Fall In Love With Your Customers: My Favorite Business Design Hack

Structuring Your Life & Business For Success with Melanie Duncan on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

When I asked Melanie Duncan what she thought separated 6-figure businesses from being 7-figure businesses, she said:

“When you have a seven-figure business, you are not just in love with your products, you are not just in love with your services, you are in love with your customers, because to have a seven-figure business, you’re serving your customers or you’re serving your clients in more lateral directions.”

I would like to give this a big ol’ HELL YES.

And, it’s the key to one of my favorite business design hacks: The Customer Journey.

The Customer Journey -- Tara Gentile

Are you in love with your customers?

Now, I know you: you love your work. You love the service you offer or the product you’ve created. You love the ideas you get to play with on a daily basis and the conversations you get to have.

And… I know you love your customers too.

But, your customer love probably isn’t what’s driving your business development. That’s how you miss opportunities to design your business to earn magnitudes more.

Instead, all your cool ideas are driven by your passion for the work you do and the concepts you get to play with.

I know this because I’ve been there too.

I’ve been in love with a new idea. I’ve been obsessed with why my customers need it. And… I’ve often been foggy on why they would ever care about it.

As a result, those ideas were hard to communicate, even harder to sell, and ultimately, winded up in the waste basket of my business.

When you fall in love with your customers and get obsessed with their needs, you see a different way to design your business–one that makes it much easier to design a business that can generate the 6 or 7-figure revenue you’re looking for.

Here’s how to use The Customer Journey to get started:

First, determine when and why your best customers start looking for something like what you do.

Usually, this starts with a Google search: Natural ways to boost my energy, How to get divorced and stay friends, How to start a business, Why aren’t I getting promoted, etc… Don’t overthink it. If you need to, ask your best customers what they were googling when they started down the path they’re on.

This gives you the context for their motivation to buy. Not your motivation for them to buy. Their motivation for them to buy.

Next, figure out where your customers ultimately want to end up.

This is usually a brand new identity they’re looking to assume: Highly productive mom, Independent woman, Confident business owner, High-powered executive, etc…

Your customers want to know you’re taking them in the right direction. Using a clear goal is a great way to rally them and help them know they’re in the right place. Every offer you make can point back to this ultimate goal and that helps keep your business focused in the mind of your customer.

Finally, consider what frustrations, goals, and questions come up for your customer on his journey from initial Google search to ultimate goal.

As your customer learns more, experiences more, and creates changes, his frustrations, goals, and questions will change. After all, when you learn something new, it often just sparks a new question, right?

These are your opportunities. A business that’s designed to produce more revenue guides customers through these changes. It anticipates what customers need next and provides it.

Sometimes that’s with another offer, sometimes it’s with content marketing, sometimes it’s with an affiliate offer, and sometimes it’s just with goodwill. But the business is always there, providing an answer or easing a frustration.

The business becomes a partner for the customer on her journey.

That’s what Melanie means when she says a 7-figure business is serving the customer in more “lateral directions.” Your high-producing business is on the journey, meeting customer needs before they come up.

Give it a try. Plot out your Customer Journey and see what opportunities you spot for redesigning your business to earn more.

And, if you missed this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., click here to listen to my conversation with Melanie Duncan or read the transcript.

Design Your Business To Earn More

Get our FREE Revenue Plan Workbook, plus the bonus Revenue Catalyst mini-class and live workshop. Enter your email address below!

Powered by ConvertKit

This is the Difference Between a 6-figure Business and a 7-figure Business

What NaNoWriMo has to do with the difference between a 6-figure business and a 7-figure business

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.

***

This week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. features Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur in both the e-commerce and the information marketing spaces. 

The question of structure and designing your day, life, and business for success were the key themes of our conversation.

If you liked this story, I know you’ll love this episode. Check it out:

And remember…

…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.

How to Price Your Products & Services—Without the Guessing Game

Get the 6-part FREE course for pricing with confidence and quitting the guessing game for good.

Powered by ConvertKit

Designing Your Life & Business for Success with Melanie Duncan

Structuring Your Life & Business For Success with Melanie Duncan on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

“The way I structure my day is my creative work is always first, so if I am doing interviews or I’m outlining a new program or I’m copywriting or writing emails, creative work is first.” — Melanie Duncan

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business. 

My guest this week is Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur with businesses in a variety of industries from apparel to customized home decor.  She now runs a multiple seven-figure empire with her husband, Devon, and lives the work-from-wherever lifestyle that so many dream of.  Melanie has also translated her passion and experience into her role as an online educator, helping thousands of people start and grow successful businesses of their own. 

Melanie and I talk about the role of digital marketing in product-based businesses, how she manages working with her spouse, and the importance of company culture, whether your company is large or small.

Melanie Duncan, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me.

Melanie:  It is an honor to be here.  Thanks for having me.

Tara:  I’d love to start off by talking about the two ecommerce businesses you founded.  Can you tell me how you and your now husband got the idea for that first Greek college apparel company?

Melanie:  Yeah, so we have a business called Custom Greek Threads that creates customized apparel for sorority and fraternity members.  So those organizations and groups in college here in the United States, and the funny little side note about that is neither my husband and I are in the or were in the Greek system.  So what happened is we were in college, and noticed that a lot of people were spending, my husband’s sister in particular, spending a lot of time and money and effort into these really cool, customized tote bags and sweatshirts and all sorts of sweat pants and gifts for their fraternity and sorority sisters and brothers, and there was really no one offering it very well online, so they were having to drive off-campus, bring in their own sweatshirts, find stuff, bring it into some little, you know, quilt shop or something, and kind of hodge podge together these creations.  We decided to bring it online and create a fully, customizable website, where you could come in and basically design the dream Greek garment that you wanted to create for yourself or someone else by selling direct-to-customer, and by using and learning online marketing principles, we were able to scale it into a multi-million-dollar business in a very niche market.

