Welcome to part five of the Path to Predictable Profits series! In this series, I’m sharing my favorite strategies to help you grow a sustainable business to consistent $5K, $10K, and even $15K months without all the overwhelm and burnout. If you missed the first three posts in the series, then you can catch up right here:
Dispelling myths and fears about what it takes to truly start a business for yourself, I take you from the practical self-reflection exercises to clean and clear steps to getting your first paying clients!
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with all the tips and tricks and tactics about how to grow your business, this post and free PDF checklist walks you step-by-step through what you should focus on first.
Lemme guess… if you don’t work, you don’t get paid, right? Trading dollars for hours is the fastest path to burnout! That’s why I’m sharing my go-to strategy to stop the hustle and start getting paid.
Now onto the fifth installment of the Path to Predictable Profits series!
Do You Have a Sustainable Business?
This is such an important piece of the entrepreneurship puzzle and I don’t think it’s talked about enough. We are in a current entrepreneurial culture right now that seems to worship the hustle, the badge of honor that comes with saying, “I work 12-16 hours a day”, or “I’m putting in 80-100 hour weeks.”
One of the things that really shakes me is that despite the rate of women entrepreneurs starting new small businesses at a rapid rate, 80% of those small businesses will close their doors within the first 18 months.
The survival rate beyond that is abysmal. It’s terrible. Most people simply are not making sustainability a part of the conversation when they are starting and running their business.
After being at this for nearly a decade on my own, I’m here to tell you that if you’re in your business for the long haul sustainability is just as important as profitability.
Profitability doesn’t matter very much if you are completely burned out and have to shut down your business and go back to the 9-5.
So It’s Time To Ask Yourself: Is Your Business Sustainable?
These are the questions that will ensure that you can have a life and a living.
Now, if you know my story, you know that the biggest catalyst for me to start my own business – nearly 10 years ago – was because the corporate consulting world completely burned me out.
It was a very traditional consulting world where it was 75-hour workweeks and traveling for work all the time and only home maybe one day a week. I was newly married and I only saw my husband Jameson on Sundays.
I remember thinking to myself as I looked at those who were further ahead in their career than I was and realized that they were still putting in those insane hours. They were still not seeing their family. They were incredibly unhealthy because they did not have time to go to the gym or to prepare healthy foods.
In fact, most of the people I was around were completely unhealthy, eating on the roads from drive-throughs every single day. I knew that was not what I wanted.
I knew that my consulting career was putting me on the fast path to burnout.
It was skyrocketing my anxiety and I did not want that life. I had bigger dreams than that.
- I wanted to have an amazing relationship with my husband.
- I wanted to start a family.
- I wanted to travel, but not just travel because I’m off to see clients all the time.
But, when I started my business, I didn’t know how to work sustainably. I ran into that burnout again and again because I only knew how to hustle.
I’m hoping by asking you some of these questions, you’ll be able to truly assess if you are working smarter so that your business is both sustainable and profitable.
If you’re anything like me, I know that you designed this business or you’re working to design your business to create real freedom for yourself, your family and to do important work in the world.
You’re only going to be able to make that impact if your business sticks around long enough to do it.
5 Questions to Burnout Proof Your Business
I truly believe that you can design your dream business around your dream lifestyle. It starts with having some real clarity around the sustainability of your business.
1. Do you love what you do?
If you’re like many of my clients, many of my students, chances are that you started your business because this is a passion of yours.
You love teaching, you love coaching, you love those ah-ha moments, those lightbulb moments when you see the transformation taking place.
You love hearing those amazing success stories and seeing your clients truly change and transform right before your eyes. But, then you get into being an entrepreneur and running a business and you realize that there’s a big difference between being passionate about something and turning that something into a business.
In fact, you might realize that being an entrepreneur, and being a business owner means that your passion is maybe 20% of the equation. Being an entrepreneur, being a business owner is 80%.
You have to love the game of entrepreneurship. Is this something that you truly love? Have you found that you like the challenge of being an entrepreneur?
Is this something that you can commit to for the next two to three years if you’re in those earlier startup stages? In all honesty, that is how long it takes for most businesses to get to the point where they can really stand on their own two feet.
