Episode 39: Signs that You've Outgrown Running Your Business Like a Hobby
Sometimes in the life of a side business, there comes a time where it needs more attention from the owner for it to scale, or else it stagnates and causes overwhelm. This is good because it means people see value in your 'hobby'! By the end of this article, you will understand the signs that it's time to get more serious about your business, the mistakes to avoid, and what to do when that time comes.
Four Signs that You've Outgrown Running Your Business Like a Hobby
- Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed
If you're feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, having decision paralysis, or exhausted, then it's time to treat your e-commerce business as more than a hobby. What's happening here is you've probably reached your creativity cap. Why? Because 99.9% of the time, you are working on administrative tasks, fulfilling orders, making orders, bringing your family members to support you, and you feel like there is another way to do business. The processes and procedures you've been doing up until this point have outgrown you. And granted, that's supposed to be the case.
Now, you're stepping into a season where what you did before can no longer serve and support you. Now you're challenged to step into a higher calling and make decisions differently. So you're thinking about who can help you through your business growth, but more importantly, a phase where you're now thinking about your passion or hobby as a business.
At this stage, decisions and strategies have to be made differently, but more importantly, as the CEO, you must be willing to accept and embrace this new season and find the next solution to navigate that.
- You are at capacity, and your revenue has plateaued.
Do a simple exercise. Analyze what you've made in your business for the last six months. Has the average revenue been the same? Are some months higher and some months lower?
You may be doing your marketing very well, but your orders are not fulfilled the way you want them. The lead time for your customers to get the product may be much slower. This causes the constant feeling of overwhelm, like you're doing everything, but nothing is moving. So basically, you are stuck.
So, in this case, you're probably asking yourself, Who do I need to bring on staff for support? Where do I need to start? What does delegation look like? If I delegate, who am I going to bring in? Suppose your revenue has plateaued, and you're thinking about that. In that case, you're probably at capacity, meaning you can no longer run your fantastic business that is getting consistent sales as a hobby.
- Your customer base has plateaued.
When you're only getting sales from people who've previously bought from you, it's time to get more serious with your business. So you don't have a stream of new people engaging with you. Maybe now you're doing a seasonal refresh. With a seasonal refresh, you're selling to the same people who bought from you previously. When that happens, it's a sure indication that you're unable to balance the leaky bucket—the concept of acquiring new customers, retaining them, and reclaiming them. This means that you're at capacity. Your e-commerce business can no longer operate as a hobby anymore. So it's time for you to pivot and start thinking about it as a business.
- You've lost your creative flow.
This is when you're operating with the year-over-year mentality, constantly thinking that you do not have the capacity or the time and wondering what to do. So you're now looking to add some incremental strategies and tactics to what you did the previous year to get you to do something different. And whenever you're operating from that, you lose your creative flow because you can't step out of your business and work on it and not in it.
I love one-year plans, but for anyone in the growth stage of their business, ramping up their sales and trying to scale to the $500,000 or million-dollar mark, annual goals will stifle you. Think about COVID. Nobody expected COVID. Every year can have some seasonality, and many of us are not equipped to embrace that.
I love one-year plans, but for anyone in the growth stage of their business, ramping up their sales and trying to scale to the $500,000 or million-dollar mark, annual goals will stifle you.
So I would challenge you to start thinking about where your business will be three years from today. Start thinking about your growth plan from that perspective and boil it down to 12 different quarters. This is because a three-year plan with 12 quarters is expansive, and you give your strategies time to play out. Thinking of an annual goal, whenever something is not working, we're quick to give up, change everything, stop, and beat ourselves.
When you lose your creative flow, you cannot create strategies that allow you to expand and scale in the future. Always remember that your business is trailing behind you. Whatever you're seeing right now—your sales, marketing, growth—is a result of the things you implemented 90 days ago. So your business is always trailing behind you. So if that's the case, if you want your business to generate $30,000 per month in the next 90 days, you need to change how you're running and operating right now.
So you need to be in a position where you have some creative capacity and creative flow. You need to consider where you want to be three years from today. You want to consider your quarterly targets and goals in different functions: customer orders, production, fulfillment, sales, marketing, and operation. Determine what that should look like and what projects you should focus on every quarter.
