A Confession of Sorts–or–There’s More Than One Way to Grow Your Business

Will you allow me to share something a little uncomfortable with you for a bit? When I file my 2012 taxes this year, my personal income will be considerably lower than in 2011.

No, I didn’t cash in on some big business expense that allows me to claim less income. No, I didn’t shelter any in quasi-legal bank accounts.

I just made less.

About halfway through the year, I began to feel (as in, in my body) the results of earning less income. There were knots of stress, anxiety headaches, and the taste you get in your mouth from eating a bit of humble pie.

Maybe even some shame.

Luckily, I recognized the problem fairly quickly with the help of my set of trusted mentors and coaches. The problem? Oh, it wasn’t earning less money. It was that I wasn’t acknowledging:

  • that I had purposefully taken “time off” from earning to grow my business in other ways
  • that I was having great success with that growth
  • and that I had changed my spending circumstances to meet the challenge
  • oh, and, that my measure of success–even in business–was not revenue.

Let me back up. In early Spring 2012, I had constructed a plan to restructure the very foundation of my business. I started working with a literary agent on a book proposal. I changed the way I worked with 1:1 clients.

With more clarity than ever before, I worked to make the next iteration of my business based on how I was best suited to make the impact I want to make on the world.

For me, that means writing books–whether traditionally published or self-published–because I’m an ideas person. I’m curious, a bit obsessive, and could happily converse all day on the big picture. It also means continuing to speak, teach, and blog.

That means the rest of my business needs to grow into buckets that can take care of themselves. Scoutie Girl is one bucket. Kick Start Labs is another bucket. Even my own coaching and consulting is another bucket. Those buckets don’t function without teams, clear goals, and individual visions.

So, back to that revenue thing again. I didn’t personally make as much money this year, as I said. Why? Well, this kind of growth–even carefully planned, almost-can’t-fail strategies–takes time. I had to “give up on” some big streams of revenue to transition the business into these buckets. Then I had to rebuild those streams of revenue under new brand names and with new people.

In the midst of this transition, I purposefully took some serious time off from making money to work on my book proposal. It wasn’t a sure thing–still isn’t–and there was little chance it would make up for the money I wasn’t making. It was an investment in a different type of growth, one for which I’m very well suited.

Here’s the thing: I made less money in 2012 than in 2011, but my business grew like crazy. It made a big impact. I’m so proud of everything we accomplished.

How do you know if your business is growing if you’re not making more money?

…or hiring more employees …or quadrupling your subscriber base …or selling more products

You have to change how you define growth. In my new book, I talk about growth in terms of 3 areas: reach, revenue, and depth.

Growth based on reach is about fostering new connections. You’re putting your work and ideas in front of new people, more people. You’re casting the net to gather everyone who can take your vision and turn it into deep good. You’re partnering, networking, broadcasting.

Growth based on depth is about uncovering needs and desires that reside far below the surface. You’re working towards loyalty and strong relationships. You’re allowing curiosity drive those relationships and you’re rising to the task of creating a vast impact in individual lives.

Growth based on revenue is recognizing all the ways you’re creating value and implementing systems to receive value to match. You’re organizing, marketing, and packaging. You’re letting the current reality around your business guide you to higher returns.

When you consider how you’ll explore your next growth stage, you need must consider where your strengths naturally fall. If you’re really not into diving into big questions, you’re probably must better suited to growing your reach than growing in depth. If you’re really good at recognizing opportunities to create transactions, you might be best suited to grow in revenue.

You also need to consider what the big vision is for the impact you want to make in the world with your business. If your vision is to transform lives one at a time, growing in reach doesn’t serve that vision. If your vision is to introduce broad communities to your big idea, trying to grow in depth doesn’t make a lot of sense.

When you consider your strengths (both as an individual and as a business) and the impact you want your business to make, you’ll have a prescription for the type of growth you want to embark on next. You’ll be able to weigh other considerations (like a dip in profit!) against the type of growth you’re generating.

That means you can grow without (much) anxiety. You can change directions with purpose. You can create change with a vision.

That’s the art of growth.

Praise for The Art of Growth

The Art of Growth by Tara Gentile“…offers tools to help your beloved business come of age and come into its own while simultaneously handing you the reins to your life back.”
— Tanya Geisler, creator of Board of Your Life

“By engaging the reader with her business philosophies gained through hard-won expertise, The Art of Growth will leave you with pages of notes and hope for scaling your next venture.”
— Dusti Arab, writer and branding strategist

Learn more or get your copy here.

Hustling is Not the Answer to the Question of Growth

Business not as hot as you’d like? Repeat this simple mantra, “hustle.”

That seems to be the answer you’re most likely to find for all your woes. Write more, create more, network more, pitch more. Hustle.

Really? Hmm…

I don’t have an across-the-board problem with hustling. My problem with it is that it can easily lead to more ugliness than it solves.

When you’re measuring your work against the hustle imperative, it’s hard to see others success in perspective. You end up repeating others hustling instead of figuring out what actions would best serve your own goals.

