When I’m feeling cheeky, I will admit to having retired two husbands with my business.
My first marriage ended (it’s better for everyone involved). And my second, well, okay…
Technically, we’re not married. But we own a house together, pay the bills together, and he survived about 25,000 miles of travel with me in one 12-month period. So, give me a pass on the shorthand.
Now, a few months after I retired my first husband and hit the biggest revenue goal I could imagine at the time, I started looking for a new goal.
I felt rudderless without a challenge to work toward.
I asked everyone: How do you dream bigger when you’ve just achieved more than you’ve ever dreamed of?
How do you dream bigger when you’ve just achieved more than you’ve ever dreamed of?
Now, I realize that sounds like a really quality problem to have–and it is.
But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
You can’t create what you can’t see.
When you’re a student or working in a corporate career, your goals are based on what’s in front of you, what you’re exposed to.
You eye the scholarship. You fantasize about the acceptance letter. You want the promotion. You look for a raise.
You can see yourself attaining any of those things because they’re right in front of you. You see people achieving them and know they’re possible. They might be a dream, but they’re dreams you can see yourself living.
With business, it’s often very different.
I didn’t know I could dream of running a million-dollar company. I didn’t know I could dream of hiring a team of fabulous employees. I didn’t know I could dream of speaking on stage in front of hundreds or thousands.
Before I was connected to people who were dreaming those kinds of dreams and–more importantly–working those kinds of plans, I didn’t have a clue about my potential as an entrepreneur.
Every step of growth my business has taken has been a direct result of my connection to someone or something that allowed me to finally visualize a bigger goal or challenge.
When I retired my first husband, I didn’t know how to think beyond, “I want to make $100,000 per year and retire my husband.”
I had no close relationships with people who had achieved that.
When it came to ambitious colleagues and friends who took their businesses as seriously as I did, my well was damp at best.
As a result, my business suffered from my lack of vision and creativity. It kept growing but not at the pace it could have.
I worked harder instead of smarter.
I pushed for incremental successes instead of exponential steps forward and new ways of creating value.
Now, you might be thinking, “Tara, I haven’t hit the goal I’m working on right now. How can you expect me to look beyond that?”
Here’s why I expect you to–and why I believe you must:
The action you take is dictated–consciously or unconsciously–by your vision and goals.
Try this thought experiment.
What would you have to do differently to reach your goal for 2017 in the next 6 weeks, without working more in your business?
Your first reaction might be panic. But your second might be a pretty creative way to reorganize your business and your time to achieve more, at a faster pace, than you originally let yourself plan for.
That’s why you need to be connected to people who push you, challenge you, and take their businesses as seriously as you take yours.
Those connections help you take dramatic steps forward in your business–starting with the way you spend your time and the action you take right now.
They help you get creative about how you’ll achieve your goals and see new possibilities all around you.
The decisions I make and actions I take today are based on the vision that I can now see myself living, and that vision was inspired by the possibility I’ve glimpsed in the lives of people I know.
It’s such a relief to make big decisions with ease and take action that supports those decisions.
And, it’s all thanks to the ambitious and open business owners I’m connected to on a daily basis. They’ve helped me dream bigger dreams and take different action.
On Monday, I’m going to share with you how a completely different kind of connection–with people who have businesses wholly different than my own–helped to dramatically transform my vision for my business.
Plus, you’ll get a sneak peek of what we’ve created for you to solve this problem.
Wanna make a bet?
I bet you’ve held off on a project because you didn’t know how to make it happen.
You had a great idea, something that would really make a splash, really get your brand out there.
You could see the finished product (idea, book, offer, etc…) in all its glory.
You realized you had no idea how to make it happen.
- How would you shoot the videos?
- How would you get the new website up?
- How would you edit the files?
- How would you market the opportunity?
I’ll admit it: I feel pretty safe making this bet because I’ve been there, done that.
