Lessons from Joanna Gaines on Building a Sustainable Business

As I was prepping this series on the Path to Predictable Profits and thinking about all the questions that come in how to build a sustainable business to $5K and more each and every month, I started thinking about successful entrepreneurs I love to follow.

One of those entrepreneurs is Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame.

I always loved watching the show… but what’s been really amazing is to learn about the very beginnings of their business and then see how far they have come over the last decade in business.

That’s why I’ve been sharing this series full of the lessons on growing my business to multiple six-figures:

1+2: How to Start a Business (And Get Paying Clients ASAP)
3: What to Focus on FIRST with the Ultimate Business Growth Checklist

4: How Designing a Baseline Revenue Gets You Paid Every Single Month
5: Is Your Business Sustainable? 5 Questions to Burnout Proof Your Biz
6: Lessons from Joanna Gains on Designing a Sustainable Business
7: The #1 Mistake Keeping Women Entrepreneurs From A Predictably Profitable Business
8: Do You Have a LEAK In Your Predictable Profit Strategy
9: My Go-To Strategy to Plan for Predictable Profits

Today, all those Fixer Upper binge watching sessions are paying off as I share some of my favorite lessons from Ms. Joanna Gaines that you can apply into your business.

One of the things that I have seen over the years inside Sweet Spot Strategy – because this is a program I’ve taught for over seven years now – is that often my students want to skip ahead.

They want to skip ahead to what seems to be the more fun and interesting stuff.

They want to skip ahead to the marketing strategy and to other things that they think sound more important in their business.

I started thinking about how I could explain the first steps of business growth – the truly foundational pieces – are so important.

I went on the treadmill at the gym, watching Fixer-Upper – which is one of my absolute favorite shows. I don’t even have a TV, but I have watched every single episode of Fixer-Upper.

If you ever have gotten caught up in Fixer-Upper, you know that Ms. Joanna Gaines has a very clear process that she follows.

We all know that if Joanna is going to be making over your house, if she’s going to help you take a fixer-upper and turn it into your dream home, there are some things that are probably going to happen.

You’re probably going to get that signature farmhouse style. You’re probably going to get some shiplap upon the walls. You also know that she’s going to help you find that open concept – even in older homes that weren’t originally designed that way.

One of the things I love most isn’t the big reveal at the end: It’s the very first impression the potential homeowner gets as they walk into this falling-down, totally gross, and completely outdated Fixer Upper.

Joanna has to do the impossible – sell them the VISION of what this house can be.

She has to sell them raw potential.

*** This is such a huge parallel to our job as entrepreneurs! We aren’t always selling a final result or finished product – we are selling the POTENTIAL and the VISION of what we can create for our clients***

She’s walking them through her vision by describing what the end result will look like: “We’re going to blow out these walls. We’re going to put in new beautiful subway tile. We’re going to give you that farmhouse sink. We’re going to refinish all the hardwood floors.”

We get just as excited about the vision for what our business will become, right? We find ourselves jumping right ahead to “I’m going to do a podcast. I’m going to run a challenge. I’m going to have these kind of photos on my Instagram feed.”

It’s the end pieces that are the most visible parts of your business. It’s what you get most excited about. It’s that vision that excites us!

But just like Chip and Joanna Gaines taking on that falling down Fixer Upper… you don’t start with the shiplap, the farmhouse sink, and the subway tiles.

Building a Sustainable Business Starts With A Strong Foundation.

Whenever Joanna goes in there and they start looking at a house, you’ll notice that they crawl all over the place. They get under the house, they’re looking at all the walls and making sure it’s a structurally sound house.

Sometimes they find out that there’s foundation issues and they’ve got to crawl under there and make sure that the house isn’t going to start sinking into the ground. If you have a house that sinks into the ground, it doesn’t matter how awesome the subway tile and the farmhouse sink looks because your house is literally sinking into the ground.

It’s not sound. It’s not going to hold you up.

Your Business Foundation is Essential!

If you don’t have the foundational pieces – those first steps of business growth – in place, then your business will not get the results you want.

You can do all the exciting things – you can launch a podcast or spend hours and hours on social media or have the slickest website in the world – but without a solid foundation, you won’t have a predictably profitable business.

So what is a solid foundation in your business?

For us entrepreneurs, especially solo-preneurs, your foundation is two key elements. It’s what you do best and what people actually want from you.

If you’re only focused on what you do best, there’s no guarantee that there’s people out there who want to pay for that.

For example, my husband loves playing the game Magic: The Gathering. It’s been one of his favorite games forever.

