Last week I published a post titled “Ten things I learned from starting a business” and the response was overwhelming! It was one of my most popular posts to date with over 40 comments and many shares on social media.
So, this week I thought I would follow up with a similar post – but this time I want to share with you the 10 things I learned from growing a business, specifically Launch Grow Joy. Are you ready?
- You can’t go at it alone if you want to grow
I started Launch Grow Joy right after I sold my t-shirt business in 2011 and I started it because I thought it would be an “easy” business to start – no overhead, low expenses, no fulfillment house, no shipping and packing, no assistant needed and no money required to stock up on inventory. Boy, was I wrong! As soon as things started to take off, I had to hire an assistant to help me manage all of my content, a graphic designer to design the site, media kit and logos, a video editor to edit my videos, another assistant to help me with data entry and a writer to help me write some of the content. It would never have been possible for me to be where I am today without investing in a team. As soon as I started making some money, I decided to put it right back into building a team. And even more important has been the support of my husband who watches our three kids while I work – without him, none of this would be possible.
- Things work for a while, until they don’t – then it’s time to go back to the drawing board
When I first started this business, it seemed SO EASY compared to having an actual product. All I had to do was blog a few times a week, send out a newsletter once in a while and get new clients to hire me as their coach. This worked for a few months until I was fully booked with clients and I realized that my business model was not working – I was spending most of my time on the phone with my clients and didn’t have any time to create new content, do social media outreach or anything else to grow my business. And while I loved helping clients one-on-one (it’s still one of my favorite things to do), I realized that the rates that I was charging and the fact that I could only take on five clients at most, would not provide me with a livable wage for the amount of hours I put in. Taking into account the actual calls, the preparation for the calls and the follow up after the calls, I was getting about $7 per hour for my work! So I had to go back to the drawing board and completely change my business model. That’s when I started to offer group coaching programs and online courses.
- Running a business often costs more than you think (both in terms of time and money) or
“it takes money to make money”
The phrase “it takes money to make money” was one that I didn’t believe for a long time. I always started businesses on a shoestring budget (and I still do), but the real growth came after I started investing back in my business. At first, I started out using MailChimp – a free email newsletter service to collect email addresses from my website. It worked great for a while – until I wanted to send different emails to my current and past clients than to those who were not clients. Manually updating lists and having to move people from one list to another took a lot more time and energy. I had to eventually upgrade from MailChimp (monthly cost – FREE) to InfusionSoft (monthly cost – $299). It was a HUGE jump for me at the time, but I decided that the time I would be saving each month would be worth it (and I haven’t looked back – it’s one of the best decisions I made). Same with my website – I started out with a free template, then a paid one and then finally decided to leave the web design to someone who can do a much better job than me. Now I love my site and, yes, it was in investment, but it was so worth it!
- You have to consider all your costs and expenses when you price your products
Before I started Launch Grow Joy, I thought that one of my “selling points” was the fact that I could offer a service similar to other coaches, but I would compete on price. Big mistake! Initially I was charging only $47 per course and, while I would still love to charge that per course, I would drive myself out of business. Once I added up all of the costs of actually creating and running the course (video camera, recording software, presentation program, monthly hosting fees, video hosting fees, video editing fees, the 100+ hours that I put into each course, affiliate fees, designer fees, copywriter fees, assistant fees and more) IT ADDS UP! I had to increase my prices to reflect all of these costs, which I didn’t take into account when I was first starting. I thought this business would have LOW overhead, but to produce a quality product I had to actually invest money into it.
- It’s easy to get lured by the “shiny object”
The internet is now overcrowded with everything from online courses to email marketing software to social media management software and everything in between. At first, I thought that I had to sign up for every course under the sun in order to really learn and grow my business – so I signed up for Facebook marketing courses, YouTube traffic courses, LinkedIn courses, running an online business course and a ton more! What happened, though, was that I simply didn’t have the time to actually implement anything I learned in the courses because I was so overwhelmed with learning something new all the time to “keep up with what everyone else was doing.” (Note: There are a few great programs that I participated in that were game-changers for my business – like Marie Forleo’s B-school and Amy Porterfield’s FB Influence program) – but my point here is that it was so easy to feel like I was actually growing my business simply by taking courses from others who were more successful than me. The real growth occurred when I actually IMPLEMENTED what I learned.
- It’s even easier to lose yourself
This is hard for me to admit, but if I am honest here, a lot of my business decisions until not too long ago were driven by what everyone else in my industry was doing rather than what felt authentic to me. If someone made a $100,000 with a new launch, I wanted to make $100,000 with a new launch, too. So I started to “copy” what other successful entrepreneurs were doing so I can “be like them,” but I slowly realized that you, my readers and customers, were coming to my site for ME, not for ME PRETENDING TO BE SOMEONE ELSE. So this summer for me has been all about reflecting on and doing what feels authentic to me – the more true to myself I am, the better I can serve you.
