7 Lessons I Learned On My Way to a Sustainable Business

Just because you know something isn’t the same as experiencing it. As a CEO, you undergo rites of passage as you progress through your business, especially if you want a successful and sustainable one. In this episode, I share some of the lessons I’ve learned the hard way so you can see a little further ahead on your path, mitigate some of these challenges early on, or just have a more realistic view of what you’re up against.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

3:46 – Lesson one: you cannot do this on your way to sustainable business success.

8:03 – I get angry when I see how too many others fail to implement this lesson. You won’t have a dream business team with this mindset.

16:03 – What will you struggle with when you attain success, and why? The third surprising lesson I learned.

23:16 – Lesson four: the more your business grows, the less and less you’ll find yourself seeking this.

30:55 – The biggest celebrity influencer entrepreneurs make it seem like marketing solves all business problems. Here’s why it isn’t the answer.

33:17 – Lesson six is the best lesson of all. So how do I apply it in my business?

38:33 – We’re idea machines as entrepreneurs. But we need to take more heed of this lesson and beware who we listen to. I explain why.

45:15 – Surprise! I reveal a bonus lesson to wrap the show.

Resources & Links 

The CEO Collective

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The ability to look ahead on his entrepreneurial journey is a huge part of your role as a CEO. It allows you to see what is coming before you are in it. That's the theme of today's conversation. You've already built a sizable business, now let me give you a peek into what's ahead on your journey. Hopefully these lessons I learned the hard way aren't as challenging for you.

Grab yourself a latte, CEO. It is time for a little coffee chat, where I'm going to take you behind the scenes and break down some of the lessons learned, often the hard and expensive way as my business has generated millions of dollars over the last few years while working an average of 25 hours a week, homeschooling three kids, and taking care of my aging parents. If your business isn't ready to scale yet, that's fine. I'm always listening for more advanced material, even if it's not quite time for me to apply it to my business. If your business is in the low six figures, high five figures, I encourage you to keep on listening to hear what the road ahead looks like.

Are you ready to grow from stressed out solopreneur to competent CEO, you're in the right place. I'm your host, Rachel cook. I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategies systems and support in place to make it happen. Join me every week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO. The hard lessons learned along the way, and practical, profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey there, CEO. Welcome back to the Truth About Scaling Series. I am really excited about this series because I want to shine a big spotlight on what it actually means to sustainably scale and again, back out of this hustle mindset that is plaguing the entrepreneurship space. I thought today, one of the best things I could do is really take you behind the scenes, take you into my journals, and share with you some of the lessons I learned the hard way. Because as much as it might appear that I've got it all figured out, there's a big difference between knowing something and living through something and actually having the experiences.

I'm hoping that by sharing my lessons learned the hard way, you will be able to see a few steps further on your path and mitigate some of these challenges earlier on, or even just have a more realistic understanding of what you're up against. I hate seeing when entrepreneurs are going after growing their business, and they run into some of these roadblocks, and then they just feel like they're not doing it right, that they should throw in the towel, or that they should stop trying to go after their goals.

I don't think you need to do any of those things. But we do need to understand the difference between what are the rites of passage and things that everybody has to figure out at some point along this journey and what are actually red flags that your business isn't working. Let's get into it. I have seven lessons for you that I have pulled from my own journey. Again, I don't have everything all figured out. I am on this journey just as much as you are listening to this. I might be a few years ahead of you but it doesn't mean that these lessons aren't applicable to where you are right now. Let's dive into the first lesson.

Number one, you cannot hustle your way to sustainable success. If you've already got a six-figure business, it is not that hard to see the path to scaling past seven figures. You launch, you create that next-level product or program, you launch again, you do more marketing, you launch again. It's not magic, it's just math. But here's the thing: the math doesn't show you the entire picture. The numbers might work on paper, but what they don't consider is the time, energy, and focus that goes into all the hustle to achieve those sales goals.

That is why so many people hit a massive revenue goal once but they can't duplicate it. They can't do it twice, three times, four times, or year over year over year. When you start to feel like you can't make it happen again, then you start to doubt yourself and you start to feel like, “Well, maybe I should just completely shift directions, try something completely different.” Being able to grow your business year over year does mean that your success isn't a fluke; you have something real on your hands: a healthy business with a healthy demand for your products, programs, and services from potential clients.

