For as long as I have been doing business, I have always loved seeing behind the scenes of what is happening in someone’s business so I could learn from their successes. I’m one part curious and one part someone who learns from very specific experiences, vs theoretical conversation.
While I’m still making loads of mistakes over here, my business has experienced consistent year-over-year growth and success in our businesses. I have a few recent lessons learned that may help you too.
Since our business inception, I’ve been focused on steady, consistent growth. In this post, I’ll share how that benefited us and where it held us back…. I’ll also share some of the things that have prompted us to more than 3x our sales while in the middle of a global pandemic.
1 – When it looks like “everyone” is doing it, do something different
Our company DOUBLED revenue year over year while being shut down for 4 months in 2020 during the global pandemic.
How is this possible? How can you grow during a shutdown?
While many businesses in our space were shutting down, we decided to do something different.
You're not like everyone else. Why should your business be?
We doubled down on our business strategy and decided this was the time to focus on opening in more cities.
We had grown slow and steady for years and we had really focused on building strong foundations and growing our business the right way. With that in mind, we had the foundations in place to scale up. We were just taking our time. Well, all of the sudden we couldn’t shoot any more and our customer service inbox was extra quiet. We took that time to ramp up marketing for new cities, build out our recruiting process, hire, train, and be ready to launch when the cities were ready to reopen for in person experiences.
We did something similar in my consulting business. I’ll tell you more about that under lesson #3.
What is everyone doing in your industry right now?
How can you do something different and stand out?
2 – Bet on Yourself
There are many ideas I have had that I decided to go forward with. Maybe the idea wasn’t aligned to my vision for my life or I may not have been interested in investing my time or money in time. It’s true, not all ideas are worth betting on. However, when the right idea and the right strategy come to you, you need to be willing and ready to bet on yourself.
To make the decision to invest in yourself and your business when nearly the entire world was shutting down, it felt like a no brainer to me at the time. I had to do a little selling of the idea to the team. Looking back, it was a big bet for us. We were making investments and we weren’t sure when or how exactly they would pay off.
We asked ourselves:
- Are we ready for this? (Maybe not, but we are ready enough!)
- Are we interested in this? (Heck yeah we are interested in serving more clients through our business)
- Why would we NOT do this? (Fear, letting the false thought that “we are not ready” hold us back…Okay, it’s clear we need to do this!)
In the end, it was clear we were ready. We were more than ready. We had been growing slow for years and with the shut downs, we had the time and space to scale fast. We would be there for our new clients, in new markets, when we were allowed to meet clients in person again. Our bet was that people would be interested in meeting us after 4 months of shut down.
The tricky part is balancing placing bets strategically. We talk about prioritizing and how to focus your energy in The Modern CEO regularly.
I made a similar bet on my consulting business. Instead of keeping things business as usual or dialing things back, we increased our weekly consulting call with our business owner clients to 3x per week. In this case, we were doubling down on the idea that people needed support and connection. In a time when things were changing fast, we were there to collaborate on changes in strategy due to the constant changes at play in their business. My entrepreneurial clients came out of the pandemic ready to grow, just like I did in my photography business.
Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself.
Where have you held back in promoting or scaling your business?
Is it time for you to bet on your growth?
3 – Stay Relevant
Change is inevitable in life and business, but we have certainly observed that change has been coming faster and faster the last two years…And it’s not slowing down. People’s beliefs, challenges, and behaviors have shifted in the last two years. Messaging that worked two years ago likely will not work today.
It’s essential that you update your marketing message or your core product message to align with the challenges and opportunities people are facing today.
Keep your messaging relevant to ensure continued growth.
For example, each year I host an annual planning event for entrepreneurs. A few months after the event, with the onset of the pandemic, it was clear the plans we made for 2022 needed a refresh. I hosted a virtual retreat called “Plan Pivot Profit.” Keyword being PIVOT. Everyone had made their 2022 plans, but a big pivot was needed due to factors largely outside of our control.
When you look to develop messaging, I always look at WHAT IS TRUE. In the case above, we needed to pivot our business plans.
In the photography business, it was true that we could not do the photoshoots at the time we started marketing them. So we lead with that messaging. What was also true is that we were excited to start shooting again as soon as their local reopened. We offered a reopening special for existing markets and a grand opening special for new markets we were expanding into.
What is true for your clients today?
Where does your messaging need to be updated to address what is true and most relevant today?
4 – Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Success
I always look at business through two lenses:
What do we need now, present-day?
What do we need to do to set ourselves up for long-term growth?
Sometimes, there are things we put in place that we know are temporary because we need to prioritize a fast fix. That’s perfectly fine.
Then there are things you know you need to get in place for the future, but they will take time and thoughtfulness, and conversation to get in place.
There is no need to try to boil the ocean all at once.
Make the decisions you need to make today, with the future in mind.
As we scaled and 3xed our company size, we faced new challenges like:
- Building new comp plans
- Recruiting values-aligned team members and finding win-win roles
- Increases customer service challenges
- Inflation eating away at profit
- Needing refreshed systems
- Looking at our numbers in a new way for scalable growth
- Client experiences need updating due to the impact of the global pandemic
- And many more
At every turn I realized, all the learning, conversations I have had with mentors, and work I had done to this point prepared me for the challenges we would face.
So whatever you do, don’t stop learning.
In fact, learn how to run a business comprehensively – not just learning marketing, because there is so much more that goes into growing a business.
