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How to Make the Most of Investments in Business

by | Last updated: Apr 14, 2022 | Podcast

In your business, you have to constantly make big decisions. Who’s going to be your coach or mentor? Who should you hire to join your team? What resources should you use to help run your company? How (and where) will you market your business?

It can get overwhelming! So you want to only spend time and money where there’s a return on your investment. In this episode, I cover the five key ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of every business investment you make.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

2:09 – I reveal why relying on your feelings can sometimes lead you astray in making business decisions.

3:45 – Tip #1 is one of the biggest things that ensures you’re not signing up for something or hiring someone who isn’t the right fit for you.

9:40 – People often get stuck in their journey because they don’t follow tip #2. Even I’ve been guilty of it recently, and I tell you how.

12:30 – So many of us have a hard time with the third tip. I discuss how I’ve seen this inside The CEO Collective.

19:23 – What’s a good rule to follow whenever you’re learning or getting advice from others? Some of my best business breakthroughs have come as a result of this tip.

23:20 – By following this final tip, you establish the ability to create your own economy. I explain what I mean by that and how I’ve benefited from it.

29:26 – To wrap the show, I quickly recap the five ways to make your business investments worth your time, energy, and money.

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One thing I think we do not talk enough about in this entrepreneurial community is how to make the most of each investment that we make into our business. When it comes down to it, as we continue to grow our business, we are constantly making these huge decisions, deciding who we're going to hire, who we're going to learn from, where we're going to go out there, and do advertising and marketing to get more clients. These decisions can become overwhelming. But we want to make sure we're making the most of it and not finding ourselves spending money that doesn't get that return on investment. In this episode, I'm going to walk you through five key ways to make sure you are making the most of every investment you make in your business.

Are you ready to grow from solopreneur to CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook. I've spent the last decade helping women entrepreneurs start and scale service-based businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each 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 CEOs. Welcome back to another episode of Promote Yourself to CEO. Today, we are talking about investing in your business. I want you to consider not just investing money into your business but also the time and energy that you invest into your business and in the big decisions you might be making about where you are going to deploy these resources: your time, your energy, your money, and your business. I wanted to follow up the previous episode, The ROI of Thinking Like a CEO with this one because once you make the decision to invest, put your time, your energy, or your money in some area of your business, you also have to follow through in order to get the results that you're looking for.

Unfortunately, I have heard, so many times, horror stories from people who sign up for a product, program, or service and are disappointed. I've heard so many times from people who enroll in a high-end coaching program or a mastermind program and feel let down. I have heard from so many people who have tried to hire someone either internally in their team or externally—like a service provider, they're going to hire to do something—only to feel like they wasted a ton of time, energy, and money to not get the result that they were looking for.

When it comes to deciding where you are going to deploy the resources in your business, you have to be thoughtful and critical when you're going through the decision-making process. This is where just going with our feelings sometimes can lead us astray, especially because we are currently in a marketing machine, so often, especially on these internet streets here, where the marketing machines are designed to pump up the hype to over promise, to induce FOMO, and to make us feel like we have to get this thing right now. This is something we need to start thinking about. How can we make the most of these investments? How can we make good investments and make sure that once we have made the investment, we follow through and get the results that we're looking for?

My first tip here is to do your research. That is honestly one of the biggest things I find will help to make sure that you're not signing up for something that truly isn't the right fit for you. Take your time and do the research. For every major investment I've ever made in my business, I've had to sit down and really critically think, “Okay, what are the actual needs of my business right now? Is this a gap in a skill set that I have? Is there something I need—a system, a tool, a strategy—that I'm not sure what that looks like? Do I need to hire somebody here? What exactly is the outcome that I need that person to deliver to me?” Sitting down and really thinking through what your needs really are, then doing the research to make sure that your needs and that offer are aligned, is so critically important.

Sometimes I've heard from people who feel like they are disappointed because they signed up for, especially coaching programs or mastermind programs, they felt disappointed because what they really needed was something more high touch, something where the people in the program who are delivering the program can actually get to know them in their business versus them being one of thousands of people and you never get your questions answered. If they would have stopped to think about, “What is it that I actually need? How do I need this to be delivered to me?” they might have made a different decision. They might have chosen something different that was a better fit for them and their particular business.