If I look back on the last 8 years, are there probably at least 15 times I could have changed the course of my business if I’d only been willing to step back and let someone else figure out the details.
This week on Profit. Power. Pursuit., I talked to Jenny Dopazo about a project like this, her web series The Fabricant Way.
She actually told me, “The one thing that was certain was that I wasn’t going to put myself in a position where I needed to learn how to do this. Me becoming a film person was not part of the vision.“
Learning Is Your Job But It’s Not Your Only Job
As a small business owner, you’re constantly putting yourself in the position of having to learn how to do new things.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing–learning is part of entrepreneurship (and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much!).
But it can become the default setting: new idea equals something new to learn.
And when you’re overwhelmed, overloaded, and overscheduled, it means that the things that could really change the course of your business–like Jenny’s video series–often get left behind.
Jenny said that once she realized that becoming a “film person” wasn’t part of her vision for the project, she was able to get clear on what seat at the table she really wanted to be in.
Then, she could identify all the other “seats” she needed and find the right people to fill those roles.
Now, I understand that that in & of itself might sound intimidating. Maybe you’re not in a position to make that kind of investment or maybe you’re not connected to the right people.
But once you know how you want to position yourself in a project, you can start to get creative about making it happen: maybe you can trade services, maybe you can ask for introductions, maybe you can set up a revenue share, etc…
Don’t table a project just because YOU don’t know how to make it happen.
Get clear on your vision and your role in that vision–and then get creative about the rest.
Listen to this week’s episode & subscribe:
“A business can be a prototype of the world you want to live in.”
— Jennifer Armbrust
You probably started your business to create the world you wanted to live in.
You thought about the kind of people you wanted to work with, the kind of work you wanted to do, the kind of time off you didn’t want to have to ask permission for, and the kind of flexible schedule that would allow you to accomplish more than work.
I hope you accomplished a lot of that!
Maybe some of it is still a work-in-progress…
Yet, as you are very well aware, the world doesn’t stop at your office door or even your front door.
If you want to build a business that prototypes the world you want to live in, you have to consider how your business is impacting your customers and your community.
- Does the structure of it embody the values you hold dear?
- Do the offers you make reinforce your idea of how you want to build relationships with others?
- Does your team reflect the way you want to see our communities organized?
- Does your mindset as an entrepreneur and leader represent the mindset you want to see in the leaders of our community at large?
Building a business that is a prototype for the world you want to live in doesn’t just mean you get to live a great life (although that’s incredibly important).
It also means that the decisions you make for your business reflect your greatest hopes and dreams for our society.
What you’re building has the capacity to be so much bigger than you.
If you want to live up to that potential, you have to answer those questions. And then keep answering them so that you are always improving on the world you’re creating for yourself and others.
And today–today–I challenge you to rise up to that potential.
Your potential gives me hope–hope that is growing day by day by day:
Between 1997 and 2014, non-employer firms in the United States grew by 60% (for contrast, traditional payroll jobs grew 12% in that same time).
What’s a non-employer firm, you ask?
Well, it’s you. Or, if you’re not anymore, you most likely started your business as a non-employer firm.
Non-employer firms are–most often–the scrappy, creative, determined sort of micro businesses that have no employees. They consist solely of an owner creating something from scratch with an idea and loads of ambition.
This is an unprecedented rise in this measure. And that means…
There is an unprecedented number of entrepreneurs taking steps to create the world they want to live in. There is an unprecedented number of business owners building personal wealth and contributing to the common wealth.
There is real change afoot.
And, it’s not coming from the top down.
It’s coming from the bottom up.
What you’re doing right now—by building your business, circumventing pre-established norms, creating value for others and wealth for yourself—is slowing but surely changing the dynamics of power in your community.
No matter which side of the aisle we sit on, I know that we agree that when creative, thoughtful, purpose-driven people of all different stripes have more influence over the direction of society, we all benefit.
So, thank you.
Thank you for showing up. Thank you for offering your voice.