Your VIP Pass Is Waiting

Every week, I share more behind-the-scenes insights and action ideas from the podcast. Don't miss a thing! Enter your email address below for your VIP pass.

Powered by ConvertKit

Tara:  Yeah, that’s fantastic.  I love how that story really starts off by you guys identifying a need in the market, you know?  Not necessarily something that you had expertise in or even experience in, but something that you could see as a clear need and starting from there.  That’s something that is so important for people to hear and to recognize.  Let’s dig a little deeper here.  Can you tell me where you got the money to start up that first business?

Melanie:  Yes.  So that is, you know, the kind of ugly side of business, and don’t let me forget to tell you about Luxury Monograms, also, because there is another ecommerce business, but yeah, that first business was really kind of a terrible business to start with, to be honest with you, because to create these garments, we identified there’s screen printing, which I’m sure a lot of people in your audience are familiar with for creating garments, and there’s embroidery, and embroidery ended up to kind of be our sweet spot in the market, because there were less people doing it, there was less competition, and it was easier to create one-off garments, instead of screen printing a lot of times you have to do really big runs, and since we were offering, or are offering a very customized, one-off type of item, embroidery ended up being our sweet spot.  But embroidery machines, at least the ones we needed to do the type of we were doing, you know, crests and all the sort of really cool customization, thousands and thousands of dollars.  I think our … the machine we bought, the first one, was $13,000, which we did not have the money for, so we just leased everything.  So we leased this machine, and actually, I think it took us ten years or something to actually pay it off.  They wouldn’t, once we started making money, they wouldn’t let us pay it off.

Tara:  Oh, no.

Melanie:  Yeah, so that one machine ended up being, we ended up, now, I think we have a couple dozen of these embroidery machines that we all paid for in cash after the business turned profit, but that one machine, the time we were actually able to pay it off, it was this big celebration, because they wouldn’t let us pay off that machine, but to answer your question more directly, we, it was very much bootstrapped.  We leased everything that we could.  You know, I don’t like saying this, because I don’t recommend this as what you do, but you know, we did whatever was possible.  We tried, we used some credit cards, but really, we just, we were in college, so we kind of had the beauty of having really low personal expenses.  I will probably never do this again now at this point in my life when I have a home and a child and all of those things, but you know, we had our rent covered, luckily, by our parents at that time, so any money that we made, we didn’t pay ourselves for years, it just kept being reinvested in the business.

Tara:  Oh, wow.  That is amazing.  Where do you think that kind of vision came from for you?  You know, to be able to say I’m going to lease this stuff, not pay myself, put this money back into the business, I think that takes an amazing amount of vision, even foresight, to be able to work towards that kind of goal.  Was that kind of vision something that you always had?  Something that just kind of got sparked by this idea?  Where did that come from?

Melanie:  Well, I think a really important part of it, and this was something, you know, when … when you’d sent me a lit bit of some ideas of what we might be discussing today about, you know, what was something that had a really disproportionate influence on my success, it was definitely my business partner.  So as you mentioned, my husband, Devon, we work together now.  We’ve worked together in every business we’ve ever operated together, but it was having someone by my side that whenever one of us said this is too hard or I don’t want to be working in a warehouse until 4:00 a.m. in college when everyone else is off at parties.  It was having that anchor, that other person that was like yes, we can do this, you’ve got this, and that honestly is what … we kept each other going, and we had, you know, big dreams.  I don’t want to get all like mushy on you, but we had big dreams for what we wanted our lives to be and what we wanted to be able to accomplish and the freedom we wanted to have.  I mean, I was able to graduate and immediately go into working for myself.  We were able to take a three-month honeymoon around the world, because we made that investment, we knew what we were working for.  We didn’t want to have to graduate college and just go into some, you know, corporate job.  We had big stakes ahead of us, and we knew that.

Tara:  Oh, wow, that’s incredible.  Is there anything that you do today to keep that vision moving forward?  To make sure that you’re always moving closer to that goal? 

Melanie:  You know what’s so funny is that, you know, I definitely teach a lot about goal setting and read a ton about it, but to be completely transparent with you, after doing this for 10+ years, it honestly has become almost second nature, where there’s just nothing that’s unrealistic and there’s nothing that’s kind of out of sight, it’s just about identifying what you want, and then working backwards.  Okay, you want to make $10 million, what does that mean you need to do in the next three months to like create that first step to get there?  So everything we do now is whenever we have a big vision or a big goal, something we want to accomplish, we just break it down section by section.  What are the projects that are going to get us there?  What is the timeline that needs to be implemented if we need to hit this by a certain date or by a certain time frame, and it’s just taking those bigger visions and not trying to play too small.  I think that’s honestly the biggest mistake I see with the clients I work with is their goals aren’t big enough, or if they’re big enough, they’re too general and not specific enough.  Make really big, specific goals, and then just work backwards.

Tara:  Oh, we are so on the same page with that, and I do want to talk about that a little bit later on, but you did mention your luxury monogram business, and I want to find out more about that.  Can you tell us how you got started with that business?