I think as you're doing research about working with a coach, investing in an online course, attending an event, signing up for a mastermind, it's important to sit down and do your research about those things, really understand what they are, who's leading this thing, pay attention to the person who is leading it. This is where I like to go and really invest in learning more about that particular person. What I'm personally looking for a lot of the time is are they aligned with me? Because if I'm going to learn from you, I want to know that it is going to be aligned with the way that I want to do business. It is going to be aligned with my values. Honestly, I really prefer to learn from people who are on the same wavelength as me; they want to have a similar lifestyle, they want to have the types of things that I have.

For me, a big one that I'm looking for is I love working with other women who are moms. Why? Because they understand when I'm coming back to them and I'm saying, “Oh, my gosh. This is a challenge I'm having.” They understand it. This is something I have not gotten when I've worked with people who maybe don't have this life experience and they can't connect with me in that way when it is such a major-major-major part of my life. Or if I'm personally looking for a coach or a mastermind, I often want to work with people who believe in putting your life before business. They don't believe in just grinding it out 80 hours a week. I know if I work with a coach or a mentor who advocates working like that, who advocates the hustle and the grind, that most of what they're going to share with me isn't going to be a fit for me, my life, and my lifestyle.

Take your time and do the research. Take your time and really review everything you can find. Take your time and learn more about who is leading that particular thing that you are interested in. This is also important when you're taking on new people in your business. Another huge investment a lot of us make is hiring people on our team. I think sometimes when we find ourselves in a panic and we hire really fast because we're just drowning and we're overwhelmed, we often make a lot of mistakes in that process because we didn't go through, again, this critical thinking in decision-making process to think about what is this role? Who do I really want in this role? What does this hiring process need to look like? Where am I going to promote this role so I can get as many qualified people as possible to reply to it? How am I going to review these applicants? How am I going to decide between them? How am I going to onboard them so that they have the best chance of success in this role?

When we skip the research step, we skip making that plan first, and we're buying things on this knee-jerk reaction, we're in a panic mode, this is when investments can quickly go wrong and you end up with people in your team who, a few months in, you realize you've spent a lot of money and not seen the results that you're looking for. If you're looking to hire people as far as outsourcing things, doing your research on these people, look for case studies, look for testimonials, you want to know that they can actually do the work and that their work is the quality and the result that you actually want for yourself.

Taking a little bit of time and critically thinking about these big investments you're going to make in your business is going to save you so much hassle. (Yes, I am downtown in my office here in Richmond, Virginia right now and there is definitely a police truck or police car going by me. I'm a couple blocks from the police station so that makes sense.)

Okay, point number two here. Action number two for you to take to get the most out of your investments in your business is to do the work. Do the work. Follow through and do the dang thing. I often see people who get stuck in their growth journey because they invest into something and they don't actually follow through with implementing whatever it is that they've now invested into. How could this look? It could look like you join an online course because there is a skill set you want to learn, there's something you want to learn to implement into your business, and you watch the videos, you go through all the training but you don't actually implement it. If that is something that happens to you regularly, then it's really important that when you sign up for something, you're also committing your time and your energy, not just your dollars with following through so that you can do the work.

One area for me that this has shown up is there's a training program I'm going through to become a certified facilitator of a program and for the first half of the program, I had signed up for it, I was ready for it, I started off strong, and then because life just got in my way at the end of 2021, I missed probably a solid two months of the live calls and trainings. I was starting to get really frustrated with myself and almost wanted to give up but then I was like, “No, there's a reason you signed up for this. You know this is going to be valuable for your clients. You need to plug it back into your calendar, make the time for it, and not just let other people's calendars kick this particular call off of yours.” I had to recommit to doing the work so that I get the return on this investment that I've made, which was not inexpensive, it was a pretty penny to sign up to become a facilitator for this particular program.

Whenever you're investing in something, especially if it's training, if it's education, if it's coaching, do the work. Make a plan so that you can get through all of the material. If there's something that you're supposed to implement, make sure you're following through. I live and die by my calendar. If there's something that is really important to me that I want to make happen, I know I have to plug it into my calendar and then honor that appointment with myself. Otherwise, it won't happen. But if I sign up for things and then I never do the work, I never implement it to get the result, then that's on me. That's not on whoever I just signed up to work with.

