Eternal business “growth” is impossible.

Growing is only one phase in your journey to business success (and don’t worry, it’s one that you’ll repeat over and over again!).

For the first few years of every business, growth is vital, right?

To prove the viability of what you’re doing, you really need to grow your business by expanding your reach, growing your following, and selling even more.

But then what?

You might think your goal is to grow bigger and bigger…

Your goal is actually to grow “better” – and that requires a season for sustaining growth, over and over again.

(It’s a cycle!)

“Growing” your business is actually about balancing each level of growth with a season for sustaining that growth.

And in this episode, I’ll explain what this means + why it’s vital to embrace this fact (v fight against it), plus…

  • How embracing a season of “sustaining” can be incredibly powerful
  • What it really looks like to sustain your business growth
  • And why your business will always be “broken” (+why that’s a good thing!)

Thoughts about this? Head over to Instagram (@emilyhirsh) + comment on my latest post!

And if you’re ready for behind-the-scenes marketing strategies from Team Hirsh, sign up for past + future monthly reports at HirshMarketingReport.com.

Key Points:
[3:46] Growth is a “sexy” topic… how to sustain that growth is NOT.
[5:10] My company grew so quickly that we had to pull back…
[6:31] Here’s what a healthy business looks like
[9:21] Choosing to embrace a season of “sustainability” is a powerful choice…
[11:44] What’s it really look like to focus on sustaining growth?
[14:12] Sometimes new business owners forget about this
[16:27] “If things go well, your business will always be broken…”

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Episode Transcripts:

Emily Hirsh:
Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. Hope you guys are having an amazing week. I am excited for today’s episode. I’m super excited to share this with you guys, because it’s a concept I’ve been thinking about. And then, I was listening to Brooke Castillo’s podcast [Life Coach School Podcast], and she talked about her 2020 goals and how her 2020 goals [are] to actually just maintain where they’re at. I think she’s at a $25 million company, so it’s just [to] maintain, fix their systems, fix their processes. And I just thought it was really cool how she put it, but also how she talked about it. So I want to dive into what I’m calling, “embracing business cycles,” and the importance of balancing, maintaining, and focusing, and improving your delivery, and then growing your business, and how you can’t always be in a growth-driven phase, because it’s actually not sustainable. So that’s what I want to dive into today.

So, why I love this is, I was just reflecting on how I’ve been in business for… Well, my son, he’ll be five in April, and I started my company then. [It was] not a full blown agency like I have now. I actually didn’t have intentions to start an agency when I started my company, I started as a virtual assistant. But I’ve been growing my team and [being] very intentional with growing a marketing team and an agency for almost three years. And what’s cool is, I feel like I’ve gotten more and more perspective as I’ve grown, and gotten perspective about what it’s like to, not only just grow a company and get it to a successful point, but to sustain a successful company and to grow it for the long-term, and start looking at things from the long-term. So I think I have a perspective that I didn’t have two years ago, when I was just starting out. Because when you’re starting your business, and when you’re starting to grow your team, and you’re getting to those points, you’re really just so focused on growth. That is what everything is driving is, growth, because you have to, you have to make money, you have to get the clients, you have to prove that this business is going to work. And so, for the first year, usually, that’s the focus.

But when you look at a business that’s been around for awhile, and you really look at, “How have they, not only grown but sustained?” I think that it’s about embracing business cycles and about balancing your hardcore driven growth and getting more business, more sales, more money, and then also sustaining what you’re building in your actual delivery to your clients, if that makes sense, or your customers. So I think this is so important, and I don’t really hear a lot of people talking about this, because it’s way more sexy to talk about growth, [like,]”How do I get more sales, more customers, more money? How do I do that?” And so a lot of people sell that concept and talk a lot about that. But what people don’t talk about is that you can’t just do that. You have to also focus on delivery and process and maintaining everything you’re growing, or it will all break.

You’ll hear about companies that shoot up, they make millions or a million [dollars] in a really short time period, and it seems maybe like, “Oh well they’re just going to keep going, and they’re onto something.” And I actually know people who this has happened to, where they just grow extremely fast… like if you’re looking at a chart, it’s steady growth… and then it drops. I believe most of the time it’s because they grew too fast, and they were not able to keep up with the growth in the actual foundation of their delivery. And when I say “delivery” I mean, if you have a product, the actual delivery of your product, whether that’s a digital product or a physical product, the course, or what you’re sending… focusing on, not only the quality of what you deliver, but the systems and processes that hold the foundation of what you deliver. Because otherwise you’re going to get to a point where everything’s breaking. And I’ve been there, where we grew so fast, we had to stop and fix everything and get it to a good place again to sustain the growth that we just had, before we could start growing again.