The hustle imperative can also force you to work from a sense of scarcity. There’s only so much time, only so many tactics, only so many connections that count. You’re constantly racing against the clock and your own sanity.

It’s not that it doesn’t work; it’s that it’s exhausting.

Hustling is not the key to growth. It’s the key to getting individual things done, checking things off the list, sealing the deal. It’s not a long term strategy.

Growth is big. It’s expansive. It’s nourishing.

Growth requires effectiveness. It thrives on ease.

If you’re ready to grow your business–make a bigger impact, reach a wider audience, or generate more revenue, you need to focus on discovering what creates the most returns (as you define them) with as much ease as possible.

Doesn’t sound much like hustling to me. What do you think?

Let’s go a bit deeper with this conundrum, though. It’s not enough to say that growth is more about ease than hustle. There’s a pervasive belief that, while concentrating on ease, strengths, and core desires can lead to plenty of good feelings and a softer variety of prosperity, these things don’t lead to the kind of immense impact that hustling creates.

What I want to see in this new year of growth is a melding of ease & effectiveness with big goals & hardcore prosperity. It’s not a choice.

A brave approach to ease really can lead to bold growth.

Click to tweet.

As you begin to execute on your plans for this year, consider what bold growth might mean for you and your business: a bigger team, a shorter workday, 10,000 downloads, a life transformed, a 6-figure year, a book deal, a vacation, a baby, an investment. And as you’re tempted to do more and more and more to achieve that growth, remember that there’s a path–albeit, not well marked–by which you do less to reach greater success.

Effectiveness leads to expansiveness.


My new book, The Art of Growth, tackles exactly this subject. How do you make a bigger impact with your business without working yourself to the bone?

What if slow & steady doesn’t win the race?

Am I good enough?

Do I have what it takes?

Do I really measure up?

When it’s time to level-up in business (or life), those are the first questions that get asked.

When you see yourself sitting next to Oprah, lights-camera-ACTION, ready to deliver your message, you say, “some day.” When you imagine your product on the shelves at Anthropologie, you say, “5 year plan.” When you dream about the 5-page spread in Fast Company, you say, “slow & steady.”

What if slow & steady doesn’t win the race?

What if the next step is actually a quantum leap forward? What if the next rung on the ladder requires you to jump to reach it?

I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

I’ve laid the firm foundations. And realized it’s no fun to live in the basement.

I’ve got penthouse ideas & ambitions.

The thing about slow & steady is that you always know where your feet are going to fall. You know that terra firma will be there to meet you each step of the way.

You know the bills are going to be paid. You know the schedule, the routine. You know everything about your customers. You know the platforms, the methods, the channels.

It’s not that slow & steady doesn’t work. It’s that you’re craving something more.

I have an inkling you might even be a bit scared to admit that, deep down, you’ve always identified with the hare.

Up the the point where she loses, naturally.

So where did the hare go wrong?

You aren’t going to win if you take a nap, run an errand, or get cocky. Okay, the hare had it coming.

But you also can’t compete if you don’t train. Training isn’t about the slow & steady. It’s about visualizing a goal and putting in the work required to get there.

You can sprint ahead but if you haven’t built up your stamina & worked the muscles, you’ll fall behind.

So, yes, there’s work. There are grueling circuits of Olympic-level creation. There are daily exercises in extreme relationship-building. There is question after question after question long after the shin splints have started.

But I know you. This is what you’re already doing. Or it’s what you crave and, instead, you’re endlessly strolling through the “shoulds” you believe are on the path to success.

The training isn’t a problem. So why are you sticking with the tortoise?

I want you to sprint.

Trust yourself & your big ideas. Push yourself to speeds you never before imagined. Take the leap. Swan dive toward your dreams.

Are you ready to surge ahead? It’s time to do a one-on-one Insight Intensive with me. My brain, your business: let’s talk. Learn more here.
Coaching shifts…

Now, when I think of wealth, I conspire ways to create win-wins for us all. I germinate strategies to help [my clients] increase not only [their] financial wealth, but also [their] emotional, spiritual, intellectual and relational prosperity.
— L’Erin Alta-Devki, creator of SisterFire.com

No more excuses: claim your work.

When I decided to never return to my job at a now bankrupt bookstore chain, I did so because I never wanted to settle for using any less than my full potential.

When I decided to quit courting advertisers, give up on web design, and stop playing the business-as-usual game, I did so because I never wanted to settle for engaging any less than my full genius.

I want work that is fueled by the full extent of my capabilities. I want to make money – beautifully – by serving people with all of my personal brilliance.

I had to build a thriving business to do that.

That’s what I wake up to every day.

Why don’t you?

You assume your brilliance isn’t worth much. You assume what you have is nothing people will ever pay for.

You assume that your ideas are a dime a dozen. You assume that the people who “get it” are hard to reach.

Worst of all, you assume you need to build some other kind of business before you can unleash your full genius to the world.

Your assumptions are wrong.