This goes hand in hand with my third point here, which is to show up and ask for help. Showing up and asking for help sounds so obvious I feel, but for some reason, I think so many of us have a hard time asking for help. It feels very vulnerable to say, “Hey, I'm stuck,” “Hey, I need help.” It's really easy when you sign up to work with somebody and you feel overwhelmed or you get stuck, then that feeling starts to snowball, you start to feel further and further behind. You start to feel more and more disconnected. Instead of leaning in to the community or leaning in to the support system, you start to lean out and just go, “Okay, that was a waste. I shouldn't have even done that.”

I saw this in two different examples of clients we've had inside of the CEO Collective. I'm not going to name names or anything, but on the same day, I got two radically different emails. I had sent out an email to a cohort of CEOs inside of the CEO Collective who are coming up on their one year anniversary. About a month before their 12 months end, we reach out to everybody individually and let them know, “Hey, your year is coming up. If you are interested in renewing for another year of support, here's what that would look like.” We walk them through that whole process and then give them a date to let us know whether or not they want to continue for the second year and join the second year cohort.

One person who I messaged in this particular batch of CEOs emailed me back saying, “No, I will not be renewing. This was not a good investment for me and my business.” The other person emailed back to me and said, “I will absolutely be renewing. This was the best investment I have made in my business by far. I will be here for year two.” What is interesting is both of the people had the same problem, which was that their calendar didn't line up for them to attend all the calls live. This is a really common problem. If you sign up for something—and whatever the reason is, maybe you can't get on the live calls or you can't get the live portion of the support, but inside of the CEO Collective, we have multiple layers of support.

The one person who said, “This was a bad investment for me this year,” they not only couldn't show up for the calls but they didn't lean in to any of the community or any of the additional layers of support. We had tried multiple times to get this person back into the community. Our mentor had been reaching out to them. We had tried to touch base with them and they really just ghosted on us. I was even surprised that they responded to an email from the team about their year two coming up because we had such a hard time getting this person to communicate with us at all.

The second person—who, again, she couldn't attend a lot of the things that were live on the calendar—told me constantly that even though she couldn't attend the live calls, every week she was listening to the replays. She was following along with conversations in the community. She was going into the vault, using the resources that we had, and it was accelerating her progress. She was doing the work. When she got stuck, she would reach out and ask for help. Instead of feeling isolated from the community because she couldn't make all the live times, she leaned in the way that made the most sense for her. These two really play together: do the work, and show up and ask for help.

If you start leaning out, you give up too soon, and you make yourself unavailable, then you're not going to get any result out of what you've just signed up for. But if you lean in, you do the work, you show up, you ask for help, you do alternative things to stay in touch with everybody, you will get such a better outcome.

I think this also plays when we're talking about other areas we might be investing in our business. One thing I think about is when I went through a huge rebranding process. I think anybody who's gone through a huge rebrand in your business—and I'm going through it again right now—this is a process that's going to be thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands of dollars by the time it is said and done. It's not a process I would go through all the time. This is a big thing that you take on maybe once every three to five years depending on what's going on for you and your business.

Whenever I go through this process, it isn't just how expensive it is because it is a big chunk of change to have somebody write your new content, to take photos, to have a designer, to have a stylist, to do all these things, all the nitty-gritty techie details behind the scenes, it's a big chunk of change. But to absolutely get the best result, I have to do the work too, which means I can't just hire all these people and then say, “Okay, there you go. Cross my fingers. I hope you guys can pull this off.” I have to do the work, engage with the process, dive into what they're asking from me, give my thoughts and feedback, make my opinions known, ask and receive their feedback. It is a collaborative process.

If you have ever gone through hiring creative teams for your business and do not like the outcome, you really have to ask yourself, “Okay, did I dig in and really do the work to make sure the messaging was great, the branding was great, and the photo shoot was great? Did I hold up my end of the bargain here to get the absolute best result?” If you feel stuck at any point of the process, you have to be willing to give that feedback. There have been plenty of times where I've said, “Hey, this isn't really the direction I was thinking. What about this, this, and this?” or I've had to re-explain something.