If you're looking to grow your business, you do not need to be focused on hustling and adding more and more and more to your plate and trying more and more new things. If you want more sustainable success, you have to be able to focus on a real structure for your business and infrastructure for your business, as we talked about in the previous episode, a real plan for how you're going to achieve those sales and serve those clients. Again, it can't just be sales, it also has to be a plan about service.

That is what leads to a healthy business. You have to be thinking more long term and you have to be more client-centric as you're thinking about scaling your business for more sustainable scaling. Because there's a point where hustle isn't going to keep happening. I think a lot of people can hustle their way to six figures, even multiple six figures. I've even seen some people who hustle their way to a million, but at some point, you have to build real assets in your business. You have to build real systems in your business. You have to build a real team in your business.

It can't all come from you putting in your time, energy, and attention. It has to come from things that are not you, and my clients hear me talk about this all the time, create the asset, then rinse and repeat, create the systems and rinse and repeat. That is how you make it more sustainable because you do the hard work once, you put the systems in place once, and then it's maintaining them. While those systems are running and being maintained, you're able to scale without burning out.

There comes a point where a couple of years in, you can no longer hustle anymore. It's just emotionally, physically, mentally, incredibly hard to hustle for more than, I mean I know some people can do it for years but I can't, I've got chronic health problems. Hustle is not it.

Whenever I find myself reverting back to that hustle mindset where I'm thinking I need to start again, I need to figure something else out, I need to come up with a new idea, I have to hit pause and go, “Hold on, what are the assets in your business? What are the systems you already have? Can we work with what we have, work with what we've built, and see if we can improve on that or make that better? Instead of burning down my business every time something doesn't go 100%, can we look at it a little more high level and figure out where we're going?” You don't have to hustle to get to seven figures, multiple seven figures, but you do have to have real structure, real systems, a real plan, a real team, and a healthy business.

Lesson number two, this is a biggy: you won't have a dream team with a “just outsource it” mindset. This topic makes me so angry. It really does. There are so many so-called celebrity influencer entrepreneurs, expert gurus out there, and they're telling business owners to just go piecemeal together a team with a bunch of freelancers, outsource absolutely everything at the lowest possible cost.

In fact, I just read from Business Insider a whole series about the exploitation of virtual assistants in the Philippines where people are going to the Philippines to hire these virtual assistants for as low as $2.50 an hour. But they don't understand that in order to get labor that inexpensively, there is exploitation happening. Even though that country has a lower cost of living than maybe the US, Canada, or what have you, it does not mean that $2.50 is reasonable for what those people actually need in order to have a good quality of life.

If you want truly sustainable success, you don't want your team churning all the time. You don't want to be struggling with people who aren't in it for the long haul. You don't want to be outsourcing at the lowest possible dollar amount in using exploitation of other people's labor in order to grow your business.

You really want to start thinking of your team as a core part of your business, not just these invisible people behind the scenes who are doing the bulk of the work, and then you're the one who gets all the glory and all the money out of that. You want to be thinking about how are you building a business that is making opportunities for other people? Because it's not just what you do for yourself that matters, it's what you do for the people who are supporting you that matters. To me, this is such a test of character and values.

When I'm looking at businesses I want to collaborate with, work with, or I want to hire them, I'm looking at how do they treat their team because if they're not taking great care of their team, if they're exploiting their team, if they're underpaying their team, or even worst case scenario, I can't tell you how many people do not pay the people that are on the team, not just underpay them, but will straight up say, “Oh, you can come be a guest coach in my program but I'm not actually going to pay you anything. Even though you're putting in 10 hours or 20 hours a week, you're getting to do that for the privilege of being in my community as a success coach,” you could tell I get so angry about this.

I get so angry about this because our economy capitalism has been built on the exploited labor of others, that has been built on the exploited labor of minorities, and has been built on the exploited labor of women. The only way we are going to create change is to start in our own businesses. If you want truly sustainable success in your business, then you have to be willing to really invest in attracting, building, and leading the right team.

If you truly want to build an amazing top-notch team, watch what happens when you make working with you the best opportunity that they can have. Watch what happens when you not just pay market rate for people, but you pay exceptionally well the people who are supporting you and your team. I can guarantee that if you want to attract top talent, you need to stop thinking about “How can I make this as inexpensive to me so I can keep more of it in my pocket?”

Instead, think about “How can I make this such an incredible opportunity that I am getting the best of the best, I'm getting all A players on my team?” That is where you make a massive, massive difference in your business. It takes time to get the right people on board. Hiring is hard. Managing is hard. Leadership is hard. You are going to make mistakes. You're going to hire the wrong people. Then you're going to have hard conversations with them. You might have to let some of them go. You might have to go separate ways.

Managing people is going to bring up all of your own stuff, all of your insecurities, all of your doubts, all of your fears. It is going to require you to level up your mindset. It's going to require you to level up your leadership. It is going to require you to learn how to be candid and clear, to give and receive feedback without reacting or projecting your stuff onto other people. It's hard. It is so incredibly hard, but I can tell from experience, I have grown my team very intentionally over the years and the people who are with me have been with me for years.

Amber, who has been my right-hand director of operations since 2011. We met when my twins were not even a year old. Finding people like Amber, finding people like Lane, Erica, Shannon, Mackenzie, or Stacey, any of the people behind the scenes on my team who have been with me for years, it comes with doing the work to make sure you are the leader they deserve and that you are creating the team and the culture that creates opportunities for those people.

I feel like I should go into a whole nother series and I have on my list here all about team. But when you focus on building a great company with a great culture, one where people feel valued, where they enjoy working together, where they feel like you are giving them an opportunity not only to make their lives better, but to make an impact, that is the game changer, and you're not going to create that when you're paying below minimum wage or exploiting people for their labor. It's just not going to happen.

It's so infuriating to me when I hear how people treat their teams. When I hear those things, it just makes me so angry. I feel like if there was like the last door for small business, you would start hearing a lot of the stories that I hear where people are just terrible to their team. Absolutely terrible like screaming at their team. Very manipulative to their team, very dehumanizing to their team. It can be so different. What would happen if we all created the types of businesses we wish we could have worked at?

I bet a bunch of people wouldn't have started entrepreneurship if they actually had opportunities where they could do work that they love with people that they love, and be well compensated for it. They would love to be parts of those teams. But unfortunately, we have to create a lot of that and it's hard and it's worth it.

Okay, that was a little bit of a rant. Let's get into lesson number three. You will struggle to celebrate your success. I get these moments where I think to myself, “Oh my gosh, look how far I've come,” then I get right back into the next goal. I spent years reinvesting back into my business, especially the early years, probably the first five years of my business, I didn't enjoy any of my success. I was very much head down, working on my business, working on replacing my former corporate consulting salary, then working on replacing my husband's salary so he could come home and be a stay-at-home dad. I was just head down on the business all the time.

Then I realized how ridiculous it was that I'd spend money on the business without a second thought. But spending the same amount hiring an interior designer to come to my house or taking my kids on vacation felt extravagant. Now it's a priority for me. It is a priority for me to celebrate. It is a priority for me to acknowledge my success. It is a priority for me to really enjoy what I have built and not always be head down in work mode.

I'm going to be honest, this has been hard. I am someone who is very goal-oriented. I think about my business a lot even when I'm not working and it can be very difficult for me to shut down that side of my brain and be present outside of work, be focused with my family, and do fun things. It is really hard. It's not natural to me. I feel like I'm wired that way, and maybe you are too. Now it's a priority for me to celebrate, for me to have fun, for me to enjoy my unplugged time and enjoy my downtime.

What does that look like in my world these days? Well, my husband and I have been enjoying taking at least one kid-free vacation a year. We went on an amazing five-day vacation to Asheville, North Carolina. It was so incredible. It was right around our wedding anniversary. It was so nice just to be able to spoil ourselves a little bit and do something that years ago we wouldn't have ever done that. Not if we weren't seeing family or taking the kids somewhere. It was incredible. Absolutely recommend that.

Also recently last year, I splurged my cousin, I'm the oldest of 15 first cousins on my mom's side. One of my cousins graduated from medical school, Tulane Med School. My 93-year-old grandma wanted to go but somebody needed to take her. I said no problem. I got this. I got granny on a flight out to New Orleans, took her first class, and had a limo pick her up. We were in this gorgeous hotel that I found, took her out to dinner.

It was just a weekend all about that quality time with my grandmother but the fact that I didn't have to think twice about, “Yeah, we're doing this. I'm booking the tickets and booking the hotel right now, we're going to make this happen,” I love that. To me that was my definition of success; being able to make memories like that or create that intentional time.

