5 Resolutions to Bring About Your Next Business Breakthrough

Why do some businesses seem to “tip” over and over again while others never quite seem to break through? I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure that out.

Often their businesses look identical on the outside. Many times, the difference boils down to a misunderstanding about what’s going on beneath the surface and how they engineer the success they achieve.

You can’t possibly hope to recreate a business’s success by recreating what you see at the surface level. You’ve got to dig in and figure out what else is happening.

In this post, I’d like to reveal some of the actions that are causing big business breakthroughs for the entrepreneurs you’re admiring and how you can apply them for yourself as New Business Year’s resolutions—now, or anytime throughout the year.

If you’re trying to engineer a tipping point or breakthrough in your business right now, you’re not alone. It probably goes without saying, but everyone I work with is in that situation: they’re ready for change.

They’re tipping from part-time to full-time, one-to-one sales to leveraged sales, paying the bills to creating wealth, going at it alone to growing a team, moving from one business model to another to generate exponentially more revenue.

They each tell me, “I know what got me here won’t get me where I want to go.” And, I wholeheartedly agree.

What tipping point are you at? What breakthrough do you want to engineer for your business in the next year?

Maybe you’re ready to break through to a new revenue threshold. You’re ready to hire a new team member. You’re ready to expand operations or roll out new offers. You’ve got growth on your mind and you’re busy putting the pieces into place to make that happen.

Here’s what is going on behind-the-scenes of the businesses that are constantly making it happen. What can you incorporate into your next plan?


5 Resolutions to Bring About Your Next Business Breakthrough

1.) Put boots on the ground and find new customers.

It might seem like your next revenue breakthrough is just a traffic-building tactic away. You’re probably regularly on the look out for new ways to get more eyeballs on your blog posts, Facebook page, or sales letters. Maybe you’re looking at running Facebook ads, or the finer points of JV webinars, or constantly building new welcome gifts to entice people to your email list.

But the most effective community builders and salespeople know that nothing beats putting boots on the ground to find new customers. Literally. They’re at conferences, hosting events, picking up the phone, and meeting with prospects.

It might be slow going but the results are staggering. These people land bigger gigs, sign better contracts, and create strong relationships with influencers that put them in front of hundreds or thousands of more customers in the end.

2.) Set prices based on goals and hard data.

Sales solves most business problems. Except, when it doesn’t. Sales can’t get you to your next business breakthrough if the prices of your products or services just make things worse every time you sell something.

Breakthrough business owners use hard data to set their prices. And, they set prices based on what they want, instead of what they have.

How do they do it? They figure out how much it costs to run the business they want (not the one they have) and they figure out how much it costs to live the life they want (not the one they have). Then they break it down. How much can they reasonably sell? What does that knowledge lead to in terms of price points? Where do those price points lead you in terms of positioning?

To have a big breakthrough, you need to think of price as a way to reach all of your goals—not just revenue. Price tells a story that can position your brand, woo the right customers, and lead to big life changes.

3.) Decide to spend more.

I’m all for finding the leanest, meanest way to make your business run. But I’m so tired of hearing business owners always looking for a free solution to their problems.

You see, free solutions have a cost. Every time someone dials your conference line and hears, “Service provided by Free Conference Call,” they make a judgement about your business. Every time you can’t use an important feature of an app because you’re not paying for it it costs you effectiveness and functionality.

You’ll never hit a breakthrough that makes you feel comfortable spending more. It’s a decision you make that you are worth it, your customers are worth it, and your business is worth it. This kind of worth doesn’t come from revenue—it comes from intense focus on what the vision of what you’re creating.

4) Don’t try so hard.

Business breakthroughs rarely come from working harder. In fact, working harder can make your breakthrough far more difficult to achieve. Why? Because innovation doesn’t come from working harder, it comes from creative constraints.

Whenever you feel yourself pushing to make something happen, take a step back and reevaluate. What’s really going on?