Do you love what you do? Do you love your clients?
I think this is as big of a piece of the puzzle as “do you love what you do,” because you can have a passion for fitness, but end up working with people who you absolutely can’t stand; people who you cringe when they text message you.
But, you can find that passion again when you work with clients you absolutely love. People who would truly be friends if you weren’t working together. Sometimes, they become great friends.
I find that it’s so much easier to run your business when you’re surrounded by people who you genuinely like and who you really see yourself building a true relationship with. It’s no longer just a transactional relationship where they’re hiring you because you need to get paid.
Instead, you’re truly a team, you’re truly supporting them and they see you as more than somebody they buy services from. They see you as somebody who really believes in their ability to see that transformation they want.
That’s a big part of loving what you do. Not just the thing that you love, the passion, but do you love your clients?
Then, the final piece of this is: Are you spending time in your zone of genius aka your business sweet spot? This is one that takes a while. As you know, when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re wearing all the hats.
You’re doing all the things until you get to the point where you can build some systems and bring in some support. But, if you’re not operating in your zone of genius, you can get burned out pretty quickly because you’re just trying to compensate for weaknesses all the time.
If you were to sit down and look at your week, how much of your time are you truly spending on what you are best at, what you do really well? How much of your time is spent in areas where you’re not that great?
The more you can minimize the time you’re spending on your weaknesses and either outsource or systematize those, find a tool or something that will help you manage that piece, the easier it becomes to be an entrepreneur.
2. Is your business profitable?
This sounds simple enough. The numbers say that if your business can’t pay the bills, you won’t be in business very long.
But, I’m often surprised to hear from entrepreneurs who just aren’t sure how much revenue their business generates or how much it actually costs them to run their business.
Not to mention, they aren’t sure how much they actually need to support their lifestyle. They don’t actually know what it costs to pay their own personal bills.
When that happens, when you’re lacking that clarity, what often happens is it feels like you’re never making enough and your business isn’t able to sustain your livelihood.
Nothing can make you feel more defeated faster than a business that can’t pay for you to cover your basic expenses. I’m not talking about if your business is profitable enough to go out there and buy flashy cars or a boat or lavish vacations. I’m talking about if your business covers your rent.
- Can your business cover your power bill?
- Is your business paying you enough to sustain a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, especially in those first few years?
- As your business continues to grow, are you increasing your own personal take-home pay?
As much talk as there is out there about six-figure businesses, when you actually look under the hood, you might be surprised to find out that most people running a business that breaks the $100,000 gross revenue mark actually doesn’t pay themselves that.
They might take home a third of that if they’re really good with their money.
I want to make sure that as you’re thinking about your business, you’re making sure your business can support your needs.
If your needs aren’t getting met, you’re not going to have the motivation to stick around long enough to get to the point where you can start to upgrade your lifestyle as your business grows.
3. Do you have a life?
This is so huge to me because the number one reason I hear from people that they started their business, is that they started to take this passion or interest and make it a full-time thing – not just a side gig, not just something that they’re building while they’re also working a 9-5 – but their full-time livelihood…
They want the freedom to do work they love with people they enjoy working with so that they can have time with their families, so that they can have time to go on vacations, so that they can take a break in the middle of the day and go to a Pilates class, or so that they can pick their kids up from the bus stop.
Are you making time each and every week for the things that matter most to you?
If you can’t, if you’re at the point right now where you feel like your business is just taking over all of the time on your calendar, then you’re probably on the fast track to burnout. You’re actually working too hard. You’re working too much.
Too often, when we attempt to squeeze every possible to do in an already cram-packed schedule, we say yes to another client even when we know we are already at capacity or worse – we don’t even know what our capacity actually is – then you will feel exhausted and burned out because you have not made time for having a life.
Don’t get so sidetracked by creating a living that you forget to make a life.
Your business will not be sustainable if you don’t have time for a life.
If you’re feeling like if you were to look over your calendar over the last week or two, I need you to ask yourself, “Did I spend quality time with the people I care about?”
Whether that’s your significant other or your family, kids, or friends. Did you spend time with people who you care about? Did you spend time taking care of yourself? Whatever that looks like for you.
