I believe we can learn a lot from where other people go wrong, especially in hindsight when bad choices become so much more obvious.
In the spirit of helping you avoid my bad choices I want to share with you what I see as my biggest mistake in the last 12 months.
Make sure you read to the end, as this might appear like I made a series of many different mistakes, but they all stem from the same issue, which begins with this…
I spent way too much money and time focusing on elements of my business that are only relevant for some time in the future.
Instead of focusing my efforts on what I needed to do immediately as the next step forward for my business, I figured if I could get a few things running at the same time thanks to outsourcing, I could speed up my results.
It sounds good in theory – Why not have other people build out parts of your business while you work on the core things you need to focus on.
Unfortunately it doesn't work out that way and in fact will slow you down even further, unless you do it at precisely the right time. I'll explain why in a moment.
Here are some examples of the tangible mistakes I made in the last 12 months, which stem from the one big mistake.
I hired people to do the following for me (wasting money):
- Write emails for email sequences I will need in the future in my back end, once I set up my front end
- Create new traffic assets, like a magazine and an app, so I could increase how many new people I reach
- Manage my projects for me so I could focus on other things (but I chose a poor candidate who did nothing)
I wasted time by doing things like…
- Studying resources that relate to things I might do in the future
- Paid a lot of attention to other people who are not relevant to what I am focusing on RIGHT NOW
The thing is, all these activities are beneficial, when done right at the right time.
You have to be in the right phase of your business to do certain things, otherwise instead of helping your business, you actually slow things down.
Problem One: You Have To Factor In Communication Time
Whenever you hire someone to do something for you, it's never as simple as just saying I need this problem solved or this thing created and you go do it.
You need to communicate with them, instruct them, train them, respond to their ongoing questions and make decisions in response to their prompts. Often these interactions serve to break your concentration and flow, because you have to stop whatever you are doing and re-focus on what they are doing.
Even the best people who you know can work relatively autonomously and make good decisions on their own require some initial guidance. You have to at least explain the job to them and then fill in any gaps in their knowledge as they work through your project. You can't hire someone who already knows everything about what you do.
Let's not forget there is also the hiring process itself. You have to write criteria, put up job notices, vet applicants, run tests, have skype interviews and even after all that they may not be the right person, so you have to do it all again.
Problem Two: Progress Changes Your Direction
In the example I gave of hiring a person to write emails for me, that is a great idea to gain leverage in your business, when done at the right time.
The mistake I made is hiring a person to write content that I can't actually use yet because I haven't set up the systems that come before that content. Then as I go about creating those systems, I realise I need a completely different set of content to what I just outsourced, so I have to re-write it all.
If I hired someone to write something I can use immediately, that make sense. Bearing in mind, as per problem one, I have to communicate and train them, so I need to be sure that is the best use of my time at that given stage of my business.
Problem Three: Bright Shiny Ideas And Cool People Distract You
There are a lot of successful people online who share what they do. Their information is great and very likely can help your business too.
The mistake is studying things that are not directly applicable to what you are doing now. If your immediate need is sourcing traffic and the best solution for you right now to solve that problem is podcasting – then that is the only time you should choose to focus on podcasting experts and training resources. Any other time and you are wasting your attention.
You should only use your precious study time and attention on things that address your immediate needs.
Make Your Decisions Based On What Stage Your Business Is In
I have made it pretty clear that timing matters. Deciding what your immediate next step is should only relate to what you need to do immediately. That makes sense.
But how do you know what you need to do immediately?
This ties back into the stage of development your business is in. Here are the stages:
Stage One: Momentum Creation
At this stage everything is about attracting customers to establish cash flow. If you are running a startup, you might get investment funds as your initial cash source, but bloggers and information marketers do not follow the angel/venture capital startup path. It's smarter to bootstrap a blogging business.
Your only goal at this stage, which is your immediate problem to solve, is how can I get customers who pay money so I have cash to keep growing with (plus you learn more from customers than any other way). You can't reach the next phase without cash flow to spend on things like better technology and hiring people.
At this stage it's always a smarter decision for you to do most of the work yourself because it will be a quicker path to income. You don't have to train anyone, just get out there and serve customers. Chances are you won't have the funds to hire people anyway.
Of course you have a cap on your capacity if you do most of the work yourself and it's not the ideal business model long term, but it's the right one short term. Your key first goal is to generate enough initial cash flow to quit your job, which will immediately increase your capacity without increasing your costs (and serves to reduce distractions, not increase them, which hiring other people does).
