Use What You Want, Not What You Have, As Your Baseline

Just because you don’t get a paycheck anymore doesn’t mean you can’t get stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck. In fact, your whole business can get caught operating paycheck-to-paycheck.

When you’re in the never-quite-enough cycle, no matter how much you want to grow your business and no matter how hard you’re willing to work, business growth can feel impossible. You’re always a little short on the money you need to invest in a sweet new design, a rockstar employee, or the applications that can make running your business easier. You’re also just a little short on the time you need to evolve your business model, leverage your services, and grow your platform.

I’ve tried to figure out what separates those who make the leap from never-quite-enoughness to abundance and growth with their businesses. And here’s what I’ve discovered:

You have to use what you want, not what you have, as your baseline.
Use what you want, not what you have, as your baseline.

That means you don’t figure out how to replace your day job salary, you make a plan to make 20% more. You don’t figure out how to get enough clients, you make a plan to have a waiting list. You don’t figure out what you need to price your offers at to pay yourself, you plan a pricing strategy that builds in profit.

That means part of planning for your business is getting clear on what you want:

  • Enough income and extra profit to take the summer off?
  • A team of talented co-conspirators who can help you serve your clients?
  • A website that truly represents the personality and quality of your business?
  • Tools that make your life easier?

If you want to take the summer off, make sure your plan has your business generating enough revenue in January-May, September-December. That changes the way you launch offers, plan partnerships, and schedule marketing activities.

If you want a team (or to grow your existing one), make sure your plan includes a pricing strategy that pays them. Put that extra labor budget into savings and you’ll have a cushion that makes you feel comfortable expanding.

If you want a new website, stop trying to piecemeal your solutions (i.e. spending unnecessary money) and find the credit you need to get one. Then make sure your plan includes how you’ll harness that website to payback the credit as quickly as possible.

If you want tools that make your life easier, make sure your plan makes it clear exactly what they need to do for you. That changes what you look for in new solutions so that you’re only investing in the ones that do what you need them to do.

Setting goals and stretching your comfort zone pays both strategic and tactical dividends. When you know what you want, you can make the business strategy decisions that help you get there. If you’re always focused on maintaining the status quo, you’ll be stuck there.

P.S. If you’re a maker or designer trying to get ahead in your own business, check out my Pricing Your Craft workshop on CreativeLive on August 17th. You can watch totally FREE while it’s live: RSVP here.

The Key Mindset Shift I Made to Create Exponential Growth in My Business

When I first set out on my own, what I really wanted to do was get paid for doing work I loved. I wanted to use my skills and see what I could create with them. I wanted to help cool people and great organizations.

I worked hard to bring in work, hone my services, and value my own time enough to get paid well. In many ways, I was living a dream.

But I struggled to close a persistent gap between where I was at and where I really wanted to be. I saw others with great businesses that allowed them to take considerable time off, build a legacy, craft valuable intellectual property, and lead teams of talented people. I wanted that. And I just didn’t see why I couldn’t make it happen.

Every step forward ended up feeling like two steps back.

I’ve come to realize that these goals didn’t match my mindset. The actions I was taking to move forward weren’t actually closing the gap between my reality and where I wanted to be. Every decision I made was dictated by my mindset and every decision I came to made it more difficult to realize the goals I had.

I needed to shift from a self-employment mindset to a business owner mindset.

Tara Gentile - Quiet Power Strategy retreat

When I “started my business” what I was really trying to do was just get paid for doing work that I wanted to do. I didn’t know anything different.

I didn’t yet have a vision for something bigger. I just wanted to love my work.

And I did. I crafted myself a great job. Even though I had a job that many others would envy, I figured out it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wanted the fruits of owning a business and creating something bigger than me.

Now, before I continue and tell you exactly how a self-employment mindset differs from a business owner mindset, I want to get one thing clear: there is nothing wrong with wanting a great job. There is nothing “less than” about wanting to create a container in which you get to do great work everyday and explore your craft. If that sounds like exactly what you want, own it. And, at the same time, realize that the goals you have need to match that mindset.