The tools aren’t the problem. The access isn’t the problem. The economy isn’t the problem. The problem is that you assume this is hard — scary, even. You have been – to this point, today – unwilling to apply ease & integrity as a framework for building the business of your dreams.

Holding on to the assumptions that keep you from building that business means others are losing out on your work. Your genius. Your ideas. Your perspective. Your vision.

You are out of excuses. What do you have to lose by claiming the work that will make your heart sing & your world a better place?

Claim it.

Over 50 entrepreneurs – just like you – are busting these assumptions and writing a plan to grow their businesses on their own terms & in service of people they love. Grab a virtual ticket to The Art of Earning LIVE and join them.

What would business look like if….?

We want more out of business. We want more out of the way we consume. The easy path to getting that “more” seems to be adding.

Add a bit of “one-on-one,” add a pinch of “organic,” add a dose of “artisan,” add a dash of “local.” We layer more & more of the good stuff on top of what already exists.

But when do we make time for questioning what already was? When do we strip down business to its very basics? When do we throw out the definition, the “how-to” of what business is supposed to be to find out what business could be?

It’s not enough for the You-Centered Economy to support business-as-usual with a flair for the Other. The You-Centered Economy requires us to get down to the heart & soul of commerce.

While many of us are supporting ourselves on businesses that were built to nurture us, and many more of us are working towards that goal, I believe we have not yet gone far enough. I believe there is more to question, more to redefine, more to tear down & then build back up.

My question to you is:

What would business look like if you had never been taught how to do business before?

Click to tweet it!

What would your business look like if you forgot the sales training, marketing advice, and branding help you’ve experienced? How would your systems be different? How would you communicate differently?

How would your day-to-day interactions with clients & potential clients be different if you stripped away all the “supposed tos” and just concentrated on what felt truly, divinely right?

Got an inkling? Don’t worry if your answer isn’t fully formed. Scroll down to the comments and leave me a little note: What would business look like if you had never been taught “how to” do business before? And what are you going to do about it?

Stop trying to make money from your passion.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

You’re so good at ______________! You really should start a business!

We all have. Because we’re all brilliant, talented, passionate people.

It’s a terrible reason to start a business.

How about this one?

I really love to _____________. I’m going to sell it!

I think at this point, you realize it’s not that easy. Right?

You want to pursue your passion and build a thriving business? Fantastic. I love it. Please do. But understand that you’re missing a step.

You’re missing the most crucial part of developing a business that works for you. You’re missing the thing that makes people take notice. The key to creating viral marketing campaigns. The cornerstone of community building.

When your business is built to make money from your passion, you are constantly struggling to find the model that enables you to do that work. It’s an endless pursuit of the right system, the right tactics, and the right marketplace.

It’s business based on self-interest.

What if, instead of focusing on your own self-interest – impassioned as it may be, you focused on how your passion enables you to serve others? Why are you in business? Why do you what you do?

The answers for to these questions are crucial. As Simon Sinek would say:

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

Your widget – no matter how beautiful or how well made – doesn’t open wallets on its own merit. Your service – no matter how well-executed or useful – doesn’t move people to click the “buy now” button.

We live amidst abundance. Every where you look, your widget choices abound. Services are aplenty. Never before has there existed such an accessibility to exactly what you need.

What we need may be utilitarian. What we crave is nuanced, meaningful, experiential.

This is why making money from your passion just isn’t enough. This is why there is a third part to the equation.

Often, when I ask an aspiring passion-driven entrepreneur what their “why” is, the answer is, “Because I just love to [make, create, give advice, write, etc…].”

That answer always falls flat.

The response to “I just love to…” isn’t a transaction, it’s a pat on the back.

Back pats don’t pay the bills.

Of course, your passion – your unceasing desire to do what you do – is key to creating a business that serves you well in the You-Centered Economy. But it’s not an end itself.

Your passion is an opportunity. It’s the inspiration.

Your passion is an opportunity to serve others with clarity & inspiration.

To teach. To advocate. To support. To comfort. To motivate. Click to tweet it!

You don’t make money from your passion. You create the opportunity for commerce around the way your passion inspires you to serve others.

The hipster food truck owner doesn’t only have a passion for selling Mexican-Korean fusion tacos. He is creating an opportunity to educate others about foreign food cultures. He is offering a hub for human connection. He is inspiring others to try new things.

The jewelry designer doesn’t only have a passion for making elegant jewelry from recycled metal. She is empowering women to feel beautiful in their own skin. She is creating opportunities for boyfriends and husbands to delight their girlfriends and wives. She is jumpstarting wardrobes.

The copywriter doesn’t only have a passion for the written word. He is bringing clarity to his clients. He is enabling business owners to see a new side of their business. He is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to better serve their own customers.

It’s not the passion that triggers the transaction. It’s the service.

You can love what you do – completely – while making others the foundation of everything you do.

Use your passion to inspire the service of others and, in that service, create the opportunity for commerce.

Click to tweet the word!

Ask yourself, What am I teaching and whom am I serving by practicing my passion?

Your business is built from there.

A system of commerce based on the service of others transcends individual passion even as it elevates it and those who feed the system.