Other things I'm doing, I mean last year, I opened this gorgeous office space in Richmond, Virginia. Any of the pictures you've seen on my social or the videos you've seen on my social have all been in this new office space. I found it, renovated it, and opened it up. I realized afterwards that I had just spent tens of thousands of dollars to renovate and decorate this gorgeous office space that now really is my happy place.

I love coming to my office. It's so calm and so peaceful. Then I realized I hadn't updated anything in our home in years. I decided I was going to put the same attention on my home. That's what we did. We spent time upgrading our family room, getting it all set up with the kids, games, Xbox, board games, and all that stuff, computers, we updated our main living room area, we added a deck. What's funny to me is at the end of the day, I spend so much more in business expenses than I pay on stuff like that for my home and for my family.

It was interesting for me to realize, “Okay, you built this incredible space for your business, you should have an incredible space for your family, too.” For some reason, it was just always easier to spend on my business than to spend on a new sofa for the house. It's been a real mindset shift to be like, “No, we're going to enjoy this and do this together.” That's what it looks like for me celebrating my success. It looked like more time off. It looked like more fun activities. I've been doing a lot of Legos, if you are into Legos, there are some really cool adult sets out right now.

I've done all the flower-related ones and I'm going to start working on the Eiffel Tower one next. It's huge. I can't wait. I've been doing paint-by-numbers. I've been crocheting again. I've been reading a ton of fiction. I've been hiking with my family. We're planning different vacations and trips throughout the year. Learning to celebrate that success, celebrate it with the people I care about, have more fun, it takes being very intentional.

If you are someone who's always thinking about your business, your business is always taking up space in the back of your brain, it takes a lot of practice to disconnect yourself a little bit. But when you learn how to do that, when you learn how to celebrate your success, when you learn how to be present, when you learn how to have fun, business becomes even better, working with your team becomes even better. You show up with renewed enthusiasm.

Mondays are my favorite days of the week. I can't wait because I've allowed myself to celebrate time with my family. I've allowed myself to have some fun. I've allowed myself to rest. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it as you build it. Do not wait for someday to finally enjoy what you're building.

I really encourage everyone even if it's a small thing that you start doing now, celebrate your success. Start celebrating, start celebrating out loud what you are doing, because it's incredible. Most people don't do what we do. Most people don't go on this path of starting something from nothing. This should be celebrated. We have to celebrate it first.

Let's move on to lesson number four. I've got to pick this up because I've been getting a little fired up here. Lesson number four: you'll outgrow your mentors. The more your business grows, the fewer answers you're going to find in public. Honestly, you have to really consider the fact that the majority of business information and education out there is geared towards the most absolutely beginning stages of entrepreneurship and small business.

The research I have been going through really identifies this category of new businesses that they call aspiring entrepreneurs. It is the fastest-growing segment of small businesses right now. There are a ton of people who aspire to be an entrepreneur and they just can't get enough of courses, information, podcasts, and training, etc. But they're pre-revenue, they're just getting started.

Once you cross some milestones, you cross your first six-figure year, quarter of a million dollar year, half-a-million-dollar year, million dollar year, these answers that you really need in your business are harder and harder to find. The research is so crucially important here because I think the context is everything. Context matters.

When you're getting information, advice, education about your business, when 88% of women-owned businesses are making less than $100,000 a year, that means if you've crossed that milestone, you're in the top 12%. If you've crossed seven figures, you're in the top 3%. Those numbers are hopefully getting better, but it means 88% of women small business owners are newer, they're lower revenue. They're in four or five figures. That's it.

This is where the majority of the celebrity influencer entrepreneurs are talking. They're talking to the aspiring entrepreneur category. Because they're talking to aspiring entrepreneurs, they are focused on tips, tricks, and tactics aimed at new business owners. They are not talking about big-picture strategy. They're not talking about that. They're very trend-focused.

If you were to scroll back into some of these people's blogs, podcasts, or social media, you would see that they are cycling trends because they are talking to people who think that what they need is the latest tip, trick, or tactic. They don't ever really talk about big-picture strategy. They don't really ever talk about what it really looks like to grow their business.

