The 15 lessons learned in our second year in business
When I started my business, I remember thinking to myself, “all I want is to have a business that is fulfilling, where I don’t have to commute to a job, and I can make enough to have some of the things we want.” Well, I’m happy to report that this standard of success has been achieved. I’m qualifying this by saying that I know there’s so much more I want to achieve and I’m not saying that I’m “successful” by other people’s standards; but in my “just starting” days’ standard, I have made it.
I recently started ice skating and when I started lessons, all I wanted was to be able to skate confidently and be able to move backwards. It seemed difficult when I started and I feared falling. But in 3 months, I’m happy to report that I’ve not only mastered skating forward but I’m slowly but surely started to move backwards, and have only fallen once. I now have a new standard of success. Now I have a new goal to strive for and that’s the possibility of maybe possibly competing in an adult skating championship. That’s all to say, as you grow, your goals also grow with you.
Reina + Co is celebrating its 2nd Anniversary and it’s been one heck of a ride! Last year, I spent time reflecting on what I’d learned (which you can find here).
1. Growing a team means I have to step it up as a leader.
In our second year, Team Sunshine grew quite a bit. On our core team we have a Brand Manager, Graphic Designer, Creative Director, Brand Coordinator and Podcast Coordinator. It is incredibly empowering and also a moment of what the heck am i doing!? It’s the responsibility of the CEO to set the direction, to decide the plan and to collaborate with the team to make that direction a reality. Leading meetings, creating a strategic plan and to call out success on our team is all part of my responsibility. This journey is just beginning and I’m now seeing that I have so much to learn. Can’t wait to report back what I learn in my next year of business.
2. Don’t take your eye off of the most important part of your business: your team and your clients.
We’re all so excited to grow beyond our current domain and want to create passive income, to become well known educators, to go beyond the 1:1 model (this is more of an appropriate example for service based business owners). However, there’s a beauty and growing slow. I’ve been challenged by several mindset coaches that that’s a limiting belief I have. While it may be true, I don’t want the make six figures in 30 days business model that might not end up being true or sustainable for me.
I’m far more interested in committing and recommitting to those who catalyze the growth of my business in steady and intentional ways. Without creating real results with my clients, I will not get repeat work that allows me to fund other fun things in my business nor will I get great customer referrals. Without a strong team, I will lose the stability necessary to grow us in ways that will ensure future success.
So yes, I definitely want Reina + Co to scale in years 3-5 but for now, we’re putting our heads down, doing the work and loving on our clients and our team. Let’s get to work.
3. People will try to take you down. Don’t take it personally.
At the very beginning of year two in business, we had a tech meltdown. We grew out of our email provider and decided to move to our current one. In that transition, the systems misfired and sent out a slew of unintended emails. Whoops.
I’m a business coach but I’m certainly not a tech expert nor do I claim to know everything there is to know about migrating a big list of emails from one system to another. But what I do know is that I handle our list with a TON of care and respect. So when that meltdown happened and people jumped off of our list by the hundreds (the final toll was about 1,500 people saying ‘bu-bye!’ it was devastating. What was more devastating was that some of those people took the time to say some hurtful things about our competence and integrity.
My friend, trying to console me said, “you know you’ve made it when you have haters. Welcome to the club,” and it was a moment of growth. It hurts to be shoved out of your comfort zone, but it’s a necessary evil so you can continue to make bigger impacts in a way that serves the people who you truly were meant to hang out with.
4. Build your inner circle.
When you have these trying times, it’s necessary to have a tribe of people who really get it. I’ve taken to calling these people my Inner 5. These people are the ones who get my business. They’re people who are non-judgmental and will let me be open and honest about anything I’m experiencing, be it difficult or celebration.
This inner circle of business friends are people I’ve met through my business (some I’ve met, some I haven’t) but they’re people I talk to every day whether it be through Voxer, text, phone, or another means of communication. They’re brave enough to call me out when I’m wrong and give me guidance and they’re gentle with me when I need the support.
Everybody in our industry experiences the entrepreneur blues and it’s essential to have people in our corner.
I’ve cultivated this group and more people in my network by engaging in the Social Glue Method which you can learn about here!
5. Keep your eye on the money. Breaking it down + Lessons in math.
While I believe in serving people and not leading with wanting to make a buck, it’s also essential to be savvy in the finances of your business. Like any other goal, having financial targets allow you to make realistic progress toward them.
A simple mind opening moment that I discussed in my Entrepreneur on Fire interview with John Lee Dumas was the realization that it wasn’t as complicated as I thought to make the illusive $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 in any given month. Breaking down a goal of $5,000 per month is having 10 clients who all pay $500 per month. It seemed so much easier to achieve that than saying, “I need to find a way to make lots of money.”
While I don’t talk about my revenue in my business, in our first full year in business, Reina + Co did achieve our goal of becoming a six-figure business. My goal in the second full year isn’t to double that but it is a challenging goal that empowers my team more that requires a little more investment into that growth.
If you have never done financial projections for your business, I would argue that you’re not a true business owner (I’m not trying to be mean, I just believe you should take a good hard look at your money situation) and you need to create a plan. Here’s a super simple tool you can use to get financial clarity: The Survive and Thrive Workbook.
6. Podcasting is my preferred mode of content creation and it’s not for everybody.
Christina and I are about to celebrate our one year anniversary of the Creative Empire Podcast. In the past year, we’ve met some incredible people, become friends with many of our guests and have learned a ton. For me, I’ve learned that there is a lot of work involved with having a podcast (and that it’s a pretty huge investment) but the investments are far outweighed by the positives.
I’ve been asked how hard it is to have a podcast. There’s a short and long answer. It’s SO easy to hit record and slap something up on iTunes. There’s a lot of democratizing with the advent of the internet. People anywhere can have a dedicated station dedicated to their body of content. However, it’s a different story to have a project that’s well received, well thought out, and continues to draw a consistent audience. It also requires a lot of time, effort and education to get into the podcasting game.
It is truly my favorite content creation method. I adore being able to connect with our audience through audio while you’re listening to us on the go, in your car, at the gym. I hope that it has been encouraging, informative and educational. Long live podcasting!
7. Following my triggers is rewarding.
I’ve grown a lot in the way of challenging my limiting beliefs and the things that trigger me in the second year of having Reina + Co. Let me explain: limiting beliefs are just as they sound, thoughts that we carry with us that tell us that we cannot do something or be somebody that go unquestioned. Triggers are external influences that set of a certain emotion or unsettledness.
For 2016, my word of the year was ABUNDANCE. I challenged myself at many points during the year when I found myself believing that something was just not possible for me. By leaning into abundance, I gave myself permission to trust that success was available for me to access.
My friend Tara Newman told me to follow my triggers and while it felt super uncomfortable at first, I found that it led me to new opportunities and new experiences. Whenever I’d experience a bout of jealousy or anxiety that I was behind, I tried to switch it on its head to see it as an opportunity that is also available to me. So as long as whatever triggered me is in line with my vision of success, I’m committed to following it.
Side note: I’m making a conscious decision to eradicate the phrase, “I’m so jealous” – if I wanted something enough, I’d go and earn it and not be jealous about it. If I’m not willing to go after it, it’s not worth being jealous over.
8. What’s duh to you is mind blowing to others.
This is something that I learned time and time again as we interviewed 100+ women for the podcast. Something that is so natural to us because of the journey we’ve been on might be entirely unique for somebody else.
Just because photography comes naturally to you, it doesn’t mean that you should do free work constantly. Just because you started your business and you feel like you’re behind doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable to somebody else who doesn’t possess your talents and skills.
Work doesn’t have to feel like “work” all the time. You’ve built your skill-sets to a point that it has now intersected with passion and it feels fun.
9. Investing can accelerate growth.
I’d say I’m a pretty risk averse person. I don’t gamble, I don’t invest in a risky way in the stock market, I don’t act in way that might be considered risky. I’m actually pretty boring (haha).
When it comes to business, I started my business on credit. I paid for coach training, coaching, and for my LLC filing fees. I didn’t invest in my website and branding until I started to generate income.
In two years and as we’ve been able to increase our revenue, I’ve made decisions in the business to be able to invest in ways that will help us develop the brand quicker. I didn’t invest in much before I made money and I’m proud that I was able to pay those expenses back within the first 6 months of being in business. I would not tell you not to invest; however, you have to know what the return on your investment will be and to create a plan around how you’ll earn that back.
Here are the kinds of investments I’ve made to go from bootstrapping to accelerating our growth:
- Hiring team members to delegate tasks (priority of “essentials” down to “I need to get this off my plate so I don’t go insane.”)
- Conferences and educational events (that also include travel)
- Website – We all need this
- Photography – It was simple at first but now, I try to do it every time I travel to a new city
- Tech tools to simplify and enhance our impact
- Coaching + Masterminds
- Courses to learn new skills (if you’re struggling with actually completing them, take a look at my tips to get through those courses)
10. Nobody really knows where they’re going.
When we start, even the entrepreneurs who look like they’ve “made it” didn’t know what they were doing or where they’d end up. Looking back on established entrepreneur’s journeys, it’s easy to say, “this opportunity lead to that” but in the thick of it, it feels like a jumbled, messy, frustrating path.