What many bloggers, authors, and speakers have told you is possible—passive income, truly flexible schedules, working less for more return, etc…—only if you’re willing to shift from self-employment to business ownership.

Do you want a great job or do you want a business?

When I was trying to get paid to do work that I wanted to do, my goals were things like replacing the income from my day job, having a steady stream of clients, and trying to make myself useful. These were great goals (and I bet they sound familiar to you). But achieving these goals actually kept me struggling to get further ahead. I could raise my income, get more clients, and become more useful—but I wasn’t able to take a break, create revenue above and beyond the value of my time, or build a platform to do things that would allow me to do work I had deemed “more fun” (like writing books or speaking).

I was trying to work toward business owner goals with a self-employment mindset. It was incredibly frustrating. Each mindset has a set of goals associated with it and, while there’s significant wiggle room in each, there’s very little overlap.

Doing the Work

If your priority is digging in and doing the work, self-employment is a great way to do it. Doing the work is hugely important—also fun!—and still a part of my schedule. But it’s no longer the focus of my activities. Other people are often doing the work for me, or that work has been developed to the point of automation. My main task now is business development. I’m exploring new revenue streams (like licensing a fresh crop of business strategists on my methodology) and exploring ways to leverage others content to create additional value for my customers.

When your priority is doing the work, you’re not prioritizing restructuring your business model, looking for new revenue streams, building teams, etc… That’s okay, but you need to check your goals and make sure that your goals are aligned with doing the work.

“How” Instead of “Who”

If your priority is figuring out “how” to do something instead of “who” can do it for you, you’re in self-employment mode. If your first thought is “I wonder how I could get better at…” when an idea or opportunity comes your way, that’s self-employment talking.

This is probably the hardest transition for me: acknowledging that others can not only do it but do it better. Realizing my business won’t be as good as it could be if I don’t involve others was part of my shift into the business owner mindset.

While still extremely uncomfortable, I’ve rewired my brain to think “who” when there’s something new I want to explore in my business. Who is better at this than I am? Who already knows how to do this? Who has already created the program or has the content? Whose personal values would allow me to expand the scope of my business beyond my own?

Hiring people isn’t just about getting help. Hiring people is the best way to expand beyond your own limitations of knowledge, values, and capacity. Hiring people doesn’t just help you do more, it changes the very nature of the way your business can deliver value.

The self-employment mindset will guide you to hiring people who can help you do more of the work while reclaiming a little sanity. Business owners know that hiring people increases the amount of value (and therefore, most often, revenue) their businesses create.

Profit

If you’d like to do great work for a great salary, self-employment is the way to go. You’ve likely heard about the time-for-money trap—but it’s not just that. If you want a great salary, assets that increase in value, and a healthy share of profit from a great business, you need to shift to the business owner mindset. Self-employment excludes a hugely important part of the business-building equation: profit.

When I review past business models with our Quiet Power Strategy clients, one of the main things I’m looking out for is profit calculations. A profit calculation is not the same thing as accounting for labor (yours or anyone else’s). Profit is the money you make because the value your business creates goes beyond the value of the labor and administration it takes to create that value.

To become profitable, you have to examine the true value your business is creating (often not what it is on the surface), you need to scale to a certain point, you create additional efficiency in the way the value is delivered, and you look for ways to innovate on the way the value is traditionally created. Creating profit is a process of optimizing effectiveness and efficiency.

Examine the products and services you’re offering now. How much of the revenue you’re creating from them is actually profit? How much is just paying for your time?

When you’ve been focused on paying yourself for so long, breaking into profit generation can feel really uncomfortable. Even though I’ve been generating profit in my business for some time (in the form of more accessible and lower-priced products), when I moved into profit pricing in the more exclusive side of my business, I got really nervous. The change in price wasn’t dramatic but it was accompanied by decisions to outsource part of the hands-on work and service delivery. That meant I was making more money and doing less work.