  • Is there a skill you’ve avoided learning?
  • Do you need help from someone more experienced?
  • Is your current business model holding you back from earning more?
  • Is there a fatal flaw in your plan?
  • Are you avoiding the temporary discomfort of growth by relying on what you know (working harder)?

If working harder is your usual MO, put new constraints in place by answering these questions. Give yourself a limited number of clients to reach your revenue goal (price accordingly). Learn a new skill (stop spinning your wheels). Connect with a mentor (stop trying to figure it out yourself).

5) Take advantage of a solid support network.

Stop trying to grow your business in isolation. Stop waiting for others to catch up. Stop cultivating relationships that feel safe.

There is no more pressing time to break out of your comfort zone than when it comes to building your support network. You need to connect with people who intimidate you, use different methods, and work in different industries. You need people in your corner who are making things happen at the same—or faster—pace as you are.

Sometimes, you need to pay money to establish these relationships quickly. That’s okay. Other times, you need to make serious investments of time. That’s okay, too. Relationship-building has a cost. But the return on investment is incredible. Stop waiting for people to come to you and start building a network that catapults your business forward.

No matter how you choose to set resolutions (or not) for the new year, integrate these ideas and watch them transform your business.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your big business goal for the next 12 months? Click here and tell me—and please be specific!

Have Trouble Creating an Action Plan and Sticking to It?

For as much as you love the idea of figuring out how to do business your way, you also want a clear-cut action plan. You sense that someone else has come along and figured out the best way to launch a program, turn a service into a product, or build a compelling brand, and you want to know the 1-2-3 step plan for making that happen.

But you’re also not naive. You know there’s no cookie cutter action plan that just works for everyone. So you try to create your own.

And you still come up short. You take action only to find yourself back in the weeds and confused about priorities.

Why does that happen?

I’ve been thinking about this problem quite a bit. I want to figure out why it is so easy for me to turn an idea into effective action and so difficult for so many other people.

Here’s my current hypothesis:

Your action plans fail because they assume your goals require linear action. You try to create a set of steps to follow instead of a strategic map that incorporates all areas of your business.

Once you’ve passed the startup stage of your business, all of your execution has to be integrated action instead of linear action.

Linear action is “first I do this, then I do that, then I’ll do the next thing.” Integrated action means knowing that when you act on one thing, it affects many other parts of your business. One simple action can create a chain reaction of necessary actions.

To get the most out of any plan, you need to account for how you’ll manage those chain reactions. Some, you’ll act on immediately. Those are the things that best support your strategy and help you create the most amount of leverage. Others, you’ll intentionally put on the back burner. You can’t do everything right away.

You also need to know your overall strategy for each area of your business so that once you realize a chain reaction is occurring in that area, you can act with intention in line with your strategy.

Here’s what that looks like in my business:

Integrated action plan for my business

I’ve started a complete restructuring plan for 2016. It includes changing the format and scope of the foundational Quiet Power Strategy™ program, adding additional outcome-oriented programs, and building multiple channels for new members to join our community.

I started by planning out the first 6 months of the year on giant calendars. This was linear action planning. Now I can see when I will start promoting, launching, selling, and delivering our new programs.

However, if that’s all I would do, my plan would fail.

Now that I have a basic structure for my 2016 plan, I need to rework many other parts of my business. I’ve decided to rebrand our membership community and incorporate it into Quiet Power Strategy™; I’ve decided to move from Mailchimp (sad face, still love ‘em!) to ConvertKit; I’ve created a plan for identifying, segmenting, and nurturing new members based on their interests so that we can connect them to the right offers.

Each one of those things (and the many other decisions and systems involved) warrants its own linear action plan. But again, without integrating that into the overall plan, those action plans are worthless.

If you try to reduce your action plans to linear action, you’ll always (and I mean, always) come up short. A formula—even one of your own creation—is just never good enough. One step in that formula will always lead to another chain reaction of steps.