Asking for help and really being willing to engage in those conversations and not take things personally is so important to make sure that the outcome is what you're looking for. Working with your team in any way; same thing. You have to be willing to do the work that you are here to do, you have to be willing to show up for your team, and you have to be willing to have those open and honest conversations and lean into them instead of pulling back and just disconnecting from people.

Tip number four here. Take the best and toss the rest. I don't know where I first heard this but I think this is just a good rule of thumb whenever you are learning from someone or getting advice from someone. There are so many people I am listening to, reading, and following. I don't agree with all of them on all the things, and chances are you've experienced this as well. Maybe there's somebody you've followed and you really liked their podcast but then they had one episode and you were like, “Nope, I don't jive with that at all.” That's okay. When you are taking in other people's opinions, other people's strategies, and other people's thoughts, you do not have to take those to be 100% what you need to do.

At the end of the day, we all need to trust ourselves a little bit more and we need to know that when we are getting input from other sources, we need to take what resonates. Anything that doesn't, just leave it on the table. Don't even put it on your plate. It doesn't make sense for us to go into every new situation, thinking that 100% of what worked for that person is also going to work for us because we're all unique and different people. We're unique and different leaders. Our teams are full of other unique and different people. Our clients are all unique and different people. What works for one person is not going to 100% translate into your own business.

This is why I think frameworks are so powerful because they can help you take best practices and understand how things systematically work. But once you implement it into your business, you need to make those little tweaks and adjustments so that it works the best for you. If you are ever going through a book, a podcast, a course, or even working with a coach, and they say something that just doesn't resonate with you, it is okay. It doesn't devalue the rest of the material. This is really important too: I've definitely had some experiences talking to people and they've said, “Well, they recommended doing this one thing and because that doesn't work for my business, I just didn't follow through on any of it.” I'm sitting here thinking, “Oh my gosh. Some of my best breakthroughs as a business owner have been taking ideas from other industries not related to mine at all, and then finding ways for it to work for me.”

A great example of this inside of the CEO Collective is one of our amazing CEOs, Nichole Lynn who owns The Solid Bow. She's been on the podcast before. She is a product-based business, as in a physical product. Her business makes hair bows for children. She is someone who has been in my world for a while now. She knows that most of the other CEOs in the Collective are running service-based businesses, education training-based businesses, creative businesses. She's an outlier here and that her business isn't the same type as a lot of the other entrepreneurs in the group, but she's always looking for, “What can I take from this and learn from this?” If it doesn't 100% translate, that's okay because the things that do translate make such a huge difference for her and her business. I think that approach can serve us really well and can also open us up to thinking a little more creatively about how we take an input and then implement it into our business.

My fifth tip here for how to make the most out of investments in your business is to invest in the people. Invest into the community. Invest into the relationships. Here's what I mean by that. I think right now, we are in this interesting space where there are a lot of business friendships, which is great. I think business friendships are amazing. I have several myself; people who started as just a person that I met and they were an acquaintance or a colleague. Then as you get to know them more and more and more, sometimes true friendships spin out of that; friendships where you can talk about things that are not business related. When you can get together and talk about your kids, remodeling your house, how your parents are making you crazy, or this new fitness program you're doing, those are real friends who talk about things other than business.

But I think one thing that I'm not seeing as much is people really being intentional about building business relationships. I think one thing that is more powerful than any of us realize is the ability to create our own economy. What I mean by that is if you start building out your business relationships and you're investing in your business relationships, you're really providing value to the people who are in business relationships, you're keeping in touch with them, and connecting with them. What starts to happen is you start to do business together, send clients to one another, and get amazing business out of it.

I saw this happen recently when I was going through this whole process of putting together this new office space in downtown Richmond, Virginia. I had initially rented a space at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a smaller space but it was a sublet from a friend of mine who was shifting where her office was going to be. Once I really found that I loved having the space and I was thinking about what I wanted next, I knew that I was going to want a space like this where I could bring clients, where I could host events, and where I could have people come and co-work with me. One of the most amazing things about making this happen is I leaned into my business relationships to make it happen.