While that might be the “holy grail” of business, it was personally nerve-wracking. I gave myself many pep talks about value, growth, and profit as I intentionally shifted my mindset from self-employment to business ownership. Eventually it sunk in and that lead to doubling my revenue last year and being on track to double it again.

Of course, my personal piece of that puzzle hasn’t grown as fast. That was another change from self-employment to business ownership mindset. My business’s revenue is not the same as my income. Even though that might be obvious, I’ve discovered that the more my business grows, the more I need to detach personal income and business revenue. Trying to grow them equally leads to making decisions that are ultimately about serving yourself (been there, done that!) instead of serving your business.

I used to run my business at a 85% profit margin. Now, I run in with about a 40% profit margin. My financial team is still impressed.

Next Step

Over and over again, I’m confronted with audiences, colleagues, and clients that have goals mismatched to their mindset. There’s no amount of tactical learning that will “fix” your business problems if your mindset is creating an insurmountable gap between where you’re at and where you want to be.

I won’t end this post by asking you to change your mindset. Instead, I’m asking you to consider what you really want and whether the decisions you’ve been making are actually designed to get you there. Has your mindset gotten in the way of achieving your goals? What’s one thing (structure, help, profit, etc…) that you could start shifting your thinking on?

Is Your Default Business-Building Mode Isolation?

In a crisis or quandary, my default mode is isolation. No matter the problem, I’ll opt to try to solve it myself before involving others. I would rather brood than ask for help.

I will think and think about possible solutions until I’ve come up with a solid plan. Then, and only then, will I tell someone else what the issue is and how I’m going to fix it. I trick myself into thinking that this “strategy” is about being well-prepared, as opposed to a coping mechanism for being scared, confused, or worried.

Luckily, I’ve learned this is not a helpful strategy. And, I’ve figured out that it’s not about being well-prepared; it’s about not being courageous enough to ask for help.

I’ve also recognized that this coping mechanism often bleeds over into decisions about opportunities, too. In default mode, I spot an opportunity and ponder it until I’m ready to act on it.

Either way, I miss out.

Is your default business-building mode isolation?

 

As much as I’d like to think otherwise, I do not always have the right ideas. I do not always have the most experience. And I do not always see all the possibilities in front of me.

In default mode—isolated from those who could really help—I’m blind to everything but my own narrow perspective. And I’m really good. But I’m not that good.

If your response to a problem, opportunity, or idea is to go to your thinking spot and think until you have a plan before you loop anyone else in on what’s going on, your default mode is isolation too. And, just like me, you’re prone to missing out on great ideas, even better opportunities, and innovative solutions.

Isolation is a fast track to failure.

Of course, your default mode is not the only operating mode you have. You can choose to do things differently, to seek out help when you need it most and often when you don’t.

Change your operating mode to “community & collaboration.”

Your business community—the people who support you, cheer you on, challenge your conventional thinking—allows you to see your blind spots. Seeing your blind spots is the first step to avoiding a collision.

Your community also helps you detour around traffic. They can show you the most congested parts of path to your intended destination and give you a new route. You get there faster and with less anxiety.

And best of all, your business community can help you see how to connect all the dots to where you want to get. Running a business is like renting a car in a town you’ve never been to. You know where you’re at (hopefully!) and you know where you want to go, but you have no idea to navigate there. Others have been there, they’re accustomed to the roads in the area. Your community is your personal GPS device.

Over the last few years, I’ve made a real commitment to not living or working in isolation and engaging a business community to support me. I’ve made small changes like always looping in my partner on questions I have about my business. And I’ve made much bigger changes like opening my team to people who aren’t looking for direction so much as they’re looking to make a contribution.

