My 5 Rules of Running a Successful Business
Earlier this week, I was flying from London to Chicago, and thanks to free in-flight movies, I got to watching a documentary called Generation Wealth, all about our cultural fascination and allegiance to wealth, money, and stuff as signals of value.
It’s possible that leaving a major city (New York, for those of you new to this community) for a rural state (Montana) has helped me be a little more immune to the social pressure of “more stuff”, but I found this documentary to be both fascinating and terrifying.
Because under it all, our fascination with “stuff” as status has so much to do with just one thing: the comparison to the communities in which we already do or eventually want to participate.
I’d read years ago that people felt income inequality the most when they could see it in their immediate communities: if your friends have nicer cars, you’ll buy nicer cars. If your friends are all buying houses, you’ll want to buy a house. And if your friends are inviting you out to dinner 4 nights a week…yep, you’ll primarily be an eating-out household.
It’s a story as old as the human experience (namely, that we want to feel connected to our community by mirroring their behavior and, thus, in 2018, their “stuff”), and so it got me thinking: this is sometimes how I feel about my business.
There are so many “business hacks” when it comes to growing a business, and there are TONS of people out there who would want you to believe that their brand is the right brand of getting your business to the next level.
“Social media is the way to go!”
“You gotta start a YouTube channel! It’s what EVERYONE is doing.”
“Podcasts are THE THING. You need one, pronto.”
And these things alone aren’t BAD for your business…but collectively, it’s enough to make a business owner crazy, especially when it feels like you’re already stretched thin working on your client work.
So, while I was doing all my dreaming for how I wanted 2019 to look, I realized that I’m excited to give you advice on everything I’ve learned from growing my own business…but I also want you to know that you do not have to do it the way that I do it. There are about 450,000 other ways for you to be a successful business owner, to grow your community, and to get to the place that you want to be.
There’s no such thing as a shortcut.
Aw you saw that one coming didn’t you? But for real, I firmly believe that there are no shortcuts…because you can never attain anything that you didn’t work for. You can’t shortcut the system to plan an event because…there’s no right way or wrong way to do it AND in order to plan an event you have to…actually do the work of planning. You have to be in charge of the decisions, you have to take the credit if it succeeds and you have to feel the pain when it fails. No one who has gotten anywhere in business has ever told the tales of all the shortcuts she took.
When I ran my first event, I was REALLY confident on a few things…I was confident that I could buy enough wine for 40 women (1 drink per person per hour, for a three hour event comes down to 120 drinks. At 4 glasses per bottle, that’s 30 bottles. Split evenly between red and white, because it was cooler weather, that’s 15 bottles of each. MATH!), I was confident that I could arrange the space in a way that made conversation easy.
You know what I was NOT confident about?
Asking my friends to sponsor the swag, asking them to promote the event for me, asking the venue to host us for free, asking another friend to help me on-site with no pay, talking about how great the event was going to be…and if I had let all those things stop me, I probably wouldn’t have a business right now.
But now? I’m GREAT at those things. It’s easier to ask someone to come to an event and easier for me to come up with new events that I want to host (check out our Women’s Dinner Circles coming in February), and easier for me to know that my events are HOT FIRE and that people love them. But it took me a solid 2 years of hosting events quarterly to feel comfortable doing it.
The only way I could get to GREAT was doing things “good enough for now.”
If something feels hard and scary, or if I’m ready to quit because it doesn’t feel “valuable enough”…then I need to double down.
This is the “voice in my head that told me not to do it” situation. It’s the one that keeps you from hitting “reply” on Instagram when you want to comment something thoughtful on someone’s photo, not knowing if they’ll reach back to you. It’s the one that agonizes over posting a possibly controversial opinion…so you just don’t do it at all.
We all have our own version of this (even the people who you think have their entire business life figured out), and whenever I hear the “you probably shouldn’t do that” voice, 90% of the time it’s the part of me that doesn’t think that I’m valuable enough to have an opinion that matters.
But if 2018 taught me anything, it’s that MORE of us need to find communities where we feel like we can shine, and be encouraged for our efforts along the way. Sometimes, it feels REAL dumb to me to say “I got three course sales today” because WTF does that even mean in real life, but someday, those 3 sales will turn into 300 and I’ll know that the only way that I got there was by consistently showing up and doing the hard and scary thing instead of the easy and safe thing.
What are you doubling down on this year?
Whenever someone else puts something out into the world, they’re scared to death of your judgment.
This is for all the people out there who get REAL jealous when someone else puts out an offer that you KNOW you could make so much better (hand raised…I’ve been this person before and will probably be this person again).
But what we all need to realize is that every single time someone else that we follow, watch, admire, or despise puts a new offer, a new product, or a new service out into the world, they’re committing a radical act of bravery.
Which is how I want every single person who interacts with me online and in-person to feel about me…to give me the grace and know that every single freaking thing that I create is fueled with my own belief, and a healthy dose of fear of your judgement. The fear is REAL fam!
So whenever you’re fast to judge someone else’s work, or you feel like a good ol’ snarky scroll through Instagram will help you out, remember that each person in your life and in your feed is committing radical acts of bravery every day by allowing their true, authentic selves to be seen.
Aim for 100%, but be elated with 80.
I read an article in the Atlantic that perfectionism and underachievement are two sides of the same coin: underachievers often stay under-the-radar (and therefore avoid disappointing people) by doing average, acceptable work, but no more. If people only expect average, then they’re never disappointed with an average effort. Overachievers (perfectionists) are also concerned with disappointing people…and so they don’t take chances or risks or approach failure in any discernible way, which means most perfectionists never take the chance of putting something out into the world that’s less than perfect, so that they don’t disappoint people.
But truthfully? There is no perfect and you’re always going to disappoint someone. There is no 100% except in the realm of effort, so in our company, we aim for 80% and strive for excellence in that 80%. We do the MOST important things, but we also ship over and over and over again, because we know that 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
Where are you holding back and where can you give less than 100% so that you can get the thing you want most into the hands of those who need it most?
Consistency wins over almost anything else.
I’ve made it a goal to post on Instagram every day of January (I started this goal three days into the month, but hey, we’re aiming for 80% right?). And you know what happens every time I post? I talk to myself about how GARBAGE my photos are, or how INSANE the message is or how I didn’t NAIL every single hashtag.
And in the past, that has kept me quiet enough…quiet enough to build my online community slowly over the last three years, quiet enough to disappear from community for days when things at work get hard.
The voice is still there, although now, there’s a second voice that tells me that no one got anywhere by waiting until they knew how to make it more perfect. It tells me that the pictures may be garbage, but the copy is excellent. And the hashtags may be all wrong, but if I add or change a new hashtag every day for the next 365, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to figure out what’s right. No one who has built an incredible business will ever judge me or you for taking chances, taking risks, being vulnerable, and being seen. So if none of the people who you want to be like will judge you, then who cares what the other people think?
I guess what I’m saying here is that showing up, over and over and over, answering emails with awesome new clients, saying YES to sticking to my goals EVEN WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING, makes it more likely that I won’t hide when EVERYONE is watching.
The more often I do events…the better and easier it gets to sell my events.
The more often I post on social…the better I get at whipping out a social post in 15 minutes instead of 30.
The more often I pitch for podcasts….the better I get at pitching (and the more likely someone will say yes).