This is also why it feels like you’re regularly biting off more than you can chew. Once you get started on a good plan, it quickly spirals out of control because you realize just how much more there is to do.

One way I’ve found to effectively combat this problem is to pre-mortem my plans. A pre-mortem is essentially a way to reverse engineer your problem-solving and incorporate it into your action plan to begin with. When you do a pre-mortem, pretend your plan has utterly failed—the patient is dead on the table—then list any and all reasonable factors that could have contributed to its failure.

Once you have that list, countermeasures need to be integrated into your action plan. Now, you have an integrated action plan.

As you turn your focus to the next phase of your business, pay special attention to the chain reactions that necessarily occur because of the decisions you make. Create plans that anticipate and incorporate these chain reactions so that you’re not left in a lurch with your action planning.

The 4 Stages of Idea-Driven Business

I love idea-driven businesses. They’re not just solving problems, they’re not just serving people, they’re not just putting cool products out into the world.

Idea-driven businesses are fueled by the pursuit of change.

Their innovation is born from a deep desire to change the way people think about themselves, their businesses, their homes, their careers, their wardrobes, their families, etc…

Idea-driven businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Some create physical products, others offer services, still more offer education or training.

I’ve been working primarily with idea-driven businesses for about the last 5 years. I’ve encountered them at all stages and have created systems for tackling the biggest problems they face. So with this article, I want to shed light on the different stages of idea-driven business and what problems each stage entails so that you have a better idea of where your idea-driven business is and where it’s headed.

I’ve included a description of each stage, the biggest difficulty the business faces in each, what happens during the transition from one stage to the next, and, finally, the inflection point that changes the transition from eventual to intentional.

The 4 Stages of Idea-Driven Business


A startup is defined as a business that is trying to figure out how it will make money, reach a growing number of customers, and build the systems it needs for continuous optimization.

Yes, this normally comes with the trappings of venture capital, hip offices in an expensive city, and fancy parties. But it absolutely doesn’t have to.

At the heart of whether a business is a startup or not is 1 core activity: learning.

Think about when you started your business: did you know what product or service offers would work? Did you know the best way for you to find customers? Did you know what you even wanted your business to look like at maturity? No.

You were learning. You were learning how you could reliably make money; you were learning how you should connect with the right people; and, you were learning how to do those things more efficiently so you didn’t lose your mind (hopefully).

This is the Startup Stage of idea-driven business. At this stage, the idea may not even be articulated. It could be more of an ethos or personal philosophy in the back of your mind. You don’t know the value of it yet—and how could you?

You’re simply figuring out how you can make money, reach the right people, and do things more efficiently as you go in an effort to create positive change for people. You start doing the work, put up a website, and learn how your work is most useful.

BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Finding people to offer your product or service to so you can learn.

THE TRANSITION: As your business starts to enter the transition to the next stage, you find yourself reasonably confident about what will sell and what won’t. You have a hazy understanding of where you can find new customers when you need them. You’re paying the bills but it’s not always easy. You’re excited about your business but the reality of how you will make it grow seems incredibly daunting.

INFLECTION POINT: You realize that nothing will change unless your business changes. Your business can’t grow without a significant adjustment to the way it creates, delivers, and exchanges value.


The Growth Stage begins when you don’t just repeat what’s worked in the past but truly understand why it’s worked. When you know why certain products, tactics, or messages have worked, you can engineer new products, tactics, or messages based on that same principle.

Now, you begin to take control of the growth of your idea-driven business. It’s intentional expansion—not the unintentional explosion that often leads to collapse.

In the Growth Stage, you might need a waiting list or to get some production assistance. Things are still tight but you’re starting to see how they could work out—and you sense wiggle room might be just around the corner.

BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Finding ways to serve more people without burning out.

TRANSITION: Here is where your idea starts to emerge. You discovered it hiding underneath the unique way you offer your work and you’ve started to talk about it. That idea has helped your business growth gain traction and momentum.

