I recently sat down and reflected on if my past self were to ask me how to build a successful business, what would be my best advice? What would I tell myself to do earlier?

Especially in the last year, my success has exploded not just in terms of revenue, but also from a happiness and healthiness standpoint.

And I want to let my fellow entrepreneurs and CEOs (that’s you my friend) in on the key drivers behind that growth because they’re not just relevant to a marketing agency like mine, they’re applicable to ANY business.

Tune in to today’s episode of the Not For Lazy Marketers Podcast to learn more about the 6 things that contributed the most to my success in the last year. Then shoot me a DM over on the ‘gram (@emilyhirsh) and let me know which one resonated with you the most!

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Emily Hirsh:

Hello, my friends. Welcome back to the podcast. I hope you guys are doing fabulous. I think you’re going to love today’s episode. It’s been a while since I’ve done more of a personal, behind-the-scenes one, and I always get such an amazing response from you guys when I do this. I like to make sure I can throw this in there because I feel like a lot of you are on this journey with me we’re a lot of CEOs listening to this, founders listening to this, going through it together. Anytime I share more behind the scenes, whether it’s in my personal life as a mom and a business owner, or if it’s with my team, or if it’s with myself and my own personal development, you guys love it. So I decided to put together six things that contributed the most to my success in the last year.

I sat down and I really brainstormed. This last year has been amazing, and I’m going to talk about that and why. I feel like we’re doing a mid-year review, but really the whole last 12 months has been really incredible for many different reasons. Not just from a revenue standpoint, but also a happiness health standpoint. Which at this stage for me is actually more valuable than just the revenue because once you get to a place where you can pay for your bills and for the lifestyle that you want, then you don’t really want to sacrifice, at least in my opinion and in my own life, my health and my happiness in my relationships, because what’s the point at that level? So I’m going to talk a little bit about that, but I sat down and thought about what are the biggest contributors to that success in the last year? And if I was to talk to myself when I started my business, what would I say? What would I tell myself to do earlier? So that’s these things. 

I want to expand on that in terms of what the last year has been like for us? It’s been a really great year. It’s been a year of a lot of growth, and then going from growth to stabilizing, and growth to stabilizing. We’ve done a lot of changes and restructuring of things and I feel like really working on our leadership team and my team as a whole to be the next level. We’ve made a lot of progress on our team, on our systems, on our processes, on upleveling, all of that, especially on the agency side. 

I also have really brought in and focused on, yeah I think as of a year ago now, we weren’t even selling my Ignite program via an application. You had to buy it when we only open and close the doors from a live launch. So we changed that. That’s been amazing. We’ve put through over a hundred new students in that in the last year, it’s kind of like a new way to sell it through our application. I actually prefer it to the live launches. So we changed that after my launch in the fall of last year. Then I’m also launching a new company, which only has come from getting my team to the place where it’s running really without me in the day-to-day. 

I think a lot of people talk about this, but I think the biggest difference for me in terms of your team running the tactical day-to-day, and then there’s the next level of that. That’s having a leadership team actually make decisions and actually be able to take holes and gaps that you have in your company and be like, “okay here’s what we need to do. Here’s our quarterly goal for this. Here’s the project.” We are now at a point where I’ve got 27 full-time employees and we plan every month, every quarter we have planning meetings. We’ve recently separated them out into departments. 

So for example, we have an operations planning meeting for our internal team. We have an ads team one, we have a marketing and sales one, and then we have our Ignite one and they’re all separated. It’s pretty incredible because I still do go to all those, partly because I love planning and I love seeing all the projects that we’re putting on our plate for the next month or quarter or whatever it is. But it’s pretty incredible to me how most of those projects that are now being put on what we call our waterfall are not even created by me, are coming from my team saying here’s where we have a chance to improve, or we have a gap, or we had an issue, or the team gave feedback, and so here’s what we’re going to do to solve that. 

I think that has been the biggest change for me is having that and having the leadership team to be able to make decisions, to guide the company. It’s one thing to have a team who can actually deliver for the clients, but then when something goes wrong, everybody still looks for you and looks to you for guidance. Of course, I’m still there for guidance, but I have spent really the last year, at least, building my leadership team. We now have a really handful, I’d say probably almost half of our team has been on my team for close to a year, which is pretty incredible. With that, it’s so valuable and it’s such a great team. So in the last year, in terms of success, I absolutely measure revenue and where we’re up, but as I was saying earlier, almost to me more important is the level of quality of life that I have from these changes and from these things I’ve implemented. 

I am 100% in the best shape of my life right now. I have an amazing marriage and relationship with my kids, with my husband, with my family. I feel like I have time for them. I don’t feel like I am burnt out, or too busy, or not getting that quality time and being present with them. I am trying to read a hundred books this year. I’m actually a little behind on that goal, but I’m reading a bunch. I am doing my own personal development and growth. I have time to go get acupuncture, get massages. I’m just going to say, when I’ve said this before I’ve gotten some hater comments. People are like, “Oh, it’d be so nice. You’re just off like getting acupuncture and massages.” 

The thing is, when someone shares that they’re doing those things, I think it triggers people sometimes because they can’t do those things in their business because they haven’t set it up that way. But let me be clear that I do work really hard. Everything I tell you a lot will be around the thinking space and things that I’ve created, but I also work really, really hard and I’m very disciplined and structured. So if someone is saying they have self-care, it doesn’t mean they spend 100% of their time doing self care. I have the most time for that health and I absolutely do prioritize that. Like I was saying in the beginning too, you reach this threshold where I support our family fully, I can easily support our family fully and afford the lifestyle that we want, which includes extra things that we are fortunate to have and privileged to have. But then what’s the point after that? At that point you have to weigh do I want to work 10 hour days and sacrifice time with my family? Or when do you bring that back? 

I think there are phases of business and your life where you’re going to work more than others, depending on what you have going on. You might be in a season of your business where you need to work really hard maybe for the next three to four months, but there should be an end goal of getting to a place where you have more balance, because money is not everything as we all probably know, but do we actually realize that? I’m very clear on my own values, on my own priorities, and where my money fits in, and where I’m not willing to sacrifice things for money. 

So with that said, here are the six things that I feel have contributed most to my success in the last year. I am defining success by revenue and happiness, which I think is very important and we don’t always do that. So the first thing I have listed on here is called my CEO week. So I made this up, I don’t know if other people do this or not, but I made this up, maybe it was close to a year ago. It was after my launch last year when I was fried from the launch and I just needed time to reflect. Actually, I have some friends who copied me, which I love, and they do these as well.

So I blocked off four CEO weeks in the year, four think weeks, and I sat down and I defined what each one was. A CEO week is where I cancel all my meetings, but I still work. I really work on content, or some big projects that need deep thinking from me uninterrupted, I don’t go to my huddle. I don’t have any meetings. I cancel all my meetings and I have a very clear, structured agenda for the week. I also leave space for that creativity that you just don’t get when you’re trying to do it in a one or two-hour chunk in between meetings, or in an afternoon after you had a morning of meetings. It’s just a different level of use of your brain. So I have four, and they’re once a quarter that I blocked out CEO weeks.

I do a lot of content in those weeks that’s something that I like to batch, whether it’s my podcast, but also like videos. Then we updated our Ignite Academy program and there were a lot of videos I had to record for that. I batched all those in my CEO week. I’ve also worked on resources for our ads team that they needed that were around strategy, around our values, around the core process to the Not For Lazy Marketers Process, whether it’s the webinar funnel or whatever it is so that the team is able to take that and use that as a guide. 

So I have four CEO weeks that are all centered around that. To be clear, I plan them out. It’s not like, “oh it’s a CEO week, I’m going to do nothing and see what comes to me.” I believe that in your quote, “free time,” or white space time, you still want to be intentional with the planning. So I really do plan them out, I have a structure, I have goals. I have the days assigned to when I want to do things. I leave myself the flexibility to change those things around, but for the most part, I follow them and I see how much I can get done. 

Then I have four think weeks. On a think week, it’s the same thing. I cancel the meetings and I don’t have any meetings or my huddle or anything, but I also am not really working on a think week. I am reading, I’m researching. I’m going on walks or hikes. I’m actually literally thinking. A lot of times I’ve gone into those where I still have goals. So I have goals of problems I want to solve or things I want to brainstorm, and solutions I want to come up with. An example could be with my new company, something I need to brainstorm with the launch of it or the actual backend of it, or it could be a way that I want to change our marketing or solve a core problem in my business. 