- You have to be REALLY clear on what it is that you want out of your business
I have often started businesses because I had an idea or because I wanted to do something other than a “job.” The problem was that I didn’t really know where I was going – I was great at launching, but not so great at growing with a well thought out plan. If someone were to ask me “where do you see your business three years from now or five years from now?” I would often say “I don’t know. I don’t plan that far.” But that was a mistake because you can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are going. So I started to get really specific about what it was that I wanted from my business – how many hours I wanted to work every day, how many products I wanted to have, what kind of team I wanted to surround myself with, what my revenue goals were, how many newsletter subscribers and Facebook fans I wanted to have – and then mapped out steps to get there. it was a very uncomfortable exercise for me and it often felt like it was taking me away from doing “real work”, but the more I do this, the easier it gets. Have you tried to do this for your business? If not, set aside some time each day to get clear on what it is you want out of your business.
- If you want to grow your business, STOP CHECKING EMAIL EVERY TWO MINUTES and DON’T CHECK EMAIL FIRST THING IN THE MORNING
Ok, so this might seem like a silly thing, but what if I told you that the “secret” to having a successful business lies in not checking your email every two minutes? You might think “how can this be?” but it is! There are many reasons why you need to set aside dedicated times each day to check your email instead of checking it constantly throughout the day. The more you check your email, the less productive you are. The more you check your email, the less time you have to actually plan and implement to-do’s that move your business forward. The more you check your email, the more “reactive” you are instead of “proactive.” The more you check your email the less you get done. The more you check your email the worse you feel about yourself and your business because you end up responding to emails all day and then at the end of the day you feel like you didn’t get anything done. Should I go on? Once I stopped checking emails first thing in the morning and set aside a few dedicated times to check, I was A LOT more productive, felt better because I actually got things done and provided better customer service. And if you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, “Well, I HAVE TO check emails all day long because my customers have questions about their orders or I have to see what new orders are coming, etc.” I get it – I was there, too. But after some soul searching, I realized that I used that as an excuse because I was overwhelmed with actually taking the time to plan my day. Now, before I start each work day, I write down the three most important things that I need to get done that day, do them and then after they are done I check my email. There are sometimes exceptions to this, but time and time again I see that my business and I are better off when this is the rule, not the exception.
- Don’t take things personally, but accept responsibility
I know you’ve all been there – you get an email from a customer telling you that they want a refund or that they would like to unsubscribe from your email newsletter. Or they go even further and actually send a mean email attacking you personally. The first thing you might think is that they don’t like YOU – but the truth is that anyone who takes the time to attack someone else usually has a lot more to do with THEIR insecurities rather than with YOU! Happy people praise others, unhappy/insecure people put others down. It’s rarely about you in that case, so don’t take it personally. However, having said that, it’s important to listen to feedback that you get from others and see how you can improve your products and business. If five people request a refund of the same product in a week, you know that there’s something wrong there – so think about what can you do to make it better. It’s important to take full responsibility for the success of your business – it’s usually not the economy or your team or anyone else. I constantly ask myself “What is my role in this and what can I do to make this right/better?” And if I dig deep enough I realize that a team member made a mistake because I didn’t train them properly or if my sales decreased it’s because I didn’t do enough to connect with my customers.
- Enjoy what you are doing
Often times we start a business because it’s our passion or we’re pursuing something we love. But what sometimes happens is that we get burned out, overwhelmed and frustrated with the ups and downs of running your own business. I have a rule that if I am no longer enjoying what I am doing, I either need to determine what’s draining me and hire someone to take over that task or I need to re-evaluate why I am doing this and if it still makes sense to continue. I let go of my pride and attitude that “I need to stick it out no matter what.” Why? Because there’s no point in spending the majority of your time doing something that you don’t love. Yes, there will be ups and downs in your business, but if the “downs” are more prevalent than the “ups,” it’s time to move on and do something else. If you’re not in it, the results will show.
- BONUS TIP: In order for your business to grow, you have to constantly challenge yourself and do things that might be uncomfortable.
We all know that growth doesn’t come from doing the same thing over and over again or from being in our comfort zone all the time. I realized early on that if I really wanted this business to take off, I had to put myself in situations that challenged me. If you asked me two years ago to speak at a conference in front of hundreds of people, I would have laughed and said “No way. I can never do that. I’m too shy and that’s just not me.” Or if you said “You should do a video for your business” I would have said “I’m terrible on camera and I just can’t do it.” And you know what? None of that matters. You still have to go ahead and do it. You might be totally uncomfortable at first – I was TERRIFIED the first time I spoke at an event, but I knew the only way to get better and to overcome that fear was to keep doing it. And I hated every moment of doing my first video – from having to put makeup on to choosing the right outfit, to writing my script and filming and editing, it was so uncomfortable for me. It took me weeks to actually do my first video because I kept finding excuses for why I’m not really good at it. And now that I look back at my first video, it’s not that great. But you know what, it doesn’t matter. The more you do it, the easier and better it gets! I would have never met and connected so many great people if I had stayed “behind the scenes,” which is often my default. Do you have a fear of calling your dream retailer or reaching out to your favorite editor because you might get rejected? If so, you’re probably right – you might not hear back the first time. But the more you do it, the easier it will get and the more you and your business will grow.
Can you relate to any of the tips above? If so, which ones? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d love to know.