I’m here at an annual conference that’s part of a $25k/year business mastermind I invest in.
I’m “here,” except I’m not.
Client meetings interrupt every other lecture I want to attend. A new, dreamy client wants extra meetings and I take them because I’ve developed zero boundaries so far. My most nightmare account is raising hell for me and my teammates.
I’m about 2.5 years into my business and it’s a hot mess. Our annual revenue is about $580k and our P&L looks pretty good but I’m paying myself peanuts so that I can keep building my team and investing in our growth. It feels like shit. At this point in time, to say the juice isn’t worth the squeeze is the understatement of the century.
I’m surrounded by brilliant business people who are using the week to charge up, network, and develop ideas but I can barely pay attention for five minutes. In fact, I’m in tears by the end of the week. It’s me, the girl in the back row of an otherwise joyous and powerful event, bringing the whole mood down. Two words describe my business at this point: Not sustainable.
On the way home, I think to myself that I can never show my face in front of this group of people again unless it’s all completely different.
Here’s what I looked like in my business then:
- Overworked and exhausted
- Overwhelmed, in the weeds, uninspired
- Anxious about the future and questioning everything
- My husband, Yianni, and I were having tough conversations. Ultimately, if things didn’t look dramatically different within a year, I was going to reconsider this whole endeavor of building my own business, at least in the current format.
That was where I was at in November 2019.
- THEN, my biggest client who’d planned to extend their contract was acquired, putting that revenue at risk.
- THEN Covid hit, threatening 80% of the agency revenue we had left.
Turning points have a tendency to be rock-bottom-ugly.
All of that happened during a four-month period that defines the closest I’ve ever been to quitting. One of the strongest practices I’ve created over the past four years is viewing the toughest moments as a portal: a required pass-through to where I want to go. I expect these experiences. When they hit, I kick into endurance mode. I tell myself to trust the process the most during these moments and I keep trying to do everything I can to break through to the other side.
Here’s what I did while I held on for dear life through those four months (not an exaggeration as my friends who struggle with anxiety and depression can tell you):
- I made a strong commitment that I would have established boundaries and a better life balance by the following year.
- I strategized about business opportunities that would help diversify my revenue and create more stability in the business.
- I didn’t abandon what I’d already been working on for the new revenue streams immediately. I doubled down, first. I committed to making the project of the past few years (KW Content) better, more systemized, and stable before starting the next project (Strong Brand Social).
- I spent months investing my weekends into defining how we do what we do so that I would be able to successfully train others to better support me.
- I started showing up to my coaches more than I ever had before. I held myself accountable to give them updates every single week, even if I didn’t think there was anything they could help me with.
- I worked hard to renegotiate the people-pleasing tendencies I have, in both my personal and professional life (this can end up looking like taking longer to respond to messages and being less available). I knew I had to do this to give myself space to think in a capacity that would allow me to solve these problems and lead my team out of this. Remember that when you’re feeling overwhelmed and you can’t think straight: make one decision at a time and start with the one thing that will have the biggest impact on the rest (often wellness and recovery).
Fast forward 18 months and I just returned from this same group’s first in-person event since the pandemic. I was recognized as one of a handful of people who’d crossed the $1m annual revenue mark in their business (we’re projecting $1.6m this year).
Much more important than that, I love my job, I love the organization we’re building, and I absolutely love our clients and customers. I’m energized, optimistic, and enthusiastic for the future. I was able to attend 90% of the lectures, network, talk to my coaches and colleagues, and record videos for our next set of advertisements. I even presented on one of the frameworks I’ve developed since I was last with this group. Now, I’m working on enjoying where we’re at (while we continue to develop our organization), instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop (hard times will always be ahead, but can’t we enjoy the stuff that’s going well?! questions I ask my therapist.).
For us, the crisis of the pandemic brought focus. Losing all of our agency revenue in the matter of a week gave us permission to pause everything and sprint on the new project. We’d been waiting for the right time, and there it was.
There was a moment, several months into Strong Brand Social’s launch where I thought “if only I’d started sooner.” I thought about how long it took me to launch it after I had the idea and the phrase “wasted time” came up. But there’s absolutely no way that Strong Brand Social would exist in its capacity if it wasn’t for the agency work I doubled down on when times were toughest. This was the foundation for all of our courses, and positioned us to launch with an incredibly successful product right off the bat (when we only had three weeks to bring it to life).
As long as you are being strategic, intentional, and measured, there is no such thing as wasted time. There is only experience and sweat equity.
That’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again, and it was a recurring topic at this recent conference. You’ll try to fool yourself, but there’s no such thing as wasted time or failure. There’s just the work you need to do so that you’re well-positioned to seize your moment when it comes.
It ain’t as sexy as a “passive income empire” but it’s the truth.
Reuniting with other entrepreneurs IRL reminded me of this perspective: No matter how together another brand looks, no organization escapes growing pains. We’re all just a constant work in progress, so your most important job is to stay engaged. It will be tough at times, but the opportunity is to build something that looks a little more like what you want with every lesson learned.
Yes, this can all lead to where you want it to go, and if you’re not yet sure where that is, just keep taking bets on yourself and connecting the dots in preparation.
(PS More marketing takeaways from this same event coming at you next week!)