You will hit a ceiling at some point, but you can easily make six figures a year doing most of the work yourself. Once you reach this point, then you can focus on stage two activities…
Stage Two: Tighten Up Processes And Automate With Technology
Once you have some cash flow and a system that actually makes money, your next job is to reduce friction and automate parts of your system.
Technology is key at this point. This is when you might upgrade fromAWeber to Ontraport, given you more automation power and advanced segmenting. However you won't have to guess how to use something like Ontraport, you will already have a working income source that you can enhance and automate with Ontraports tools.
This is a key point – phase two has a lot less ambiguity than phase one. Phase one is about learning about your customers and generating some income streams as a result. Phase two is about taking what you learned and gaining leverage through technology and selective outsourcing.
At this stage you can hire people to do tasks that are mandatory parts of your business, but not areas you should focus on personally. Things like customer service, web design, membership platforms, editing, proofreading, graphic design – all the ancillary parts of your business that make your core value proposition better, but are not critical parts of it.
For example as an information marketer, your core value is the ideas you create. That is what people pay for. How you deliver those ideas in terms of formatting, content distribution platforms and use of graphics can enhance your product, but it's not the core value. This is what I mean by tightening up what you already do.
You shouldn't focus on tightening up in phase one, because it slows you down from reaching cash flow. If you spend too much time tweaking your blog design, or learning about which is the absolute perfect membership script to use, you are not focused on what matters most for that stage. You are slowing down everything.
Phase two is also when you can review how you make money and star to automate certain parts of the process. For example, during phase one you might have done a lot of sales manually, sending emails back and forth or having very rudimentary sales processes that require additional manually activities to convert a customer.
In phase two, you can star to set up more detailed marketing processes that occur automatically, so customers come to you more qualified. An example might be creating a three part video series to presell your product, or creating a month long email autoresponder series to do the same.
Now instead of relying on constantly producing new things like podcasts, blog posts or videos, or doing product launches, you can create a system that keeps selling for you all the time. You just guide all your new visitors into that process. This in turn frees you up from having to work so hard to close a sale.
You can realistically make multiple six figures and up to a million dollars a year with just you and a handful of contractors and a good system. This might be as far as you want to go. Or if you want to grow further, you move on to phase three…
Phase Three: Exponential Growth Through Full Time Employees
Phase three is when you move away from being a product and content creator and change your focus to being a great manager and hirer of people.
Hiring A-Players multiplies everything you do well already and gives you leverage to open up new channels of marketing. You can hire full time copywriters, designers, developers and content creators.
This extra capacity allows you to not only tighten up everything you do to the extreme, but you can replicate it horizontally, taking your existing marketing channels and rolling them out in new places, creating new products and attracting new customers.
For example, you can implement campaigns on YouTube, podcasts, blogging, affiliate marketing, CPC ads, retargeting, display media, press – everything you can think of.
In phases one and two it's impossible to do this because you don't have the capacity. Once you have the cash flow and a dependable money making system with metrics you know convert, you can literally open up any channel you want to and potentially bring in thousands of new customers.
However it's a mistake to move to this phase before truly mastering the previous two phases. Hiring is a full time job and if you still spend a lot of your own time doing things to keep cash flow coming in, you are not ready to make this change.
Phase three can take you from a million dollars up to hundreds of millions and even billions if your market is large enough. Bear in mind, your job significantly changes at this stage – you are not doing the same things you do in phase one and phase two. You go from creative content creator, to CEO, overseeing a team who does a lot of the jobs you used to do for you.
You may never want to enter phase three, but if you have ambition to create a seven or eight figure business, chances are you have to.
Make The Right Choice For Today's Business Goal
I'm still in phase one with my business, but I've got some phase two elements set up because I had capital to spend.
Many of the choices I made last year were mistakes because I was going after things prematurely. You shouldn't open up new channels of traffic unless you can profit from them. Don't have content created that you can't leverage immediately.
To be fair, many of these problems stem from mindset and strategyissues. If you're not clear on your target market or your value proposition you are going to have some latency as you test things to get closer to what works for you. Latency means making mistakes to figure out what is not a mistake.
One of the reasons I made the mistakes I did is I gained capital from inheritance. Having this money meant I felt like I should use it to expand my business, but I didn't do it in the right way, so I ended up wasting money. Sometimes it's better when you don't have money because it forces you to focus on only what immediately delivers cash flow.
I've learned my lesson and have a much clearer focus today. I hope this article helps you do the same.