07 Jan Ep. 49: 11 Mistakes Keeping Your Business from Growing – Part 1
When you started your business, you were probably doing it all. Wearing every single hat, learning every single trick, and just trying to figure out how in the hell to get things done. And then there comes a turning point. You’ve added some people, delegated a few tasks, relied on a handful of experts to guide you along the way.
So what in the hell is wrong? Why do you keep hitting a ceiling? Why do you continue to be frustrated? Why are you not where you thought you were supposed to be or would be at this point in your business? Why are you still stressed and overwhelmed and questioning every freaking move?
I compare business to Parenthood, you learn a certain amount of things and then a new trick comes about and you have to learn and navigate your way through that as well. And yeah, even though it’s not necessarily supposed to get quote-unquote easy, it should be a little bit more efficient.
Most people, the business runs them — they don’t run the business. And that’s a really frustrating place to be because you didn’t start your business for it to rule you. You started it so you can make more money and have more flexibility and be able to be with your family more or travel more or dig more into the thing you do best.
For well over a decade I have completely just kind of scratched and clawed my way through this whole business thing. I don’t have a business degree. I have a degree in design. I was a graphic designer made businesswoman, so everything I know I have learned either by failing and figuring it out, absorbing information, or surrounding myself with people that know what the hell they’re doing and you know what? I have made a shit ton — let me emphasize shit ton — of mistakes along the way.
But the beauty in this is I got fed up, I got pissed off, and I knew deep down inside my dream was bigger than whatever obstacle was in front of us. That’s what I want for you. So this is a two-part episode because there’s such deep insight.
I’m literally going to walk you through every change we made at Worx & Co to overcome these obstacles to take our business from really struggling and just scratching our way through to just fucking thriving with happiness and beauty and financial abundance. I’ve realized, too, that business is like an onion: There are a ton of layers that need pulled back to get to the core. Just when I thought I fixed one thing, it was like peeling off a layer and the tears came out all over again.
So now that I have made my way through the onion, that brain capacity is back, that energizing momentum is back. We don’t have to worry about all the things behind us. Now, we can solely focus on the things in front and that’s what I want for you. So definitely grab your pen and paper. We’re going to dig through the first six mistakes that are keeping you from your business and how to fix them.
Let’s get into it.
So the first mistake you are making in your business that’s keeping you from growing is focusing on too many initiatives. I like to call this shiny object syndrome.
You’ve probably expanded your product line, joined a handful of organizations, maybe you’ve added some services, or taken on new responsibilities. All of this adds up very, very quickly and what typically happens is it ends up in diluted efforts across lots of things. Instead of nailing something very specific, you’re going to end up really tired. You’re going to feel spread too thin, you’re going to feel like you’re doing a whole lot of work and not moving the needle.
So how do you fix it?
I want you to start by making a list of everything you and your company are doing. Create some columns for each of the areas of your business, like your services, your products, your different memberships, things of that nature, and evaluate every single area of your business. I’m a huge advocate of if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
I need you to really start looking at your business from an outside perspective. As we’re working through these mistakes, I really need you to start looking at your business from a non-subjective standpoint. Meaning I kinda need you to take your heartstrings out of it for a little while. So yeah, I know you really still want to volunteer and be on that committee because you know Sally Jo has a good friend and she helped you three years ago.
Look, we have to stop building our business to please other people. It’s killing your business and it’s killing your soul. It’s killing your energy. You cannot do this anymore if you want your business to thrive.
So after you’ve made a list of everything, I’m talking every service, every aspect of your business, every organization you’re part of, every committee you’re on, anything your business is doing, get it down on paper. I know you’re used to thinking everything in your head, but that’s not serving you well, either. You need to be able to go through these things with a pen. Once you lay all these things out, you’re going to realize just how much you’re actually doing in your business and how much needs to go.
So if you go through the list and it’s not a hell yes, I need you to put a line through it. We’ll deal with what comes after that later, but for now, I need you to be open to clearing your plate. Bottom line, if you’re not insanely excited about doing it and it’s not adding to your bottom line, it’s got to go. This is going to allow you to put your sole focus on the things that are moving you forward instead of spreading your arms and trying to grab everything and everyone around you.
When you’re focused on fewer things more frequently and more in depth, you’re going to start seeing a significant change. Not to mention the fact you’re going to feel a hundred pounds mentally lighter.
Mistake number two, not training future leaders. As the business owner, it is so easy to get in the mentality that if you don’t do it, then it’s not going to be done right or it’ll just be faster if you do it yourself. This mindset does two things to you: 1. It’s going to keep you really bogged down, overworked, stress, freaking out, like feeling like you’re never getting anything accomplished, and 2. It stunts your growth.
You’re one person, and if you are continuously trying to do all of it yourself — you’re maxing yourself out every day. Not to mention you are creating a ceiling within your business because if you are not investing in future leaders in your business, in the four walls that you do what you do best, then you will never succeed passed where you are right now. And if you do, it’s going to be harder.
So how do you fix it?
Well, first you’ve got to learn to let some things go. Look, I know you are super intimate with your business. You know every aspect of it, but you cannot do it all. And if you continue to insist on doing it all yourself, nothing’s going to change. Your business will not grow. You’re going to continue to stay stressed out, tired, and overworked, and you’re probably never going to hit the financial goals you have.
I’m all about getting things out of your head and down onto paper. So to fix this one, I want you to make a list of every single task you do, all the way down to answering the phone. Just because you are good at it doesn’t mean you should be doing it. So be able to identify where your business needs you the most, like being the face of the company or the primary salesperson or managing the company financials. You know where you serve the company the best.
When you create this particular list, you’re going to be like, well shit, it’s no wonder I’m exhausted because I’m doing way too much. The concept here is less is more. And just like back in number one, when you dilute yourself across so many different platforms, doing so many different things, you can’t do any of them extremely well.
Once you’ve identified the areas you do not need to be serving your company in, the next thing is to make time to train your people. You have to teach them how to help you and then let them do it. Give them the time and give them guidance.
I know it takes time to train guys. I know you’re like, damn it, if I just do it myself then it’ll just get done that much faster. But here’s the issue with that mentality: You cannot grow passed where you are right now. Why? Because every time that task comes up you have that same mentality and it eats up a lot of time over time.
You’ve got to get your hands out of the pot, ladies and gentlemen. Doing everything does not make you a rock-star. Training people around you and then delegating and trusting — that’s where rock-star status comes from.
The third mistake that is keeping your business stuck is not evolving your brand. I’m going to guess your personal style has evolved over the decades. You probably don’t dress the same today as you did when you were 15.
Your business is the same. It’s probably a whole lot different today than when you launched it a couple of months or a couple of years ago. It’s grown, it’s matured, it’s evolved. The business has learned things. You’ve probably figured out who your target audience is, who your best clients are, geographically where you should be working more often. And let’s face it, most people are bootstrapping when they’re starting.
So the branding and marketing either you created yourself or hired a friend’s sister’s neighbor’s brother to help with. Which is fine in that moment. It’s fine if that’s what you need to do. But if you’re still using those same branding and marketing materials, two, three, five, 10 years in, chances are that’s a huge reason why you’re having a challenging time growing your business.
If you’re still using the same photocopied brochure you made in Microsoft Word and your content hasn’t been updated in over half a decade, you’re probably not properly educating the world on the value you bring. And that’s really what the base of branding is all about, establishing the value you bring to your clients.
So how do you fix it?
Well, your brand is often one of the very first things people evaluate when they are deciding to work with you or not. You’ve heard that first impressions make a lasting impression. Well, guess what? Same for your brand. And when I say your brand I’m talking about the look of your business, the feeling that it gives. So yes, we’re talking about logo and color schemes and fonts and photos, but we’re also talking about the personality of your brand, how it sounds in your content, and how it makes people feel.
One of the first pieces of advice I offer brand new businesses is to build branding and marketing into your budget, into your marketing plan. Your brand and the way your business looks has a profound impact on people’s decision to do business with you.
Let’s take Tesla for an example. If their branding and marketing were outdated, unstructured, unappealing, and did not speak to their target audience, do you think they would be where they are today? No. I’m going to guess not, but instead, their branding is very sleek, it’s modern, it’s consistent, it’s sharp, and it really paints a picture for what their target audience is looking for in a car and in life.
Solid cues of knowing whether or not it’s time to evolve or change your brand are a couple of things. Do you feel embarrassed when you hand out your business card? Are you resisting giving people your website because you’re like, Oh, it’s outdated, it has an old team member’s picture on it, and I haven’t updated the content? Are you not posting on social media on a regular basis or do you just not tell people where it’s at because it hasn’t been updated in the last 18 months? Is your content explaining who you are, what you do, and how it makes a difference? Is it leaning into your client, their pain points, and how you’re going to help solve that for them?
If you’re not proud and competent in your branding and marketing materials, then you’re probably not properly marketing yourself because you’re keeping it hidden. Investing in an updated brand like your logo, your marketing materials, a website, your space, and content increases your perceived value and boosts the confidence not only in you but in your customer’s decision to buy from you.
If this is an area you feel particularly stuck in, I want to invite you to go to lauraaura.com and book a complimentary 15-minute discovery call with Kristin because if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or you’re not even sure where to start, a discovery call is a fantastic first step. No strings attached. Let’s just start moving the needle.
Mistake number four, not documenting your processes. This one nearly killed me. Look as the business owner, all of the information on how you do things and how you have figured things out have been locked in your brain as if your brain is Fort Knox. I mean, the thing is you don’t even really think about doing the things you do. You just kind of do them, right? It’s second nature and when someone asks you how to do it, you have to physically stop and think about it.
What ends up happening over time is you have built a ton of processes, in other words, order of operations. Subconsciously you know them, they’re in the back of your head, but they’re not documented anywhere. So every time a new employee comes on, you have to train them. They rely on you to teach them the ways. You scramble at the 11th hour to find out, where did I put that document? Wait, I didn’t write that down. How do I tell them? And they get a portion of it.
I would say that you probably train them 70% of the way and it’s not because you’re not giving them the time that they need, it’s because you’re not able to process all of the details — all of the aspects of their job — in one training session. And then a new employee comes in and you do the same thing, except the difference this time is they get a slightly different variation of what you trained the last person.
So now everyone is doing things a little bit differently and yeah, the goals may be met and things may be happening, but it’s harder. Everyone’s not in sync, everyone’s not handling things the same way and they’re always, always, always turning back to you for the answer.
Now, do you need to be accessible as a leader? Absolutely. But they should also be able to reference back to a set of materials where they can answer questions on their own.
So how do you fix this?
The best way to fix this one is to start documenting your processes. Now, as a creative visionary person, this was probably my least favorite exercise because to sit down and think about how I do all the things is not really exciting, but I saw the value in it and I saw that my team was struggling. They were not able to do what they needed to do effectively and we didn’t have a system in place.
While this started off as a giant pain in my ass exercise, it actually turned into one of the best investments of my time that I’ve ever made. In fact, not too far into the process, I actually started to become like a process junkie. I was creating processes for everything. It became so liberating to get stuff out of my head. Here’s the beautiful thing: It gets to come out of your head and you no longer have to be the sole keeper of all the information. You are not Google and you shouldn’t try to be.
This is one of those tasks that you’re going to go sit down, you’re going to open up a Word document and be like, okay, I’m going to type out my processes and then the crickets are going to chirp and you’re going to be like, shit, how do I do anything in my life?
It’s hard to like put yourself in that mindset. So what we found easiest was just to go through some of our general things, something as simple as how we answer the phone, communication procedures, customer flow, when a new client comes in, what happens first, what happens next, who is involved. We just really started to break down different things that we do on a daily basis. And before we knew it, we had a plethora of Word docs ready to be structured.
Now there is no question how just about anything is done here in the office. And when we do identify a new one, we document it immediately. And when we create something new, we document it immediately.
I want to tell you that this is again one of the best investments of me and my team’s time because it created synchrony between us that made things effortless and seamless. We’re more efficient and everyone knows what they’re doing and everyone’s getting the same training.
Mistake number five kind of dovetails right off of this and that’s using too many systems that make work harder. Okay, so you invest in lots of things along the way. Programs, apps, systems, all different types of things that are supposed to make working easier. Well, what happens is you end up with a 5.99 subscription here and a 10.99 subscription there and some are on annual and some are on monthly and you’re using all of these different things to be able to do your work. You see a new program on Facebook or Instagram and you’re like, Ooh, that would make things easier and you adopt it in.
Well, what ends up happening is you end up with so many different platforms that either 1. You’re not using it but you’re spending money on it (kinda like the gym), or 2. You have them and you kind of use them, but you don’t really understand them. Some examples of these things are like project management tools, different software programs, accounting programs, lead tracking systems, industry-specific software, apps, plugins, technology. I mean the list goes on and on and on.
So how do you fix this?
Look at your budget and evaluate where you’re spending. You first have to understand where all of your money is going and if these things are monthly or annual. Now those annual ones, they’re tricky because you forget about them. They’re kind of out of sight, out of mind. They pop up every February or every December and you’re like, Oh shit, there’s that thing that’s $500. I forgot about it. Oh, well. And then it goes back into the night.
What I did is I went through and I looked at my budget and realized how many of these subscriptions were not even being accounted for in my budget. I was paying money that I didn’t even realize I was paying and that started to really shine a light on Shit, we have a lot of stuff that we’re kind of using. Shit, we have a lot of systems in place that are not being used at all, but we’re paying pretty decent money for.
At first you’re going to feel a little bit like, damn it, I’ve wasted a lot of time and money. But here’s the beautiful thing: Now is the time to be able to change and handle this. Now is the time for you to get more streamlined. We found out we were using three different programs with three different subscriptions where I spent about an hour, maybe 90 minutes researching a different platform that could do all three things for a quarter of the cost.
So once we evaluated and decided, Hey, this is way better, this is something we can all use effectively, we immediately transitioned all of our data into this.
I want you to also acknowledge these things, take time to actually do and implement.
I’m going to give a shout out to monday.com — they’re not paying me to say this. Not only have they saved us money, but they have made my team more efficient. And that is the beauty of going through all these different things. You can nix all these unnecessary subscriptions and if you’re only happy using it, why are you paying for it? Go through your budget and make a list of every program, system, and app you’re paying for, listing the services and their monthly and their annual costs, and then I want you to go through and cancel anything you haven’t used in over three months.
I mean literally get them out of your life. It’s just causing clutter and confusion. And then spend some time looking for something that does multiple things you’re paying multiple fees for. Take some time, whether you’re laying in bed on a Sunday afternoon or sitting on your couch in the evening or you’re sitting at your desk, take some intentional time and look at some software that can do multiple things for less money, helping you to be more efficient and effective.
And mistake number six, the last one we’re going to go over in this episode, is not knowing your numbers. Knowing your projected income expenses and revenue goals is one of your most valuable assets.
You started your business with the wing up mentality, which works for a long time, but in order to scale your business — you have to know your numbers like the back of your hand. I mean, when was the last time you reviewed your expenses? Kind of like we just went over in number five, how many back doors and windows is your money seeping out of that you don’t even realize? What’s your projected income for next month, for next quarter, for next year? How much are you paying in taxes? What are your profit margins?
Some of these things can be really overwhelming and this is probably an area I kept blinders up for the longest period of time because I went off of I’m creative, I’m not a numbers person, so therefore I’m going to not know my numbers. Well, one day I got super pissed off and really fed up and realized that no, I’m a businesswoman. I need to know my numbers. I need to love my numbers as much as I love my business. And so do you.
You have to make your numbers your bitch. If you continue to play that card as I did, you will continue to hit your financial ceiling. You’re going to continue to struggle. You’re going to continue to show up shorts, not be able to invest in the things you want to do, and always feel like the business is running you.
So how do you fix it?
Well, first of all, if numbers are one of your weak areas I want you to invest your time by learning how to better understand them.
I started talking to financial mentors, reading books, listening to podcasts, and while I can’t say I’ve 100% nailed it, I can tell you that from a year ago today I’m a completely different person in the numbers game. You probably feel overwhelmed and intimidated by your numbers and that’s okay. But here’s the thing: If you want to grow and you want to succeed, you have to know how to manage your money.
I saw a meme one time and it’s like if you can’t manage $100,000 how are you going to manage $1 million? And it’s so true. You really have to get into the depths and understand it. Now you don’t have to spend 40 hours a week on your numbers, but setting aside some time. Like every Monday is my internal day at Worx, that’s when I’m spending my time doing my portion of numbers and finances, setting my team up for success in our project management system and really just digging into the depths of my business.
I want you to block in some time to get to know your numbers better because they really can be your best friend. I’m not freaked out anymore looking at my numbers. I’m not avoiding opening up files. I’m not avoiding looking at my budget. I’m not avoiding looking at my bank account anymore. I’m empowered by it and even though it’s not perfect, I know I’m backing it up with the systems and the processes to be able to really nail it. And you can too.
It’s okay to not really understand it. Most business owners are not accountants. You didn’t start your business to manage money, but to be able to have a successful business, it’s time to dig into the roots of your finances.
Thank You, Gutsy Tribe!
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