So I spent a lot of quarter four of 2019 focused on not growing. We had a 2-4 week waitlist for our clients. So they’d come on, they’d have a call, and for a lot of [them], they couldn’t start for four weeks, because we just didn’t have the capacity. We were just so focused on our systems and our processes and making sure that we perfected that. And then now we’re in Q1 of 2020, and our focus is growth. We’re very much focused right now on growth, we have funnels that are running… And during Q4, especially towards the end of the year, I got a lot of marketing strategy in place to implement into Q1 of 2020. But it’s this balance. And so, we spent a quarter really focused on delivery, systems, process, and obviously we didn’t completely stop growing. We still took on new clients, but it was just at a slower pace, and it wasn’t my team’s focus or my main focus.

My main focus was fixing holes in the delivery and fixing our foundation so we could catch up with all the growth we had had earlier on in that year, to then go through our next phase. And so I think a healthy business, and I’m talking here… I have two years [of] experience growing my business and four or five years total of having it, so I’m not like this 15-, 20-years seasoned entrepreneur, but I really do think I have perspective of these cycles, because I’ve been through a few different cycles where the focus is growth, “Okay, [now] the focus is sustainability,” [then] growth, sustainability, and bounced back and forth.

So when I was listening to that podcast episode with Brooke Castillo, I really loved that she said that, because she said they grew a ton the first two or three years in business. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it was a lot. She went from $3 or $4 million to $17 million, a huge growth jump in a year. And she was just talking about how, now this year, they grew, I think it was [from] $17 [million to] then $25 [million] this last year. And her goal is to just do the same [for] this year, for $25 million, which is a really powerful thing to tell your team, to tell yourself, and it just creates focus around what’s important, because if you don’t do that… Let’s say she’s like, “We’re going to do $40 million this year.” She might be able to do it, but it could also break her team, break her foundation, and start to make [her] go backwards. Because then you start losing customers, losing team members, everything gets stressful, and people don’t talk about that! But I’ve been through it. I’ve been through it where you grow so fast you can’t keep up with it, everybody’s stressed, and then you almost start to go backwards, because [those are] the repercussions of growing “too fast.”

So I don’t think people are really talking about that being a thing, but it’s very common, especially in a business that is onto something great. I think Brooke’s products and her content is so amazing that it was easy for her to grow so fast. And now she’s very focused on sustainability, which is really a powerful thing to make that decision. I think it shows a very mature entrepreneur to say, “We’re actually not going to grow that much this year, if at all. We’re going to focus on sustaining everything we’ve built up until this point, and making it even better.” And she had talked about how they’re going to redo their products and the foundation and their systems and their processes. And I love it. And I haven’t spent an entire year focused on that, but I have spent a whole quarter, where I sit down with my team and I’m like, “Look, we [will] still get sales calls. We [will] still get leads coming in organically. But we’re not going to run ads. We’re going to pause our marketing efforts, and we’re going to focus on our delivery.” And I had to make that decision in the last quarter of last year, because we had grown so much that I had to catch up our systems.

So I had to catch up like, “How do I train ads managers?” I had to redo our ads manager training. “How do we find ads managers?” I redid our process, we built out processes in the department. We redid our clients’ weekly reporting. We redid a lot of stuff that had been there, but it wasn’t to the level I wanted it to [be], it didn’t match the growth that we’d had. So that became our focus, instead of, “How do we get more clients, more clients, more clients?” Because if I just did that, it probably would have ended up pushing me backwards, potentially. Because I didn’t have the machine strong enough to sustain more clients, more clients, more clients. And so, I think it’s important, and it’s a good quarterly conversation to have… annual and quarterly. Of course, when you set annual goals, you should be looking at like, “How much do I want to grow this year? Compared to, how much do I want to fix and sustain my foundation?” That should always be something you’re looking at and comparing.

But I also think, quarterly you can kind of set a theme like, “Do we need to focus more on our foundation and sustaining? Did we have a massive [growth month] last month, where we grew a ton, and we had a ton of customers? And now we have all these new clients we have to serve, or all these new students we need to serve? And so, does our focus need to switch to that delivery focus and foundation building and fixing the cracks? Or, can we handle more growth? And how much more growth can we handle?” And you’ll never get this 100% right, where you’re like, “We can only sign five clients.” Because, of course, if six come, you’re probably going to take them on, you know what I mean? So it’s not like this exact metric, but I think defining where your team’s going to focus, and where you’re going to focus if you have a small team or it’s just you, is really important, because it just keeps everybody on the same track. And so for me, last quarter, I know for our whole team when we would set… that was our quarterly goals, [it] was very much… all of our quarterly goals were focused around sustaining, building, fixing the foundation.

So any monthly goal that we set or any project that we worked on really centered around that, instead of creating new promotions and new marketing initiatives. I actually reset my whole marketing department in that quarter, so that I could reset all the processes. So I had to pull back before we could grow. And now we’re in this awesome place where we have these two funnels that are converting, we’re growing, we’re getting consistent booked calls, we’re getting consistent sales to our course, and things feel so much smoother. But if I would’ve tried to push that, because I was fighting, for example, “We have to grow,” I think there’s this feeling of like, “Well, if I’m not growing then, what does this even for?” … Because that’s what’s the most exciting is, to grow, right? But a healthy, long-term sustainable, business has to go through both of these things.

