“But my business needs me!” my client wailed as I insisted she let go of more and more of the work of running her business.
She was making 6 figures and working herself to death doing it. She wanted to scale her business, but she was at the limit of her ability to work harder — she needed to start working smarter, and that meant letting go.
What she didn’t say, but was clearly present in the conversation, was
“I don’t know who I am if I’m not a slave to my business.”
And this is the heart of the matter. To scale her business, she’d need to change the way she saw herself — her identity, but without a model for what the new identity would be, she was clinging to the old one like a life preserver from a sinking ship.
And, no, I’m not being melodramatic here. Burnout has killed many businesses. That shit is real. If you’re at your limit and trying to take on more, you will be forced to uplevel or your business will eventually die, and it might take you with it.
As An Entrepreneur, You ARE Your Business
If you are a solopreneur this is even more true, but even for those who aren’t: until you have a solid, scalable business model and a full team in place to run it, YOU are your business. This means if you died tomorrow, your business would die with you.
This also means your business is integrated into your energy field. It means it is stitched into the fabric of your life. So much so that when I advise new entrepreneurs, I advise them to design the life they want first and then build a business that fits into it, lest they find themselves without a life altogether.
Many entrepreneurs spend their entire careers in this space and there’s nothing wrong with that. I spent 22 years doing business this way and it suited me just fine. It just means if you don’t work, you don’t eat; and there’s nothing to leave for the next generation or to sell if you get tired and want to run off to Bali.
Making The Transition Means Changing How You See Yourself And Your Company
The transition from entrepreneur to business owner requires a series of steps:
- Get Your Business Stable — You need enough money coming in to pay your bills with some extra left over every month. You need to be clear on what your products/services are, who your target market is, and what your company really delivers (hint: it’s not your services). For instance, my programs are about personal growth, business skills for intuitives, and metaphysics; but my company delivers clarity of purpose, success, and healing. Getting stable also means your platforms, content, and marketing are focused, congruent, and clear.
- Get Your Business Scalable — You will need to make more money to pay for the people to work in it. This means your business model better not just be you working your butt off. It has to have more substance. Look for pinch points in your growth plan and your business flow. For instance, if I train a coach from the inside of my company, it takes about 4 years to train one up, so I realized I’d have to find another source for my coaches until my inner pipeline could get up to speed. And when I ran a products company that required shipping, I realized I was the pinch point in the fulfillment of the sales because it could take me days to get to the post office to ship products. So I hired a fulfillment company and took myself out of the equation by having the shopping cart send the order directly to the fulfillment company. My sales fulfillment could run without me. Get yourself out of the way of your business’s success wherever possible.
- Define the Business — all the pieces and parts of it. Talk about it as though it were a large business: i.e. what does your marketing department do, what does the operations department handle, etc. Write it all down. You’d be stunned at how useful this process really is. It helps you see all the things you’re doing that are a waste of your time, all the things you probably shouldn’t be doing, and all the things you want to be doing but aren’t (yes, include those on your list!) It’s revelatory.
- Get Clear on the Money —Know what’s coming in, what’s going out, and if you haven’t already, start separating your personal money from the business’s money. Look at your revenue streams, your expenses, and what revenue streams (if any) the expenses serve. Look at your fixed costs (the ones that don’t change no matter how much you sell) vs. your variable costs (the ones that change every month) vs. your stepped costs (costs that change once you hit certain thresholds — like getting discounts for purchasing at volume or having to hire on a new coach when you get X number of students). Understand how changes in activity impact change in cash flow. This will help you plan your growth going forward. Know your numbers so well you can explain them simply to anyone outside of your business who wanted to know.
- Wrap Your Head Around Being The Boss — There is a mental transition that takes place in this stage. It requires you to stop being the one-person band and instead become the conductor of the orchestra. The mental gymnastics are real. You’ll have to get comfortable with delegation, supervision, releasing control, setting benchmarks, holding others accountable, making unpopular decisions, being responsible for more than just yourself, and much, much more. Remember how much you had to learn and adjust when you started your first business? It’s like that, only harder because you’re used to thinking you know what you’re doing. But without this shift, you’ll end up being the pinch point in your business or worse, dragging your business backward. It’s got to be done.
- Define Your Desired Role — Create the role you want to have in the business (hint: it may not be CEO — do what you love). Look at what, if anything, you’re already outsourcing that’s working and make adjustments if necessary. Then decide what roles need to be filled, and start filling them.
Remember that for every employee your hire, you’re taking on responsibility for supervising them, so hire sparingly. I have found most contractors are more proactive and better trained than most low to mid-level employees who do the same thing. This means less oversight required and more time for you to be effective at what you’re doing.
Scaling is no small feat. It is literally the act of recreating your business and yourself. There is a big chasm between entrepreneur and business owner and the leap can be made easier by building systems and structures that will bridge the gap as you go.
Scale on, young Jedi.
If you’d like to join my mailing list to get more great content, click here.