So in think weeks, I don’t actually do work, but I do more thinking. Now I will be transparent here and say that these are harder for me because these feel less productive. I actually missed one. I have four scheduled for the year. I should have done two and I’ve only done one. I have one coming up, and I went back and recalibrated my year because it is easy to make an excuse for yourself and say, “oh, I know I have this schedule, but I have this and this and this going on and my team needs me, and I already have these meetings booked, so I’m just going to skip the week.” I did miss one because we had a lot going on and I felt like I needed to be in the meetings and I needed to be there for my team. 

I created that excuse because I probably totally could have still done the week, but these are definitely harder for me to implement because they feel less productive than CEO weeks where I’m actually creating content, getting things done, and accomplishing. Then think weeks are a little bit more open for interpretation and are just like, okay, you’re going to do nothing. You’re going to meditate a little bit more. You’re going to go for a longer walk. You’re going to sit there with a blank piece of paper and write down what you come up with. That’s hard. It takes discipline to make yourself do that and not be distracted. So those have been harder for me, but they still are on my calendar and they’re very effective like giving yourself that space is incredible. So my CEO and think weeks are definitely one of the things that have contributed to my success, both revenue and happiness for sure, but also my energy, and how I show up as a leader, and the clarity I’ve been able to bring our company and our team because of those times. 

The second thing that I feel has contributed to my success is a little bit more team-focused and business-focused versus personal. That’s the way we structured a specific meeting that we’ve been doing about once every quarter. It’s kind of like when we feel like we need it, but we call it a problem-solution meeting. We pull together, pretty much we’ve done it for the ads team and we could replicate this across the company if we wanted to do it in different departments, but we’ve done it twice this year for the ads team. We structured it about three to four hours long so it’s a very deep chunk of time so that we have time to go really deep.

Anybody who’s a leader on our ads team managing somebody else and then myself comes to this meeting. We basically structure it as everybody lists out every problem we can possibly think of that we’re experiencing right now in the company, and then we rate those problems on top priority to least priority. Then we brainstorm all the solutions for them. We do quarterly planning, we do monthly planning, but usually, those meetings are more like 60 to 90 minutes. The reason why this meeting is so valuable is a few reasons. 

One, it’s starting by me asking my team what are all the problems? We spend probably an hour to an hour and a half of that time chuck just talking about problems and sharing here’s where I think there’s a gap, here’s where I’m uncomfortable, here’s where the team’s uncomfortable, here’s where we can do this better. We focus all in on that. Giving your team that power to share with you the problems that they’re experiencing creates so much valuable Intel that as a leader, as a CEO, as the founder, could literally never come up with because you’re not on the front lines, you’re not in the day-to-day work. So that’s very valuable. 

Then two, having that longer chunk of time, so three to four hours usually, allows everybody to go deeper. Compared to our planning meetings that are like 60 to 90 minutes, this is more like a workshop where we are really going deep on the problems, deep on the conversation. There is a lot of collaboration. There are some arguments, obviously very helpful arguments, but it’s people disagreeing with their different opinions and viewpoints. We really go back and forth until we can all get on the same page or make an executive vote decision on something. It’s important to hear those other sides because there have been so many times where I thought I had the right answer to a specific problem or issue, and then I listened to what my team was saying and I changed my mind. If you’re not open to that, you’re just going to miss a lot in your company.

One huge thing and this is why it’s contributed so much to our success is if you can listen to your team and create a space and a culture for that collaboration, which doesn’t happen from one big announcement or change in your values, it comes from the little micro times that you show your team. You bring me an idea and I will listen to that idea and if we can agree on it, execute it, or create the space for executing it. This has helped with the success of our revenue, for sure has improved our delivery for our clients and customers a hundred percent, and also has created an incredible team culture for us, where people aren’t afraid to bring where they are uncomfortable, where they feel like there are problems and, and need those solutions. So anytime we need this, it’s really about once a quarter that we do this problem solution team meeting, and then it does drive from there on our planning, but it allows us to go deeper in that space. 