INFLECTION POINT: You realize you’re spinning your wheels on growth. There’s little point in reaching more people because your business doesn’t have a way to serve them. Because there’s little point, you’re not doing what you need to do to reach more people. Revenue growth stalls—even if reach does not.


The Leverage Stage begins when you use your idea as a way to do more with less work. Your idea becomes the heart & soul of your message, offers, brand, and business model. Your business is known for its unique perspective. Your business has stopped trying to be everything to everyone.

Idea-driven businesses don’t always scale as they grow—but to reach a level of ease, they must find leverage.

Focus is the key to leverage. You focus on 1 message. You focus on 1 growth channel. You focus on 1 offer. You focus on 1 customer. It’s counterintuitive to get more specific and add more constraints to your business to create leverage—but it’s key.

BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Clearly and concisely describing what you offer to appeal to the right people at the right time.

TRANSITION: As your business starts to enter the transition to the next stage, you sense that all that focus will allow your business to expand if only you can create the systems and get the help that will allow that to happen.

INFLECTION POINT: You see a pattern among your customers that point to additional ways you could be serving them. All you need is a way to make it happen—and you could significantly increase your revenue per customer.


The microenterprise is the startup all grown up. It’s lean, mean, and changing the world.

And you, as its owner, are not burnt out. You’re enjoying the freedom, control, independence, and influence that you imagined when you started this whole thing. You’re working your systems, optimizing regularly, and letting your growth machine do most of the work.

You have a team to support you and your ideas. You’re not responsible for every email, decision, or sale. You have time to think, be creative, and enjoy being an executive.

BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Knowing when to disrupt your own systems or process.

Orienting your business to the stage that you’re in helps you anticipate pitfalls, plan proactively, and discern your next steps. Plus, when you know what stage you’re in, you know you’re not alone. The frustrations you feel and the goals that you have put you in the company of other smart idea people who are making things happen.

Building a business is a journey–enjoy the ride.

It’s Not You: 3 Things to Consider in the Face of Failure

Product development often feels like throwing spaghetti at a wall. (Though it doesn’t have to.)

And sadly, when that spaghetti doesn’t stick, I see business owners not only throw in the towel but blame themselves and their ideas for the failure. It’s never “you” that’s wrong with your idea; and, it’s rarely the idea that’s the problem.

Instead, there are 3 common reasons that products, programs, courses, and offers fail. Each of these can be avoided by creating and using a product development strategy that works.

3 Things to Consider in the Face of Product Development Failure

Here’s what to consider in the face of failure:

1) The transformation isn’t clear.

Value is transformation. If the transformation isn’t clear, neither is the value of what you’re offering. “Life coaching” isn’t value. “Website design” isn’t value. “Jewelry” isn’t value.

Value is telling someone how their idea of themselves, their environment, their relationships, their skills, or their behavior will change as a result of using your product. Value is making it clear that there’s a Before and an After and making that story come alive on the page, on the call, or in the conversation.

Many businesses or products launch without having a clear picture of this transformation. If you don’t know what the transformation is, it’s your job to find out. That’s the only way to ensure the success of what you’re offering for the long-term.

If you’ve offered a product or program without a clear understanding of how you’re transforming someone’s experience, you’ve not gotten the results you’ve aimed for. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or with the product—just a message you need to hone to create a much bigger return.

ACTION: Rewrite the top third of your sales page or letter to describe the Before & After your product creates for your customer.

2) The market wasn’t ready.

Few businesses spend the time to create market readiness. They have a brilliant idea and decide to hurl it on people they suspect might need it.

In order for your market to be ready for what you’re offering, they need to see how their current experience connects to what you’re offering. That connection takes time. Very few customers make the leap as quickly as you do—and, if you base your “failure” on the limited number of people who do, you will always see failure.

Instead, take time, paint the picture, connect the dots. Make sure your people have ample time to walk down the path of their own experience with you before you show them what you have to offer.