For me, that includes making sure I’m getting outside every day, going on a long walk, and making sure I am taking care of my health – because this is an area that I truly struggle.
It means making sure that I have some quiet time just for myself where I’m not being needed by either my team or my students or my kids.
When was the last time you made time for yourself?
If you were to look at your calendar even further back, when was the last time you made sure you had an entire weekend off? Even a vacation for more than a few days?
This was a big red flag for me when I talked to a lot of people – especially when they come through my Fired Up and Focused Challenge – and I introduce the concept of a business savasana, which is a day completely unplugged from your business.
Often, because so many of the people in my world are in the holistic health field – they’re yogis and holistic healthcare practitioners, people who often work with their clients in the evenings or on the weekends – it can quickly become one of those things where you feel like you’re working seven days a week.
You have to make sure that you decide what your days off are going to be.
If you are somebody who works weekends – I know a wedding photographer and this is their busiest season. They’re in wedding season full on. But, they take off Mondays and Tuesdays, knowing that the rest of the week is going to be very busy and the weekends are going to be booked solid with client work. They make their weekends another day.
I know that for me, when I map out my calendar, I actually plug in three-day weekends and four-day weekends so that I don’t hit that burnout stage where I just haven’t had a chance to catch a break.
You know how life gets sometimes where you’re busy at work, you’ve got a lot of projects on your plate but then you’ve got projects at home, too, and it feels like no matter where you go you are constantly playing catch up.
Sometimes, you just need to plug in some of those extra three-day weekends, take off a day here or there so that you can catch up on life, catch up on business and actually enjoy a full weekend and enjoy some time away from your business.
Make sure that you have a life. This is a huge thing that I’m talking about all the time because I think it’s just so, so important.
4. Can you grow your business without working more hours?
This is such a huge trap that so many people fall into in their business. I totally get it. I fell into this trap as well.
There comes a point where you’re working in your business the first couple of years and your whole goal is, “I just need to fill my calendar with clients. I just need to have X number of clients in order to make what I need to make.”
But, things change, life changes, and the cost of business changes. You either have to continue raising your prices – which most of us do every year or so; you need to increase your rates to account for your increasing level of expertise and your experience and everything that you’re continuing to bring to the table as you get better at what you do, as you hone your craft.
You can grow your business simply by continuing to increase your rates year after year after year.
But, if you’re at the point in your life and in your business where you want to make a big change – you don’t just want to grow your business by maybe 5% a year or 10% a year, but you’re ready to make a big leap.
Maybe, like me, you’re at the point where your husband or significant other wants to leave their job and pursue their dream. Now, you’ve got to be able to cover up the distance.
That’s what happened with us when my husband decided he was ready to leave teaching. I knew that my business needed to be able to double that year in order to account for losing his salary and everything else that went with that – health insurance and all that stuff.
- Can you grow your business without working more hours?
- Is there room there for you to increase your prices?
- Do you need to shift to premium pricing?
- Or, do you have an offering that you can easily start to scale, that you can sell twice as much of without requiring more of your time?
This is a transition I’ve been through over the last four or five years.
When I started my business, it was a services-based consulting business. I was working primarily one-on-one with people. That was over 80% of my revenue.
But, as I launched Sweet Spot Strategy, which became my signature online mastermind for women entrepreneurs, things began to shift from a one-on-one consulting business to a training business. Now, 80% of my business revenue comes from a program that allows me to work with more people in less time.
If that is where you’re at right now, if you’re at the point where you’ve started to add in a group program or an online program – something that allows you to work with more people at a time.
Some things you need to be considering are not just how many people you can cram into that program, but do you have the infrastructure in place to take care of those people.
- Are you able to answer their questions?
- Do you have a system for that?
- Do you have a system for helping them navigate through the program?
- Do you have a way to deal with their emails and manage their billing challenges?
This is really important because scaling isn’t just about selling more. It’s also about serving more.
Do you have the systems or the support in place to ensure that, not only can you sell more of that offering, but you can serve more people with the same high-quality standard of service that you’re currently offering? Or even better?
5. Do you have systems and support in place?
Is there a solid infrastructure in place in your business so that your business does not depend on you 100% in order to run it?