Melanie:  Yes, thank you.  Another … another funny story.  So the Greek apparel business, we created, we had always built that business with leaving in mind, not just necessarily in selling, but we wanted it to be something that we didn’t have to personally have our finger on top of, so after, oh let me get the timing right, I think after about three and a half or four years after we started that business, and it was not all rainbows and roses, so don’t let me give you that misrepresentation, but after four years of a lot of very hard, very specific and strategic work, we were able to move to New York City, which is where we ultimately wanted to end up and leave the business in Southern California and manage it remotely.  So once we did that, there were a couple of different factors that came into play.  I started making friends with a lot of different really dynamic business owners in New York City.  A lot of them happened to be interior designers.  I got very interested in interior designing. 

The second part of the equation was our Greek business, we were having a really big challenge where there were very big spikes and valleys in the revenue, because we were very, very busy in spring and fall, which is right around when recruitment is in the Greek system, so a lot of people buying stuff, really engaged, but then we were dead, dead, dead in the summer, and having a huge facility, having lots of trained staff, our overhead was nuts, and we were basically dead in the summer, so we were testing out different ideas.  We kind of dipped our toe into the souvenir market, creating, you know, like the San Francisco, or you know, different novelty items, because we do all of our own manufacturing, but that didn’t really pan out.  What did work, though, is I created a site called Luxury Monograms, which following the same vein in terms of our offering, it created customizable home items.  So home decor, whether it was placemats, pillows, napkins, using our same machinery, our same staff, our same facility, everything, but we … the booming season for that is in the summer, because there’s a lot of bridal showers and a lot of weddings, and monogram gifts are very hot for bridal showers and weddings, so that enabled us to kind of round out the overall demand on our resources for those two businesses.

Tara:  Oh, man, that is serious leverage.

Melanie:  Yeah.

Tara:  So, can you tell me something that surprised you in starting up the luxury monogram business when, you know, you’d already been so successful with the Greek apparel company?

Melanie:  Yeah.  What really surprised me was how hard it was.  I think that, I don’t know if this speaks to anyone else that may be listening that has started more than one business, but I think I was a little over cocky.  I had started one business, so I thought, oh, this’ll be, and you know, in a very similar vein, I thought this’ll just be rinse and repeat, but I kind of forgot that I was essentially building an audience from scratch.  I mean, we had a tiny bit of crossover, some, you know, Greek people that were into monograms in the south and that sort of thing, but essentially, I was targeting a very different type.  I was, you know, selling $75 pillows, so I was needing to go after a more luxury market, people who were more into home decor, entertaining.  We have a lot of interior designers that purchase from us, so building an entirely new audience in a different industry was more challenging.  You know, we were able to do it, and it took a lot of, you know, testing a lot of different things, staying flexible, and being very persistent, but I was able to kind of crack the code again with online marketing and got our company featured on Good Morning America and on NBC and figured out how to get a lot of press for that business without using a PR agency, and that was really what got that company up and off the ground.

Your VIP Pass Is Waiting

Every week, I share more behind-the-scenes insights and action ideas from the podcast. Don't miss a thing! Enter your email address below for your VIP pass.

Powered by ConvertKit

Tara:  Okay, so now I want to talk about the online marketing and the online marketing space since you’ve mentioned that a few times.

Melanie:  Yes.

Tara:  Eventually, I want to talk about it in relation to the business that you have now, which is an information-based business, but first, I’d love to know what specific online marketing techniques or practices you use to build your two ecommerce businesses.  What specifically were you doing to market those businesses and grow them?

Melanie:  Yeah, so believe it or not, you know, when we started Custom Greek Threads 10+ years ago now, it was still kind of the wild, wild west of the internet, which makes me feel really old, but I still remember, you know, we were, when we originally started that business, we had an online business, we had an online website, we were taking all of our orders online, however, we were not marketing online.  We were still cold calling different Greek organizations, going door-to-door on Greek rows around the country.  We were setting up exhibitor booths at all the big Greek conferences.  We were not marketing online, which sounds just kind of asinine at this point, but you know, I think it was eleven years ago, so when we made the switch, we start reading … My husband, actually, I still remember him buying SEO for Dummies and Google AdWords for Dummies, and just reading all these … all these pages of books, and we thought, oh, that’s so crazy, and I still remember our first sale we got from Washington, D.C., and we both looked at each other and went we’ve never done any conferences in Washington, how did we get a customer in Washington, D.C.?  And it was because we’d paid some guy $500 to search engine optimize our website, and we started getting ranked for terms like Greek sweatshirts or, you know, Delta Gamma tote bag, and that really, that was the first piece that made a big difference in how we were able to scale that business into the, not just success, but multi-million-dollar realm.

Tara:  Oh nice.  And have you branched into social media marketing with those two businesses as well?

Melanie:  Of course, of course, yes.  So SEO is really what we kind of got our hook in, and then since then, we started with, you know, okay, our customers, I still remember my husband and I, we were on our honeymoon, and we were sitting in the gardens outside the Louvre in Paris, and I looked at him and I said, you know, when we were in college, we had just graduated, we spent a lot of time on Facebook.  I bet our customers, and again, this sounds so stupid now, but I go I bet a lot of our customers are on Facebook, too.  I think we should try Facebook ads.  And my husband goes okay, well, you know, I don’t really know anything about them, which is hilarious, because now, he’s like a Facebook ad ninja, but back then, he’s like, well, I don’t know, why don’t you just take a stab at it, and so I started running our Facebook ads accounts, and yes, we now spend, I mean, just a … hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on Facebook.  Not just for the Greek business, but across all of our different businesses and on paid traffic strategies and yes, we definitely use social media a ton.

Tara:  Ah, how about email marketing?

Melanie:  Of course.  Of course.  Another thing that, you know, like, we talk, I do teach all of this now, but it’s so funny to think about I still remember we had Custom Greek Threads for I think a year and a half before we ever started building an email list.  A friend of ours that sold surfboards online said hey, you know, like you should really be doing this thing called getting your customer’s emails, and then you can, you know, like remarket to them, and again, it sounds so silly now, but yes, email marketing is really the foundation of all of our online businesses now.