Whether you’re looking to hire or whether you just need a fresh perspective, you need to be proactive in involving others in your business. That could mean posting on a Facebook group that’s full of people you respect and trust. It could mean joining a membership community where everyone is working for the success of other members (btw, you can get a free 10-day trial of ours). It could mean joining a group business coaching program like Quiet Power Strategy™, making a biweekly Skype date with a colleague, forming an accountability group, or having a weekly local business owner meet up.

Next time you feel yourself going into isolation mode, change the setting. Look for help. Ask for an opinion. Bounce an idea. Situate yourself in a community and take advantage of it. Your thinking spot will still be there when you get back.

Make More With What You’ve Got: Lacy Boggs’s Case Study

Want to make more money? Afraid it’s going to take a lot of time to create something new or devise a fresh offer so you can do it?

It doesn’t have to. An important concept we work with Quiet Power Strategy™ clients on is reworking what you’ve got to make it easier to sell. We also show our clients how to develop sales cycles that sell those offers throughout the year–and how to plan those sales cycles so you always know where your next dollar is coming from.

Last week, I heard from Lacy Boggs about a big success she had with very little work. It’s exactly the kind of result I like seeing from clients because it means they’ve developed a process they can use time and again to make more money. Here’s her case study:

How Lacy Boggs Used an Unplanned Sales Cycle to Make Money Fast & Easy

In January 2015​, I made my Blogstorm course (my lowest priced, introductory offering) ​evergreen after doing the revenue planning exercise in Quiet Power Strategy. I had realized that launching and running the course live was waaaaay too much work for the amount of revenue I was generating from it, so something needed to change.

​I saw a nice spike in sales when I made the evergreen announcement, and since then ​I generally get 1 or 2 sales a month without doing anything, which is fine by me. When I mention it in a blog or newsletter, I usually get 1 or 2 more.

Since the course helps entrepreneurs get 6 months of blogs planned in an editorial calendar, I was inspired by a random comment on Facebook about the year being almost half over to do a “launch” push for June. ​ ​I decided to​ offer a value add of going through it “live” with me in the Facebook group. ​And ​I made the decision to do this “launch” about a week before June 1st!

Note from Tara: This is what we call a sales cycle. It’s the same type of content, pitch, and follow-up you’d use in a launch, but it’s used to boost sales of an existing or evergreen product or service offering. Normally, I recommend using our Revenue Planning tool to forecast these sales cycles. But the power of an unplanned sales cycle to boost your revenue unexpectedly–and pleasantly–can’t be overstated!

But, I’ve had great success! I sent one dedicated email to my list, and​ wrote a blog post promoting it using Tara’s CEAD content framework (it’s usually spread out over four posts or emails, but I didn’t have time).

​I also had my message fresh in my mind from working on it with Tara and Brigitte at the Quiet Power Strategy™ retreat, and tried to really drive home what I want to be known for in both the blog post and the email—no more being polite about my opinions, no holds barred.​ ​ ​ Since the email went out on Monday (the Memorial Day holiday, no less) I’ve sold 20 courses ​and made about $1200​ in unplanned income five days later.

That’s more than double my last “live” launch in 2014!

​By tweaking my sales message for this course based on the work I did in Quiet Power Strategy™, I realized I don’t have to run a lengthy, all-consuming “launch,” but rather focus on giving people what they really want. The course hasn’t changed, even my “value add” is the same as when I ran it live, but my message made a huge difference.

​At this point, it’s like the best of both worlds. I have the trickle of income from the evergreen product, but I can run it “live” as a value add—with my newly improved messaging—twice a year for a healthy ​boost in sales without all the DRAMA of a big launch​. ​Just one more example of Quiet Power Strategy™ giving me the guts and permission to do things my way, and having it pay off almost immediately.

***

Let me recapped what worked so well here for Lacy:

  • She created fresh messaging for an old product to make sure it was obvious it’s exactly what her customers need.
  • She reinvigorated her sales by creating content for a sales cycle and publishing it to her blog and list.
  • She planned for the future by incorporating new sales cycles for this product in her overall Revenue Plan instead of just waiting for sales to come.

