You’re Wasting Precious Time Paying Attention to the Wrong Things

So you want to grow your business. You start tracking new Facebook likes, new email subscribers, and your website traffic. You discover how to move the needle on each and do more and more of the activities that create growth in these metrics.

It takes a lot of time. You’re posting to Facebook 5 times a day—which takes creative energy to come up with posts, reading time to share others posts, and productive time to tear yourself away from the onslaught of other people’s posts. You’re looking for new ways to gain email subscribers—hosting webinars, planning joint ventures, hosting telesummits, setting ad campaigns. You’re writing more blog posts, adding pillar content pages, and optimizing the SEO on your site.

The metrics you’re paying attention to are constantly pulling you away from time with clients. But you’re growing your business!

Or are you?

You're wasting precious time paying attention to the wrong things

Are you paying attention to the right things? What have those new Facebook likes, email subscribers, or website visitors gotten you? Have they brought in new revenue? (Do you even have a way to tell?) Have they streamlined your production? Have they helped you develop new opportunities?

Most likely, no.

And if they have, they’ve only entrenched you further into the business you have instead of helping you grow the business you want.

Now, I’m not at all opposed to new Facebook likes, email subscribers, or website visitors. Those are 3 metrics I track myself.

However, I don’t spend time on those metrics until I’ve actually gone about the business of working on my business.

You see, building your Facebook page, growing your list, and buoying your website traffic isn’t working on your business. Marketing your business is an “in” your business kind of activity. And if it’s the only thing you’re making time for, it’s not going to do you a lot of a good in the long-term. Unless you’ve got the right systems, strategy, and development plan set up, it’s not buying you any more time, money, or sanity.

Let me say that again: Promoting your business isn’t buying you any more time, money, or sanity.

You might have noticed that. You might have realized posting more on Facebook—even sending more emails, one of my personal favorite activities—isn’t improving your quality of life.

But if your metrics of growth are all things that lead to more time spent on marketing, you’re wasting time and not creating the kind of systems that lead to true growth, true profit, and true sanity. And I write this as someone who loves marketing with a burning passion.

You’re paying attention to the wrong things.

And it’s costing you time (not to mention money and energy, too).

So what should you be paying attention to?

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You Don’t Need Another Cheerleader

You’ve done the work. You’re confident in yourself, your ideas, and what you have to offer.

You might even be starting to believe your own hype (and frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing).

You don’t need another cheerleader for your business. You need someone with the chops to guide your decision-making. You need someone who can challenge your assumptions and point you toward the truth. You need someone who has ideas that break through the noise.

This is why I do what I do. This is why I don’t create personal development programs masquerading as business development. This is why my team is full of people who are doing the work every single day. This is why I’ve spent years putting together a methodology and training people how to use it.

Quiet Power Strategy Team

Quiet Power Strategy Team Meeting: Suzi Istvan, Natasha Vorompiova, Jen Vertanen, Brigitte Lyons, Breanne Dyck in non-coordinated gesture of deep thought

This was the subject of an all-hands on deck Quiet Power Strategy team meeting a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how important it is that we’re more than cheerleaders for our clients. They come to us because we’ve got the chops. We’re direct. We’re ruthless. We’re ambitious.

Why? Because that’s what you need. Whether you’re a client, a trainee, a member, a viewer, or a reader, you need more than a cheerleader.

I don’t want to be your cheerleader. I don’t want my program to be your pep rally. I don’t want you to read this blog because you need a visit from the t-shirt cannon.

I want to sit with you in the situation room and hash out possible scenarios for making it through—and prevailing—in the long fight. I want to challenge your assumptions, orient you to new insights, and help you lead yourself to the results you want. I want to tell it like it is—and tell you what’s possible.

I want to do the math. I want to crunch the numbers. I want to look for a Plan B, C, D, and E you can get excited about.

Before you read another feel-good business article or spend money on another inspiration course, ask yourself if what you need is another fight song or a serious look at the playbook.

Price is About So Much More Than Cost

Think about the last thing you “splurged” on: Why did you buy it? How did it make you feel? What story did it tell you? What story did it tell about you? What part of your values or personality did it confirm?

When it comes to the things we care about, we rarely make decisions based on price. Price might be a factor but it isn’t the make or break detail we worry it is as designers, idea people, and business owners.

If you create things that you want people to care about, you have to use price as an opportunity to tell a story not just pay your costs or your salary.

Price is about so much more than cost.

Price isn’t just what ends up on the tag. Price isn’t the only thing that determines whether something is affordable or too expensive. Price isn’t even the determining factor in whether someone decides to buy something or not.

Getting the price right for your products and services is important. But if you’re basing your prices solely on how much it costs you to create, how big or small it is, how complex or simple it is, how much you’d like it to be affordable, or what assumptions you’ve made about how much people are willing to spend, you’re missing the pricing boat.

I’m often asked for rules of thumb when it comes to pricing. Beyond a few calculations, an imperative to price for profit, and gentle urging to analyze the market, I don’t have any. There is no magic formula for getting to the right price for your new product or service.

There is, however, an awful lot of strategic work you can do to determine whether your pricing strategy is going to succeed or fail. You need to know who you want to have buying your product and what they expect to pay for something like it. You need to know what problem you’re solving and how resolution of that problem can be quantified. You need to know who your customers aspire to be and what community they want to fit in with. You need to know how you want your business to be positioned and how it is already perceived.

And beyond knowing all of that, you need to choose. Most pricing struggles come down to trying to be too many things to too many different kinds of people (kind of a universal life problem, isn’t it?). Of course, if your whole business is a little wishy washy, you’re going to have problems pricing.

Use price as a way to make a statement about the strategic direction of your business and then follow-through with every other aspect of your business. You’ll feel more confident about what you charge—and so will your customers.

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P.S. Makers & designers: I’m teaching a very special 1-day workshop on CreativeLive called Pricing Your Craft. You can watch live, FREE, on August 17: RSVP here for some extra special bonus materials including my exclusive Cash Flow Plan. Don’t miss it!

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.