I reached out to a business friend, somebody who has become a friend. We've known each other for so long. She's a realtor and I had previously referred her to one of my clients locally who was looking to open a chiropractic office. She had already helped one of my clients and then I was like, “Hey, I'm looking for a space. Can you come help me?” That was one business relationship where I sent clients her way, she sent people to me. Then I hired an interior designer who I had met because I was attending an event when events were still a thing. I had met her attending an event, I had followed her on Instagram, I had followed around with her design stuff, never really thinking I would need to hire an interior designer. But when I got the space, I absolutely needed an interior designer, and because I built this relationship with her, she was the first person I thought of.

Then I had another person who came in who was able to get all the different contractors for all the work that I needed. Because I had a relationship with her, she was able to negotiate down the cost of renovating this office space. This went on and on and on. The economy we created here, there was a lot of money flowing to get me into this office space, but the economy that was created here and the fact that so many women entrepreneurs were touched by these relationships—and there's just this continuous ripple effect. That interior designer has worked with other people who I've sent her way—these are the small connections that start to create this economy. If you are investing in your business relationships and you're taking the time to get to know people, to understand what their business is, to keep in connection, to keep an eye out, to invite them to different things, you never know where that's going to take you. That is powerful to me.

Even if you're signing up for a program, or a mastermind, or an event, you need to take the time to think about, “Who is in this room? Who should I get to know?” Some of my best, longest term business relationships are people who were in the first few online courses that I had taken, who were at the first few events I had attended. These are people who I still keep in touch with. These are people who we still send business back and forth. These are people who I still reach out to when I'm looking to hire somebody. These are people who when they announce that their book is coming out, I'm saying, “Hey, send me a box. Let me interview you. How can I amplify what you are doing?”

Those happen because I'm always looking for how I can build my own economy, how I can build my network, and how I can really take advantage of these business connections here, how I can build real relationships, not just to have somebody to go on business vacation with. To be honest, if I wanted to go on vacation, I want to go with my kids and my husband, not with a mastermind group in general. But I do want to have deep meaningful connections with people who then we can make this impact where collectively, we are passing business back and forth, we are building our own economy.

I hope this was helpful for you. This was a fun topic for me to bring together. But just to recap, as you are making investments into your business, whether it is an investment of time, of energy, or of money, these are the five things I want you to think about. First, pause, do your research. Be critical in your decision-making process. Don't just jump on something because of FOMO. Make sure it actually makes sense.

Two, follow through and do the work. There's always some part of whatever we are investing in where we have to show up and do the work. At the end of the day, you can hire a personal trainer but they can't do the push-ups for you. We have to do our part in order to get the results that we're looking for. That applies in business too. If you find that there's something you invested in and you're not getting the result you want, ask yourself, “How am I missing the mark here? What do I need to do to make this better?”

Third, show up and ask for help. Whenever you are feeling like you're not getting what you wanted out of something, don't just ghost on that thing, on that product, program, or service, on that team member, on that service provider. Lean in, show up, and ask for help. Engage with the community, engage in conversation. We stay stuck when we are isolated but we can move forward when we lean in, get in community, get in connection, and get in communication with people.

Fourth, take the best and toss the rest. Not everything is going to be a 100% perfect match for you and your business, but often, there's a lot of gold in whatever you have signed up for. Take the things that make sense to you, take the things that resonate with you. The things that don't feel like a fit, it's okay, just leave them. You don't have to be all or nothing in your thinking.

Fifth, build your own economy. Invest into the business relationships. If there is anything that has moved my business further, faster than anything else, it has been building real relationships with other business owners. I truly believe business grows at the speed of relationships. It's not about having a bunch of girlfriends—which is great, that might happen too. If so, that is a perk. But having women in your corner who you can send business to, who refer business to you, who you can tag in when things come up, who you can ask for support, or who you can cheer on, those business relationships honestly are going to be so-so-so important as you continue to grow. Wherever you are, whatever you are investing in, there are relationships there to be built.

Okay, please let me know your thoughts on this episode. Come over to Instagram. Tag me @racheal.cook. I would love-love-love to hear from you. I'd really love to know anything else that you are thinking about making the most of investments in your business.