ACTION: Create a content sequence and sales conversation that starts further out (maybe 6-10 weeks from the time you want your first sale).

3) The offer wasn’t urgent.

People love to buy (we so often forget). But they prioritize things that solve immediate problems or frustrations over things that just sound cool.

At this point, you’ve got cool down.

What about urgent? Natural urgency in marketing isn’t telling people there are a limited number of spots (when there aren’t) or giving people only a fraction of time to buy. Natural urgency ties a pressing need to the promise of your product.

That pressing need, again, has nothing to do with “life coaching,” “web design,” or “jewelry.” It has everything to do with deciding to quit your job, landing higher paid speaking gigs, or looking great for a big interview.

Tie what you have to offer to a personal priority for your customers and you’ll sell more every time.

ACTION: Write a sales email for an evergreen offer that ties the product to a personal priority your customers have. Send it!

Remember, it’s not you. It’s likely not even your product. Failure comes from lots of sources. Next time sales don’t go the way you expect, consider these 3 potential problems and make an adjustment.


P.S. It’s time to great a program or course that works (better results for you and your students). Find out more about The Master Class today. We start next week!

Build It to Sell: The Answer to Many, Many Questions

If you’ve considered building a product—whether it’s a book, a course, an application, or a program—you’ve likely run into a fair amount of doubt and a number of questions early in the process.

“What if no one wants to buy this?”
“How can I convince people it’s valuable?”
“What if people don’t get it?”

All this after you likely struggled to find your big idea in the first place. And if you’re like many people reading this blog, you still don’t know what that idea is—and you’re pre-worrying about the questions above.

The good news (and there’s lots of good news in this post) is that the answers to these questions are all related. Once you figure out one important thing, the rest should follow.

It all starts with asking a different question.

And that question is…

What do people want to buy?

The problem with sales isn’t that people don’t want to buy. People love to buy! It’s that they hate being sold to.

So if you ask yourself what people want to buy first, you negate the need to sell. You just create what people want to buy.

Of course, that sounds scary. What if you don’t want to make what people want to buy?

Here again, you need to look at it differently.

People don’t want to buy products. They want to buy outcomes.

Or as David Ogilvy once said, “People don’t buy drills. They buy holes.”

You can build anything you want, as long as it gets people to the outcome that they want to buy.

Do they want to learn a new skill? You can teach that skill in the manner you choose to get them there.

Do they want to change a bad habit or behavioral pattern? You can help them through that shift in the best way you know how.

Do they never want to be frustrated by that friend of theirs again? You can guide them to respond differently however you see fit.

Do they want to reach a big goal? You can create a unique path to get them there based on what you’re really passionate about.

Do they want to change how they see themselves in the mirror? You can build the product that makes that happen.

Build your product to sell and you’ll never feel like you’re selling again. All you need to do is tell the truth, speak openly and honestly about what your product is designed to help your customers accomplish, and they’ll do the rest.

Your customers don’t have to fully understand your product to buy it. They don’t have to be taught why they thing you’ve created is valuable. The only thing they need to understand is that your product was designed to help them get what they want, become the person they want to become, or change something they’ve been meaning to change.

When you build a product to sell, you can count on customer excitement to help you spread the word. You can count on your sales copy all but writing itself. You can count on your advertising to stick. You can count on each sales conversation you have being productive.

Building to sell isn’t a jail sentence; it is, in fact, the way you set your business free.

P.S. I’ll be on CreativeLive this week talking about turning your service into a product that’s built to sell. You can watch FREE during the live broadcast. Just click here to RSVP.

How to Build the Next Phase of Your Business When This One is Paying the Bills

At some point, you decide to make a change. Deciding to change the way your business delivers value or the type of services that your business offers isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is deciding when to stop what you’re doing now.

How do you plan for the next phase of your business when this one is paying the bills


What you’re doing now pays the bills. It’s safe. It’s (fairly) comfortable. People expect it. It’s shaped the way people see your business and how they think of you as a leader.