The third thing that I feel has contributed the most to my success is a little bit related to the CEO and think weeks, but is more on a day-to-day space. I included this as separate because I think if I was to tell you one thing to change in your life, it might be this. So that’s kind of a big deal, but one thing I really value and cannot recommend enough is creating time to think. I’ve done a lot of research on this and how, as humans, we used to do this a lot more. Before technology, there used to be a time where we were doing nothing but actually thinking, whether it’s sitting there and just thinking and doing nothing, whether it’s laying there, sitting outside, whatever it is that you’re doing, we don’t do that anymore. We don’t ever do nothing because even when we are relaxing and doing nothing, we are watching TV, or scrolling social media, or texting friends, we are doing a chore, or a project, or something. We do not sit still and think. It’s so difficult, but it is one of the most powerful things you can do.

I will say your brain will fight back hard that it doesn’t want to do this, but I do it twice, and I’m not perfect at it, especially at night, but I do it twice a day. So in the morning, I get up, and I don’t sleep with my phone in the room anymore. I haven’t for like eight months, best thing ever. Don’t sleep with my phone. I don’t touch it for the first one to two hours of my day. I get up and I actually go out on our back patio. For me, my alarm clock is my one-year-old. He wakes me up usually around six, so we go out together on the back patio. I do live in Texas so it’s warm enough to do this. We’ll see about doing it as it gets colder in the winter months, but we go out on our back patio and I just sit there for at least 20 minutes. Usually, it’s more like 30, because I’m telling you the time goes so fast. It’s crazy. I don’t really have a clock, but I know how long when I’m done. 

So I sit there, he plays next to me and I literally do nothing. I listen to the birds. I look at the sunrise coming up. I look at the clouds. If it’s dark out still I can see the stars. Who actually inspired this with my husband. My husband started doing this for like an hour, and he was telling me he gets up really early at like four on a good day. That’s his goal time. He was telling me about all the stars he was seeing and all the stuff, and I’m like, you know, that is a really good idea. I’m going to steal that idea. So sometimes we sit out there together, but we don’t really talk. We just kind of sit there and I’m thinking, I’m just processing. I try not to force myself to think about a specific thing. I try to focus on my breath, but I’m not actively meditating. I’m just sitting there thinking and I’m letting my brain do its thing. Sometimes it thinks about my day, sometimes it thinks about what I was upset about the day before. It allows me to go into the day so much better and so much more refreshed and rejuvenated, versus wake up, check your phone. I do that, and then I usually go do a 10-minute meditation journal of my gratitude and then plan my day, but the biggest thing there is, is that thinking time. 

By the way, I have a one-year-old with me that entire time until I go for my walk and I leave him with my husband. So I do a 10-minute meditation every day with him playing in the playroom. It’s not a perfect meditation, but it’s better than nothing. So there are no excuses with that. Having this time… It’s incredible to me how fast it goes and how it’s not actually boring. It’s so amazing to sit outside. There have been days I’ve heard like three or four owls hooting back and forth to each other. I hear different birds. It’s just so cool. So I highly recommend doing something like that if you can, but just having time where you’re just literally thinking is incredible. 

The second time I do it in the day is at night. I put my one-year-old to sleep. I’m in charge of him. My husband’s in charge of the other two kids. I put him to sleep and I have to lay down with him in the dark. I usually nurse him to sleep and lay down with him. In the past, I would have my phone. I’d have at least an audiobook going, or I’d actually have my phone and I’d be looking on Amazon or whatever, distracting myself. I started to challenge myself every day to actually put him to sleep with nothing, to not have my phone, to literally lay there with him and nurse him to sleep. It’s usually about 45 minutes to an hour, which is a long time, and it’s really hard. I fight it almost every night. I try and come into myself like, well, just tonight you can bring your phone and actually look at social media or whatever. Every time I don’t do it, I’m always really happy. 

I will tell you this, the absolute best ideas come out of that time, because usually I have had my full workday, and I’ve had meetings, and I’ve had calls with the team, and I’ve been through conversations, and I’ve heard problems that I’ve been thinking about. So by sitting down, laying down with him for that time, my brain just processes the day, processes conversations I’ve had and problems that have been brought to me or things that are on my mind, and I come up with so many ideas that I have to think in my head to remember them. Then as soon as I get up, I go write them down. That happens so many times. It just happened last night. I had three things that came out of it that were great ideas that I can’t explain. They just pop into my head. 

