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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.

 

  1. Define Your Business Vision

Who do you serve? How do you impact them? What is your impact within 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.

  1. 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?

What is your purpose?

What are your major goals/objectives?

Once you have those, head to step three!

  1. 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 3am 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!

  1. 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?
  • What could be most easily achieved with pre-made templates?
  • What positions could you get referrals for?
  • 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!

  1. 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.)
  1. 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!

  1. 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 1am, 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

 

If so, I’d love to invite you to join the Ops Community here. From live Q&As to powerful templates, real-life advice and the occasional tough love we all need — we’ve got it all.

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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!

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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 incredible online community so you can quickly and easily bring your ideas to life, get your business on track, and increase your profits, all while doing what YOU do best.

This community will provide you with support and accountability as you put all the moving parts of your business together. Join us, and share the ideas, questions, and projects that truly light you up and push your vision forward — join us!

 

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