The quest for more clients. It's a common, never ending journey for many small business owners, especially those in service-based businesses. While clients are vital, there are some nuances that you might be missing when it comes to scaling your business profitably.
You may think that clients are the cure to all your business problems. If you are just starting out, clients are vital to the longevity of your business. But as you progress on your journey, there will be a moment in time when getting more clients will no longer cure all the problems in your business.
Here are the 3 key signs that getting more clients isn't the answer you are looking for.
#1 More Clients ≠ More Money
There will be a point of diminishing returns in your small business, where more clients no longer brings in more cash. While your top-line revenue or sales may see an increase, no cash is making its way to the bottom line. This means that even though you're bringing on more clients, the money you bring in does not go in your pocket—in other words, clients start COSTING you money!
If you have ever had the 'busiest' month of your life and are fighting to make payroll at the end of the month, you are solidly living this business truth.
This happens because your pricing isn't geared to be profitable, which forces you to go 'get more clients' which is more work than there are hours to work. When this happens, the balls start getting dropped on project work, which leads to disappointed clients who don't want to work with you - meaning now you need even MORE clients. This is what we refer to as growing yourself out of business or growing broke.
Entrepreneurs typically try to spend their way out of this problem and go on the search for more clients. This begins to create a situation where the money is flying out the door faster than it is coming in the door. You gain more clients, but you don't solve the problem.
To break this cycle, you have to slow down in order to move forward. A critical review of pricing and packaging is the first step. The goal is to be profitable with the least number of clients, not the most.
#2 There's No More Time to Serve More Clients
Busyness does not make for a good business. Scaling a business is a constant management of your most valuable resources, time and money. This means being productive, efficient and leveraged in your use of time. Busy just doesn't foot the bill, but it is the bill of goods most entrepreneurs are sold as the only path or definition of success.
Compounding the problem is that 'MORE' is the go-to solution for most business owners, when it should be about 'BETTER'. If you've reached that point of knowing that you can NOT work any harder or any longer than you already do, you are not alone.
You could be looking at your $1 million dollar business wondering what you are doing it all for and whether you should just shut the business down and go corporate where you would make more and work less.
Don't despair, you can unravel the web that has been woven to create the busy trap.
First, your attitude needs to change about how the work is done and who is in control of your precious minutes.
Second, the factors impeding your progress in this area deal with productivity, systems, processes, leveraging time through automations, reproducibility and technology.
Most service-based businesses develop 'custom' solutions for their clients and therefore believe that each project requires a complete reinvention of the wheel.
However, even the most customized outcome can be generated by a process that utilizes strategies and produces a way to decrease the amount of time needed to serve clients.
The key here is doing more with less, getting more bang for your buck and leveraging your resources.
# 3 You Are Over Promising and Under Delivering
Have you ever felt like one of those performers who dash between spinning plates, trying to 'wow' the crowd by how many plates you can have spinning? What starts out manageable quickly becomes chaos as plate by plate comes crashing down to the ground.
Sustainability in delivery should be of the utmost concern when it comes to scaling your business.
Imagine you have a brand new Great Dane puppy. It is as cute as it can be. You pick it up, set it in your lap as you rub its head. Now imagine doing that when the Great Dane weighs 150 lbs and is the size of a small pony. The habit isn't sustainable.
Entrepreneurs can have the habit of serving in an unsustainable manner to try to prove their services are worth purchasing. In the early years, this becomes harder as you've likely been saying 'yes' more than 'no' to the client requests. (Insert spinning plates here.) The end result is projects are missing the mark, clients are unhappy, and you are discouraged and exhausted.
The best, and most profitable, businesses are simple. They do their one thing and do it with surgical precision. It's only after years of mastery that they even consider adding complexity. However, in the quest to solve money problems, business owners choose to treat the symptoms, not the problem.
This moment is when service based business should take a look at SaaS companies. These businesses do not launch with the creme-de-la-creme version first. They launch with version 1.0, get the bugs worked out and get to audience critical mass. Then they look at version 2.0. The lesson here for service-based business is not to add too much complexity too soon.
Your business needs to deliver the best product you can sustainably deliver at 10 clients, or 100 clients, and you need to stay in your lane while you master the ability to do so.
It's the fear (and sometimes the nearly empty bank account) that has you jumping on every opportunity and client that comes your way. This is a dangerous cycle to get stuck in. It is important to realize that not all money is good money in your business.
You need to question the opportunities and whether they keep you in your lane, or detour you off course. Follow the path!
If you are looking at what your business needs in order to scale richly, get the money right first. That is the first order of business. Positive cash flow puts you in the driver's seat and gives you freedom of choice. Refine your services and the way that work is done so that the delivery is sustainable at 5x your current operating level. That gives you profit and scalability. Stay focused in your lane for as long as it makes sense.
While you will always need clients in your business, they should not always be your primary focus. As your business evolves, your systems should be reliably producing clients in your business so that you can put your attention to scaling your business.
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Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!