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Four Ways Entrepreneurs Can Handle Growing Pains

In the past six months, B Squared Media has more than doubled in business. But instead of writing a blog post on how awesome we are, I want to talk about how to handle growing pains.

A little dose of #RealTalk: I’ve been in “hustle mode” for about ten months; working 15 to 18-hour days is standard.

The catalyst for pushing me to work harder and plan like I’ve never planned before? After one of our biggest clients claimed bankruptcy in 2014, we started planning an exit strategy for B Squared Media in case we couldn’t make up the lost revenue.

How’s that for real talk?

For more real, no B.S. business talk,  I’m going to share with you the four key activities that took us from freaking out (in a bad way) to freaking out (in a good way).

four-ways-to-handle-growing-pains

 

Work-Life Balance Is A Joke

As a small business owner or a solopreneur, it’s rare that you won’t have to make personal sacrifices to have professional successes.

Minus sleep, you need every minute of your 24-hour day. For me, 18 hours is my threshold for not going coo-coo crazy.

Don’t believe me?

56 percent of small-business owners feel they can never be away from their business.

[Source: Constant Contact Study]

These stats and my experiences shouldn’t scare you, rather they should help underscore the overwhelm that most/many small business owners are feeling.

Growing, especially when you're a small company, is painful, even when you're successful.Click To Tweet

So if you put the frou-frou fluffy idea of work-life balance behind, how do you handle growing pains?

Four Ways To Handle Growing Pains

While I can’t tell you how to run your business, I can tell you how I ran mine to grow more than 100% in six months.

1. Time Management & Productivity 

Take a real, long, honest look at your daily activities. Where is most of your time being spent?

I used an Excel sheet and a time tracking app (HT pro) to look at my activities over 30 days and was shocked at where much of my time was going.

To be totally cliché, I was working in my business and not on my business; over 50% of my time was being spent on non-revenue generating tasks. 

When you’re wearing all the hats, including Business Development and salesperson, you absolutely positively cannot have more than half of your time dedicated to activities that don’t make you money.

The two biggest culprits with productivity are:

  1. Lack of strategy/disorganization: You need systems and/or processes in place to keep you on track and focused on the key areas of your business.
  2. Lack of priorities: It may seem obvious, but many entrepreneurs find themselves focusing on non-revenue generating tasks before they think about or deal with sales. That was me! Don’t let that be you!

2. Saying NO (And Meaning It)

You have to do something with all of those non-revenue generating tasks. They may be fun. They may eventually lead to more followers/more blog comments/revenue. But what are they doing for you TODAY?

I hate telling people no. I hate telling people I’m busy. We’ve all come to view busy as a “bad” word that’s just a copout for saying no. But if you’re an entrepreneur like me working 10+ hours a day, 6+ days a week you ARE busy.

I’m done walking on eggshells and worrying about saying no because I’m too busy.

Being busy and saying no helped me double my business in less than a year!

The hard truth is, you have to say no more than yes to grow your business.Click To Tweet

By letting go of hours of non-paid projects, I was able to open myself up to three paid writing gigs.

The writing gigs aren’t what doubled the B Squared business, but they do provide a steady stream of weekly revenue.

My point is this: Make room for the things that make money. The fun, friendly projects can sit on the backburner until you’re comfortable.

learn-to-say-no

3. Things NOT Working? Get NETworking!

You’ve worked to grow your Twitter followers, your LinkedIn connections, your sales pipeline, and your marketing list. But are you putting them to work?!

I wasn’t. So I made a plan to network weekly both on and offline.

I joined a local networking group where I immediately closed a new client and put three others in the pipeline.

Online, I connected with past leads, put four of them back in action in the pipeline, and closed a billion-dollar brand in less than two weeks.

I closed a second “old” lead (he closed nearly a year to the day since our first phone conversation!) and in the process of massaging these old leads moved our closing ratio from 50% to 60%.

I connected with a marketing friend and started helping him launch a new service — something I’m getting paid for.

I had all of these resources in front of me but wasn’t using them.

What resources are you glazing over?

Networking is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. The less you use it, the weaker your business becomes.

4. Stop Being A Control Freak

At a certain point, it doesn’t make sense for you to do your own billing or write your own code or handle day-to-day activities.

Once steps 1-3 have kicked in and you’re closing those deals, tasks that used to be revenue-generating tasks become less worth your time.

There comes a point when successful entrepreneurs hit overcapacity. This is when you delegate!Click To Tweet

It’s scary. I get that. Pull the trigger too soon and the overhead is killing your bottom line. Go too slow and you risk quality of service because TIME. IS. FINITE.

The new person/people aren’t you, can’t do it as well as you, aren’t as clever as you, aren’t as diligent as you, blah blah blah.

There are a million excuses and only 24 hours in a day. And you have to sleep.

We’ve added three new team members recently to help me get it all done.

They allow me to focus on my plan, which is to consult, speak, write, teach and bring in new business (ahem, all things that make money!).

Growing Hurts, Period.

Yes, the above four activities are helping us getting a handle on growing pains.

They ensured we’ve gone from “Oh my gosh how on earth are we going to grow and stay in business” pains to “Oh my gosh how on earth are we going to keep up with all of this business” pains.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to growing pains, I’ll take the latter!

How do you handle growing pains at your business, whether it’s growing in revenue or growing the team to keep up?