Take courage that you’re not alone in feeling lost. If you keep yourself in the game, create a solid plan, and keep moving toward that vision, you might be surprised at where you find yourself in the future.
11. It’s okay (and totally encouraged) to have a life.
Looking back to my 2015 PowerSheets, it is so clear to me that I was OBSESSED with starting Reina + Co. I had zero personal goals and about 15 goals for what would ultimately become the current brand. That year, I didn’t have much of a life. I’ve always taken a lot of pleasure from pushing myself and working hard that life sometimes has a tendency to take the back burner. In this past year, I’ve given myself permission to acknowledge it’s because I am scared that if I slow down, I wouldn’t be “allowed” to be as successful as I’d like to be.
After admitting that, it became clear to me that what I wanted was to have a lot more ease and fun in my life that had little to do with my business. I’ve embraced more of my personal goals, and while it’s certainly a work in progress, I’m leaning into doing things that fuel me.
12. Get clear on what you want to be known for.
It’s easy to get distracted and to want to talk about everything. If you seem knowledgeable about all the things, you’ll seem more like an expert, right? Maybe, but more likely, you’ll seem more scattered and people will find it more difficult for them to say “she’s really good at ___!” When your domain comes up in conversation, you want somebody to think of you first.
It took me my full second year in business to get clear on what the Reina + Co specialty is and what our philosophy on each topic is. We’re refining our content to speak more clearly to those points and to articulate not only the topic but also the philosophy in a way that resonates for our audience.
13. It’s easy to start, it’s harder to stay in the game.
You know by now that anybody can start a business. According to Scott Shane in the New York Times, less than half of businesses started between 1977 and 2000 were still running when they hit the 5 year mark (Source). There is about 17 years of data missing but if historic trends indicate the significant number of entrepreneurs start a business and end up abandoning them. Starting a business is simple. It’s much harder to keep yourself in the game.
Whether it be for financial and family reasons, health reasons, personal decisions, or that the business didn’t have a sound model to back it up, just over half of businesses shut their doors before their fifth birthday. (Note to my future self: I’d love to see what I’m thinking around April 1, 2020. Is Reina + Co what you imagined it would be?).
I know that in my second year of business, I learned a lot of key lessons that I’ll take with me into our third and subsequent years in business. The relationships I’ve formed, the work we’ve done will keep us moving forward. The biggest decision is to recommit to our bigger vision as a brand and positioning ourselves to strive toward that mission every day.
14. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Learning to listen takes time and an incredible amount of patience. I’ve certainly started that path as a Social Worker and as a Coach but I have SO much yet to learn. Listening deeply to my clients’ needs has been a lesson in business that I wasn’t expecting. Your clients and potential dreamy clients have all the information you need in order to direct the course of your offerings for the future.
Because of this lesson and because I’ve fully taken Tara Gentile’s Living Room Strategy to heart, I am constantly honing my listening skills, so much so that potential clients will often say, “how did you know that’s exactly what I needed?” Instead of creating for the sake of creating, ask your audience what it is they want and need that can be fulfilled by you and find your spin on it.
15. Make yourself a client.
This year, I implemented the A + B weeks in my schedule. A weeks are client weeks, B weeks are travel and content weeks. I was noticing that before I instituted this scheduling system, I was always behind on creating content, feeling like I was letting my team down. I had client calls scheduled in between writing sessions and during travel. I realized that it served everybody and myself best when I had designated times for certain tasks.
The biggest mindset shift I’ve made around this is that in order to develop my brand further, to serve the right clients now and in the future, I have to create time to make myself a client. I designate time in my calendar to work on passion projects, new collaborations, or developing new courses and value content.
If you’re struggling with making progress in your own business because you’re too busy with everything else, you might try just an afternoon once a week where you treat yourself like a client.
I still have so much to learn about in business but what this year has taught me is that a) I can learn these things as they unfold, b) that I have good instincts, c) I will continue to refine and uplevel my business, and d) that there is so much abundance in the people who need our services and products that it truly isn’t worth worrying about.
You can count on Reina + Co sticking to our team word of the year: BUILD. We are committed to building more stability and sustainability into our business, to grow steadily rather than in a “massive growth” capacity and to keep putting our head down and serving the people who are right here on our journey with us (that’s you!). Thank you for being in our community for another awesome year. Here’s to many more, friend!