Categories
Business Operations

Business Development: Top Down vs. Bottom Up

Would you describe your business development as being top-down, or bottom-up? Because the thing is, it’s literally one or the other. If I’m being honest, I seriously hope that your answer is top-down, and not bottom-up. But I also know that, at the end of the day, what you say doesn’t matter. Your business will tell the truth for you.

What Your Business Tells Me

When I look at a business’ proclivities and strategies, I can tell very quickly if they have a top-down or bottom-up approach. Before I take that line of thought any further…

I can hear you screaming through the screen wondering: 

Lany, what do you mean by top-down and bottom-up?

I am SO glad you asked.

Top-down means you have a vision, backed by a strategy that you’ve put thought into.

Bottom-up means you’re fucking winging it. (If this hits some kind of way…then I’m 99% sure that this is you, boo.)

Signs You’re Developing Your Business From the Top-Down

If you are working from the top down, you’ve actually sat down with yourself (or with your team) and created a strategy. 

You have a BIG picture vision of what you want to create, and you can communicate your purpose, your goals, your mission. You’ve taken the time required to think deeply about your business, and to create long-term plans for its success. 

You created a strategy and a plan. The pieces needed to move forward are in place.

Now, this doesn’t mean everything is perfect and you’ll never make changes. You can be in full strategy mode and still need additional clarification, or be planning to make changes. Honestly, you can still be throwing shit at the wall just to see if it sticks every so often. 

That’s ok. A top-down approach isn’t about being perfect or knowing everything all the time.

The main priority here is that you are keeping your vision top of mind. 

You’re still testing it to see if all of your products, programs, offerings, and events are still in alignment, but you’re able to accurately assess alignment because you have a vision to measure progress and growth against.

Signs You’re Developing Your Business From the Bottom-Up

If you are working in your business from the bottom up, that means you are trying everything under the sun. (Also, you’re probably exhausted and over-caffeinated. Consider pausing here for a second to drink a big ol’ glass of water.)

You’re in the phase I fondly refer to as throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks. This is not something you periodically do just to test something super innovative. This is literally how you operate at all times.

P.S.  It’s not working. (In case you were wondering.)

I’m not trying to be a hater, I don’t want you to throw in the towel, and I’m not putting your business down. As entrepreneurs, I know that we often feel we have to battle against other people’s limiting beliefs or judgments, and that’s not what I’m here for.

I see you making it harder than it has to be. I see you running yourself ragged, getting discouraged, and desperately hoping for light at the end of the tunnel. And I see the potential you have to make an impact.

So if you find yourself sitting in the position of not having a big picture strategy, or from having gotten super disconnected from that strategy, don’t worry. You can shift without feeling like you are starting all the way over. (And without feeling like you’re trapped on a staircase with an increasingly irate brunette screaming “PIVOT!” in your face.)

If you don’t have the BIG vision that will allow you to develop your business from the top down, I’ve got a few steps for you to start with.

Step 1. Visualization

Years ago I went through a training with David Byrd that focused on vision casting. 

It was truly profound, and has helped me with my business (and personal life) through the years. Although I’ve since adapted my own version of how I visualize my future, I still credit his methods with having given me a great starting point.

What I loved about his process is that when you initially write your vision, you pick a date/day in the future. It can be any future time: 1 year from now, 3 years from now, 5 years from now. It can be your birthday. Your anniversary. A holiday. The day doesn’t matter to anyone but you.

Feel into it.

Once you have selected your big day, I want you to take some time to think about and feel into what your future looks like in these areas: 

  • Financial 
  • Emotional 
  • Physical
  • Business
  • Mental
  • Relationships

(Not every topic may be relevant for your actual business, but I encourage you to still do this for all areas of your personal life. Your actual day-to-day reality, beyond your business, will still impact your work.)

Once you have spent some time here (Journal! Meditate! Get a massage! Take a walk!), I want you to write out your visualization for that day in your future as if it is currently happening.

Write out your day from beginning to end, covering all of the areas mentioned above. Make sure you tap into your feelings and write them down too.

Once you have that complete, we’ll take a closer look at your actual business vision. Then we’ll dive deeper and break it down into strategic goals and action steps.

Having a vision is fantastic, but it won’t come to pass by itself.

Step 2. Take Action

This next part is something you can work through in whatever way works for you. You might put aside 45-90 minutes a day for the next week or two. You might block out an entire day, or even gift yourself a solo retreat for a weekend to really sit with some of these aspects of shifting towards top-down business development.

