Surviving the rollercoaster

Feast and famine.

The phrase is thrown around often, but it’s only once you work for yourself that you truly appreciate what a rollercoaster it can be.

One minute, work is coming in faster than you can keep up with it. You’re working day in, day out, evenings, weekends and even through the night. Taking a day off seems impossible and the thought of a holiday is unimaginable.

Suddenly, things ease off.

You can breathe again. And you start thinking you might have finally got this business malarkey sussed after all…

Then you realise there’s barely anything in your pipeline, your biggest client has gone off the radar, and the project you had scheduled in next week has fallen through.

Sound familiar?

The good news is you’re not alone. And the even better news is that there are some things you can do to make the fluctuations less severe.

Understand the magic numbers

Most problems occur because business owners don’t understand their magic numbers.

How many clients do you need to win each month in order to cover your overheads and pay yourself the amount you want? What is your conversion rate and the average length of time from enquiry to invoice? How many enquiries need to be generated each month to hit your target?

If you know these figures, you can forecast for the months ahead, predict when a quiet period is coming up, and feel confident enough to turn away the projects you don’t want.

Pay yourself a set amount each month

When the work is flooding in, it’s tempting to spend a little more than we should. It’s great while it lasts, but when the work quietens down, it can leave us wondering if we’ll be able to cover the mortgage next month.

I’m a big fan of the ‘profit first’ way of working. Rather than paying yourself whatever is left at the end of the month, you take out the profit you want first and then invest what is left into your business.

Of course, if you want this to work, you need to have figured out your magic numbers.

Manage your marketing

When you’re busy, it’s easy to neglect your marketing. When you’re busy, you focus on the work you already have, not on winning more.

The problem is, once you’ve completed all your current projects, you’re left with nothing in your pipeline except tumbleweed.

So what happens now? Well, you go back to everything that worked last time of course.

You have a real push on marketing and advertising and networking. Your follow-ups are awesome, you spend hours putting together detailed proposals, and you take time to go and schmooze potential new clients.

All your hard work pays off at once, and you get an influx of work. Brilliant!

And now you’re back to being too busy to manage your enquiries properly, and you’re working on a load of projects you don’t really enjoy.

And so the cycle continues.

Up, down, up, down, round and round you go.

Take control of your pipeline; don’t let it control you.

To ensure consistent sales, you need consistent marketing.

Even when you are crazy busy, take time to nurture future clients. And when business is a little scarce, don’t fall into the trap of taking the projects nobody else wants.

It’s time to get off the rollercoaster

If you’re struggling to break the feast and famine cycle, I can help.

Every business needs a system.

A system for making sure you’ve got enough cash. A system for generating enough sales. A system for making sure you’ve got enough time to live your life. I work with you to create that system.

If you’d like to know more, let’s arrange a call, and I’ll explain exactly how I can help you build a business that works for you.

Photo by 2Photo Pots on Unsplash

Why your money is just like a tube of toothpaste

Every now and then, I hit the bathroom jackpot.

No, don’t worry – it’s safe to keep on reading.

Every now and then, I have a brand new tube of toothpaste. On the same day that my electric toothbrush is fully charged. And has a brand new head on it.

When those three things happen together, it’s like a toothpaste party.

But, have you noticed that when you’re starting a fresh tube, it’s not just a toothpaste party – it’s a free toothpaste party. You’re slapping that paste all over your brush … some slipped off and fell down the sink … no worries, I’ve got tons of the stuff, let’s just fire another colossal ball of it onto my brush. No pea-sized amounts for me my friend.

And then, a few weeks later, as the tube is almost exhausted, you pick up your toothbrush and eke out the final few scrapes of paste. You fold the tube back, rolling it in on itself. A pea-sized amount would be a luxury. I’m going to make do with a third of a pea. I can handle it.

And you know what?

Your teeth stay clean. A third of a pea is all it needs.

But when you’ve got a full tube of toothpaste in front of you, you don’t think like that. Because it feels like it will last forever. Even though you know it won’t.

This wasn’t my analogy – it was Mike Michalowicz’s. He uses it to describe how actually, when you’re spending money in your business, you can be mislead by your bank balances.

If you’ve got £10000 in your bank account, it’s going to look like that full tube of toothpaste.

You know you’ve got to keep some aside for your tax. You know you need to pay yourself at the end of the month.

But that little voice at the back of your mind is saying “no pea-sized amounts for me – I’ve got ten grand!”.

And you spend it.

And it’s gone.

And when it comes to paying yourself, once more, you have to make do with scraps.

If you put some money aside before you begin, you might only have £5000 in your bank. It still seems like a lot. You still feel like spending it.

But this time, you’re safe to do so.

Because the other £5000 is safely locked away in a different account. Ready for when you need it.