You have to have that in mind when you're looking for mentors. You have to be able to become more discerning because as your business crosses those milestones, six figures, quarter of a million, half a million, one million, the one-size-fits-all, tips, tricks, and tactics aren't going to work for you. You're going to need more personalized, relevant information for your specific business.

To be honest, it is a smaller category. There are not as many people who are talking to that segment of entrepreneurs who are at the six-figure mark, who are at the multiple six-figure mark on their way to seven figures. There are just not that many. It's really important that you ask yourself some questions about who are they talking, who are they really talking to, who's really in the room that they're talking to?

Because it's not just what you get from the person, the celebrity entrepreneur, the teacher, the coach, or the trainer, it's about who they're attracting. There's a big difference being in a room full of other people who are at the same level that you're at or further compared to being in a room where you are way beyond the majority of the people who are in the room.

It's important to be discerning about who you allow to influence you. It is important to be discerning about the mentors that you follow. Because if you're continuously listening to the people who got you started, and you don't move on to somebody who's really talking to what stage of business you're in and the specific challenges you're having, you're always going to get sucked into the next tip, trick, or tactic. You're always going to be sucked into the trends.

Most of those are all related to marketing and sales. Because that's the biggest priority when you're starting your business is just getting sales, just getting those first few clients. Very few of those people are ever going to talk to you about delivering an incredible experience, about building a world-class team, about having vision and values, and up-leveling your leadership as you're leading your team, your community, and your clients.

It's a different conversation. It is not about short-term tips, tricks, and tactics. It is much more about big picture. It is much more about where you're going and that's something I really, really, really had to grapple with because I love learning. I love-love-love reading. I read two or three books a week, I have a bunch of podcasts I listen to.

At some point, I realized, “You know what, these people aren't talking to me anymore. They're talking to me from five years ago. I need to seek out new people, new people to give me insight into where I'm going because they're specifically talking about the stage that I'm in right now.” When you start putting yourself in that room, you start putting yourself in those conversations, you surround yourself with other people who are where you are, things start to change very quickly.

Does it mean you're going to outpace some of your mentors? Yeah, I mean, I definitely have. Does that mean they weren't amazing for where I was at the time that I worked with them? They were incredible. I love working with them. But there's always somebody to help you at the stage that you're in. They're just probably not mass marketing because they don't have a mass market. They have a very small niche audience.

If you need to find more mentors who really are talking about the stage you are in, you're headed towards, keep your eyes open. They are out there, but they are not mass marketing. You'll probably hear about them through conversations with your peers, not through scrolling on social media. Once you find them, listen in, lean in 100% to what they have to share with you. Be discerning about what they have to share with you.

You always have to run it through the filter of your vision and your values. But their insight is going to be a lot more applicable to your business than the influencer celebrity entrepreneurs who are very much talking to aspiring entrepreneurs and the distinction there is huge.

Lesson number five: more marketing isn't the answer. This builds on lesson number four. Because if you were to pay attention to the biggest celebrity influencer entrepreneurs, it would seem that marketing solves all business problems. That if you just do more marketing, if you just do more sales, everything else will work itself out because now you have money to throw at all your problems.

We've talked about why that's not the reality. Because if you're spending all of your time, energy, and money on marketing and sales, but you don't have a clear vision, you don't have clear values, you don't have a real business strategy, you don't have a support team, you don't have an incredible customer experience, you'll find that you're solving the wrong problems.

In fact, you might be creating more problems because chances are your business is breaking all over the place. You don't have that infrastructure in place to sustain the level of sales that you are currently getting. This leads to businesses that literally start to implode on themselves because it's expensive to fix problems like that. It's very expensive.

It's hard to run a team who loves working with you when everything is on fire and things are always breaking. You really have to understand that more marketing and more sales are not the answer. There's a lot more that needs to happen behind the scenes in your business, especially if you are growing, especially as you need to lead people on your team.

It is up to you to level up your leadership and start thinking about all the different components of your business, all the different elements of your business, to make sure that you have that strong infrastructure. You don't just have this strong foundation, but you have a strong infrastructure where your delivery is top-notch, your team is on point, and it's all running like clockwork. You have to be able to get that marketing and sales system up and running and put your attention on other areas of your business.

But if all you're doing is more and more and more marketing, but you're not thinking about the other areas of your business, it's a recipe for disaster. It really is. It's a recipe for a lot of stress and frustration.