Tara:  Awesome.  So I will totally admit that I’m asking, you know, leading questions, because I think so many people forget that whether it’s Facebook ads or your Facebook page or Pinterest or search engine optimization, you know, all these different things apply to different kinds of businesses, and those different kinds of businesses may use them in different ways, but they’re still using them.  So whether it’s Greek apparel or luxury monograms or an information-based business, these are the things that move the needle on sales and growth.  Now, kind of speaking of which, one of the conversations I often have with clients and with my audience is, you know, that the struggle to see how online marketing for information businesses and online marketing for product-based businesses is actually pretty similar, and you have such a unique perspective on that, in that you are both.  So can you talk about the similarities and differences between how you market the information side of your business and how you market the product side of your business?

Melanie:  Yes, and I will say, actually, that I think this is probably one of the most challenging areas is there is so much information out there now for marketing online and online information business.  So how to use webinars to sell your programs and all that type of stuff, and I think that a lot of ecommerce owners, at least … I don’t know your audience specifically, but mine is really underserved, because yes, they should be using a lot of the same platforms, and yes, the overall concepting of how to serve an audience and how to serve a customer is the same, but I can tell you, they are two totally different animals.  I mean, running an ecommerce, physical product business and selling something like a pillow is totally different than trying to sell a personal brand, trying to build a personal brand, and trying to position yourself as someone that people should listen to as an expert, and I know that all too well from, again, being overly cocky, and when I transitioned out of having ecommerce … I mean, I still have ecommerce businesses, but working in them day-in, day-out, and then trying to position myself as an online educator, I didn’t understand how difficult and different it would be to sell information and vice versa.  I think a lot of people who teach online marketing but have no experience with physical product businesses don’t get how different and difficult it actually is.

Tara:  Interesting.  Interesting.

Melanie:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  So let’s transition a little bit now.  You’ve mentioned your husband a couple of times.  Can you tell us what it’s like working with your spouse?

Melanie:  You know, it’s really, really wonderful.  It definitely comes with its own challenges, but I think it’s actually so much more of a benefit than anything else as long as you structure it properly.  Something that has just been very helpful is my husband and I are very different and we have very different skillsets, so he owns the things.  Like, he runs our programming team.  He runs all the backend logistics and a lot of the more metrics-oriented type things, where I get to focus more on the creativity and the copywriting and the branding and the marketing, and so it’s kind of a dream situation for both of us.  The only time we butt heads is when one of … we try to step into the other person’s realm, but other than that, it’s really a beautiful partnership.

Tara:  Well, that sounds like a lot of non-spousal partnerships then, too.

Melanie:  Exactly.  Yeah, you just gotta be very clear about expectations and letting that person own their own roles and responsibilities. 

Tara:  And then is that reflected in your personal life as well?  Do you guys have really specific roles and responsibilities at home?

Melanie:  I don’t think so.  No, not specifically.  I mean, when we’re at home, you know, I’m very much of the little bit more European mindset.  It’s like, you know, you’re just as capable as I am to throw in a load of laundry or change Olivia’s diaper, so there’s not … I mean, I love to cook and he doesn’t, so there might be that division, but no.  I mean, we both run businesses and work full-time, and we both run our family and our home full-time together.

Tara:  Hmm.  Awesome.  I love that.  So you know, while I was preparing for our interview, I was talking with my producer about, you know, what you’re all about, and said that one of the things he admires most about you is your eye for details.  Can you tell me how you keep track of all the details that are involved in bringing together a brand, bringing out a new product, creating a marketing campaign, things like that?

Melanie:  Yeah.  I mean, there … there are a lot of details to business, and I am a very detail-oriented person.  I think that that honestly just comes back to systems.  When there are so many moving pieces, and you know, as you’ve referenced, I do run multiple companies at this point, so that means managing a lot of different pieces and people and processes, so you know, I really have to reply upon I’m only as strong as my systems.  So we use Asana for our project management, and I’m in that every day, but I also am very, very devoted to my own personal processes, my routines, how I structure my time, if you want to talk more about that, but that’s the foundation for my success.

Tara:  Yeah, actually, let’s talk about that, because that’s one of the big questions that I get requests for our guests, which is you know, how do these amazing people structure their time?  So what does that look like for you on a daily basis?

Melanie:  And I do, I kind of hate to say this, and to be honest with you, throw up in my mouth a little bit about morning routines, because I feel like everybody talks about morning routines, but you know, if everybody’s talking about it, there’s probably a reason why.  My morning routine is non-negotiable.  Even, you know, I mean, does this happen every single day?  No.  You know, if my daughter has a fever, like no, my morning routine goes out the window, but the days I work the best, the days that I’m the most productive, the most fulfilled, and create my best work are the days that I follow my routine, and I get up every morning.  It’s a lot earlier now that I have a baby.  It used to kind of be whenever I woke up, but now I make sure to get up in enough time that I can have a good breakfast, I go, I work out even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes in my apartment, and I always read at least three pages of a book every single morning, and the way I structure my day is my creative work is always first, so if I am doing interviews or I’m outlining a new program or I’m copywriting or writing emails, creative work is first.  I break my day in half at noon or 1:00 for lunch.  I take a good lunch where I actually do not work during my lunch, it’s not allowed, so I go out or I spend my time with my daughter and have lunch with her, and then my second half of my day is reactive, so that’s when I’m going into Asana, I’m having my team calls, I’m answering people’s questions, I am reviewing my team’s work, but creative work is first, reactive work is the second half of the day.