It’s just human nature.

Play to your strengths, don’t fight your instincts.

Take your Profit First and then you’re free to spend whatever you want.

If you’d like to download some free chapters from the book, just click here.

How Two Magic Numbers can give you a predictable and reliable business

Running a business is hard work isn’t it?

That’s the truth of it. 

Sleepless nights. 

Long hours. 

Financial stress. 

That’s how it goes for a good few years, while you get yourself established. 

And then, some magical lever gets pulled, and then you’ve made it. 

Out the other side. 

But how do you get to that magical point? What makes the magic happen?

There are actually two things that make it happen. 

Two Magic Numbers. 

These two numbers, once you know them, give you a level of certainty and confidence in your business. 

They mean you can plan ahead. 

They mean you can predict the future. 

They give you the space to concentrate on the things that matter. 

And they allow you to safely turn down the bad clients, the ones who always hammer you down on price, the ones who take up all of your time, the ones who are always complaining. 

The first Magic Number is your Conversion Rate. 

Suppose you go out and get 100 business cards from a load of networking events. You go through those business cards, calling each person up on the phone, and you end up with 30 people who are willing to have a meeting. You go to those 30 meetings and you end up with 15 people who would like you to give a presentation to the board. You give the presentations and you end up with 10 people who would like to buy your services. 

10 out of 100 leads turn into business. Your conversion rate is 10%

Your second Magic Number is your Sales Cycle Length.

Let’s say you spend all of January getting those 100 business cards. Throughout January, you’re on the phone to people, but some are busy, others are away – so your 30 meetings end up being booked across January and February. Your first new client from this round of networking signs at the beginning of February – barely four weeks after you started. But after meetings and presentations, delays and postponements, the tenth new client, signs up in April – almost 16 weeks after you got their card. 

On average, the 10 new clients you got signed up 8 weeks after you received their business card. Your Sales Cycle Length is 8 weeks

Now you know those Two Magic Numbers, you can start making predictions about the future. 

Suppose in April, you did another round of networking, but this time you only got 50 business cards. Based on your Two Magic Numbers, that suggests you’ll get 5 new clients at some time in June. 

The real power of this comes when you decide to use it to your advantage, however. Let’s say you want to raise an extra load of money to go on holiday. If you know your Two Magic Numbers, you can use them to calculate how many leads you need to generate – and when – so that you’ve got the new clients, and the money in your pocket, at just the right time. 

If you’d like to know more about how to calculate your Two Magic Numbers, check out my video and email sequence

The trouble with Post-it notes

I’m one of those people who loves stationery shops.

There’s not much better than a really heavy sketch pad and a 4B pencil.

Or a fountain pen, freshly filled with ink.

I love sketching in biro too – there’s nothing else like it.

Notepads, pens, card. It’s fantastic stuff.

It’s also really simple and understandable.

Physical.

No surprise that the most used internet application is email – because it mimics the way a paper letter works – and it’s still the best way to get in touch with someone today, despite the myriad of alternatives.

When getting your business organised, using something physical is often the very best first step.

Go to any office – how many people have their computer monitor covered in post it notes.

How many people have a whiteboard on the wall with the plan for the next few months – or their sales figures.

This is great.

It’s better to have a plan than have none.

Starting out you need to get organised as quickly and cheaply as possible.

But there comes a point when you need to move on.

While I love paper, I love fountain pens, I love notebooks, I also have a real fear around them.

What happens when I lose it?

So much important information. My to do lists, my detailed notes on how a particular project needs to work out. My diary for the next few weeks.

It would be so easy to leave it on a train. Or spill tea all over it. Or have it fall out of my bag.

And then I’d be screwed.

At one place I used to work, we had a giant whiteboard, listing out all the tasks we had for our variety of projects. Each one was placed exactly where it needed to be, so the right team knew what they had to do next. So we knew when it was due for completion. Our entire work schedule for the next few months.

At the time, we were working in a Portakabin, as we had outgrown our main office. The door for the cabin was annoying and hard to open. So you sort of had to kick it to get it open.

One day, someone came in, kicked it open, just as a gust of wind blew outside. The wind caught inside the cabin and blew half the post-its off the board and on to the floor.

In a fraction of a second, our plans for the next month were just ruined.

It was only a small issue. We guessed at where everything belonged and were back to normal in quarter of an hour.

But it’s a reminder that there comes a point where paper won’t do the job you need it to. Even worse if we were spread across multiple offices.

One advantage of “cloud” systems (which basically means that it’s someone else’s responsibility to look after it) is the data is backed up, it’s replicated and it’s accessible wherever you are.

Are you getting to the stage where it’s something you need to think about? If so, I’m happy to advise – click here to arrange a call-back at a time that suits you.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash