It’s so easy to get caught up in business and forget how to be present for ourselves, our kids, or the things we value most. We sacrifice our time, in the mistaken hope of exchanging it for money – but the reality is it doesn’t work like that and we end up stuck with not very much of either one, and feeling low because of it.
Here are the two questions that will change your business forever and help you earn more – without compromising your time (or sanity).
We’ll get to the questions in a minute, but first I want to show you why they matter so much. It includes the reason behind why I closed down one of my earlier businesses despite it being super successful (I’ve never shared this before)!
Setting up a business is pretty easy now. Whereas businesses used to need a ton of things to get started (funding, boring networking events, lots of suit wearing, a 7 million page business plan) now all anybody needs to get started is a domain name and basic website hosting plan (see the one I recommend and get your business started for $3.95, here).
Getting started isn’t the issue – so why are so many businesses STILL failing? Or, actually, many aren’t ‘failing’ – but our businesses are frequently failing us – they either reach an income ceiling, or we struggle with our own health and wellbeing while we push and push to get them to grow.
How A Business Stalls
House of Istria was my second business. My first one had failed and this one had somehow grown a life of its own – I never intended it to be a business at all, I just wanted something pretty and unique to wear on my wedding day so I made something. And then I made silk flowers for all my bridesmaids too. And then people started commenting and saying, wow you should make more of those!
So I did.
And the business kind of just grew. Ok, disclosure, it didn’t just happen. I worked my ass off at getting published, finding beautiful photographers to shoot my work, launching collections and getting my work published and contacting boutiques and polishing my copywriting to make sure my store descriptions were beautiful and teaching myself website design…….. etc. The things you think you have to do to grow.
And it worked. My business grew.
*Money blocks preventing your business growth? download our free money journaling prompts workbook here to start feeling more confident about making money in your business.
And then I closed my business down.
Partly because I had a one year old, meaning I rarely got to visit my beautiful studio which was not child friendly, and anyway, I found it hard to concentrate on sewing and design with her at my feet. And really, I didn’t WANT to be working next to her, I wanted her to have the gift of my presence;
and partly because I couldn’t work with her at home either, because she was continuously finding wire and crystals all over the floor. It sounds pretty to think about this adorable toddler surrounded by sequins but actually –
you worry your kid is going to choke on a carrot stick? I worried every minute of every day that I’d missed a crystal or sequin or wire!
Working from home with her just didn’t seem possible, so that was part of why I closed it down.
The second part was that my business had somehow become rapidly successful – I had calls for my work to feature in books, I’d been on the cover of magazines, my Etsy shop had to temporarily close while we dealt with orders and I was stocked in five boutiques, all of which were placing regular orders, not to mention the personal bespoke orders coming through social media.
Bottom line – I didn’t know how to cope with growth. It wasn’t something I had planned or prepared for – I had never started the business to become this big thing! I was just happy sat at home fiddling with crystals and bits of wire and tapping out blog posts! –
I didn’t know how to scale my business.
Scaling Your Business Means Doing Something Differently Than What Got You To Where You Are Right Now
I was at the stage many of us get to in business where you know you’re good enough, you know what you do or create or sell is desirable, and yet you don’t know quite what to do next in order to keep growing, without killing myself working all the hours and never seeing people I cared about.
It’s this that can kill businesses. Business can be easy, you can make sales pretty quickly, but in then one way or another you get squeezed through time or profit or simply not knowing what to do in order to keep your momentum going and stay growing, not just stable
(a stable business appears like you are ‘doing well’, but actually your business will decline because you’re unable to keep the momentum which is needed to, over time, maintain that stability which requires new clients or customers and orders coming in).
Not knowing how to scale is what forces entrepreneurs to work more hours, sacrifice their health and self-care, and / or quit because they just aren’t prepared to make that sacrifice, and they see no other way forward. I closed down my company which I LOVED partly because I didn’t want my child choking on Swarovski, but also because I simply didn’t know how to grow, and didn’t know where to go to find out.
There were lots of business start-up courses, but nothing on how to scale a business in a way which meant I didn’t have to make deep sacrifices of the things that mattered most –
I wasn’t going to spend less time with my daughter in order to grow a business, that was never in the equation for me because my business had to allow me to spend time with my family – what was the point in it otherwise? Money was never my primary motivation.
I look back now, having learned the lessons of scaling and growth (I took my previous business to $180,000 in just over 12 months before selling it two years after founding) and wonder if I knew then about scaling and growth what I know now, would I have closed down my accessory company?
The answer is probably not.
House of Istria was my baby and I loved that business so much. It fulfilled all of my creative dreams, enabled me to create something I was proud of, was a business I could foresee handing down to my daughters and was just beginning to break that critical mass point – I had just been asked to feature in Vogue shortly before announcing my decision to close.
But I just didn’t know how to scale it without working 24 hours per day, my health and relationships suffering as a result.
Moving forward, the choice was clear – my business has always been family first – because I could simply see no other way forward. I closed down House of Istria, my flourishing accessory company, because I couldn’t see how to personally flourish while taking my business to the next level.
Here’s How To Know If Your Business Is Stalling And / Or Needing To Scale, Now
Are you at the point where you’re struggling with knowing how to grow and scale? Reached a point where you’re making sales and gaining clients / customers but you don’t know what to do next other than spending more time in your business every day? Know everything you SHOULD be doing, but don’t know which to do first or for the best?
Me too. I’d forgotten how much work is involved in launching a site like Freedom & Flourish, and found myself wishing for more hours in the day so I could spend them working on the site – which, really, isn’t what I want at all.
What I want is more time spent with my daughters, homeschooling and spending time with them while they are still little.
I only work four hours a day right now and I spend every afternoon (or morning, depending on the day) with the girls – but this didn’t stop my daughter this week telling me mid-meltdown – Mummy, all you care about is work. Ouch.
This Book Changed My Life!
So I started re-reading the Four Hour Work Week again (this book changed my life! Read the full post here on how it was the catalyst for us becoming a digital nomad family), determined to protect my precious family time.
I don’t know what magic this book holds, but every time I pick it up it seems to give me the exact advice I need at exactly the right time – it’s THE book I recommend to everyone.
These questions from the Four Hour Work Week help you to understand how to scale your business, without going insane and / or working around the clock.
The Two Questions To Ask When You’re Ready To Scale Your Growth
I’m totally paraphrasing here, but grab a journal and consider this question first –
1. If you had a heart attack and could only work two hours per day, how would your business change?
Well, I thought, that’s easy. I only work double that now, so for me that would involve the creation of one blog post per week which I would then spend a day or two heavily promoting in those allocated two hours, the other two days on course creation and email marketing, and then calls with my 1:1 clients.
How would your business change?
And then the next question which really gave me some deep a-ha moments. But for this to work for you properly, make sure to journal on the first question beforehand.
2. If you had another heart attack and could work only two hours per week – and you still need a sustainable, growing business – then how would your business change?
This question made me feel a bit uncomfortable and the photographer in me immediately defaulted to – well, that would be impossible! If I was still photographing and could only work two hours a week, how would I ever photograph a two day wedding, for example?
Except – there is always a way forward. Train someone to work in the same way you do. Trust you are not the only one capable of producing ‘your’ magic. Find the best editing service available. Hire a whole team of associate photographers who work underneath you. Forget shooting altogether and concentrate on the part I love the most – the final edits. Etc.
Nothing is impossible…
What would change in your business, if you could only work two hours per week?
As I journaled, I was reminded of how valuable outsourcing is, how I can leverage my marketing, what would be the most valuable platforms and use of my time would be, etc.
Let’s just say I hopped on to some outsourcing sites to get my Pinterest outsourced pretty fast after this, not to mention some other things I have coming up.
The truth is, we squeeze our own businesses and prevent their growth, simply because we believe we have to do everything ourselves.
Even when we begin to outsource, we often do it slowly, and in a very controlled way – sometimes we don’t know how or what to delegate and then even that in itself becomes a task.
What are we so afraid of when it comes to shifting our business model? What was it that led to me giving up my entire business, rather than figuring out ways forward and through? why do we believe only we can create the magic?
Ultimately these questions made me sit down and realise that perhaps I was afraid of business growth! afraid of the possibilities, afraid of what it might mean for me as a mother, wife, creative. I was afraid I’d have to change, that my creativity and joy would be stripped away, that I’d lose my time.
I was afraid even more, perhaps, of losing control of my business and maybe even complete independence, maybe even money and being wealthy, because I didn’t understood what that really meant.
I know it sounds ridiculous, and the reasons we stand in our own way of our business will be personal for all of us – these are just some of mine 🙂
Journaling on them will show you exactly where you need to release, stop holding back, and highlight what you can implement in order to grow – now, not before your income stalls, the recession hits, or you decide that it’s simply beyond your capability to grow a big business and so you probably won’t.
If these questions are useful for you or illuminating in any way – I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.
Scaling UP, our new workshop for women in business who have made some sales and are ready to grow but feel stuck, is coming soon. Join the waitlist here to be notified when it lands and receive early bird goodies..
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