He’s done some local tournaments and he loves going out to their Friday Night Magic Games with some of his friends. He has friends that come over here and hang out and play. It’s kind of a nerdy guy game, but he’s totally into it.

But are there people out there who would happily pay him to play Magic or teach Magic: The Gathering? That’s not very clear. Probably not.

You have to make sure that your passion, what you love doing and what you’re great at doing is actually aligned with what people actually want.

Once you start thinking about what you’re good at and what people actually want, you have those two pieces of a strong foundation. It makes sure that whatever you’re going to create actually is viable.

Without it being viable, there’s no way it’s going to become a predictably profitable business.

How do you know if you have that strong foundation in your business?

Just like Chip Gaines gets underneath the house, crawls underneath in all the dirt, dust, and spider webs with his flashlight to check out the foundation and make sure that everything is solid, you need to do that validation step in your business.

Not just once.

This is something that you want to do anytime you’re about to launch a new product, program or service. You need to validate that there is indeed a match – the right offering, solving the right problem, for the right people.

If you’re not sure if you have the right offering to solve the right problem for the right people, then that foundation is very shaky.

How do you validate that you have a strong foundation?

There’s a few ways you can do it. But one of my favorite is absolutely the 100 Conversations Challenge. If you listen to episode 36 of the Uncomplicate Your Business Podcast, I had a great conversation with one of my students, Tami Hackbarth, who actually went out and interviewed 100 women about her area of expertise: self-care.

What she learned completely transformed how she approached her business.

Now she’s got that rock-solid foundation, she’s got a solid message that helps people to really understand how she conserves them and that this is for them – this program, this offering, this service, was designed with them in mind.

That would be my go-to way to validate. It’s to actually have conversations.

Could you do other things to validate? Could you simply do research by looking online? Sure. Could you go out there and run a survey? Yeah. But nothing beats real conversations.

You will get so much more out of a heart to heart conversation with somebody because there’s only so much that they will write in an email back to you or that they will write in a survey.

Once you get on the phone and you have those real conversations, you can dig beyond the surface of whatever they say they’re struggling with.

That’s where a lot of foundations start to get shaky – when they’re built on very superficial messages that don’t actually get to the HEART of what people are struggling with.

That strong foundation is just an essential, essential building piece for making sure that your business is going to be able to get where you want it to go.

The Next Part of the Puzzle? The Structure

After Chip and Joanna make sure that that foundation is strong, the house isn’t going to start sinking or the walls are going to start cracking or anything crazy like that, then usually what happens next is Joanna wants to take out a few walls.

People love the open concept look, but in older homes they weren’t built like that. They had smaller rooms that were separated by lots and lots of walls.

One of Joanna’s favorite things to do is to start saying, “We’re going to take out that wall. We’re going to open that up and make it a big cased opening.

(Yes… I watch wayyyy too much Fixer Upper.)

Well, you also notice if you watch the show that often in the process of knocking down a wall, they realize, “We can’t open the wall that way. This is a load-bearing wall. We need to maintain the integrity of the structure if we’re going to actually make sure that the walls don’t fall down and the second floor doesn’t come crashing down.

You can’t just start knocking down walls without making sure your house is still structurally sound.

What is the STRUCTURE of your business?

In your business, the structure is actually your business model and how you design the products, programs and services that you want to offer the world.

If you don’t have the right structure in place, you can actually set your business up to never get where you want it to go.

The structure of a six-figure business looks very different from a seven-figure or eight-figure business. When you’re beginning, most of my students start as service providers focused on a signature offering. The business of a service provider is going to look very different from somebody who is maybe offering training or group courses or trainings.

I was recently scrolling through Instagram. I’m always finding things and screenshooting them to share with my students. One of the things that I saw that really blew me away said,

The math of a million dollar business. If you want to make a million dollars, you have a lot of choices.
A $50 product times 20,000 sales.
A $100 product times 10,000 sales.
A $200 product times 5,000 sales.
A $500 product times 2000 sales.
A $1000 product times 1000 sales.

You can see that when you’re growing a $1,000,000+ business – you have to sell thousands, not just a few. Thousands upon thousands.

You need to reach 10,000s or even 100,000s of potential customer to generate that level of sales.

Which means your marketing has to be this well-oiled machine that is just attracting, engaging and nurturing a huge volume of potential clients each and every day, week, and month.

Even if you’re focused right now at the more beginning stages of your business and you’re trying to get to $50,000 a year or $100,000 a year, you have to make sure that your business actually has the structure in place to create a solid baseline revenue.

If you’re trying to simply replace your professional income – let’s say a salary that was around $50,000 a year – you have to ask yourself, “How many people do I actually need to work with this year in order to replace that?”