What I’ve realized is that I never had the space to do that before. If you can intentionally create 30 to 60 minutes a day that you’re doing that, I cannot recommend it enough. It is incredible. It allows you to have so much clear thinking and I can guarantee you’ll make more money and be happier doing it because you’ll have that clarity. So whatever you have to create what works for you, but creating daily thinking time is so critical. You could do it on a walk. You could bring nothing on a walk. I started bringing my audiobook on a walk. I used to do it on a walk, but I like to listen to my audiobook now, but that’s another opportunity where if you bring nothing, you just let your mind go. You don’t have your phone or anything. You might come up with great ideas. Sometimes I do that. If I need that, I will go for a walk without my phone too, because that helps me. That’s the third thing, daily thinking time. 

The fourth thing that has contributed the most to our successes is we’re going to flip to like a totally personal thing, and that is my workouts and my morning routine. This year I did 75 Hard. Then I did phase one of 75 Hard, and then I did phase two of 75 Hard. I love challenges. Personally, I like to be on a 30-day challenge or something that just keeps me structured. I like to have habits and habit trackers. That is my personality. I do really well without extreme discipline, but I absolutely love 75 Hard, and because of it, I am in the best shape of my life. Now it’s not because of 75 Hard. It’s because of what I did during 75 Hard. I worked out great. I do weight training. I did deadlifts, squats, and all that. I went for a walk every day. I had a great paleo diet, but I am after having three kids in the best shape of my life. What I liked about it the most is that it’s 75 days, so it cements habits. 

So even today, I finished my 75 Hard in January of this year. Actually, we started in October, I finished it in January. I did it through the holidays and then went right into the next phase. I did phase two too, which throws in cold showers. What I love about it is how it cements the habits. So even now we’re seven months past when I finished 75 hard, and I still basically do it every day. I’m not perfect, because I’m not on the challenge, but I go for a walk every single morning at the same time, a 45-minute walk. Then I try to get in that second workout, but for me, those times have become so non-negotiable that I will not schedule meetings over them at the end of the day, about four o’clock. I go get in my final workout and it is on my calendar. It’s a non-negotiable time.

So like I was saying in the beginning, I am in the best shape of my life and the healthiest I’ve been because I prioritize this and it’s so easy to be like, once I hire that team member, once I finish this project or one-shot, once I’ve finished recording this content, or I get to this X, Y, Z place, then I’ll start working out, then I’ll start taking care of myself, then I’ll start making time for my family. There’s always going to be something, and at some point, you have to say, no, no matter what I’m going to get this stuff done. Then everything else can move around that. 

That’s what I’ve done and it’s absolutely contributed to my success because I just show up so much better as a leader, as a person. Plus, I feel amazing because I am in the best shape of my life and extremely healthy, and enjoying all the physical challenges I’m able to accomplish. I think I’ve put on about 10 pounds of muscle this year from my incredible workouts. I am very spoiled to have an amazing home gym on our property because my husband trains clients. But I’ve just gone from deadlifting a hundred pounds to 155 pounds. It’s been so much fun and I believe it’s absolutely contributed to my success, especially around happiness and being present for my family. So that’s the fourth thing.

The fifth thing that I feel has contributed to my success is also a personal one, and that is, I haven’t talked about this in a really long time, but I got a recent message about somebody who was like, “thank you so much for talking about having a nanny on your podcast, because I feel like so many people have support in their personal life as entrepreneurs, but don’t share it and so it looks like they’re doing everything.” I liked that comment and it made me realize how more people need to hear this. For sure that what has contributed to my success in the last year is the support I have in my personal life. I could not do what I do without that support. I think I sometimes do feel bad sharing that because I feel like I’m spoiled or I don’t deserve it.

I run my personal life so structured. I have a chef who cooks me paleo meals for breakfast and lunch. Then my husband’s an amazing cook, so he does dinner. I do not cook. I hate cooking. I’m terrible at cooking. I can’t even do chicken nuggets for my kids. So I have a chef who cooks me healthy paleo meals so that I can eat healthily. I have a house cleaner who comes every week and does a deep clean of my house. I have a full-time nanny with my kids all day here. She is truly like a second mom to my kids. She travels with us. She’s traveled with me when I’ve gone on business trips and needed to bring my one-year-old because we’re still nursing. I call her my wife. I think everybody needs a wife. I could 100% not do what I do without her. The fact that my kids are taken care of all day and I’m fortunate enough to be right here when they need me, but they’re taken care of all day. I also have an assistant who comes in person. She helps me with returns. She organizes, she puts away my laundry. She does everything around the house and also helps with my email and other executive assistant-type tasks.