Your VIP Pass Is Waiting

Every week, I share more behind-the-scenes insights and action ideas from the podcast. Don't miss a thing! Enter your email address below for your VIP pass.

Powered by ConvertKit

Tara:  Oh, that is a really good philosophy to follow, and I love that you called out that you’re prioritizing your creative work every morning.

Melanie:  Yes, or else you just don’t get to it, and that’s the most important work to be doing.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

Vanessa:  Did you know that happy people make an average of $1766 more per year than unhappy people?  Or that happy employees take fifteen less sick days per year than unhappy employees?  People who have higher levels of happiness have more career success, higher income, better romantic relationships, stronger social support, are better able to cope with stress, and even have a better immune system.  Here’s the best part: we can change our happiness levels.  Research has found that about 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% is due to the environment, and 40% is caused by our behavior and mindset.  That means you and I have 40% of our happiness to work with, so let’s make the most of it.  My name is Vanessa Van Edwards, and I’m coming back to CreativeLive to teach an all new class.  I’ve taught over 42,000 students how to change their lives by making happiness a daily practice.  Now, I want to help you, too.  RSVP for my class, The Power of Happiness, and start control of your own happiness today.

Tara:  Okay, so I’d love to talk more about, you know, this philosophy idea, because you have a philosophy for your business that you lay out really clearly on your website, and it’s clear in that philosophy that you think a lot about company culture, which is a topic that I love, and one that I think gets real short shrift in online business circles.  So why is company culture so important to you?

Melanie:  Well, let me ask you a clarifying question.  What do you mean by company culture?  Just in terms of like the way that my team and I work together or like what I project outwards?

Tara:  You know, I think for me, it’s a combination of both.  It’s that … it’s how your insides match your outsides and how the way you represent your brand also reflects back on how you work with yourself, how you work with your spouse, and how you work with your team members.

Melanie:  Yeah, at the end of the day, you know, something that I always keep in the front of my mind is, you know, I started my own business not just to have a job.  So any time that my work feels like a job, I’m doing something wrong.  And that’s not to say that it’s always like that or that it’s like that in the beginning, because in the beginning, you just do what needs to get done, and if you’re avoiding important work because you don’t feel like doing it, you’re probably, at the beginning, unless you’re at a point where you can delegate it to someone else or find a way to eliminate it, you need to be doing everything that needs to get done, but when you get to a certain point in your business where you’re breathing a little bit of relief, you’ve got some consistent clients or customers, you really have to start making strategic decisions about business being a marathon and not a sprint.  So how are the choices that I’m making?  Like I don’t work one-on-one with very many clients.  I have a ton of demand to work one-on-one with people, but it really limits my own freedom in getting to choose to do what I want to do when I want to do it. 

You know, if I wake up and I don’t feel like working, my nightmare is that there’s something that I have to work on that day.  I enjoy a lot of freedom and flexibility to work on Monday or work on Sunday depending on where I am and what I feel like doing, and that’s not something I want to compromise.  So that’s just something I think you have to constantly be asking yourself, and I do a lot of … again, I feel so ridiculous saying this because I’m not a very woowoo person, but journaling is really helpful.  I always try and focus on every morning, not just what … I try to think of something I’m grateful for, but I think about what would make today great?  So I try and think of one thing, and it’s always hilarious, because usually, it’s not that big of a deal.  You know, it’s like I’d really like to go for a run in the park today.  I live right by Central Park.  Or I would really like to meet a friend for lunch.  Like, you know, what would make today great doesn’t have to be like oh, I’d love to go buy a $10,000 handbag, but you know, just sometimes, you think about what would make today really a good day, and it’s something very attainable.  But the second part of that is I review my day at the end of every single day, and I think about what made today great and what could I do to make tomorrow better, and by asking those two questions, you start to become really aware of the things that you enjoy doing in your business and the things that you don’t enjoy and how to be responding and editing and kind of changing things around to improve the experience of your work each day.

Tara:  Hmm.  And is that something that you encourage your teams to do as well?  Or is that more just kind of your personal way of working?

Melanie:  No, they have to do everything I don’t want to do.  No, I’m kidding, no.  Very much so.  You know, something that, particularly when you’re trying to attract and keep top talent, which I would really encourage you to do regardless of what phase you’re at in your business.  It doesn’t mean that you have to pay a bunch of money.  You know, people will … the best people in the world will work for free if they really believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and so I always really try to … when you’re attracting top talent and working with them, a huge part of it is making sure that they are feeling challenged, appropriately challenged.  Challenged enough but not too much, but also creatively fulfilled by what they’re doing, so I’m always checking in with my team on, you know, what are you liking?  What are you not liking?  You know, what type of the work are you really enjoying?  What are you enjoying about it?  How can we get you doing more of that?  Because when you get great people on your team, you want to keep them, and you want to figure out and really zone in on their sweet spot, and figure out how you can shift assignments around so that’s what they’re working on, because that’s how you’re going to get the best work out of them and how they’re going to want to work for you forever.

Tara:  So good.  And that really just kind of leads me right into my next question.  You know, you say right on your website that you value people who can handle their own business.  You say we’re a team of leaders who can self-manage, work independently, and collaborate, and I love that.  I love that that is a guiding principle for your company, and I think that that’s something that a lot of other people should really be incorporating into their teams as well, but how do you structure your team to kind of facilitate that kind of independence?