Everything you do today prepares you for tomorrow.
Are you ready for your next level of growth?
What do I need to consider now to have the future I desire?
Will this decision help us get to where we want to be going?
5 – There is More to Business than Sales and Marketing
Most of what fills up my feeds online related to growing a business are tied to sales and marketing.
Sales and marketing are absolutely essential to your business growth and success.
But, to be honest, it’s not where I spend the majority of my time.
Could I spend more time on sales and marketing?
Sure I could!
That might not be the wisest investment of my time, however.
In my photography business, we have a team that does better marketing than me. I learn from them daily.
In my consulting business, I have a highly leveraged sales and marketing model and I choose to spend more time with my clients.
Each day as an entrepreneur you need to focus on the things that will have the greatest impact on your business.
To identify what you need to be focusing on now by your stage of business, join The Modern CEO priority list – we’ll be running a training on this soon and I’d love to invite you to a VIP session.
In addition to sales and marketing, there are a number of other things that also need my attention as a Modern CEO as mentioned above in the list of new challenges we are tackling as the business grows.
As an entrepreneur, founder, or business owner, it has helped us more than I can even say to understand how a business operates. It has helped us prioritize so we don’t get stretched too thin and it’s helped us stop doing things that were not benefiting us, our clients, or our team.
What areas of my business need attention?
What areas of business do I need to better understand for the short and long-term success of my business?
6 – Be a Doer (The Myth of the Visionary)
As much as I hold a vision for my company that is shared by my team, my sole role isn’t made up of the singular responsibility to be the visionary.
I see a lot of conversation about being the visionary and that being your sole role, after all, you can hire a team for everything else, right? Not so fast! In fact, I think I’ve probably said it before myself – being the visionary is the role only you can do. I now disagree. Surely how you lead your company will depend on your leadership style so this is not one size fits all, but I am not one to create a vision and set the marching orders for everyone else to go and get it. I’m in it with my team and I’m in it with my clients.
Our vision for our company is shared. I fine-tune it, ask questions about it, engage with the team around it, and I ensure all the activities we are executing align with this vision, but it’s not my sole responsibility. It’s shared and I contribute to us reaching that vision. As does my team. As does my business partner in my photography business.
With that in mind, what does a Modern CEO, business owner, entrepreneur even do day-to-day, week-to-week?
Do you know?
If not, you are definitely going to want to join us in our upcoming training for the entrepreneur who wants to Plan, Profit, and Scale.
Yes, even the founder of a company has roles and responsibilities to be held accountable to.
Every single person in our company (including me when I was in the company of one and my business partner in the photography business), has specific responsibilities we are accountable to for the company and for other team members. I engage with my team and I get my hands dirty as we build and scale our companies.
What am I excellent at?
What do I love to do?
What can someone else do better than me?
7 – Trust is Key
There is no way that I would have had the confidence to place the bets we did in our business in the last couple of years if I didn’t fully trust the people on my team.
We were making big bets in both of our companies and if I didn’t trust my team to pick up their side of things so we could divide and conquer, there’s no way I would have even placed the bets. Doing business alone isn’t what lights me up… I have some introverted tendencies so I do enjoy sitting here writing this message to you alone, but ultimately it takes a village.
My mentors, my colleagues, our entire team at both of my companies…I deeply trust them. I admire them. We are values-aligned.
My business partner, Joanna, talks about this regularly. She probably trusts more deeply than I do.
If you do not trust the people around you, consider getting into new circles.
I think this is even more important than the old saying that you don’t want to be the smartest person in the room.
No, these do not have to be employees on your team. I’m talking about your mentors, peer groups, contractors you hire for one-off projects. You gotta have trust.
In fact, Harvard Business Review reports:
People at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fb, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.
Do you trust the people you surround yourself with?
If not, let’s get you some new circles!
8 – Business is Not One Size Fits All
What strategy should you use to grow? What marketing approach would be best for you right now? What should your timeline for growth be? Should you be focused on growth or scaling right now? Or should you be focused on sales, revenue, or profitability?
Or maybe you just started glazing over this right now thinking, I have no idea…
Can’t someone just tell me what to do?
I ask because I’ve been there and I’ve asked the same question: Can’t someone just tell me what to do?
Here’s what I know. When you understand how to build, run, scale, and grow a business, you’ll be able to design a strategy that works for you.
One size does not fit all in business so it’s key that you understand enough to personalize your way forward.
Yes, you can take a blueprint from a course, a colleague, or a mentor, and build from that. Ultimately it’s my recommendation that you learn how to actually run a business so you can personalize your approach and align it with your values, goals, and desires for your future.
This is how I was able to take strategies I learned in the online space to scale our photography business.
Likewise, what I learned about client experience from my corporate consulting experience allows me to create scalable intimacy in my boutique consultancy at ambermccue.com today.
Are you trying to fit someone else’s blueprint and make it your own?
Do you need/want to personalize your success path?
I could keep going with this…there are a lot of lessons learned! But I’ll pause there because that’s enough to get us started with taking your business and your leadership to the next level. 😉
Let me know in the comments, what lesson did you like best and why?
P.S. If you are ready to plan for profit and scale your business this year, zip on over to ambermccue.com/themodernceo and hop on our priority list! We are hosting a complimentary training this spring and I’ll get you on the VIP list (limited seats).