Lesson number six: you get to do it your way. This is the best part. Nothing makes me happier than walking into this gorgeous space I've created here in downtown Richmond, Virginia, when I'm hosting the CEO Retreat, knowing that I have carefully crafted, created, and curated each part of this experience for myself, for my team, for my clients.

I love that we get together the night before the CEO Retreat and we have a happy hour at the most gorgeous hotel here at the Quirk hotel in Richmond, Virginia where when you walk in this space, you instantly feel inspired and like you are in luxury, you are in beauty, you are in something that is just an incredible, impeccable experience.

When my clients come in and they kick off their weekend with us, they have that experience and they come into this space I'm creating for them and they have the experience of meeting everybody and meeting my team and everybody working together. That is amazing to me. Nothing fills me up more than when I get those in-person experiences, which might seem funny because I'm a real introvert and if I had to do that every single day, it wouldn't be possible.

But the way that we have designed it is so that it fits me and it fits my energy, it fits my capacity. I love getting to not only celebrate my clients' successes but also their big milestones. We celebrate our clients all the time. In fact, we've had several babies since we rolled out The CEO Collective in 2020 and it's so fun to send out baby gifts and to pick out little onesies that say future CEO.

We love celebrating when our clients take a dream vacation and leave their laptops. They let their business be handled by their team for two weeks. That is amazing. We're going to celebrate the hell out of that. I love that my incredible team fully supports one another. We're celebrating each other. We're cheering each other on. When there's something big like we had two people buy houses in the last few months, that is exciting, right? That is something that we should all be cheering each other on about.

I'm so thrilled that this is the culture I've created. I'm so thrilled this is the business I've created, the type of clients I've brought in. All of that came because I rejected any advice out there that wasn't aligned with myself, my values, and the vision I have for my business and my life. The vision I have is not to scale at all costs. It's not to automate everything.

In fact, when I tried to do those things, there was a point where I was really trying to figure out how do I sell an online course 100% evergreen. I struggled with it because I wanted to know who my clients were. I wanted to get to know them. You can't do that if you're just pushing hundreds and thousands of people through a program and you don't ever have a real conversation with anybody.

I rejected all of that. I decided I wanted to get to know my clients. I wanted to know what they were up to. I wanted to follow along with their journey. I wanted to celebrate their business successes and their nonbusiness successes. What would that look like?

When you really start thinking about what you actually want this business to look like, what could you do that's different, you don't have to do it the way anybody else has done it. You get to create what you want. That makes things really fun. I really want you to think about this, a huge part of our 90-Day CEO operating system framework is about your vision. It has to be your vision. It cannot be a vision that you're hearing about from someone else or that other people are telling you that this is what success looks like. It needs to be yours.

Sit back and think about what the next 12 months are going to look like, what do you want to experience? What do you want to feel, what do you want to have? What do you want to do? What do you want your team to look like? What do you want your impact to be? How do you measure that impact? Who do you want to work with? What would be really cool, what would be really fun? What do you want to create? Create your vision.

I'm just giving you some prompts here, but the longer I've been in the business, the more I'm like, “Okay, my vision is really the most important part.” Because if I allow someone else's definition of success to drive where I'm going in my business, it is not a matter of if but when that I start to hate my business again. You really have to craft your own vision, your own version of success, and build everything around that.

Last but not least, lesson number seven: you've got to do less, not more. As entrepreneurs, we are idea machines and it is totally natural to wrap up one thing and immediately think of the next thing to create. Then the next and then the next and it's just an ongoing thing and ongoing hustle of new-new-new.

The way this usually plays out again, because we're in this space where 88% of the people talking to small business owners are talking to aspiring entrepreneurs, they're just talking about more and more marketing, more and more trends, more and more tips, tricks, and tactics, they're just telling us you need to do more challenges, more webinars, more affiliates, more partnerships, more social media, it's always more and more and more.

If you do this, business is going to be so much harder than it needs to be. You do not need to be everywhere. You do not need to do all the things. Sadly, most entrepreneurs don't understand that sustainably scaling is about doing less but better. They are the ones who are always grinding it out until they hit a revenue plateau where they hang out for a few years, then they realize that breaking through to the next revenue goal, it really requires real strategy, real systems, and a real team.

They can't just get to seven figures with a duct tape behind-the-scenes business. I know so many people who hustle their way to seven figures by doing launch after launch, each more exhausting than the last until they finally realize they cannot keep up with the pace without burning out themselves and their team.