So when you have times where you’re looking at your annual goals or your quarterly goals or even your monthly goals, really compare, “Where does my focus need to go? Does it need to go to growth and marketing? Or do I need to fix my foundation and my team and my systems and my processes? And where is my energy and my team’s energy best spent?” Is it one of those [two] things? And that becomes your focus. It doesn’t mean you rule out doing any projects of either. Also, I think that you should always have a balance. I don’t think that your entire team should just be focused on growth and marketing forever. I think that sometimes one has more weight than the other. So I’m in a business cycle where we’re heavily focused on marketing and growth. We have big goals for this year. I feel like we can sustain them. We’ve spent so much of last year building our process and our foundation and fixing it that we can sustain it.

But last year, I wasn’t. And so we really didn’t run a lot of marketing campaigns. We didn’t run consistent ads to book calls. I did pretty much the minimum with my podcast and some marketing. But I didn’t really do a lot of lead gen. I didn’t do any of those things, because it wasn’t top priority. And so I think you always have to have a balance, though, of working on my delivery, working on my growth, working on my delivery, working on my growth… and analyzing, where should you put more effort? But still always focusing on that. And I think, sometimes I see new business owners, especially in the digital product space, forget about the delivery piece. And I know I’ve talked about this before in past podcast episodes, but it’s so important that you’re always coming back to your retention [of clients or customers], and are your customers satisfied? How can you do better for those customers? Because there’s money in that, too. There’s growth in that, too. And even though it’s not the most exciting thing as it is selling a bunch of new clients, it’s actually more money in making sure you keep the clients and the customers you’ve already paid to acquire in your business.

So when you’re looking at your business, when you’re looking at your planning, embrace these business cycles. And it’s okay to be in a business cycle where you feel like, “I have to fix my processes, my systems, the foundation, and my delivery to my customers and clients. And I can’t focus a lot on growth. That doesn’t mean I won’t grow at all, but I need to just sustain.” And that is okay. And I loved that Brooke talked about this, because she has a $25 million company. And so you might think like, “Oh, once I get there, this will go away, or I can always grow, or this’ll be solved.” But it actually gets harder. I have friends with a $50 million company, and it gets harder. You have to do this even faster and more, and have this balance on your team in between these two different types of cycles. So I love that she talked about it, which gave me the thought, because I think it wasn’t as fun… When you’re focused on delivery and process and system, it’s not as exciting. It’s not fun work. It’s usually a lot of hard work. And I feel like that was my quarter four of last year, and it wasn’t that fun.

But now the payoff is really awesome, because we have such a better machine for growth, to sustain our growth. And I’m sure, maybe halfway through this year, maybe early next year I’ll go back to like, “Okay, let’s just sustain for this quarter. Our goal is not to grow, it’s to sustain. And here’s everything we need to fix, and here’s what’s broken.” Because here’s the other thing that is so important for everyone to realize, even myself, I literally say this to myself so often, but Alex Charfen always says, “Your business is always broken. And if things go well, it always will be.” And that’s the hardest thing for me to grasp. But it is so true. You always have something that’s not working or you could do better in your business. So if your goal is to have a perfect business, you will literally never get there. If you’re growing, you will never get there. And it’s so important to remember that, because you just have to, instead, embrace these cycles of like, “Let’s fix our marketing, our lead generation, our sales. Okay, now let’s come over here and fix our foundation, our delivery, our processes.” And either both are going to be broken, or one is going to be really broken. That’s normal.

Every single business has that. If they’re not telling you that on the front, if you go talk to someone on the inside, or you talk to the CEO, they are experiencing problems, because every business is broken, because it’s growing, because new systems are needed, because new people are needed, new training, new process, it’s always like that. And so that’s been really important. I literally say that to myself multiple times a week, because I think we think like, “If I could just get to this place, then I will be able to take time off,” or whatever it is that your goal is, and be to this place where, “I ‘made it.’” But if you get to that place, there’s just going to be something else. And so part of the game is accepting those cycles and accepting those problems, and then just being able to resolve them and take action to resolve them, and put your focus where it’s most important in your business.

Hopefully that was helpful for you guys today. And let me know [on Instagram, @emilyhirsh] if you had any epiphanies around it, if it helped you see your business in a different way, just by looking at these cycles…. But I really think for a healthy, sustainable, real business, this is really important, and I don’t think enough people are talking about it. If you want to work with an amazing team in the marketing space, we truly have the best systems and processes and delivery, I believe, in an agency in this space, because I’ve put so much time and effort and energy into it. I’m always putting energy into that, always looking at how we can fix it, and I’m really proud of our delivery. So you can go to HelpMyStrategy.com to apply to work with Team Hirsh, and I will see you all next time.