Define Your Business Vision

Who do you serve? How do you impact them? What is your impact on the world we live in? Why is your work meaningful? How does this impact move beyond a single sale, service, or experience — why does it matter in the next 5, 10, 20 years? What part of this work will be your legacy?

All of these are questions you might consider answering on your way towards developing your business vision.

Align Your Purpose, Goals, and Mission with the Vision

Your starting point here is to determine what’s already happening in your business so you can intentionally create change where necessary and understand where you are lacking alignment. Determine where you (and/or your team) currently are spending time, money, and energy.

I often recommend you take at least one week to track all of your time (including the 20 minutes you spent trying to find your passwords for the new social media manager, the 3 hours you spent “fixing” your website because you hadn’t been clear about what you were looking for in the first place, and the 7 hours you spent doing things any decent VA could have cranked out for you in 5, like responding to customer requests via email, or making graphics in Canva).

It’s also helpful to review the last 3 months of your expense statements. Where is the money going? Are you spending thousands of dollars on subscriptions, tech stacks, and tools you hardly use? Are you frequently throwing money at programs or new hires that just “don’t work out”?

When you created your ideal day, you thought deeply about how you wanted your time and money being used to both support your own personal wellness AND to build your business.

Then, you created a vision that helped you communicate your desired long-term vision.

Now, you get to take your awareness about what’s NOT aligned to consider what things you want to remove, what things you want to uplevel, and what things you want to add that are actually aligned with what you are creating.

What is your vision?

Do you know your purpose?

What are your major goals/objectives?

Once you have those, head to step three!

Create a Strategic Plan with Clear Objectives

Using your vision, purpose, and list of major goals, you can start to break things down strategically. Often, business owners think in terms of quarters. If you break the next 12 months into four quarters, I would recommend planning to achieve 1-2 major goals in each quarter, then breaking them down into actual steps.

For example, if one of my major goals is to start a podcast, I would first ensure that I have deep clarity around how that fits into my vision and purpose, and what the goal for the show is. 

As I understand that, then I’ll move on to tackling the actual actions that I need to take to make it a reality, like:

Watch a podcast webinar on getting started / Choose podcast equipment for recording / Work with my designer on making cover art / Write the description / Write a pitch for guests / Pitch my first 15 guests / Determine interview scheduling methods and open my calendar up / Create a disclosure or right to use form that guests need to sign / Get an audio editor / Work with my social media manager on how we want to publish and distribute and share about the show / Create content for a podcast page on my website / Find a designer to brand the site page and update it on the site / Develop pitch – pre-interview – interview – post-interview – publication flow for guest communication / Develop workflows for VA, social media manager, and audio editor to work through each show seamlessly / Create promo emails for the show for existing list

The foresight I’m putting into what it actually takes, in reality, to create a podcast that will both be successful and be fully aligned with my vision and purpose is the result of taking a top-down approach. 

It also ensures I’m not going to be up till 3 am the night before my show is supposed to launch while I scramble to put the pieces together. And, it will make it less likely that I’ll publish two episodes then get too busy and quit.

You can also see why I encourage you to focus on 1-2 major goals per objective. Pacing yourself and truly grasping the full scope of a project makes you so much more likely to be successful in the long term!

Prioritize Actions Steps

If you just brain-dumped a whole paragraph of things that need to happen, you then need to go back and actually prioritize them. 

  • What do you, personally, need to handle?
  • What could an existing team member do?
  • Could some of these tasks be most easily achieved with pre-made templates?
  • What positions could you get referrals for?
  • In reality, what needs to be done first, second, third, etc?
  • What things would you like to talk through with an expert?

Having clarity around what needs to happen, and in what order, takes a huge weight off your brain. You’ve gone from ALL.THE.THINGS. to specific priorities that are aligned with the goal, which is aligned with the vision.

You are nailing this top-down business development thing!

Take Inventory of Current Projects

You already identified the places you’re spending your time. Now, make a list of actual, ongoing projects that you are currently knee-deep in.

During this step, you may realize you have 20 projects halfway done…or that you’re working 80 hours a week but can’t actually identify clear projects that are occurring.