These are all things we create strategies for in Quiet Power Strategy™ and these strategies are something that Lacy can use over and over again for other products and new offers. It’s timeless, effective, make-more-money technique.

Put this to work for yourself. Look for a product that you know you could sell more of. Create messaging that ties that product to a problem or goal your customers are regularly talking about. Then create content that supports that messaging and send it out to the people most likely to buy from you. Finally, make a plan to do this throughout the year.

In the mean time, you can find out more about Lacy Boggs, the Content Direction Agency, and how to get more from your blogging effort: get instant access to her resource library.

Why Your Business Won’t Survive Without a Strategy

In 2004, I started working for Borders Books & Music and quickly worked my way up to managing a store with an annual volume of $5 million. I witnessed a lot of ups and downs in my time before leaving in 2008 and the company going out of business in 2011. The biggest downs came from Borders’s complete lack of strategy.

They would choose a direction and then change it without giving it time to prove itself. They would give more autonomy to store managers and then they’d take it away, only to give it back a few months later. They would focus on ecommerce and then try to drive more traffic to physical stores. They’d focus on the quality of titles over discounting and then issue more coupons than people knew what to do with.

At any given time, Borders would be pursing multiple conflicting “strategies.” Their managers felt disempowered, their employees felt directionless, and even their customers would wonder aloud what was going on.

When bankruptcy came, no one was surprised.

Making any decision—from who to serve, to what color to use on your website, to what price to charge—about the direction of your business can be difficult.

A lot of business owners I see struggling are resisting the decisions in front of them. They’d rather play both sides, try something new, or continue to research and delay the inevitable need to commit.

When you’re not making firm decisions and taking the action those decisions inspire, your business will suffer. I’m sorry to say, but your business might even end up like Borders did.

Without strong strategic decisions, your customers will feel lost, your products or pitches will feel unfocused, and the purpose behind your business will be unclear.

Decision-making is what business strategy is all about. If there are no decisions, there is no strategy. If there’s no strategic decision-making, there is no success.

Your business won’t survive without a strategy.

When a strategy succeeds, it seems a little like magic, unknowable and unexplainable in advance but obvious in retrospect. It isn’t. Really, strategy is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace.

— Roger Martin, Playing to Win

Creating a business strategy that breaks through the noise is about declaring “yes” to some things and “no” to others. And, as you might guess, the yesses and noes aren’t about right and wrong.

Strategic decision-making: Toms is a give-back-first business, not a shoe business.

Take a look at Toms. Now, Toms has sneakers, sandals, platform wedges, and all other manner of shoes. They also have a whole marketplace of goods by other companies. But in the beginning, Toms sold one style of shoe. They made a decision to go to market with one style and focus their marketing on the One for One campaign.

Toms decided to be a give-back-first company instead of a shoe company.

If they wanted to be a shoe business, they would have gone to market with more than one kind of shoe.

Toms decision wasn’t a question of right or wrong, good or bad. It was a question of values, preference, skill, strengths, and effectiveness.

Now, consider Amazon. Amazon has made the decision to be a logistics company, not a bookseller. They may have started by selling books but Jeff Bezos put the most investment into distribution logistics from the get go. Now, they can sell almost anything and ship it to you in 2 days.

Even the development of the Kindle fits this strategic decision. Want a book? You can start reading it immediately.

If Amazon wanted to be a bookselling company instead of a logistics company, they would have invested more initially in connecting readers or helping you find your next book.

Look at your own field. What do some people say “yes” to when you’re firmly a no? What do you see as the conventional way to do things and how would you prefer to do it differently? How have the decisions leaders in your field have made affect the way their businesses are perceived?

What can you decide to focus on that puts your business in a category of one like Amazon or Toms?

Making a decision to go a different direction, to make a choice other than the default, is a strategic decision.

It puts your business in a category of one. When based on your strengths and unique effectiveness, it makes your business more compelling. Making a strong and interconnected set of choices is the first step toward success.