If you have to physically be there in order for your business to continue serving people and in order for your business to continue generating revenue, if you can’t leave it, then what happens if, heaven forbid, something happens to you or a family member and you need to take a step back for a short period of time?
This is contingency planning.
It’s making sure that if you get a call like we got last summer where my husband’s grandmother, who is almost 90, fell down the stairs. We were all worried. He had a brain bleed. We got in the car the next day after we heard about it and headed to Atlanta.
All I had to do was send a note to my team on Slack and say, “Hey, guys. We’re headed to Atlanta. Not sure how long we’ll be here. Clear my calendar. I will pick things up when I get back.”
I didn’t have to worry that emails wouldn’t get answered or billing problems wouldn’t get solved or that students wouldn’t get access to their programs.
There’s an infrastructure in place in my business so that if anything happened – the worst happened; somebody gets hurt, sick or even if I just need a break – you can actually decide, “I’m going to clear my calendar and make time for this right now.”
That’s something that I really see people who are in this for the long haul, they know that they need to be able to build in the ability to take a step out of their business and make sure that they can deal with life.
If there’s anything that we all know to be true, life is going to continue happening. We’re all going to have those things that come up that we don’t expect.
We’re all going to have kids who get sick or a family member who needs our help or we just really hit a point where it’s like, “I need to take a break and evaluate where I am right now.”
When you have those systems in place and that support in place, you can take that step back and feel confident that your business is going to continue humming right along and it will be there waiting for you when you return in a couple of weeks.
I hope this helps you as you think about those five questions to think about the sustainability of your business.
Is your business going to be there for you for the long haul?
Are you able to stick this out for the long haul?
If you don’t go into it with this mindset – the sustainability mindset – then often I see people who are just working way too hard with not that great of a result. They put themselves on the fast track to burnout. We want to avoid that.
Let me just recap those five questions to burnout proof your business:
Do you love what you do?
Do you love your clients and are you spending your time and energy each and every week in your zone of genius? If yes, that’s awesome. If not, then we need to figure out how you can spend more time doing what you’re best at or if you just need to start focusing on clients who you actually like spending time with.
Is your business profitable?
Is it profitable to make sure that your personal needs are met? Nothing will grind you down faster than a business that can’t actually support your lifestyle.
Do you have a life?
Are you making time each week for the things that are most important to you? Whether that’s family and friends, making time for your health and self-care, making time for just yourself – whatever that looks like – to help refill your cup and make sure that you’re actually doing other things in your life.
Having a hobby. Imagine that. It can make sure a huge difference. If you have a life, then you’re making time on the weekends or taking vacations. You’re making time to enjoy what you’ve built. You’re not just focused on building, building, building without enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Can you grow your business without working more?
If you’ve gotten to the point where your business has hit that ceiling on how much more you can grow, then it’s time to start thinking about how you can design an offering that can scale, allowing you to both sell more and serve more people.
Do you have real systems and real support in place?
Is your business set up so that you’re not just the person doing all the things, but you’re a true business owner? You can actually step out of your business because you want to – if you want to go on vacation or you want to have an extended break or if, heaven forbid, something crazy happens in your life and you need to go handle that.
If out of all five of those questions, you’re thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got it pretty covered,” then congrats.
Your business actually loves you back. You’ve got a solid foundation in place and your focus right now is mastering the art of balancing a growing business with your beautifully full life.
If you only had maybe three or four, good news. Your business is doing okay.
You’ve got a few areas to work on, but with a little TLC, a little strategy, your business will start to really love you back and take care of you. Your focus right now is to spend time with the questions you answered no to and turn them into a yes.
If you are only at one to two points or no points, then I hate to say this but your business just isn’t into you.
In fact, your business seriously needs some biz love attention. You need to look at those questions and really start to map out a strategy to make your business more sustainable and turn it into a business that loves you back.
You’ve just passed the halfway mark 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
Keep reading and listening as we work toward consistency, sustainability, and profitability!
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. Get all the details here:
Keep learning! >>> Check out the next post in this series: Lessons from Joanna Gaines on Designing a Predictably Profitable Business