcomes along with them or suggesting others who can assist them in discovering appropriate first steps.

4-We need to communicate patiently and skillfully, making it safe for our followers to share their evolving ideas, likes and dislikes, choices and preferences—handling their “newborn dreams like tiny precious butterflies.” By respecting their choices now, we encourage them to respect others’ choices when they will lead later.

5- We need to provide expertise until we can find other experts to assist them, or they learn how to select and vet experts on their own.

6- We are responsible for updating their fears and disappointments, or finding experts who can. We need to regularly update old rules and limits that we set for them, helping expand their Safe Zone and contract their Danger Zone. And opening the door to The Potential Zone, the zone where they will create our future as well.

7- We need to hold their outcomes with them, especially when they don't have the foggiest idea what to do next, when they get discouraged or fall into the depths of impossibility. We need to cheer them all the way to completion and greater creativity.

8- We are responsible for shielding their dreams from the cold drafts and scorching heat of others’ disagreement and overpowering statements of impossibility. We need to say things to them that they will need to say to themselves. Yes, you can. (Yes, I can.) You need to think of another way. )I need to think of another way.) Let's hold this outcome together until we can find other *Co-dreamers... people who will keep the details of your dream alive in their hearts and minds with you, people you can talk to when upsets and setbacks make you temporarily forget where you are headed. People who can help re-install the details of your dream destination and re-energize you as you set out again.

9- We are responsible for turning negative thoughts into positives ones by asking switching questions. If you don't want this, what do you want? If this doesn't work, what might work instead? If you don't know this, who might know it? Even when we disagree with their outcome in the moment, we need to encourage them to keep asking for what they want, from us and from others. And we need to celebrate their success with them when they finally get there... to attend their product launches, award ceremonies, weddings and baby showers.

10- As leaders, we are responsible for maintaining our health and balance—monitoring our food and exercise, feeling the effect it is having on our health, on our moods and emotions, so those around us will learn how to maintain their health and balance too. We need to remember that we are leading by example 24/7. We need to be powerful inspiring, happy, healthy models.

And, we need to extend the same care and sensitivity to other leaders and followers with whom we work and live.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins