They say the five-year mark is a pivotal point in running a business because most businesses fail by that point.
I can see why....running a profitable business is hard, much less getting to the point where the cash is flowing. I'll add my "before it worked" story at the end of the blog post, but let's talk about getting through the "before it worked" phase and what factors have made my business not only "work," but grow and thrive.
Year #4 was a big freakin deal around here at Simply Integrated. Year #4 is when I got serious about leveraging a website to grow my community. It’s when I stepped into new marketing channels, took risks, and executed more boldly. It’s when I started saying “no” to what wasn’t working and “yes” to what I knew would impact the growth of my business.
It’s also when..
- I replaced my 8-5 income working only four days instead of five. Hello 3-day weekends!
- I hired three contractors to support the workload and help with the operations in my business.
- The numbers proved I was serving ideal clients and delivering bottom line value.
- I built a business I love waking up to; Literally, I’ve built the business I would want to work for in the “corporate world.” The best part, we’re so far from “corporate.”
- Simply Integrated saw 38% year over years growth. To be fair, I took time the year prior for three months of maternity leave so adjusted year over year growth was 15%. That's what I love about entrepreneurship...you can determine how far to push your company without being limited by a "3%" raise year over year.
5 Things that Made Year #4 a Game Changer for my Business
There are five bold and distinct changes I made to the operations of my business that served as drivers in these positive changes. I’ll share those five bold, distinct changes below.
#1 Outsourcing to experts
“Throw it on my back.” Does this sound familiar? As an entrepreneur, you likely started your business because you were willing to do whatever it took to get it going. That means you were willing to wear the sales hat, the marketing hat, the CEO hat, the administrative assistant hat, and the service provider hat.
Managing “all the things” is necessary in the beginning because money is tight and paying an employee to fill each of those roles is often neither necessary or realistic.
However, “what got you here won’t get you there.” At some point, you must take a look at your business and decide when is the right time to outsource tasks to someone who could manage them 1) more efficiently, 2) less expensively, and 3) with more quality output.
Trying to be the expert at all things only dilutes your value. In order to grow your business, you must put people in a position to use their expertise to serve your bottom line.
When I hired experts to manage their area of expertise, I was able to focus on my area of expertise and concentrate my time on value-added and revenue-producing activities. Not only that, hiring people to perform specific tasks cheaper than I could made a positive impact on my mental health.
#2 Leaning into community
In Year 4, I showed up. When I was in a position to take on more work (at about 80% capacity) was prospecting, I made it habitual practice to attend at least four networking events per month.
It’s not enough just to show up to networking events; you have to show up intentionally and strategically. Here are three keys to success in building community:
- Ask, “How can I help you?” Showing genuine interest in supporting other people by sending ideal clients their way, helping them work through a business challenge, or just being a cheerleader is a game changer when it comes to building strong relationships. Repeat after me. Business runs on relationships.
- Spread the wealth. Aim to attend a variety of networking opportunities with groups who include a variety of different people. Running into the same people week after week and month after month isn’t beneficial for growing your network. To build your business, you need to expand your network. Build strong relationships and move on. Then, circle back to the networking event a few months later and continue reaching out to spark 1-to-1 conversations with promising leads who could 1) either become a client or 2) have the potential to send business your way.
- Consider starting a group where you’re positioned as the authority. When you lead a group of people around a common goal, others see you as a change-maker, which is a powerful representation for your brand. All it takes is a little organization within a Facebook event or meetup and showing up consistently.
Leaning into community built powerful familiarity for my brand. People grew to see me as someone who does what I say I’m going to do and genuinely cares about others’ success. For additional ideas for nurturing relationships, see 14 Ways to Nurture Client Relationships as an Entrepreneur.
#3 Committing to a Mastermind Community
Committing to a mastermind was by far one of the changes I made that moved the needle most significantly in my business. When I surrounded myself with other sharp, goal-oriented people interested in business, I had a once-monthly check-in for accountability, fresh new ideas, and a strong community of support.
Not sure what a mastermind is? It’s a peer-to-peer mentoring concept where members commit to focused conversation during a set meeting time.
The mastermind I participated in is a business-focused group made up of entrepreneurs and experts who help each other push through business challenges, build out strategy, and support each other’s wins. We meet once monthly to talk about a pre-decided topic.
Sometimes one person leads the conversation based on his/her expertise and sometimes the conversation flows organically so that all members contribute their perspective or experience throughout the conversation.
Joining a mastermind is a powerful way to build success and become better at business. Making this change in Year 4 of growing my business helped me see challenges from a different perspective, gather other savvy business insight on business growth, and held me accountable to the goals, hopes, and dreams I wanted to accomplish.
It has been well worth the time and monetary investment many times over because of the results I’ve seen that directly correlated with my participation.
Interested in joining a mastermind? Find out if our mastermind opportunity is the right fit for you by emailing Hello@SimplyIntegratedLLC.com.
#4 Pinpointing a strategy for growing my email list
I’ve kept a blog on my website since I opened Simply Integrated in 2015, but admittedly, up until Year 4, I really didn’t understand how to leverage it to drive qualified traffic to the blog or use it to help turn leads into paying customers.
Knowing that email marketing is the highest converting marketing channel, I always knew I could leverage that marketing channel more effectively, but I didn’t know how.
I wrote the content and I added the blog posts into my social media posting strategy the way I saw seemingly successful online business owners do. I thought I was immolating them, but I wasn't getting results...Simply putting content out into the world, crossing my fingers, and hoping it worked wasn’t enough to make a substantial impact on growing my business or my email list.
Building out marketing channels where my target market spent time and delivering the right message to the right person at the right time and inviting them into channels I had control over was a pivotal focus and change that has propelled my business from being strictly service-focused to setting a strong foundation to scale.
Wondering how you can do this in your business?
First, pinpoint your ideal target market and Buyer Persona. Get a really clear and really descriptive idea of who needs your product or service. Be able to spot him/her in a crowd and be able to write 8-10 detailed sentences about what life is like for him/her.
Second, build out your marketing channels where your target market spends time online and in person. Don’t bother with marketing channels (social media platforms, networking events, content drivers, etc.) where your ideal customer doesn’t spend time. Use those channels to direct them to an ecosystem you own and have control over, like your website or email list.
Third, deliver the right message to the write person at the right time. To do this, you must become familiar with The Buying Cycle, knowing that not everyone is ready to hear “buy my stuff!” and that you must deliver value before you pitch a sale.
Fourth, continue delivering value first before asking for the sale based on what you know about your ideal client. People who have already bought from you are the easiest and least expensive to sell to, so continue developing strong relationships and giving them a reason to stick around with repeated touch points.
#5 Charging appropriately for delivering value
This piece is especially important for service providers to here, but it goes for any business owner: charge for the value you provide, not for the time it takes to deliver that value.
I know for certain my rates aren’t up where they should be for the value I deliver to clients. The challenge with my target market is that more and more small business owners are bootstrapping the start of their business and funds are tight, but that’s where my heart is - helping prospective small business owners whose hearts are telling them to go for it.
However, with that said, I’m getting there. There’s something icky about not charging your worth because you feel like you’re giving away the value you’ve worked so very hard to develop. The value you provide sets you apart, so when it’s not recognized by the equivalent of what it’s worth, eventually you can begin to feel resentful, which is a bad recipe in business ownership.
I raised my rates in Year 4 to at least bring them up to the minimum of what I was comfortable charging, which helped me feel motivated to continue pouring my heart into others’ businesses to help them thrive. After all, you have to look at the opportunity cost of running a business and minimally consider what you could be making in another setting - working an 8-5, for example.
I probably should have raised my rates again this year, but with so many big picture goals in store for this year, I’m okay with taking this year to focus on those goals and lean into the delayed gratification that the goals I’m building out now will further solidify and substantiate a rate increase for next year.
"Before It Worked"
Every successful entrepreneur has a "before it worked" story. If you're in the "before it worked" phase, I encourage you to keep pushing. It's HARD, I get it.
To make this business "work," I've:
- had $0.63 in my bank account with bills due the next day
- taken a part time job to supplement income for my family
- been forced to go on Medicaid because I didn't make enough to qualify for Affordable Care health insurance.
I. Get. It. But because of a lot of hard work and the changes you read in this blog post, I've exceed my 9-5 income working 4 days per week instead of 5. I've hired a team of contractors to help manage the workload. I've designed a business and a life I love waking up to.
You'll get there. I'm in your corner!
Here's my "before it worked" story and encouragement for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi and WELCOME! I'm Francie. I started my business, Simply Integrated, in 2015 and have fallen madly in love with teaching small business owners how to start, grow, and market the successful and profitable business they dream about.
My knowledge and experience comes from earning an MBA and from coaching small business entrepreneurs while managing and marketing their projects.
I focus solely on business strategy and marketing and created this blog to help others run more successful businesses. If you’re interested, you can read more about me on the About page of Simply Integrated’s website.
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