Common Mistakes People Make to Solve the Overwhelm and Plateau in Revenue
Mistake #1. Hiring an extra person for support
When you're overwhelmed, confused, and don't have the clarity, you will not be able to delegate appropriately and accordingly. So the person comes onto the team, and three months later, you're firing them because you feel like they're not doing anything. But remember, you don't have the capacity to bring somebody on board at that particular moment.
When you're overwhelmed, confused, and don't have the clarity, you will not be able to delegate appropriately and accordingly.
Mistake #2. Hiring a marketing agency
The second problem I have seen is hiring a marketing agency or a company that will help you with advertising, thinking that your marketing will solve your scalability issues. Marketing will never solve your scalability issues. It's actually going to amplify the things that are broken in your business. At this stage, you're probably striving to figure out who your ideal customer is and how they behave, think, and buy. You still don't have the clarity.
Second, your pricing architecture hasn't been dialed in because you're probably breaking even. You don't have much cash left over when you're breaking even. This is an indication that there is an issue with your pricing. When you hire a marketing agency, they eat up the tiny margins or the cash that is left over, then you're no longer breaking even—you move into a loss. You freak out when you move into a loss because nothing is working. Your resort to stopping everything and shutting down. Then you go back to where you were, potentially in a worse situation.
Factors behind the overwhelm, frustration, and the plateau
- Not honoring your boundaries
Because you started this and you're passionate about it, most of your clients are calling your cell phone. Most of your clients are WhatsApp messaging you. Most of your clients are in your Instagram and Facebook DM, telling you, Hey, I love what I have seen. Order this for me. But you know in reality that it's exhausting. You're probably spending two hours with one customer helping them decide to buy a product. That shows that you're not honoring your boundary of being like, Hey, I cannot support you for two hours for free. Remember, your time is money.
Many say, If they buy a piece of cake for $50, it's okay because they've paid $50. That two hours is more than the $50 they'll pay for a piece of cake. That's why it's essential for you to really ask yourself, what are my boundaries? What am I willing to say yes to, and what am I willing to say no to? If you have a website, are you sending people to your site and being like, Hey, this is on my site; the Frequently Asked Questions are on my site. So please go ahead and look at them. Are you doing that?
As a CEO, you must be willing to speak up for your needs. Nobody's going to do that for you. And you have to remember that your business will suck out everything from you. So you have to have that point where you say, You know what? I'm done.
As a CEO, you must be willing to speak up for your needs. Nobody's going to do that for you.
I like to give this example because of how I did this. I run my business on social media and online. Last year when I was experiencing hyper-growth, I realized that I wasn't honoring my boundaries. I had to get two phones. I have a personal phone, and I have a business phone. And my personal phone does not have any of my social media apps, doesn't have any of my business apps, and that's a decision I made intentionally. Every day, the screen time on my iPhones goes off at 5pm, and I'm not going to touch my phone until the next day at 10am. My team knows that; everybody knows that's how I operate. And I intentionally did that because I had to be willing to speak up for myself. And the only way I could speak up for myself is by clearly having boundaries and demarcating what that looks like.
I appreciate all the doctors. I value what you do, but we're not doctors. We're not here to save lives. So nothing is urgent unless we say it's urgent. And so that's one thing. This is happening in your business because you're not honoring your boundaries. And now I want you to ask yourself, What are you saying yes to when you need to be saying no.
- Holding back from change
Think about a seed that's growing inside a pod. That seed has been nurtured, and the pod is about to break, but you've refused. You're holding back from that breaking point. There's pressure and resistance from you. And the resistance is because change is hard. So many of us are scared of evolving into a new stage of growth or into a new identity. And so, you have two conflicting forces, pressure and resistance.
One thing I want you to know is this. You're being called to step in and operate at a higher level. So when it comes to stepping and operating at a higher level, decision-making changes, and you will make decisions based on your company's needs.
I know the switch between a hobby and a company hasn't happened, but now is not where you're making strategies to feed your ego. This is where you're making strategies based on your company's needs and wants. And what does your company need and want? Your company needs a blueprint you can follow step by step to implement the infrastructure required to allow you to scale and achieve consistent revenue and profits without working more hours and burning yourself out.