Even as you start to envision what’s next, it seems like all outside forces are pushing you to double-down on what you’ve got.

This is a problem that many of our clients face and a question I regularly ask myself: How do you build the next phase of your business while you’re working the current phase?

Business model innovation is a key activity of any business.

Okay, that’s jargony. Evolving, adapting, and optimizing the way your business creates, delivers, and exchanges value (i.e. transformation and results) is something you need to do on a regular basis.

That means testing prices, adjusting sales messaging, and iterating on existing products. But it can also mean sweeping change in the what your business offers or how it offers it.

The prospect of this is often exciting.

The reality of making it happen can be terrifying and paralyzing.

When something is working, it’s incredibly difficult to find the motivation—let alone the time—to change it. But change it you must.

Stagnation simply isn’t an option.

If you want to move from 1:1 coaching to group programs, at some point, you need to stop offering 1:1 coaching. If you want to move from physical products to digital products, at some point you need to stop offering physical products. If you want to move from small retreats to large conferences, at some point, you need to stop offering small retreats.

There are two main ways I work with clients on this big change—both of which I use myself in steering my own company.

Option 1: Shadow Offers

If the work you do is paying the bills, but you want to stop doing it, stop marketing it. The good news is that just because you stop marketing it doesn’t mean you have to stop getting paid for it.

Last year, Whitney Hess, a leader in the user experience field, worked with me to back off of her corporate gigs and add more coaching (both individual and group) to her business model. She stopped marketing her corporate consulting and started positioning her business for these new coaching offers. After a taking a few months off at the beginning of 2014, she put the plan into overdrive taking on enough corporate clients to pay the bills while welcoming a whole cohort of coaching clients. That led to her best year yet.

Often the businesses that employ this technique are getting their clients on a referral basis. Their happy former clients are sending them eager new clients, regardless of their sales pages or outside lead generation strategies. That means those sales pages can come down and their lead gen activities can stop while the revenue keeps flowing—right up until they decide to say “no” to it.

Once you take down the offers and stop actively marketing them, they become what I call “shadow offers.” They’re a part (even a big part) of the way your business generates revenue—but they’re not in the light anymore. Your business isn’t defined by them.

Often, the hardest part of making a change in your business model is teaching people a new way to see your business. By employing shadow offers, you can start the process of repositioning your business much sooner without damaging your revenue stream too early.

Option 2: Progressive Business Model Planning

In Quiet Power Strategy, one of the highlights of the program is creating a Business Model Plan. It’s not just the framework for how the business creates, delivers, and exchanges value, it’s a plan for how it will do so when all the right pieces fall into place.

However, even a forward-looking business model plan isn’t the solution for some business owners and the changes they want to make. In this case, we make 2 plans.

The first plan is a framework for how the business will create, deliver, and exchange value in the interim. It’s generally heavy on the offers that are currently generating the most revenue and incorporates an offer or two that indicates the direction the business is heading. It allows the business owner to see how she can start making decisions that support her future positioning without jeopardizing the safety of her current revenue streams.

The second plan is a framework for how the business will create, deliver, and exchange value in the future (often 12-18 months out). This is the goal plan. It reflects the projected changes when they are complete.

Moving between the first plan and the second plan isn’t like flipping a switch. It’s progressive and incremental.

We set milestones (number of sales, dollars in savings, etc…) that signal the time to make a single change from one plan to the next. Eventually, the enough milestones occur that the business model is transformed from the original plan to the new plan.

This is always how my business has evolved its model. I make a plan with a smaller change first, then make a plan for what it will look like eventually. Then, I set milestones and benchmarks for when those bigger changes will be made. That’s allowed me to transition my brand multiple times while leading my audience toward the next set of offers I’ll make.

Is it time to make a change in your business model? If that question makes you think, I guarantee the answer is yes.

Both of these options allow you to mitigate risk as you move from one business model to the next. Which one is right for you?