HOW I HIT ROCK BOTTOM BY HITTING THE TOP
“You know, Lara, you’ve got to be first in and last out if you want to make it to the top. Especially if you’re a woman.”
This was the prolific piece of advice I got, in my early 20s, from my suit-pants-toting, hard-hitting, never-let-’em-see-you-cry-proclaiming, sports-car-driving, 6-figure-making female mentor / boss. My mouth agape and my eyes wide, her words fired like a laser deep into the subcortex of my brain. With that statement I was naively hooked.
And so it began…
My addiction to the hustle.
The next ten years were a blur of weekends sifting through knee deep piles of client briefs, hopping on and off of planes, forgetting to eat because I was too busy to feel hunger and multi-tasking like an expert 5-pin, one handed juggler…always with a cell phone fused to the side of my perfectly coiffed head. I spent countless hours lining up with thousands of other suburban commuting drones every morning to get to work, but felt conflicted when I missed all of the traffic coming home because I’d stayed working while most people were already tucked into their comfy beds for the night.
And the payoff? Sweaty, dirty and sore, I had clambered up the corporate ladder, shattered the glass ceiling and was now perched precariously on top.
But I was the unhappiest I’d ever been in my life.
I had traded my life & livelihood for success. The hustle had let me down.
THE SWITCH FLIPPED
Confucius said: We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.
My second life began when I asked for my soul back from the Devil and left my career in the dust – the one that had become my identity – to start my own business.
I made a new pact, with myself, that my next chapter would be a lifestyle I would love living.
So, I decided to start my own consulting business, on my terms, during a global economic shit storm. That business is now celebrating its 9th year (woah) and has afforded me the time to get pregnant and raise a now 3-year old, cook every meal we eat from scratch, spend an hour and a half in the gym every morning, take mid-afternoon breaks to meditate, do yoga or go for a rollerblade, take Fridays off (just for myself), enjoy leisure lunches with my stay-at-home girlfriends (because my career ones are too busy to eat lunch) and wake up every morning thankful for my health, happiness and security.
So you can understand how when I now hear the all-too-common advice to hustle, hustle, hustle, it sends a ripple of shivers up my spine.
Whether you’re a coach, strategist, consultant or business service provider, you have to be smart about it. And that most likely means shifting your thinking and leaving conventional wisdom in your rearview.
MY TOP 5 ANTI-HUSTLE LESSONS FOR BUSINESS
#1 . It’s spelled Business, not Busy-Ness
We’ve all heard the advice…because it’s everywhere: Get more leads, grow your email list, get more exposure, convert more people. Volume, volume, volume. The idea is you need lots and lots of people to know who you are so you can have as many clients as possible so you can make as much money as possible. And I hate this idea. Because it’s a lot of work and expensive to keep that pipeline full.
Instead of building a business model around a revolving door of small spending clients I wanted just a few clients who could afford to pay me really well, pay me the same amount every single month, stay with me long-term and ones that I wouldn’t have to spend a dime marketing to.
I take on no more than 4 clients a year. That’s it. I work about 20 hours per month on each client (if you do the math: that’s less than part time). And I make more money than most of my full-time executive counterparts. Oh, and I can service the heck out of those clients, which makes happier clients, better results and a more fulfilled Lara.
Bottom line: I don’t try to find hourly clients. I focus on clients who need me and my services for at least 3 months (but usually 6 months to a year). And, believe me, there are LOTS of these clients out there (but remember…you only need a few).
If you want to know specifically I shift small-paying clients into long-term ones, here’s a link to my exact blueprint.
#2 . Don’t waste an hour spending, when you could be earning instead.
“You have to spend money to make money.” is not always good advice.
If lifestyle is what you want, why buy into a model that has you spending a huge chunk of your time and money marketing?
I mean, we all have only so many hours in the day and, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather earn money doing what I love than spend money doing stuff I don’t.
What if I told you that I haven’t spent a dime to market my business?
I’ve never done an ad, exhibited at a tradeshow, held a promotion or paid an influencer. I don’t have to. Because I don’t need a constant influx of business. I just need 2-4 clients.
So, I replace the time I would be spending marketing with either billable work (cha-ching, that means more money) or downtime to enjoy my life (ding-ding, that means a happier Lara).
Instead of ‘pay to play’ marketing, I focus on things that build by exposure and credibility.
Speaking has been my #1 source of leads for my business. Blogging has been my #2. Both allow me to give a Baskin Robbins’ pink spoon to potential customers – they get to taste my thinking before they dive right in and buy a big cone. When you’re selling yourself and your ideas, people need to get to know you and how you think.
Ask yourself where your prospective customers gather to make decisions about someone like you. Is it a conference, tradeshow, industry networking event? Go where your prospects are and find ways to give them a feel for who you are and what value you provide.