Other strategic decisions are who you’re going to serve, how you’re going to connect with them, what price point you want to charge, how you’re going to package & deliver your offer, or what emotions you want evoke when people use your product.

The more intentional you are with the decisions you make, the stronger your strategy.

Now, not every strategy works—but to even have a chance at success, your strategy needs to be based on focused, intentional decision-making.

Every decision you make is an opportunity to put your product or business in the best possible position for success.

If you resist making decisions, you resist success. It’s as simple as that.

What decision have you been wrestling with lately?

Would you Tweet me and let me know? Sometimes it helps to call attention to it and share it with someone else.

Are you on track to reach your business goals this year?

It’s almost half-way through the year and that means it’s a great time to take a minute to figure out if you’re where you wanted to be when you set your business goals back in December or January.

What were you thinking when you read that sentence?

  1. Uh, I didn’t set goals for 2015. I just take things as they come.
  2. Yes, sure am on track! Thanks for asking.
  3. No, things aren’t turning out the way I planned.

Regardless of how you answered, it’s time to set your course of action for the next 6 months (because who wants to be working hard in December?).

Are you on track to reach your business goals?

“Uh, I didn’t set business goals for 2015.”

Look, I get it. In Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTP and P stands for “not gonna plan ahead for anything I don’t have to.”

I used to resist planning ahead, setting long-term goals, and committing to a course of action. I could create small victories on the fly—what more could I want?

Turns out, I wanted a lot more. If you’re resistant to set long-term goals or commit to a long-term course of action but you still have ambition informing your vision, I hate to break it to you but it’s time to make a change. You don’t have to over-plan, but you want to action with a particular destination in mind.

Your Next Question: Where do you want to be a year from now? Where do you want your business to be a year from now? What’s it going to take to get there?

Setting your destination helps to set your strategy.

“Yes, sure am on track!”

Congratulations! So am I. I’m exactly where I planned to be. And now that I’m here, I’ve been able to adjust my plan to reach a stretch goal I had in mind but couldn’t quite see the path to.

If you’re right where you want to be, it can be extremely helpful to look a little farther down the field. Maybe you were hoping to kick a field goal at the end of this drive and instead, you’re in position to go for the touch down.

Do you know the course of action you’ll need to get there? Do you have the tools or planning processes in place to make that happen?

Your Next Question: What decisions will help you reach your stretch goal? Is it time to hire some one new? Raise prices? Offer something that’s been on your mind? Cut away deadweight from your business?

Strategy is all about decision-making and you’re in a great place to do it.

“No, things aren’t turning out the way I planned.”

I’ve been there. I’ve created great plans only to have certain variables not go my way.

One of our Quiet Power Strategy™ clients, Jennifer Racioppi, who helps high-performing women create the personal fortitude they need to put in the work, talks a lot about resilience. Resilience is the ability to change course when the going gets tough. It’s the quality you need to spring back up when you get pushed over.

Resilience is hard work.

But it’s so worth it.

If things aren’t going to plan halfway through the year, it’s time to make a commitment to yourself, your business, and your customers to reexamine the plan and adjust it based on the new information you have.

Your Next QuestionWhat course corrections do you need to make?

Whether you haven’t had time to finish the project you thought you could, whether deals didn’t close as easily as you thought they should, whether all your pitching for media mentions and guest posts as fallen flat, you’ve got new data to work with. Take what you’ve learned and change course.

No matter how you answered…

No matter how you answered, it’s probably time to get some support in reaching your business goals. I’ll be opening pre-registration for the Fall session of Quiet Power Strategy (my hands-on business coaching program) in a couple of weeks. It might be exactly what you need to get where you’re going.

Of course, you can find support lots of place: colleagues, friends, mentors, and team members. Just don’t try to go it alone, okay?

You don’t get where you’re going (whether you’ve just decided where that is, you’re picking out a stretch goal, or whether you’re changing course) without help.