Thank you for offering a different solution. Thank you for toughing it out.
The next big thing in social media is small.
As my friend and mastermind buddy Sarah Bray puts it, it’s the difference between big box stores and small shops:
When I was growing up, Wal-Mart was inevitable. It was just this place you had to go to get basic stuff. You needed it, and you didn’t think twice about how horrible it was. It was cheap and it was there.
But now, we have all these other options. We can shop locally. We can shop online. We can shop at Target. We don’t have to go to Wal-Mart anymore.
I hope this is what is happening with the web right now. That more of us are deciding that the Wal-Marts of the Internet aren’t really what we need, and that we can do better.
Wal-Mart, of course, is Facebook. Or maybe it’s Twitter. Really, it’s wherever you don’t want to be but feel like you have to for the sake of “getting the word out” about your business.
Social media–as a behemoth ready to send you tons of free traffic if only you can crack the code–is all but dead.
Long live social media!
Social media is getting smaller, more organized and less algorithmic, more people-focused and less startup-focused.
What this means for you is that you have a lot of control. Now, you no longer only have control over your content, you have control over the platform because the platform is yours.
You create the space, invite the people, and play in it together as you see fit.
You don’t “go on” social, you are social.
Sarah is doing this with her own community and virtual co-working space, Gathered. I do this with The Lab.
But you don’t have to go rogue to make this new wave of social work for you and your community.
Live video is also working to create these spaces–within big boxes like Facebook or in small, private spaces like on Crowdcast (my new favorite thing).
With live video, each post becomes a gathering spot.
It’s fleeting, yes. But it’s also incredibly powerful. When you make an eyeball-to-eyeball connection with 5, 100, or 10,000 people for 5 minutes, you’re doing more good for your business in that time than a lifetime on Twitter.
Live video isn’t the next big thing because it’s new technology or a new tactic for connecting with your audience. Live video is big because of how small it makes our world for a few powerful moments.
I suspect that more technology will come along and mimic this small world environment soon.
I spoke with one of the pioneers of online business and social media marketing, Joel Comm, for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit.
Joel told me that he sees live video as the thing we’ll be talking about with social for quite some time to come.
If you want to hear more about how live video creates small gathering spots for your community–and how Joel approaches new technology, platforms, and trends in social media, check out this week’s episode.
Click here to read the transcript or listen in to our conversation.
Sometimes “enough” isn’t enough.
Set the bar for “enough” and, if you fall just a little short, you no longer have enough.
Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say you know that 8 clients per quarter is enough for your web design business. You have 6 lined up with deposits paid, so you announce you have 2 more openings.
You find those 2 new clients and you put them on the schedule. You stop looking.
One of them falls through. They have a hiccup and their plans just don’t work for working with you.
Now you only have 7 clients for the quarter.
Not too big of a deal… but it does represent about $6000 in revenue that you may or may not be able to find a replacement for.
The next quarter, the same thing happens.
Now you’re down $12000 for the year and things start to get tight.
This is what I mean when I say “enough” isn’t enough.
If you plan for just enough, you end up only doing enough to get “enough.”
Any bump in the road on the way to “enough” and now you have, well, less than enough.
That’s no way to plan for your business.
Or, your life.
When you plan to line up 12 clients per quarter, assuming 4 will fall through, the worst scenario you have to deal with is finding a junior designer to take on some of the workload.
That’s, potentially, another $18,000 in profit every quarter.
The other thing that happens is that your behavior starts to change.
You work differently when you’re aiming for a substantially bigger goal. You don’t just try to do more, you try new things.
When you think beyond enough, you fundamentally change how you approach the problem. Doing things differently can get you much bigger results.
That’s just one of the things I talked about with my clients and friends, Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson, this week on the Being Boss podcast.
We also geeked out on business models, some of the challenges Kathleen & Emily have faced in growing the Being Boss business, and common mistakes that business owners make that hold them back from explosive growth.