Whatever the case for you, make a list! Once you have that, I would recommend sorting it into three smaller lists: 

  1. Projects that are fully aligned with your vision.
  2. Projects that are partially aligned, and worth revising.
  3. Projects that are not aligned. (Imagine an entrepreneur’s version of Gordon Ramsey looking over your shoulder and shouting “encouragement” — even if you like a project, be honest with yourself about how aligned it really is with your vision.)

Assign Financial Investment

People often cringe here. Creating the vision is fun, getting real about the dollars and sense can feel….less so.

However, we are business owners. We know we have to roll up sleeves and handle money like the bosses we are.

You know where you’re spending money now, and you may have already identified areas that you could decrease wasteful spending. (Hint: Constantly hiring team members to fix issues is not helping you. Investing in courses that you never actually finish is doing you no favors. Paying premium prices for tech that you basically never use is no bueno.)

Taking a look at these areas can also help you understand where you might have additional funds to cover the tools or new hires you need to make your newly defined goals and projects a reality. Figure out where your most aligned investments are going to be, and get serious about making those happen!

Set Manageable Deadlines and Timelines for all Deliverables

Manageability is key! When you did your big picture vision exercise, you weren’t just focused on your business. You thought about the life you are creating.

I’m guessing that it didn’t involve pulling your hair out at 1 am, running yourself ragged, or spiraling into total overwhelm every other week. (Should I have been an oracle? I might be in for a career change!)

Consider using all four quarters of the year to distribute your major goals, create margin where possible, and consider life constraints as you plan. For instance, if your family always goes to the ocean for a month in August, don’t plan to start your new podcast launch and schedule 10 interviews for that week. This is your life, and you get to create alignment with the way you manage your deadlines and deliverables!

Hire a Team to Execute the Vision

You don’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) doing everything alone. Yes, it happens sometimes, especially in the early stages. But it’s not really a long-term strategy for success. 

Eventually, you need to hire! That’s an entire post / course / process / deal in itself, so I’m not going to try and shoehorn it into this post. I will say, however, that I have some amazing templates that can help you onboard your new hires right here.

Face Your Fears

I know this is a hard one. 

We all have fears, myself included. We tend to either let our fears hold us back, OR we learn how to move through them and past them to create magic in our world. As you move through your vision creation process and start laying out the action steps above, you will definitely have moments where you will question everything.

And the reality is, if you don’t believe in your vision, then it’s going to fall apart. 

You are the glue that holds your vision together, for both yourself and your team. Ideally, you need to be working with your own accountability partner or mentor to keep you on point as the powerful leader and visionary that you are. It also helps to have team members who strongly support you.

If your vision is as big and impactful as I believe that it is, then it’s imperative that you do the inner work that is required to hold this massive vision and move through any fear that steps in to block you. 

If we’re going to change the world, we have to be in alignment with ourselves first.

What Position Are You In?

These are my tips for how you work from the top of your business rather than the bottom. 

What position are you working your business from? Are you ready to work from the top down and create a business that is efficient AND impactful?

—————-

As the “get shit done” person who holds the answers to what stands between you and the crap that slows you down and takes up all your time, I’ve created an exclusive group coaching offer –  if you’re ready to develop the systems you need to get your business on track and increase your profits, all while doing what YOU do best –

THIS IS FOR YOU.

This 12-month group coaching experience will provide you with support and accountability as you put all the moving parts of your business together. We kick off Feb. 22 – learn more about joining today!

 

Categories
Business Operations

Client Screening and Boundaries

What do they have in common? Well, boundaries have been a conversation that has come up for me a lot lately. Sometimes that can sound off-putting, but I mean it in the most positive way! However, I haven’t always gotten a warm, fuzzy feeling about acknowledging the power of boundaries. In fact, prior to 2016, I really struggled with setting and honoring them in my life and business. As I’ve grown, though, I’ve come to realize that boundaries and client screening are closely tied together! Improving one tends to naturally improve the other.

Boundary Problems Lead to Client Problems

My problems started because, like any normal human, I really, really wanted to be liked and acknowledged. I wanted to be seen and accepted. I wanted to have a sense of belonging.

However, I apparently got tricked into thinking that the way to be accepted was to give away my time, my essence, my love, my energy, my money, my resources, my knowledge, and my experience. Whatever you needed, I would help you. I would share time and energy and resources with you without hesitation. (Thankfully, I have always been able to draw the line at sharing tacos. so I’ll give myself a few bonus points for that.) 

From personal relationships to clients, I expected myself to be constantly pouring out, no questions asked. And while I was definitely leaving satisfied customers and glowing reviews in my wake…

I was also causing myself so much harm and heartbreak.