 


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Brooke B. Sellas is the in-the-trenches Founder & CEO of @HelloBSquared, an award-winning social media, advertising, and customer care agency. She's also the Co-host of The Marketing Companion podcast with Mark Schaefer, where they discuss jaw-dropping marketing trends. Brooke's marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout!
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14 Comments. Leave new

  • First, congratulations! Proud of you and happy for you.

    But, I think you left something out that was important to you and others in the same bout. You had a peer support system, too. It wasn’t big and you didn’t whine or complain EVER, but you did have a handful of folks you could talk to at the time, about your fears re: the possible unintended end of your biz.

    You absolutely DID put in all of the hard work, but you also had a few hard talks with people who had faced similar challenges. Having a peer group is so important. Above and beyond simple networking.

    Again, so proud of you and happy for you. Here’s to us both keeping in keeping on and continuing to grow!

    Reply
    • Thanks, friend! Yes, you’re right. I had a support group who helped me stay sane. I especially have to give a shout out to my (almost) husband, who is always supportive (even when he, too, started working from home in February … now we’re together nearly 24/7! NOT EASY … you know how that is!), and still loves me even though I work like a crazy lady and have spent the past year and a half planning our wedding and refuse to give control to a planner (can’t follow my own advice on this one). Did I mention the big day is only 60 days away?!

      I think you hit on another point, too. I didn’t whine and complain (outside of my support group) because this is the price you pay for wanting the freedom of being your own boss. The other people in your boat will have advice and be understanding. Even more so, just knowing you have 100% support (even if you don’t ask for it) is nice. 🙂

      Reply
  • Congratulations, Brooke, on doubling B Squared Media’s business! I know how hard you have worked and love that you are sharing your tips.

    Growing pain #2 hit home. I know that I need to let go or put some non-paying projects on the back burner. I also need to delegate more…

    Again, congratulations, my friend. I’m looking forward as your incredible journey continues!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Robin! I feel the truth of the matter is better to share than the typical, narcissistic “we’re SO awesome” (I’ve written about those slimy entrepreneurs) post. I want to be real. The simple truth is we lost two of our largest clients back to back and we were literally planning an exit strategy. I had three choices A) lay down and die B) give my remaining book of business to someone reputable, or manage it part time while going back to corporate America or C) fight as hard as I could until A or B had to happen.

      The other truth is, I can admit my mistakes. I laid them out here and then showed how I fixed them in the hopes other people in my shoes have hope. We’ve only been in business 3.5 years. The struggle is real! We’re bombarded with all of these startups that “made it” (with millions in VC money … we’re bootstrapped!) and it makes us feel like we’re doing something wrong when we fail. We have to change that mindset. We also really have to dig down and see what’s not working (which can suck!). The time exercise led me to better understand where I needed to make cuts and where I needed to beef up. I encourage everyone to do that exercise. You think you know, but the results are quite shocking.

      Nothing is easy. You’ll get where you need to be. Just make the promise to say no, cut those tasks, and find people you trust to help take on some of the things you need to delegate. We’re in the same boat! And I’m happy to support you. 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Veronica Athanasiou
    July 30, 2015 12:57 PM

    Congratulations Brooke! It takes guts to write such an honest post and I’m very happy to see you on this path that is being travelled more and more often.

    The many cliches about entrepreneurship and the handful of very successful entrepreneurs who keep sharing their vague ‘tips’ don’t make it any easier for the real people. You’ve laid these cliches down beautifully and I’m proud to know you and to be able to celebrate your success both in work and life.

    I wish you all the best as your business and your family will continue to grow so that one day in the near future you can sit back and enjoy!

    Reply
    • Thank you, friend!! So good to “see” you here. I can’t be a good teacher without truth (or a good friend, business owner, etc.). That’s just my opinion.

      I’m real and I want to show that realness to help other who are in similar situations.

      I’m so glad we’re friends and you’ve been with me on this journey! Thank you for all of your support through the years. It means a lot. xoxo 🙂

      Reply
  • Congratulations Brooke! I am very happy for you and B Squared. This post hits home for me. That was me for the first year I was in business. I refused to delegate. I was stubborn. I said yes to everyone. It was tough, and I know those 18-20 hour days all too well. Thanks for sharing the wonderful tips. This is 100% Awesome Sauce!

    Reply
    • Thank you SO much, Dennis! It’s not an easy journey (I know, I know … or everyone would do it) but when we get past the humps we can share with others how we did so in the hopes it will help. Thanks for always being such a fantastic supporter. We appreciate you!

      Reply
  • Finally catching up on some reading and SO glad I had saved this link from Facebook! I’m right there with you – we’ve had the same issues the past year. It’s gone from 0-60 in lightning speed and you are right on every single point. I finally hired a marketing assistant to help with a lot of the tasks that took up time I needed for other projects. In fact, I could probably use another one!

    I’m SO excited about your growth – you work hard and do a great job. As much as we see all of this as stressful and can cause us to literally break at times, it’s a good problem to have. There are handfuls of businesses who would love to be in your shoes 🙂 Keep trucking and all will work out!!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Mandy! It’s so hard to know when to hire. I’ve seen it go both ways … and I’ve seen entrepreneurs hire WAY too many people to look big when behind the scenes those salaries are chewing up entirely too much overhead. You don’t need a team of 10 people if you aren’t bringing in millions in revenue! Silly.
      BUT, on the other side, you can’t do it ALL or your business will suffer (and so will you!). It’s a fine line. And a hard lesson. Hopefully by sharing our experiences other business owners can carve a similar path.

      Congrats on your growth, too! Love to know women entrepreneurs who are rock’n it! 🙂

      Reply
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