But recently, I have my business. I’m starting a second company. We refinanced our house, which, if you’ve done that, is such a pain with how much paperwork you need to submit. Then they take two months and they’re like, now we need all of this. So we just finished that, refinancing our house, and we’re remodeling our house and I’m managing that whole thing with the decisions and everything we have to pick out. I told my husband I don’t even know how I’m able to have all these balls in the air. Then I was like, yeah I do, it’s because of all this support that I have, and especially around my personal life. I’ve basically set up the way my life is that I’m either a hundred percent all in working,a hundred percent all in taking care of myself and doing self-care type activities, or a hundred percent all in with me, my family, or friends. And I don’t have to spend time doing the things I really don’t want to do, nor should I be doing now. 

I will definitely acknowledge that I’m privileged to have this, that I am fortunate to have this and so grateful for it, but I also don’t want to say that I don’t have it. I want to make sure that people understand when you see somebody who looks like they’re doing it all, and people say this to me all the time, how do you have three kids and run your business? And you’re starting a new company. Do you even sleep? And I’m like, yeah, I sleep eight hours a night. I’m doing this because I’m not doing it all because I have a whole background of support. That’s just my personal life. I obviously have an entire team supporting me.

You can have it all, but you can not do it all. That expectation on yourself, that you should just throw that away today and get support where you can. Now, when I started my business, I didn’t have any money to have support, so we did not have this. I worked it out with my husband so that I worked half, and then we split the day, and then he was with our kid at the time, and we changed it. Then the first thing I did was hire a nanny when I could. That was my first hire then I. So you don’t need all of that help tomorrow, but you need to figure out where are you putting the most amount of your time in your personal life that if you were to able to get that back, you could either have more time to work on your business or for yourself. This is how I was able to do 75 Hard too, to create time for these workouts is one, I have a lot of support from my husband in terms of time and how he shows up for the kids, and then also a lot of support. That has for sure made a big difference in my success. 

My last contribution to my success that I want to share is simplifying everything. Especially in the last three or four months, I’ve looked at my life, my business, our team, our offers, our marketing, our strategy through one lens, and that is how do we simplify it? How do we do less? How do we do what we’re the best in the world and that is all? I think there’s a lot of room for this in most businesses where you are over-complicating, trying to do too much. Here’s the thing. What I found us doing was we had a lot on our plate, and it was actually all important, but when you actually ask the question of what is going to move the needle the most, and then challenging yourself of what happens if you take this away? What happens if you take this project or initiative away, and realize we might be okay if we take that away. It’s not that people are wasting their time and doing things they shouldn’t be doing, it’s that people are prioritizing wrong and then constantly trying to do too much. 

We looked at our marketing, we looked at the number of funnels we have, we looked at our offers that we have in our agency, and we looked at the type of clients we’re offering. We decided to get more strict with that because we wanted to have processes and systems that was for less wide of the type of clients we were taking in and goes deeper on a specific core amount. I looked at it in my own life and my personal life, all the things I was doing and committing to and trying to keep busy with. I looked at it in our delivery, and our processes, and our systems, and where there were inefficiencies. 

So we’ve spent the last three or four months, and we’re continuing to do this to just keep looking through that lens. I think there’s a saying, I don’t know who said this, but simplicity scales and complexity fails. That is so true. When you want to grow your business to the next level, it’s not that you have time to keep doing more things, it’s not that your team has time to keep doing more things. Everybody’s filling their time 100%. It’s that you need to get better at what you’re choosing to do, which usually means you need to do things more simply and do less, but do the things you’re doing better. Simplify everything and look at that, because we don’t have to usually do as much as we are doing or over-complicate things as much as we are doing. There’s a lot of room to simplify. 

All right, you guys, this was a long episode. I wasn’t planning for it to be this long, but I hope you guys enjoy these six things. Send me a message and tell me what you love the most, and I’ll talk to you next time.