Gradually, I realized I was constantly running on empty. It seemed like I never got anything back, and it was brutal. It was also translating into my work. 

Apparently, if you give clients the impression that you’re basically thrilled to double your work without increasing your pay….that you always respond within 5 minutes to emails and Slack messages…that it’s no problem to burn the midnight oil to solve crisis situations that even a moderate effort on their part could have helped us avoid….

You attract clients who take advantage of you.

This is both a boundary problem and a client screening problem.

If You Don’t Have Boundaries, You Can’t Do Client Screening

This is a bold statement, so hear me out!

When I didn’t have boundaries, I didn’t respect myself. I didn’t value my work. I didn’t think I was worth the respect of others.

With that as my headspace, what “client screening” criteria were available to me?

Rather than being able to make empowered choices to work with people I shared mutual respect with, I was offering discounts to work with clients who were less than ideal. 

Sometimes that meant they micromanaged or were difficult to work with. Other times it meant that their work in the world didn’t light me up. And sometimes it meant I accepted ridiculously low pay that I should have never considered.

I didn’t know my own worth, I didn’t have boundaries around what was acceptable, and as a result, I didn’t have the capacity to go about client screening. There were certainly people that I didn’t want to / shouldn’t be working with. By not signing them on, I could conserve my efforts for dream clients that I was excited to pour into.

Crafting My Boundaries

And then, I made a life-altering decision. I hired a coach.

I hired a coach who saw me. Who loved me. Who had grace and compassion for me, and who showed me tough love. Ultimately, the person who set boundaries with me. Who questioned my decisions and challenged why I had chosen the path that I had. 

She challenged the fuck out of me. 

And I resisted.

Y’all, I was so stubborn.

I dug in to where I was in life and what I was doing, making excuses for the people who were depleting me, making excuses for why I had to have the clients I had.

I didn’t want to be made to feel I was wrong or making a mistake. In addition, I didn’t want to be called into something higher or better or, heaven forbid, different.

My ego was in rare form.

And then things shifted. 

I’d like to say that it was instantaneous, but it was a slow and painful process that I put myself through. I literally made it hard on myself. Even though I could have made it easy, I didn’t. I resisted over and over until I finally wore down my own resistance and realized what a fucking waste of time that was.

Once I shifted, it was game on. 
  • What boundaries did I need to set? 
  • What had I allowed in my life to happen to me that was no longer allowed? 
  • Why was I setting boundaries? 
  • What relationships (personally and professionally) were actually good for me?
  • What clients do I need to let go of? 

I decided I was worthy of setting boundaries. I deserved to have solid boundaries, and I owed it to myself to have firm boundaries.

Boundaries Aren’t Cement (Also Known As, You Can Always Change Them)

Now here’s the thing… my boundaries aren’t cemented in. I can consciously choose to change ANYTHING or to allow ANYTHING in my life or business. 

BUT…

The key is consciously choosing.

I have learned to tune in to what feels aligned with my head, heart, and soul. If it’s aligned, it’s allowed. If it’s not aligned, it’s not allowed. 

Remember that line from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”? 

Well, that is how I look at my boundaries. Nobody gets to treat me like crap in any form or fashion. That is especially true for the people I work with and for. Boundaries and client screening are like two pieces of a puzzle that are designed to fit together. They literally just go together — as you develop boundaries, you’ll find that you are naturally reevaluating who you work with, and how that work happens.

My Boundaries in the Wild (Actually Living Them Out)

Recently I was working on a project with a few women, and it fell apart in a most disastrous and disappointing way. One of the women went on the attack and made it personal towards me. 

Frankly, I was shocked. I walked away from the conversation saying to myself, “These women really don’t know me. They don’t see me.” 

The next evening I ran into one of the women at a local event, and we decided to talk out the situation a bit more. She said to me, “Lany, I believe she (the other woman) is threatened by you. Out of all the women working on this project, you are the one with the most solid boundaries.” 

Now, I can’t say that I was leaping for joy, because I was still disappointed that the project fell apart the way that it did. When she made that comment about how strong my boundaries were, however, I gave myself an internal pat on the back and I shared with her verbally that I had practiced these boundaries for some time. 

I put in a lot of effort and practice to have boundaries this strong. 

One of my dearest friends was a part of that conversation that night, and she affirmed that “I had fucking strong boundaries”. 

