It's that time of year again, we've all been to the vision board parties and created these beautiful boards filled with images of what a picture-perfect year looks like. We're excited because a new year means a fresh start for us, new possibilities to explore and new business. But what happens when the thrill dies down and the image we created is not reflected in our reality? Do we quit? Reassess? Strategize? SCREAM?
Years ago, when I first started P2P I was excited about the huge transformation I would make in people's lives and businesses. My creativity was through the roof and everyone around me trusted my expertise and opinion, so I was confident I would fair well with my clients. I had a natural knack for this, but I still spent countless hours researching, taking classes, practicing and brushing up on my skills. I had this picture-perfect idea about how this would all pan out, but I was missing one very important component A PLAN!
You see, early on in my business I had a few early adopters who trusted me enough to give me a shot, or let me work on a project for free to prove my worth and when I did they paid me on the next go-round. These individuals were also generous enough to refer me to their friends, so for the first year or so I had a constant flow of clients coming in. I had no marketing plan, sales strategy or profit plan, I was just making money and doing good work. But pretty soon reality kicked in. I was completely engulfed in my business, so much so that I didn't have time to do ANYTHING - I barely had time to sleep. And then one-day this thing called burn-out kicked in and I started to get physically sick. Then came the resentment and so on and so forth. I went through this several times before I finally realized that I was missing the very thing that I was so good at helping my clients with - SYSTEMS & STRATEGY.
Here I was taking every client that was thrown at me(because it was "easy money"), and doing caviar work for a beer budget, all because I didn't have a plan. I couldn't say no because, not only did I think I was superwoman, but I honestly didn't know where my next client would come from. So I sat in it until it passed and completed the cycle over and over before I finally decided enough is enough. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 20% of small businesses fail in their first year and 50% fail by year five. We're lucky to have made it past both(although there were moments where I considered closing the doors), but if I'm honest, we would be much further along if I knew these five things earlier and most importantly - STARTED WITH A PLAN!
1. TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK: One of the worst mistakes I made early on in my business was thinking that I could do everything myself. I mean, to be honest I'm the girl who can look at a skill or process one-time, immediately pick up on it, and even teach it to someone else. But the thing about running a business is that there are so many moving parts, it's just not enough hours in a day to personally manage it all. Even if you make the mistake of dedicating every waking hour of your life to it, you still can't physically do it alone. And what about the times where an emergency happens, or you get sick and you have no choice but to sit down and rest? Does the business shut-down? What about the clients who've paid you for a product or service? What about the calls/inquiries from new clients who want to hire you in the future? What do you do? The number one suggestion I always give to my new clients is to build a team early on. Start with the end in mind! Clearly define each role/position it takes to successfully run your business, that way you can have an accurate depiction of what your responsibilities will be. I know you may not be in a position to hire people right away, but partnering with freelancers and other service providers could be a good way to fill those gaps.
2. THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT: As I mentioned before, when I was just starting out most of my clients came from referrals. I didn't vet them, I just took them on because another client of mine referred them. I didn't know if they were right for my business model or even the type of client I desired to work with, because I had not yet felt comfortable with making that distinction. I was getting clients consistently and that's all that mattered to me. That was my measure of success. But like all good things, they must come to an end, and for me the type of client I was attracting was making me rethink my entire business. Now I realize that I wasn't attracting them at all, they were being sent to me by other people who I let define my business and customer for me. I didn't have the heart to demand a certain level of clientele, so I settled with whatever came my way. DON'T MAKE THIS MISTAKE! In order to truly see the results you desire in your business, you must create a standard. Your process is your process and your price is your price. Don't let the customer decide for you, because once you create a culture of that, you will keep attracting needy clients who are headaches. Clearly define your target audience and ideal client, and only serve those who fit that mold. There is always room for flexibility, but your process and expectations should never be negotiable. If they aren't willing to follow the rules, then they may not be right for you. And that's ok!
3. MONEY DOES'NT GROW ON TREES: It's so funny because I feel like this was my Dad's favorite line growing up, but as an adult I now realize it is so true. We've all seen the ads and posts where they promise to show you their "quick-3-step process" to making six-figures. So now you're thinking, YES, I knew it couldn't be that hard to make money - WRONG. The faster it comes in the faster it dries up. In business you must have a profit/revenue strategy to CONSISTENTLY make money. There's just no way around it. Yes, I'm pretty sure we can all think of three way to make a few quick bucks, but we're talking long-term sustainability here. Create a buildable profit strategy with measurable/trackable metrics and tweak it as you go(I would suggest every 90-days). You must know how the cash-flow will work in your business in order to properly scale it. Remember, this is a business NOT a hobby, and I'm sure the goal isn't to stay "small" forever - Right?
4. PROTECT YOUR PEACE: Are you one of those business owners who is ALWAYS open? Who will take calls, emails, dm's and Facebook messages all hours of the night? STOP IT! Trust me, I made that mistake and I had clients start to get angry with me when they saw me out having a drink with my friends on the weekend, instead of replying to the 3 non-urgent email messages they sent me. Your office hours with be your best-friend, especially in the age of social media where clients and customers have constant access to you. You need time to unwind, debrief, and have a little fun. If you're always on, you will soon be off(mentally).
5. BETA TEST, BETA TEST, BETA TEST: If you've been to one of my workshops then you've probably heard me say this before, but again - BETA TEST!. I don't know how many times I've had this great idea and just jumped in with both feet without testing it, and soon it all came crashing down. Running a beta test before you launch a new product or service will save you a ton of time and money. Run a "preview" of your product/service for a discounted rate, or test your content with your audience before you launch it, just to see how your tribe reacts. This is also a good way to see if the tribe you have is even right for your business, or maybe its time to do some targeted marketing to find the right folks. Testing and feedback will help you to launch those irresistible offers that turn over like clock-work, with little to know effort. Remember, we believe in working SMARTER NOT HARDER!