Your business doesn't need a new team member. When you bring in a new team member, you apply more pressure to the pressure that you have. You don't know how to delegate; everything crumbles, you fire them, and it stays consistent. And the reason why many people are not able to make that shift is that they're resistant. And at this point, you've duct-taped your business with different solutions instead of getting the proper blueprint to get you to where you need to be. Scaling is not a guessing game; it's a science.
Scaling is not a guessing game; it's a science.
You can guess your way out of it, then you get to a point and realize, I've done everything under the sun to ensure that I'm moving, but nothing is moving. So that's a sure sign to tell you that you need some precision and that precision is based on a blueprint. And that blueprint will give you the step-by-step framework and formula for scaling your business to where you want it to be.
Action Steps to Scale Your Business
- Document what you're tolerating
So ask yourself, what is it in your business that you're tolerating right now? And when you think about what you're accepting, think about the few things you do but resent. Frequently, we tolerate things that we're resenting. Document that. What are the few things, two to three things, that you're tolerating in your business?
Jot down what you are resisting to do. A lot of times, the solution to our problems lies in the things that we are fighting. You have to think about what it is that you want. You have to have a clear description of what it is that you're seeking and notice what shows up. When you notice what shows up, resistance happens. But when the resistance occurs, it's time for you to move past it because your solution lies in that resistance. That's the work that needs to be done.
In this season, decision-making is very different. You have to make decisions very differently. It is hard—very hard—but you can do hard things. The vision that you have right now, you did not get that vision by mistake. God gave you that vision. And because He gave you that vision, He is going to provide. But the only thing holding you back from that provision is: (a), The resistance from moving towards what you've been told to do. And (b) refusing to make the right decisions for your business and holding on to things that no longer serve you. You know the things that no longer serve you, and you must stop holding on to them.
You know the things that no longer serve you, and you must stop holding on to them.
- Solve the right problems
You've diagnosed what's happening. This is your chance to solve the right problem. As a CEO, nobody can solve the issues that are in your business for you. You cannot hire a team to come and fix something that is broken if you, yourself, don't know the solution to that problem. You cannot get somebody to support you, or you cannot delegate the right tasks or get somebody to absolve you from the task if you, yourself, don't know how to solve something that is broken in your business. And unfortunately, many of us just want to go get somebody to come and fix this. Honey, you're the one who will fix it for you.
When you fix it, you'll be able to delegate it. Once you delegate it and delegate it the right way, you absolve yourself, and you move on to the next thing.
- The Real Remedy
So if you see these patterns in your business, it is time to know that you have outgrown running your e-commerce business as a hobby. So it is time for you to hire somebody to teach you how to set up your infrastructure for your business so that you can scale without adding more hours or working harder.
Overworking is not a badge of honor. I know as black women, we're taught to constantly be strong and fend for our families. That's not a badge of honor, especially if you're in the growth stage.
In the growth stage, you want to continuously operate with the energy of ease. A lot of things are coming at you from different places. And if you cannot manage your energy, you cannot filter what's right for you and distinguish between signal and noise. So you get trapped, more confused, and frustrated, and unfortunately, sabotage your business's growth. So scaling actually becomes harder. But I'm here to tell you scaling is so much easier.
In the growth stage, you want to continuously operate with the energy of ease. A lot of things are coming at you from different places. And if you cannot manage your energy, you cannot filter what's right for you and distinguish between signal and noise.
If you can tear out everything that you've been doing and simplify it to three to four things that have been working well and stick to that for the next 24 months, I can guarantee you your 50k months will be there, and your million-dollar business will be there because this is what it takes to scale.
- Get the Ball Rolling
So if you want to move from survival to striving, I invite you to jump on a call with me and let's chat because you need infrastructure, a blueprint to get you to where you want to be. And we'll provide you with the blueprint. The thing is, are you willing to make this decision for yourself? If that's a yes, get on a call with me. It's going to be a very conversational call. So we'll talk about where you are stuck and where you want to go. We'll show you what you need to get out of this hobby to get a system and create an infrastructure that will allow you to scale.
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