My Operations Manager, Carolyn, and I recently spent two days via zoom planning for 2021, and she asked me to answer a few very simple, yet very difficult questions.
These questions got me thinking about how much my business has evolved since I started. She asked me: Who are you? What do you do? How do you do it? Who do you serve?
Those are such simple questions but it was challenging for me to come up with my answers because our business has evolved so much over the last four years — especially this year.
When I started my business, I didn’t have kids yet. Becoming a mother has really changed how I want to work and what’s important to me, but I think that’s what’s so great about owning your own business — it’s yours. It can change as you change.
I was preparing for this episode and realized I’ve gone through about six different phases and iterations of my business since it started just four years ago, and that’s what I’m sharing with you today. So if you’re in this spot right now, where you’re not really sure what you want next year, that’s okay. Just remember to follow your gut, and do what’s really exciting for you.
I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what kind of job I was going to get, because all of a sudden, everything that I thought I wanted, I didn’t want anymore.
Phase #1: Realizing I wasn’t meant for corporate and starting my own business
This actually goes back to 2014. There were two very specific moments that made me realize I wasn’t made to be in the corporate world, both of which occurred when I was interning in the New York City area.
During my MBA program, I landed what I thought was my dream internship as a brand manager for a Consumer Packaged Goods company, but within the first few weeks of that internship, I started noticing little red flags pop up all over the place.
It seemed like all anyone talked about and thought about was work — and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want my entire life to revolve around work.
Later that summer my dad passed away unexpectedly. I had to fly back to Iowa and figure out everything that needed to happen for his funeral and celebration of life because my parents are divorced. Plus, as an only child, I had to do everything. It was the worst year that I have ever been through.
I really wanted to finish out my internship as best as possible because I had made a commitment, but I also wanted to finish the project I was working on. So after being home, having my dad’s celebration of life, and getting some things in order, I went back to the East Coast to finish my summer. And I will never ever forget this:
The first day that I was back in the office, not one person said anything to me about my dad dying. There was no ‘I’m sorry, how are you doing? Is there anything I can do?’ It was shocking to me. No one — not even the other interns — said anything to me about my dad passing away.
That was another major red flag; I realized people were so wrapped up in their work that they couldn’t even take two minutes to say something to me when I was clearly having a really difficult time being back in the office. On top of that, the next day, my team members actually asked me to do MORE work in a shorter amount of time, because I had missed weeks dealing with my dad’s funeral.
Let’s just say, I immediately knew I wasn’t going to work for that company. All the red flags were going off, so this was when I started to realize I wasn’t built for corporate.
After that, I went back to grad school, and I was lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what kind of job I was going to get, because all of a sudden, everything that I thought I wanted, I didn’t want anymore.
There was one thing, though, that I did know: I wanted to stay in the Midwest and be close to family.
So Sam and I ended up moving back to Des Moines, and I eventually got an internship at our local health insurance company for the summer, making $15 an hour. I had just left my advertising career to get my MBA, realized I hated corporate, and now there I was, sitting in a corporate office making $15 an hour, bored out of my mind.
I dreaded going to this internship every single day; the majority of my time was spent sitting at a desk in a cubicle…and that’s when I got the idea.
This is the idea that sent me down the spiral of owning my own business, and that idea came from asking myself some questions.
I think these questions can be really helpful if you’re at that point where you don’t know what you’re passionate about, what you want to do with your life, or don’t really know what’s next for you.
The questions I kept on asking myself were: what have I enjoyed the most In my past work? What has gotten me the most excited? Who have I enjoyed working with the most?
By asking myself these questions, I realized that I really enjoyed working with small businesses. Prior to going to grad school, I had worked at a small agency in Minneapolis. We worked with big clients like Wendy’s and Famous Dave’s, but we also worked with some really small local businesses. I loved working with the small local businesses because we could tweak little things in their marketing and it would make a huge difference for them.
So that’s what I kept thinking about: how do I help small businesses, but also make the money and have the lifestyle that I want? That’s when I got the idea to create a membership site for small businesses that taught them how to improve their marketing and was within their budget.
This was the idea that sent me down the entire path of owning my own business, but the craziest part is that I spent the entire next year “perfecting” this idea.
I spent the next year building a website and figuring out the name of my business. Now in the Advisori Insiders PRO program, you do this in ONE WEEK. So don’t do what I did! I often think about what would have happened if I had started a year later or a year earlier, and where I would be today.
Your first few clients are the hardest because it’s your job to go out and find them, but once you start putting yourself out there, you start getting referrals, and that’s really how my business grew.
Phase #2: Taking on clients
From that idea, I officially launched my business in July of 2016 (which really just means that my website was live), and I filed for my LLC. I landed my first client in October of 2016, and then my second client in December of that same year.
After starting my business though, I realized I had no idea how to actually build a membership site! So thankfully, after having a conversation with my brilliant husband, he convinced me to take on some clients first, get more experience working with small businesses to really see what they needed help with, and bring in some additional cash to help me fund and figure out how to build this membership.
By 2017, I started getting a lot of referrals. That’s one thing I think that a lot of people don’t get about service-based businesses: your first few clients are the hardest because it’s your job to go out and find them, but once you start putting yourself out there, just letting people know you’re in business, you start getting referrals, and that’s really how my business grew.