I had a blast recording this interview–it’s a real inside look at my conversations with clients.
Check it out:
When Sean and I moved back to Pennsylvania a year ago, he quit his job to pursue his creative interests including fiction writing.
He’d dabbled in writing for quite some time, working on character development or penning short vignettes, but he’d never devoted himself to it. He couldn’t find the discipline to take a single idea from start to finish.
And he knew that no matter how many days he worked on character development or short vignettes, he wasn’t going to end up with a completed novel until he changed the way he was approaching the whole pursuit.
So he gave himself a massive challenge…
…he decided to tackle NaNoWriMo.
If you’re not familiar, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and it happens every November, right alongside No Shave November (for which he is also a faithful participant). The goal is to write approximately 1650 words every day of the month so that you end the month with a 50,000-word manuscript.
You do it knowing full well that the manuscript will likely be terrible…
…but at least it will be done.
This was going to be a real test: going from a scant 100-200 words per day to 1650 words per day? How could he manage it?
Well, he did. He actually finished early and proudly printed off the entire 50,000+ word manuscript on November 30.
The reason he accomplished it was simple…
He made structural changes to the way he approached writing. He was no longer just trying to get in some writing 100-200 words at a time, he structured his day around achieving the necessary 1600 words.
It wasn’t a matter of time or hustle. It was a matter of design:
- He stopped writing in a notebook and started writing in a Google Doc.
- He stopped writing at the pub and started writing in an office.
- He stopped putting it off til the end of the day and started prioritizing the action first thing.
- He stopped second-guessing every artistic choice he made and started moving through the plot bit by bit.
These 4 simple changes meant that he octupled his production in largely the same amount of time he was spending on writing before. Not only that, but he actually set a goal and reached it.
Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the difference between a 6-figure business and a 7-figure business.
Just like with Sean’s success and NaNoWriMo, what separates a 6-figure business from a 7-figure business is a matter of design.
A business that generates 6-figure revenue is rarely an underperforming 7-figure business.
Just like Sean wasn’t really an underperforming novelist before he tackled NaNoWriMo.
A business that generates 6-figure revenue is one that’s designed to generate 6-figure revenue. A business that generates 7-figure revenue is one that’s designed to generate 7-figure revenue.
Of course, it’s also true that a 5-figure business is rarely an underperforming 6-figure business. A 5-figure business is most often designed to earn 5-figures.
No matter how much you hustle, no matter how much time you devote to it, no matter how many new skills you learn, if your business isn’t designed to reach your goal, it won’t.
What exactly do I mean when I say the “design” of your business?
- Your prices
- Your business model
- The structure of your offers
- The way you nurture prospects and customers
- Your campaigns
- Your team
- Your brand
- Your time management
- Your project management
It all has to work together and be aligned with your goal–no matter what that might be.
There’s a good chance–whether you realize it right now or not–that your business design has had more in common with Sean’s 100-200 words per day than it does with the NaNoWriMo guideline of 1650 words per day.
You’ve been putting in time and energy… but it hasn’t been in the pursuit of a clear objective.
The reason NaNoWriMo’s 50,000-word goal works so well is that it’s easy to figure out exactly what you need to do to hit it. You take 50,000 and divide it by the 30 days in November. Then you make the structural changes to your routine to allow you to accomplish it day in and day out until the goal is met.
Your business works the same way. You choose a goal and the adjust the design of your business accordingly.
If you don’t choose, you’ll keep just getting by. If you don’t adjust, you’ll get down on yourself for never even getting close to where you want to be.
Choose a goal (maybe your next goal is a 7-figure year) and adjust your design.
…just because you haven’t reached a previous goal (say $150,000/yr) doesn’t mean you can’t set a new goal (say $750,000/yr).
Your past performance doesn’t change your worthiness. Nor does it change your ability to design your business to reach a higher goal now that you understand what your effort fell short. When you decide to set that new goal, go big.