If you’re a service provider, then you actually have a huge advantage here. Services are higher end offerings.

If you are a service provider, you don’t want to try to build your business $50 or $100 per hour… because, in order to make the revenue you need to make, the numbers don’t work. You’re just going to be selling all the time.

You’re going to be spending all of your time trying to book that next session. That’s setting you up for the feast or famine cycle, not a predictably profitable business.

If you have a stronger structure in place – a baseline revenue plan than can support you and support your business – then you’re focused on higher end offers that are not just one-time sessions, but a complete process you’re offering somebody to help them get from A to Z, that truly solves their problem.

I honestly think that the sweet spot for a lot of service providers is to start looking at things that are $1000 to $2000. Even if you’re just getting started, you can definitely design an offering, that is totally worth $1000 to $2000.

Suddenly, you go from having to sell yourself one hour at a time – if you only need to make $50,000 a year to replace your former salary – now if you had $1000 offering, then suddenly you only need to make 50 sales that year.

That’s one a week. That’s so much easier and more sustainable than something where you need to have thousands of sales a month.

Take a few minutes, crunch the numbers and make sure that your offering is going to help you achieve your business goals in a sustainable way.

If your offering, your service requires you to sell hundreds or thousands of people into it – especially when you are newer in your business and you don’t have a big audience – then you’re going to realize very quickly that your business is not designed to help you achieve your goals.

This is one reason why I always, always, always encourage people to begin with a higher end service that they turn into a complete program – something that solves a problem from A to Z – that allows them to truly serve their clients, their students and help them see a real result.

That is a stronger structure designed to help your business achieve that first $50,000 or $100,000 or even more in revenue, in order to make sure that it’s going to achieve your personal take-home goals.

I share all of this because when we watch shows like Fixer-Upper, what we get excited about is the final end result. We get excited about the dark, closed off room suddenly becoming these big, open, light, airy rooms. We love seeing the final result.

We get excited about, “Oh, look. She did the shiplap over there. Look at this really cool light fixture. Look at this art.” It’s just this beautiful transformation that we get enamored with and it gets us fired up and excited.

But, if they didn’t take the time to make sure that there was a strong foundation in that house, that the structure was going to be able to keep the second floor from caving in, then none of those final finishing touches really matter.

Where I see people getting stuck is when their business just isn’t working for them. Their marketing isn’t working for them. They continue to try new tips, tricks and tactics, they jump around from…

    • “I’m going to run a challenge,”

    • “I’m going to do a webinar”

    • “I’m going to try Facebook Lives”

    • “I’m going to launch a podcast”

    • “I’m gonna focus on Instagram”

Nothing really works. Nothing really gets the results that they’re hoping for because they don’t have the solid foundation and structure to achieve their goals.

I share all of this because these two foundational pieces really can transform your business.

Once you have these in place, amazing things start to happen. Your marketing becomes more effective. You start to get more sales.

Instead of feeling like you’re constantly throwing spaghetti at the wall, you now have a predictable profit strategy and you can now focus on a profit plan you can rinse and repeat.

More marketing is not always the answer to a broken foundation or business structure.

If your business has been stuck for a while, if you’re not seeing the sales that you had hoped for, then chances are your business is actually not designed for success.

More marketing won’t solve that problem – but building a solid foundation and business structure will.

I know that you want to spend more of your time doing what you love with people that you like working with, not behind a computer screen marketing. When you have these pieces of the puzzle in place, your business really starts to work for you.

This is part 6 of the 9-part series: The Path to a Predictably Profitable Business.

If you’re ready for that consistency, you’re ready to know that your business can support you and your lifestyle with ease, while also helping you do the work that you love – here’s a title summary of what this series has to offer:

1+2: How to Start a Business (And Get Paying Clients ASAP)
3: What to Focus on FIRST with the Ultimate Business Growth Checklist

4: How Designing a Baseline Revenue Gets You Paid Every Single Month
5: Is Your Business Sustainable? 5 Questions to Burnout Proof Your Biz
6: Lessons from Joanna Gains on Designing a Sustainable Business
7: The #1 Mistake Keeping Women Entrepreneurs From A Predictably Profitable Business
8: Do You Have a LEAK In Your Predictable Profit Strategy
9: My Go-To Strategy to Plan for Predictable Profits


If you loved this series – you’ll love Sweet Spot Strategy! Sweet Spot Strategy is my most comprehensive training to help you start and scale a predictably profitable business to consistent $5K, $10K, or even $15K months. Enrollment is now open for May 2019 – get all the details here!

Keep learning! >>> Jump to the next post in this series: The #1 Mistake Keeping Women Entrepreneurs From A Predictably Profitable Business