My Biggest, Most Expensive Mistake to Date

Today’s post is a little more vulnerable (and a lot longer) than I usually get. But, I believe that it is important for me to share my mistakes with you so that you can learn from them.

This past year I made one huge mistake that cost me, my team, and my business quite a bit. After lots of assessment, discussion and some sadness, we’ve made some changes and are hopeful as we move forward. This entrepreneurial life is not for the faint of heart, but with every trial comes an opportunity to grow. The last ten months have been one big opportunity for that to happen for me and my team.

Last February, Lindsey and I were thinking through what our clients’ main pain points were. We quickly realized they were not only in need of the strategy we’d been providing, but were also in need of done-for-you marketing services, design and back-end business support. We looked at the market and realized no one was providing a program that combined strategy and this type of services. So we created our 3 Month Program and our Elite Program. I went to town marketing these programs using the the lack of anything like this as one of my main selling points.

However, I quickly realized why no one else was providing a service like this one.

I soon realized that what we had offered was way too much for what we were charging. The creation of those two programs, specifically my Elite program, seemed like a perfect way to serve the female entrepreneurs I am so committed to, but it totally backfired.

Here’s where we went wrong:

I didn’t consider my margins.

Running three online businesses means that my time is extremely limited. Because of that, I can not spend hours on things that are not in my wheelhouse. The Elite program I created required significant time from both me and my team. While we brought in significant income each month from all three businesses, that money was going to pay staffers working on projects for Elite clients. I simply did not charge enough for what we were offering. While I considered what would be most helpful to my clients, I did not consider what the profit margin for those services would be on my end.

I didn’t set the right expectations with my Elite Clients.

While most clients were truly amazing and a complete joy to work with, I did not do a good job of letting them know what to expect. I didn’t set clear boundaries for communication time. I didn’t set clear expectations for project completion times. I didn’t set clear guidelines for the services the Agency Side would provide. This left me and my staffers carrying the heavy burden of quicker than normal turn around times, clients who expected us to immediately meet their marketing needs, and too many projects to complete in too little time.

I didn’t hire the right team.

The high demand created by my upper level programs meant I had to hire several new team members; some of whom were hired out of sheer desperation. Hiring out of desperation is a dangerous place to be and I quickly learned why. My team and I spent time interviewing, on-boarding and training new staffers, only to find out they weren’t the experts they claimed to be. I ended up having to fire several people, which really took a toll on me and wasted precious time for my business.

I didn’t require my Elite Clients to go through my Business Accelerator Program.

My Business Accelerator Program is designed to teach female entrepreneurs how to begin building a profitable, scalable business. During this month-long program, clients learn the basics of marketing, live-video, back-end business, and they work on creating scalable streams of income. In addition to that, they have 5 strategy calls where we work on a plan that is specific to them. This program completely lays the foundation for everything I do in all of my other programs. Because I let some Elite clients into the Elite program without going through my Accelerator, I had some who had not laid the groundwork they needed and didn’t understand the grind it takes to grow a profitable business. They had misconceptions about the Agency Side’s ability to create leads and profits, and were missing the basics when it came to running their own business.

I didn’t have the right systems in place.

With the added demand our Elite and 3 Month programs put on the Agency Side, and our expedited hiring process, we simply did not have the right systems in place to be successful. We were spinning our wheels on several fronts. My whole team was burned out. Bringing Brandon on has been a huge help, but not having systems in place before offering such a big program really hit us hard.

So what did all of this cost me?

  • Thousands of dollars
  • Hours of sleep
  • Time with my family
  • Relationships with team members and clients I had to let go
  • My peace of mind, and a tiny bit of my sanity

Moving Forward

I am really excited about the new direction we are taking even though it’s come out of a huge failure.

Here’s what we are moving forward with:

  • New systems that have made us more efficient. This means we are better able to serve our clients without overextending ourselves.

  • A team of true rockstars. I am so happy with the quality of our staff. I am confident in my team’s ability to meet our client’s needs.

  • A brand new Elite Program that is built on solving client pain points while keeping reasonable margins for my business. We will be sticking to services that are truly within our wheelhouse of strategy and design. I believe that we are the best at offering female entrepreneurs winning strategies. I am regularly amazed by the products our design team produces. So, we are going to focus more on those things.

  • Hand selecting Elite clients and setting clear expectations for them from the beginning.

  • Prices that better reflect the value we provide. I am still committed to providing services at a reasonable, accessible price, but have also taken into account the value of my time and my team’s time.

While the last 10 months have been humbling, I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and hope that my mistakes are ones you can learn from as well. I truly believe that failure only has the power you give it. It can either define your business and stop you in your tracks, or it can guide you into something better. Instead of stopping, assess the situation honestly, kill your sacred cows, and make the necessary sharp right turns to get your business back on track.