Melanie:  Oh, well, it’s a big part of what goes into hiring, and to be honest with you, that could be like a totally different interview, because it’s … it’s really in-depth how we do our hiring and our marketing processes for our team, but it is … I do very aggressive interviewing and trial projects when I bring on people, and they have to be fiercely independent.  Most of our employees, they end up working for themselves, eventually, within a few years, because we really attract a lot of people that are very entrepreneurial, because I am not a hand-holder.  Like to a fault.  Like people have to be able to come on and like really own their role and their position.  I only do one call a week with my team.  We do it first 10:00 Eastern every Monday.  Other than that, I maybe talk to them a couple of times, like for feedback on Asana, but they are very much remote workers, and because of that, I have to pick people with the right personalities that will actually thrive in that situation.  We’ve hired people from corporate backgrounds before that are used to, you know, the meetings and getting connected with people every day and getting constant feedback, and it just doesn’t work in our environment, so we have to be very clear about that from the beginning to attract the right people.

Tara:  Interesting.  So continuing this topic of philosophy or philosophy of business, you also say right there on your website that, quote, “We believe in creating the best.”  How do you and your team measure that?  How do you set that standard for yourself and make sure that you’re measuring up to it on a daily basis?

Melanie:  That is such a good question.  That might be one of the better questions I’ve ever been asked.  You know, I don’t know that I really need to qualify what that is.  I think that that statement does exactly what it’s supposed to just by putting it out there, because there are two types of people.  The people who are looking to kind of do the bare minimum to get by and, you know, get that paycheck, and there’s the people who, when you say that, they get excited, and they say yes, push me, I want to grow, I want to be challenged, and that’s why that is there is to get those people’s attention.

Tara:  I love that.  I think that’s a perfect answer to that question.

Melanie:  Oh, good.

Tara:  So last one now on this philosophy stuff.  You know, you say you measure output, not the time spent working on a task.

Melanie:  Yes.

Tara:  So what kind of systems do you use to assign work, manage expectations, and insure that the output meets or exceeds your needs?  How are you measuring output so that you’re not having to focus on the time spent working on a task?

Melanie:  Yeah, so one of the …  I was a psychology major, so I’m kind of into mind games.  One of the … one of the trial projects when I’m going through an interviewing phase with candidates is I usually do it in groups of like 20 to 30 people if it’s for a particular position, and I’ll give them all the same assignment, and I’ll say … well, I do a couple of things where I say you’re allowed to ask questions, but you will be evaluated based upon the number and the quality of questions that you ask, because again, I’m not looking for someone who’s going to be, you know, messaging me every day with a bunch of silly questions, but I don’t give them a deadline for the project.  I say please submit the project when you feel it’s been done to the best of your ability.  And I like to see and compare and contrast what quality of work people are able to get done within what time frame.  Because there are some people who will turn in something super-fast, but they cut corners.  There’s, you know, grammatical errors, it’s not well thought out.  There’s some people who turn in great work, but it takes like three and a half weeks, and it’s just like, oh my gosh, like the world has changed in three and a half weeks, it can’t take that long. 

And what I’m looking for is the people in the middle who can do really great work but are also very conscious of getting things completed, getting things done, and not too much … I don’t like working with perfectionists.  I like people who do great work, but who get work done.  I think perfectionists sometimes get too hung up in the process, and ultimately, as a business owner, you know, I can’t make money, we’re not producing revenue until something is shipped, so you’ve got to be able to get it done.  So that’s how I kind of evaluate that specifically in the hiring process is what quality of work people are able to get done and within what timeframe, but when it comes to … when it comes to my team after actually on it, I don’t enforce a lot of deadlines.  Most of the projects are done, they’re so planned in advance that I don’t, it’s not like I need them on Monday because we’re sending out the email on Monday.  It’s more so like here are the things you need to get done this quarter, and because I’m choosing people that I’m confident in their ability to be able to produce great stuff quickly, I don’t have to be as … as much of a governing force in terms of when they get things done.

Tara:  Oh, yeah.  You know, that planning piece is just so huge.

Melanie:  Yeah.

Tara:  You know, you can work with so much less stress if you just know what’s coming even a month or two in advance.

Melanie:  It’s all on the front end.  Our hiring process is normally anywhere from six to eight weeks.

Tara:  Wow, that’s great.  Awesome.  So let’s shift gears a little bit as we start to wrap things up here, because I would love to spend some time on the topic of money and profit, and I know you’re not shy about saying that part of your mission is to help business owners push past the million-dollar revenue mark.  You know, but I know from my own work that many business owners, women especially, have mental blocks around this number.  Why is the seven-figure or even eight-figure mark important to you?

Melanie:  Well, it … You know, honestly, it came from a place of I have multiple million-dollar businesses, so it just seemed natural that I could speak to that type of business, because that’s what I operate within.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t relate to a six-figure business or a five-figure business or a zero-figure business, because I’ve been there.  We’ve all been there, but I speak specifically to the million-dollar mark, one, because I like the type of people that attracts, the people who are thinking bigger and pushing bigger and planning bigger.  It’s also something that I just feel very personally, I guess very personally passionate about, because I think that we do need more women thinking bigger.  I think that it’s too easy to limit ourselves and to think, oh, well, you know, I’m going to start a family, so I’m not going to be able to dedicate that much time.  It’s not always a time issue.  It’s about if you’ve got that bigger goal in mind, it’s about working backwards, like we talked about.  Figuring out what does that mean?  What does that look like in your life and your business, and what you need to be thinking about in terms of how you’re going to scale and how it’s going to affect your offerings.  But I mean, a seven-figure is more money, it’s just more impact.  So whether, you know, maybe money’s not your thing.  Maybe you want to change the world and help more people.  Money’s just the vehicle to help you do that, so it’s not about, you know, having a closet full of Prada purses.  It’s about giving you the freedom to choose what that ultimately looks like for you.