When I realized there were easier ways to achieve our goals by simplifying and streamlining as much as possible in the business, including my role as CEO, including my offers, I only have a few things available. That was only made possible by me going, “Okay, do I want to sell lots of little things? Or do I really want to create a framework that brings together all of these areas of how I can help people?”

I've simplified so much of my business. This is why I shut down an online course that ran for almost 10 years and had thousands of amazing students go through it because I realized it was getting more and more and more complicated to run that particular business model. I didn't want to do that. I wanted simplicity. I wanted more ease. I wanted to not have to chop up all these areas of my expertise.

Instead, I wanted to say, “Hey, if you want to come learn from me, this is the way we do it. It is this, The CEO Collective.” When we streamlined everything and systematized everything, everything got massively easier. We built the assets, we did the hard work once, and now 80% of that hard work is done upfront. It only takes 20% of the effort to deliver our offer. It only takes 20% of the effort to sell our offer. It only takes 20% of the effort to market our offer.

Because those systems are so smooth, my team has taken over most of that 20% and I am truly focused on leading the team instead of trying to fill every single role in my business, trying to do all the things, and burning myself out. You have to do less and you have to be willing to prune back the things that you created that were just not working. That's another hard thing.

There's a phrase out there, I don't remember who said it, it's like in the writing world, you have to kill your darlings. You have to be willing to shut down revenue streams, shut down products, programs, and services that just aren't working and they're not going anywhere. Their stress-to-dollar ratio is too high. It's too hard to deliver. It takes too many of your resources, too much time, energy, and money to deliver that.

You have to focus on what truly is going to make your business run more smoothly. What's going to be the easiest to market, to sell, and deliver, what is going to give the best results to your clients without sacrificing things because you've created a million different ways for them to work with you instead of just one clear path. I really think simplifying is one of the best ways to amplify your results.

That was a lot. That was a lot for today's little conversation. But this has all been on my mind for a while and I feel like there are even more hard lessons learned along the way. I mean, I could have given you some examples of terrible emails I've had, clients who said things that made me cry, or team members who I hired and then should have let go of and it took me a year to finally say, “This isn't working.”

There are a lot of things we learned the hard way. The one thing I will say as I close out this conversation is that a lot of the things you learn the hard way, it is so much easier when you are in the room with peers who are at your level or above, when you have mentors you can talk to about these things and get their perspectives. Because leading a business like this, scaling a business like this is hard. It's emotional.

You're going to have a lot of nights where you are lying awake, stressed about something or you're crying because somebody said something that really triggered you. It's easier when you can show up and say, “Oh my gosh, this is happening,” and have people who can hold that space for you because they've been through it too, help you process it, and then help you figure out the right next steps to move forward.

Because when you try to do these things in isolation, when you try to do it on your own and you have no one to go to with these challenges, it makes it really, really hard. Not just really hard, it extends how long it's going to be hard, because you're still in the dark trying to figure out what the right next move is.

I encourage you, the last lesson, bonus lesson, number eight here is to build yourself a community or join a community. It doesn't have to be The CEO Collective. There are plenty of communities I joined because I couldn't find people who were doing what I was doing at the level I was doing it. I had to seek out those communities and join them. I had to seek out those relationships and nurture them. I had to email people, DM people, go up to speakers at events, and all the things to try to find my people.

That's why I created The CEO Collective because I knew that these are conversations that you can't just find anywhere. It takes a tremendous amount of work when you're in the top 12%, 5%, or 3% of women entrepreneurs, it's hard to find your peers and I get that. I totally get that. If you want to hear more about how we've scaled The CEO Collective, about the 90-Day CEO operating system, keep your ears open, listen up for some announcements we'll have because these are the lessons I've learned and that I am helping all of my clients to overcome.

Thank you so very much for today's conversation. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any feedback, thoughts, or ahas and you want to share with me, take a quick screenshot and share with me on Instagram. Tag me @racheal.cook and let me know your thoughts.

For the latest show notes and full episodes, make sure you head over to theceocollective.com/podcast. If you don't want to miss any future episodes, including upcoming episodes in this series, make sure you are subscribed to Promote Yourself to CEO on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever else you listen to your podcasts. Thanks so much for listening to this week's episode of Promote Yourself to CEO. We'll talk soon.