34 Things I've Learned About Business and Money in 34 Years
Every year, when I complete my one revolution around the sun (aka my BIRTHDAY! That’s today!), I like to get all reflective about the things.
Which is why today, I’m sharing some of my favorite business and money lessons (my two favorite things to talk about) all in service of helping YOU, my business-owning friend, take one tiny action today toward getting closer to your biz/life goals.
So here we go! 34 pithy things that I’ve learned and hope that at least one of them will get your head nodding :) Shall we?
You get to CHOOSE how your business looks. I’ll say it again — you get to CHOOSE! For a long time, I thought that I LOVED execution of events, when really, I love meeting with clients. I love strategy, planning…I love that people believe in the excellence of what I know. If you’re currently saying, “Man, I’m so stressed and so busy and I have no breathing room and it’s so hard and my clients are demanding.”, that’s a choice. Choose wisely.
There will be years of GROWTH and there will be years of MONEY. I’m not 100% sure about this one yet, but in my experience, years of intense growth mean lots of investing — in team, in support, in learning, in promotion — and that can be a little less exciting for those of us who have households to run. Don’t worry; all that growth needs to lead to MONEY (which is coming). Sometimes you’re growing sometimes you’re fat with cash — just usually not at the same time.
We can always do with one more savings account. My friend Megan once told me she had 12 savings accounts for different goals. I thought she was insane, until I read Profit First, which changed the way I structure my business finances. Now, we’re intensely profitable, I pay myself and my team salaries every two weeks, and we’ve got some fun things planned for the year coming up that have nothing to do with work. And we have 6 bank accounts for a variety of expenses.
Hire a therapist. My therapist helped me do one million things, including raising my rates, hiring a team member, stop picking at my skin, not going into survival mode everytime I had an unplanned expense. You can never know what sort of energy you’re needlessly wasting on fear until you no longer waste it on fear. If you’ve ever felt like you have “anxiety” and get “panic attacks” google “EMDR” or “EFT” and prepare for your mind to be blown. And then, get to therapy.
Get a bookkeeper. Listen, I am EXTREMELY type A and I like to be in my money, but someone else sending my clients reminders when they missed invoices keeps me nice and cozy on our calls, and not at all bitter when I realize they’re behind on their invoice. Stress level = 0, Client Relationships = 100!
Talk about money with your friends. I remember sitting in a coffee shop with a friend who told me what their monthly retainer fee was, and I immediately ran home and increased our fee structure. If you don’t know, you won’t know what to charge. Make it your mission to start knowing.
You can be great at business and great personally, but often those things happen sequentially (and not in the preferred sequential order). Listen, all of those people that you aspire to be on the internet are going through their own shit. And not just “Where should I travel next, wah! It’s so hard to choose.” More like “I don’t know why I have this anxiety that is constantly bubbling so much that I can’t leave my house.” Trust me, for every person that talks about the anxiety that they USED to have…unless they also talk about how they healed it or methods they used to work through it, they’re still dealing with it 100%. Ask me how I know…
Your business evolves — and so should you. If, after two or three or four years, your business is growing, but you seem to be working with clients that don’t pay on time or are in community with people who aren’t dreaming as big as you — it’s time for a change. I totally get that it’s hard to consider giving up some of the habits that got you where you are today, but in order to keep growing, you have to shed some of the shit you’re currently wearing. You wouldn’t put 2-year old clothes on your four-year old. Same concept applies to lots of things in your life.
Money does not solve everything, but not having enough money is a real problem. There were SO many years where I didn’t understand how to pay myself…when you go from having a lump sum that hits your bank account to needing to mentally calculate taxes, it’s hard to stick that landing. Only when I started to have enough to experiment with is when I got really serious about financial forecasting. So, do what you can to get sustainable. The rest will figure itself out.
You got to pay attention to your numbers. If math is hard for you, take some math classes. It’s not an excuse NOT to actually pay yourself. If you work 80 hours a week and draw money from your account as you need it, but always feel like you’re slightly behind, pay attention to that. Most of the time, you have more money than you think you do, but if you don’t pay attention to it, it’s hard to fully be objective about it. Ask me how I know…
Six-figure businesses don’t mean you have to work a ton harder. I’ll be honest, my business is way easier now than it was when I was only making $50k. That’s because: a) experience, b) client-niching c) systems and d) hiring people who told me that I was too cheap for the amount of work that I was doing. If your excuse about not wanting a bigger business is because you’ll have to work more, I can tell you 100% that isn’t the case.
There are 1000 ways to get to the same place. Events were great for me. Email marketing is good for me too. Instagram? Less good. Not my circus. If performing on a street corner gets you incredible results, do that. If webinars are your mission, go for it. You don’t need to be everywhere, contrary to popular believe.
You can say no and not be afraid of people not liking you. I have a client right now who chose us from a field of others BECAUSE I said no to them initially. NO is powerful; it makes a statement. Mostly, it says “I’m not thirsty, and I am that good.” Try it on the next date, client, social invitation, job interview…you’ll probably get invited back.
You have to pay for access. Going to a conference where all your heroes are? That’s paying for access. If you’re paying a LOT for your access, do what you can to be memorable. Stand out, send emails, consistently interact. Paying for access doesn’t mean you stop doing the work.