#3 . Even when it’s about you, it’s never about you.
Ever stood across from someone who was interested in your services and they ask you, “So, tell me what you do exactly?” You launch into your expertly memorized elevator speech. When you’re done, giddy with anticipation, you look eagerly at your potential client, awaiting their ringing approval. You hold your breath…but what you get instead is a high pitched, “Oh, that’s nice.”
Breathe out. You’re turning blue.
Congratulations. You have been hoodwinked.
Your prospect didn’t purposefully trick you. But, in reality, they didn’t want to hear about you. They wanted to hear about themselves…or more specifically how YOU can help THEM.
People don’t buy quarter inch drill bits, they buy quarter inch holes.
In other words, they’re not buying the tool, they’re buying the means to their end goal.
So the big question becomes: How well do you know your clients? Like, really know them. Like – what are their hopes and dreams? Like – what are their fears and frustrations? Like – what color underwear do they wear when they want to feel powerful? Well, maybe not #3.
I have an almost 100% close success rate. I attribute much of this success to the fact that I’m an empath when it comes to my customers. I feel them. You feel me?
Instead of saying, “I create marketing plans for my customers”, I think about who I’m talking to and what their goals or challenges are. Then I paint a value picture in their minds.
So, my response might be something more like, “I create marketing plans for my customers. Much like you, I had a client who struggled with how to market their business. They weren’t sure where to invest money to get the biggest bang for their buck and since they were an entrepreneur they didn’t have the time to focus on building awareness and generating leads. So, they hired me. I got them laser-focused on a plan, took all of the guess work out of who we should be targeting and how to convince them to choose us and not our competitor. Then I executed that plan for them, so they didn’t have to worry about it. And it’s pretty amazing. For the cost of a receptionist, they got the equivalent of a Chief Marketing Officer growing their business. (Insert a tangible result here, if you have one – like, their $10,000 total spend with me generated $40,000 in new business).”
So, sell value, not services and you’ll be closing more business with the right customers.
#4 . You created your business to achieve a certain lifestyle, stop sacrificing that lifestyle for your business.
Many of my friends are coaches. Kick-ass, smart-as-a-whip, self-motivated, hear-me-roar-types. We catch up on the regular over coffee or vegan food, to share war stories, and I’m usually in awe of what I hear.
Most, I know, started their coaching businesses because they had a dream that they wanted to create an amazing life – one that was full of balance and rewarding work…
Yet they’re drowning in discovery calls, sinking in social media updates, becoming a full-time bill-collector, trying to track down those elusive new clients and treading water through every other non-fulfilling task that goes along with running a business.
They are a slave to entrepreneurship.
That lifestyle they wanted is actually being sacrificed by the business they created to build the lifestyle. But they’re certain that if they just get those higher paying clients or book their schedule a little more everything will fall into place.
The problem isn’t the business, it’s the business model.
In order to have a lifestyle business, you need to set up a model that supports your desired lifestyle. Otherwise, it’s like going on vacation with the goal of relaxing but booking a non-stop, whirlwind trekking tour of Machu Picchu and wondering why you left your holiday more tired than when you started.
#5 . Have a ‘why’ that makes you cry.
Over the past 9 years there have been amazing highs as well as days where a box of tissues and a tub of Half Baked Ben and Jerry’s just didn’t seem enough.
There have been days where I thought nothing could come between me and my dreams and days where I wondered whether I was worthy or deserving of this life.
Days where I wanted to high five everyone in sight and days where I was numb and wanted to stay curled up in my bed with the covers over my head.
This is entrepreneurship.
So, how did I make it through 9 years of business despite those down days?
I have a ‘why’ that makes me cry. A reason that’s so powerful that when something comes up the why I do what I do is far more compelling than the reason why I shouldn’t do it anymore.
Ask yourself this very question. Why are you in business for yourself? And does that reason, when you think about it, strike such an emotional chord with you that you can’t bear the thought of letting it go?
Unlock the answer to this question and there is nothing that can stop your success.
ROCK BOTTOM TO FLOATING ON A CLOUD (DAIQUIRI IN HAND)
I was led to believe that to achieve success I had to be first in and last out, I had to work non-stop…I had to hustle.
But all hustle did was provide me with a mentality that would bury me under my money and newfound power.
I’d earned great income and risen in the ranks, but didn’t have the time or mental capacity to enjoy it.
What I learned from my 10 years hustling was that living a life I love meant knowing what I wanted my lifestyle to look like and designing a work model that would support it (not sacrifice it).
So, let me ask you this…are you ready to boycott the hustle and do more of what you love?
PS – If you answered yes, be sure to download my free guide & worksheet that’ll unveil exactly what strategies I use to secure retainer clients (that’s the pink bar just below this paragraph).