You can’t just say you have boundaries and then let people walk all over them. You can’t cave to peer pressure, or to pressure from clients. It’s vital that you learn to be firm in your boundaries. 

You can bend when appropriate, but you cannot break. Palm trees and bamboo bend in the storm, but they don’t break. You can do the same.

Set, Hold, Honor: Verbs That Boundaries Love

Setting, holding and honoring your boundaries takes work. It takes practice. It takes effort. Desire and care for yourself. Loving yourself. Honoring yourself. Boundaries are meant to protect you. Not cause you or others harm. They are not meant to be malicious. They are meant to be clearly defined terms of what is and is not allowed in your life and business. 

When it comes to clients, boundaries do not mean you only work with millionaires who pay you with Bitcoin and offer you free flights on their private jets. They aren’t about building an ivory tower and keeping everyone out.

Boundaries actually enable you to build better, stronger relationships that are healthier on every level.

In fact, if someone asked me what my specific boundaries were today, I would be hard-pressed to lay them all out because I listen to my intuition when things show up. 

Someone or something may be pressing me to do something or to take a specific action, and if it’s out of alignment with my integrity and my intuition, I will set a solid, fast and firm boundary that I will not participate in said action. 

No if, ands, or buts about it. 

My boundaries are tied to my intuition, my integrity, my self worth, my self love, and honoring what I know to be true and right in my own life. Knowing that, I’m able to joyfully work with clients who respect me and see my worth. 

——————-

As the “get shit done” person who holds the answers to what stands between you and the crap that slows you down and takes up all your time, I’ve created an exclusive group coaching offer –  if you’re ready to develop the systems you need to get your business on track and increase your profits, all while doing what YOU do best –

THIS IS FOR YOU.

This 12-month group coaching experience will provide you with support and accountability as you put all the moving parts of your business together. We kick off Feb. 22 – learn more about joining today!

Categories
Business Life Operations

Trust

Trust: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

As the CEO of your business you see the big picture, you know the direction of your vision and yet you are overloaded with all of the work. 

It’s hard to let go and trust someone to carry our vision forward. To let someone share your burden and allow you to step into your next level of creativity and service.

This is the challenge. 

To trust. 

To lean in and know that you can trust yourself and trust your team to support the vision and mission.

To trust that they have your back.

To trust that you won’t fail them and they won’t fail you.

To trust a new process.

TRUST.

It’s huge.

It’s heavy.

It’s scary.

When you can step into it though, it’s worth it.

It’s like taking that leap out of the plane and praying to God and the heavens above that your parachute opens.

There is that moment you pull the ripcord with the question in the back of your mind… “Will it open?”

When it opens you are able to release that lurking fear of falling to your death and know that the leap was worth it. 

I have been experiencing this struggle of trust myself lately. 

The question I have been leaning into lately is….

How much do I trust myself?

I have made some decisions in my business recently that were big for me. I hired TWO new team members on my team.

While it may not seem like a big deal to many, this was a huge deal for me. 

After I onboarded my team I felt the release, excitement, and space that I gave myself.

Why didn’t I trust myself? 

Here’s why…

We’re in the middle of a global crisis and I’m making a decision to grow my business. That’s a HUGE leap of faith and trust in myself. 

But you see, there is a back story. 

Isn’t there always?

I’ve had staff before. I loved having a team. Working together, delegation, innovation, creativity. All of those things are amazing when you have a team.

The last time I had a full team and not just outsourcing to contractors was back from 2005-2007. Right before the full crash of 2008. 

Before the crash hit the full marketplace, it hit my industry a year early. We suffered major casualties and my business took a hit which caused me to layoff my staff and close the doors of my business

It sucked.

I hated laying off my team.

It hurt my heart.

I had committed to them and they had committed to me.

I was not prepared for that crisis.

So, here I sit this month in the midst of a global pandemic, buried in work up to my eyeballs, full of gratitude and scared that if I hire someone I’ll have a replay of my past.

I knew that I knew that I knew I needed to hire my team so that I could give myself some relief and better serve my clients in the long run. 

So, I did took the leap. 

I’m re-learning to trust myself.

Where are you struggling with delegating, scaling your business and trust? 

I challenge you to be curious about your level of trust and learn to lean into it. Growth is exponential when you can trust. 

If you’re ready to scale your business to the next level and are looking for the next steps, let’s set up a time to chat. Shoot me a message and my communications manager will send you my calendar link.