Tara:  Yeah, and I love that you said that ultimately, it’s not about time, it’s about how you structure your business, how you make those plans, and you know, what you’re really working towards, and you can do that.  In the same amount of time it takes a five-figure business, you know, you could be building a seven-figure business if it’s set up properly.  And that kind of leads me into a perfect follow-up question, which is in your experience, what separates a five- or six-figure business from a seven-figure business?

Melanie:  So separates a six-figure from seven-figure?

Tara:  Yeah.  What do you see?  Is there a mental block?  Is there a structural issue?  What do you think separates a six-figure business from a seven-figure business?

Melanie:  That’s a really great question.  There’s probably quite a few things.  There are different ways I could answer that.  One thing that I think could be just really helpful for everyone listening is a big difference between a six-figure business, you can run a very successful six-figure business doing what you love, being in love with your products, or being in love with your services.  I think when you’re a seven-figure business, you are not just in love with your products, you are not just in love with your services, you are in love with your customers, because to have a seven-figure business, you’re serving your customers or you’re serving your clients in more lateral directions.  So it’s not just about creating that great signature product, or it’s not just about having that great signature offering, but it’s you’ve become so obsessed and so centered on the people you’re serving that literally the sky is the limit in terms of what you can create and how you can help and what you can offer them.

Tara:  Well, that was a phenomenal answer.  I hope everyone was paying special attention to that.  So Melanie, what’s next for you and your companies?

Melanie:  Well, you know, right now, I’m at a really beautiful place.  I just had a baby girl about five months ago, so I’ve actually gone through a process of a lot of clarity, for lack of better words.  Where before I had her, I was working on a lot of different things, launching a lot of different programs.  My ecommerce businesses are now fully automated, so I don’t spend a ton of time in the day-to-day of those anymore, but really, what I focus on, I have a program called Business Class that’s become my flagship program.  It’s a monthly membership community, and I work with business owners on scaling their online presence, on scaling their revenue, on scaling their offerings, and that’s my focus right now is I work inside that community with those people, and we work on teaching them how to expand their exposure, how to work on email marketing, social media, everything that I have learned specifically in my own businesses, I take that experience and that platform, and I use it to help them leverage what they’re doing.

Tara:  Well, fantastic.  Melanie Duncan, thank you so much for joining me.

Melanie:  It has been a pleasure.  Thank you for having me.  I hope this is helpful and inspired and been insightful for everyone.

Tara:  Find out more about Melanie at MelanieDuncan.com, and find her class, Unlock the Power of Pinterest, by going to CreativeLive.com/business.

My guest next week is author and coach, Andrea Owen.  Andrea and I talk about the very first thing she did to get clients as a coach in training, how she changed the money story that was holding her business back, and how she collaborates with others to create amazing experiences for clients.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development.  Stream it now at CreativeLive.com.

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

Your VIP Pass Is Waiting

Every week, I share more behind-the-scenes insights and action ideas from the podcast. Don't miss a thing! Enter your email address below for your VIP pass.

Powered by ConvertKit

Why We Need to Talk About 6, 7, and 8-Figure Businesses

Why We Need to Talk About 6, 7, and 8-Figure Businesses

Is it all glitz?

Lately, I’ve seen a great deal of pushback against the glitzy promises in Facebook ads or webinars about 6 or 7-figure businesses.

People say they don’t need or want to grow a 6 or 7-figure business. They’re tired of the hype. They just want to figure out how to make what they have… work.

When I started my business, I wanted to earn enough to stay home with my daughter and still drink daily iced lattes. My goal? Maybe $500 per month.

As my first year in business progressed and I quickly surpassed my old salary (not a huge accomplishment), it started to dawn on me that I had created a full-time job.

I had to work at least 35-40 hours a week to maintain the work that was now paying bills. It was working but it wasn’t very exciting.

Soon, I was introduced to people who were earning quite a bit more than I was but had similar businesses, similar experience, and similar audiences. “What was the difference?” I thought to myself.

They had a different goal and, because of that, they had designed their businesses to earn 6 or 7-figures instead of 4 or 5.

What’s the difference?

They didn’t get lucky. They weren’t working harder.

They simply designed their businesses to perform differently. And they believed in their ability (and the business’s) to perform to their goals.

I didn’t know this was possible when I started my business. Sometime in my life, I had arbitrarily assigned myself an earning ceiling around $35,000 (band geeks and religion majors don’t generally earn much).

I initially designed my business to hit that number. When I did, I pushed hard to reach a little higher.

Then I realized that if I just redesigned my business a bit, I could easily hit $120k+. So I did. And I did. I’ve been redesigning it to hit bigger goals ever since and I’ve trained my clients to do the same.

That might sound trite and simplistic. But I assure you, it is not.

Honor what you’ve already achieved.

What I see happen so often is that business owners like you beat themselves up when they haven’t hit the “glitzy” numbers that others have advertised. They don’t recognize—and honor—that they’ve achieved what they designed to achieve.

In other words, there’s a very, very good chance that the revenue you’re bringing in right now is the revenue your business is currently designed to bring in.

Pat yourself on the back. Seriously. Most people can’t get anything off the ground, let alone make offers and sell them to customers they’ve courted with their own two hands (and words). You have already achieved greatly.

Between a rock and a hard place?

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re at where you’d like to be.

In fact, you might find yourself between a rock (a business that’s paying some or all of the bills) and a hard place (big opportunities or goals that seem just out of reach).

It’s not so much that you or your business is underperforming as that you have a huge opportunity to design it to work better and produce more.