My first course flopped, and I think that happens to a lot of people. A lot of times when we’re starting a business or going into a new area, we try to do it all ourselves. We DIY it and we don’t get the education or the help we need to really understand how to build a successful, scalable digital product.
Phase #3: Launching my online memberships and courses
Although I had landed my first two clients in 2016, I still really wanted to build this membership site. So in 2017, I spent the first five months of the year building out an entire membership site — everything from the content to the sales page.
But you know what? I actually never sold the membership! I spent all this time building out something that I was never even able to sell. I eventually ended up repackaging my membership, and in May of 2017, I launched it as a course and sold two spots. I was so embarrassed that I actually ended up refunding both of those people.
My first course had flopped, and I think that happens to a lot of people. A lot of times when we’re starting a business or going into a new area, we try to do it all ourselves. We DIY it and we don’t get the education or the help we need to really understand how to build a successful, scalable digital product.
At that point, I decided to table the whole membership idea and go all-in on my 1:1 clients, but I still had this little thing nagging in my head of really wanting to create something that would help more people.
In February of 2018, I started working on my now signature course, Advisori Insiders PRO, and launched it two months later in April. That month, I had five people join my program. Now, I had done enough research, taken enough courses, and gotten enough education to realize five people was an amazing achievement. That meant people were willing to pay for my course. Plus, I had five people that I could really help and get testimonials from to build on that.
I then relaunched Advisori Insiders PRO in July of that year, and took it to evergreen in August, just four months after launching, all while still working with clients.
You’re going to try a bunch of ideas but 99% of them are not going to work. So when you have something that’s working, don’t run away from it to go after another shiny object, scale what is working.
Phase #4: Scaling what was working
I think this is honestly one of the biggest differentiators in my business compared to other service-based businesses, online courses, and coaching programs. A lot of times as business owners, we get shiny object syndrome. We have one idea, and then we have another idea, or we hear someone say we should do something else, and then we find ourselves constantly changing the course of our business. We think that’s the only way to grow and make more money.
But really, once I launched Advisori Insiders PRO and saw that it was something that could really help people, that it was something people needed and wanted, and my 1:1 clients were performing really well, I just scaled the crap out of it…and I’ve been scaling and continuing to scale those two things over the last few years.
If you want to do one thing in your business in 2021 that’s going to help you grow, scale what is working. As a business owner, you have tons of ideas, and you’re going to try a bunch of ideas, but 99% of them are not going to work. So when you have something that’s working, don’t run away from it to go after another shiny object, scale what is working.
I wanted to be able to teach more than one person exactly what they needed to change in their business and still give them the 1:1 feedback and expertise I have from doing this for over four years and earning multiple seven figures.
Phase #5: Replacing clients with coaching
After the first quarter of this year, I decided to step back from working 1:1 with clients. My online program Advisori Insiders PRO and our Alumni membership were taking more and more of my time and I was seeing that we could continue to scale it. Also, as a new mom, I knew that trying to balance motherhood and take on new clients was going to be really hard.
The only other option I thought I had was to build out an agency. Although having an agency and having employees is something some people really aspire to, it’s not something that I necessarily want to do, at least at this point in my life.
So I decided since I didn’t want to go the agency route, I was going to replace working with 1:1 clients with coaching. I wanted to be able to teach more than one person exactly what they needed to change in their business, and still give them the 1:1 feedback and expertise I have from doing this for over four years and earning multiple seven figures.
We launched our new group coaching program, Successful Solopreneur School this past summer, and it has been fantastic.
The women in the program are just amazing, and they’re so near and dear to my heart. I absolutely love the coaching program and being able to teach but also giving everyone 1:1 feedback on what they’re doing. It’s just filling my soul with what I really enjoy. Running the program has also taught me what I want our business and our programs to look like moving forward.
I really want to help solopreneurs and service providers build scalable businesses that don’t require you to work 40 hours a week or build out a big team — and I want our coaching programs to be a lot different than what’s in the industry currently.
Phase #6: What’s to come in 2021
In 2021, we are going to continue to grow the Advisori Insiders PRO program to help others start their businesses and side hustles.
We are also revamping Successful Solopreneur School to really focus on growing your 1:1 services. We are breaking off phase six of Successful Solopreneur School into a brand new program called the Powered by Passive Academy, which is going to teach you how to turn your 1:1 services into a scalable digital product.
These three things that we’re growing in 2021 are exactly how I’ve been able to grow my business to seven figures. We’re also going to continue to upgrade our branding, our website, and grow our team.
On top of all that, I’m growing a small human! So I will be taking time off to enjoy lots of baby snuggles in the middle of the year as well!
I feel like we’re finally getting to this point where I’m really clear on what I really enjoy, what I really want to do, who I really want to help, and how we are going to help them. I really want to help solopreneurs and service providers build scalable businesses that don’t require you to work 40 hours a week or build out a big team — and I want our coaching programs to be a lot different than what’s in the industry currently.
I want to keep these programs really small, so we’re only going to be opening them a few times per year. Our classes are going to be limited to less than 30 people to better provide that individualized help and coaching that I wish really was in some of the coaching programs that I’ve taken over the years!
There is a lot to come next year — I’m excited, and I hope you’re excited! I really want to thank all of you for going on this journey with me, no matter when you stepped into my universe. I hope this really helps you start thinking about what you want in 2021 and encourages you to be open to evolution in your business!
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