There are more people that look up to you than you think. See everyone who hates their job but is too afraid to quit.
Sometimes, getting paid is as simple as explaining your value. Having a sales process is REAL. I used to think that I could shoot off a proposal and hope for the best…and sometimes, that works! However, now I know that my clients want more hand holding, which include a follow up video, a personalized note, and other touches. If you show high-quality, you’ll stand out…and you’ll get paid for it.
You can figure this out. One of the biggest muscles that I’ve developed as a business owner is the ability to figure things out and then do them. To this day, when people ask me “How can I do this better” the first thing I do is hit my Google search bar. If it’s not your natural instinct, work so that Google becomes a second home to you. People marvel at your ability to troubleshoot, and lots of times, it’s sifting through articles online until you find the simplest one.
Similarly, you can’t figure it out all at once. I sat in my first personal finance class at 30. I started a financial club at 32. Today is probably the first day that I feel comfortable giving financial advice. That’s FOUR YEARS of near constant researching and learning about money for me to feel confident in it. Tried something and it didn’t work? Try again, for at least 6 months.
Zoom WAY out. In the beginning of my business, everything was a crisis. How do I do X in 6 days? How do I do Y in three months? How do I do Z in 4 weeks? Now, I’m like “How do I make sure I’m running a team of 5 in 5 years.” If you’re feeling the pressure to solve it all in the next year…don’t. There’s no prize for doing it faster.
For each person that does it flashy, there’s another person doing it quietly. There are people in the world that run $10 million dollar businesses that have 547 Instagram followers. You can do it loud or you can do it quiet…one isn’t necessarily more right than others.
Figuring out your values is a crucial piece of the equation. Otherwise, you’ll just be buying softwares, and investing in things you don’t need because you’re not 100% sure what is important for you.
Speaking of values, mine get worked on everyday. Freedom, connection, and courage. If it doesn’t satisfy one or more of those things, I’m out.
Getting really good a recognizing a waste of time is a skill to be learned ASAP. Lots of things waste my time, and identifying time sucks vs. things that you’re slowly growing into is a really important skill to have so that you don’t spend 5 years trying to build a Facebook group and not get a single client from it.
Giving other people grace is important. Because once you can empathize with other people you can start giving yourself a damn break.
Forgive your parents. Then remember one single thing they did good for you. My dad gave me excellent entrepreneurial skills and my mom taught me that I can do hard things. Without them, I’d be hopeless. I could list their flaws, but I won’t, and hopefully, someday, my kids or nieces or nephews won’t list mine either.
You have a level of privilege that others don’t even understand. If you’re reading this post on the internet or better yet, on your mobile device, you are a TINY percentage of the world’s population. The fact that I can communicate with you via this cute computer screen would have been unfathomable to my grandmother. The world is a crazy place and the more you approach your internet business like a wild, untamed, incredible beast, the more joy you’ll have in it.
Your mindset is a real thing that needs to really be worked on. If you get a funny foggy feeling every time you try to do something new or you’re really tired at the end of the day, but didn’t feel a ton of stress at work, that feeling is your brain on high alert and trying to keep the alert signals at bay (that’s why anxiety spikes and zaps our energy in perpetuity). If this sounds like weird magic, read the book MINDSET by Carol Dweck. She’s got SCIENCE behind it.
Your college education was worth it. I know we all like to say that “we don’t even use our degrees!”, but writing a really concise email, doing a quick comparative projection, and reading a contract thoroughly has always worked out in my favor.
Asking doesn’t make you a bad person. I have a client who is SO good at asking for what he wants. I’ve been working really hard to try to remember that asking doesn’t mean overstepping — so ask away.
Sometimes you have to lose to win. Just because you lost a bid, a client, a project to someone else doesn’t mean that it’s the end. All the clients I’ve lost have been at the expense of better clients I’ve won.
The wrong decision is always better than no decision. Too afraid to choose between a host of options because you’ll waste time on the wrong thing? Wasting time on the wrong thing is better than NOT spending time on anything because out of two options, at least you’ll be down to one after the decision is made. With no decision, you’re still spinning your damn wheels.
You can say no to drinking. I got immediately old this year, and by that I mean I had to stop drinking during the week so I could actually function at a high level during work hours. People always ask me if it’s hard for me not to drink, but what they mean is “Is it hard to buck a trend that is engrained in our society and have to explain yourself over and over again?” The answer is yes, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
Speaking of…Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. My boyfriend is constantly working hard on our relationship — and he doesn’t like it. None of his friends are constantly questioned about what they’re doing to improve themselves like he is. But he also knows that this is the best relationship he’s been in so, again, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it (also, there’s a difference between challenging-hard and toxic-hard. There’s a difference and if you’re confused, ask your best friend and TAKE HER ADVICE.)
This? All of this? Fleeting. Last year, I wanted to be a HUGE internet marketer with HUGE influence. This year, I want to build an agency-model company that serves clients in the best way any event company in the country does it. Tomorrow, I might want to start a tech company that creates better tech for planners. It all is promises into the wind. That’s okay.
Okay, WOW! That’s like 1500 words (in listicle format) of all the deepest wisdom I’ve got. The best part? I can’t wait to read this in 10 years and roll my eyes at how little I’d learned in these 34 short years (I’ve heard 40 is incredible). Thanks for coming to my TED Talk!