You see, your business is working. If you push harder and harder with the business design you have right now, you won’t make it work more for you. You’ll just be working harder at the model designed to produce what you’ve already produced.

Maybe you haven’t felt like you had the time to market your business properly…

Maybe you wonder how everyone else “keeps up with everything…”

Maybe the Impostor Complex reminds you of all those times when you’ve set a goal and haven’t reached it…

These aren’t personal shortcomings. They’re a result of having a business design that doesn’t match your goals. A smart business design creates time, reduces the amount of effort required of you, makes team-building easy, and makes goals reality.

If you’re going to break through to those sought-after outcomes, you need a new business design.

Would you rather push yourself to make a business work that’s designed to earn $75k per year? Or push yourself to make a business work that’s designed to make $250k per year? Or $1m per year?

It’s the same amount of work. But the work is different and the decisions are different–because the design is different.

Time to commit.

This is why it’s important to talk about 6, 7, and 8-figure businesses. If you don’t know how those businesses work, you can’t design a business that performs that way—nor do you have the information you need to make an informed decision about whether you want to build that kind of business or not.

I assure you: if you want to build a 7-figure business, you can. It’s available to you. It might take you time, research, and experimentation to find the right business design to hit that number. But it’s out there and it is yours if you want it.

Right now, you can choose to work hard at a 5-figure business design or you can choose to work hard at a 7-figure business design.

Yes, people use these numbers to wow you and glitzify you–but under all that is a real need to exposure yourself to something different so you can make an informed decision about the business you want to build.

What will you choose?

I truly hope you choose to stop getting by and start getting ahead with a fresh business design. To help, I’ve created a set of free training focused on guiding you through making simple tweaks that allow you to earn more at a more predictable pace.

Register below to get started or click here for more information.

Design Your Business To Earn More

Get our FREE Revenue Plan Workbook, plus the bonus Revenue Catalyst mini-class and live workshop. Enter your email address below!

Powered by ConvertKit

Consistency Builds Brands, Complacency Destroys Them: Inside a Recent Experiment

Consistency propels brands. Complacency destroys them.

Photo by Jessica Hill Photography

 

I’ve now been offering the same business coaching program & methodology for over 3.5 years. We’ve iterated & improved the program every time we launch it. We even changed the name once.

But the program and message have remained consistent.

This spring, we had our best program launch ever. It also fell far below my expectations based on our preliminary data.

When we surveyed potential clients who had not signed up, we got the usual answers–but more than anything else, people told us they were tired of taking courses they didn’t use.

When I originally created the Quiet Power Strategy program, I had this objection in mind. I wanted to create something that wasn’t a course and was more akin to 1:1 coaching but helped you create a wider entrepreneurial network at the same time.

But that selling point had gotten lost as the program scaled, the market was flooded with courses, and our audience grew.

I wanted to remain consistent because I believe in the power of the QPS work to solve your business challenges–but I also knew it was time to change things up, to get creative.

I needed to change things up to keep our work relevant, forward-focused, and supremely useful.

So I got really specific with that core objection:

  • Why aren’t people using the courses they buy? (They’re not making time.)
  • Why aren’t people getting results? (They’re not completing the courses.)
  • Why aren’t they executing? (The course teaches but it doesn’t help them plan. It’s focused on lessons, not implementation.)
  • Why are people feeling so burnt out on learning and even their own businesses? (Courses try to solve surface level problems, not core challenges.)

Then I rebuilt our offer to combat each of these objections:

  • What if you had to make time for the program you purchased?
  • What if the format of the program made it easy to complete?
  • What if the program ended with a customized plan in your hand?
  • What if the program was designed to dig deep into the core problems of a business?

What would it look like to fulfill all of those constraints on the program?

I took my initial concept to my mastermind groups: a 2-day virtual planning retreat that took a group of clients through the process from start-to-finish, with support and coaching from me along the way.

They loved it.

We talked about how to make it even better and then I set the first experiment in motion.

Last week, we ran that experiment.

20 clients worked with me for a total of 16 hours over 2 days. We went through the entire process from start to finish. The energy, peer support, and depth of work were astonishing.

We finished Day 2 with 100% completion by our participants.

Inside the Quiet Power Strategy Virtual Planning Retreat

Inside our 2-day Quiet Power Strategy Virtual Planning Retreat — that’s my buddy Tanya Geisler laying down wisdom about the Impostor Complex!

 

The feedback has been effusive:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 12.21.20 PM

While it’s too early to know for sure, I have a feeling we’ll see more results for more members of this cohort than we’ve ever seen before.

I’m not telling you about this so that you want to join us for the next Virtual Planning Retreat–though I’ve got more on that soon.

I’m telling you this because, when things are “working,” we wait to change course until we’re forced to change course. 

We grow complacent about our strategy because it’s what always worked.

Consistency does propel brands.

But complacency can ruin brands–even if you’ve grown complacent around something great.

If you’re feeling any part of your business or life constrict around you, there’s a good chance that making a fundamental change could pump new life into the whole endeavor.

This doesn’t mean you change something on a whim, it doesn’t mean you adjust course because you’re bored, it doesn’t mean you do something different because the shiny object over there is calling to you.

Change it, intentionally, when it’s no longer serving you or your customers.

Use creative constraints to discover a new opportunity.

Engineer a new path forward.

In this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., Jennifer Lee gave us an example of necessary change, too. She’s no longer running her popular video summits and she talked about why and how she made that change. Click here to listen or read the interview.

And, if this whole 2-day virtual planning retreat idea sounds pretty cool, click here to learn more about it and sign up to get information on the next enrollment. When you do, we’ll also send you some exclusive free training opportunities.