The three-step business model that allowed my husband to quit the corporate world and come work for me.
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It started with a phone call. My husband John was somewhere in the world on one of his marathon business trips. With an MBA in marketing, he was constantly traveling the globe working with Fortune 500 companies. I was describing what happened with the kids that day when he said three words that nearly broke my heart: “I’m missing everything.”
At that moment, something in me shifted. I knew the little side business I had started with only $50 was going to change the lives of my family. I set a big goal for myself, standing there in the middle of my kitchen. I decided that I was going to grow my business so my husband could leave corporate America behind for good and come work with me.
Here’s my advice if you think your life partner could be your business partner and you’re looking to do the same for your family. Using the below three-part framework, in 12 months I scaled my business to a place that more than covered his corporate income. I call it “The 3 S’s of Business.”
When you run your own business, it can be very easy to let time slip away and allow work to bleed into all the cracks and crevices of your everyday life. Before we know it, the business we started — so we could spend time with our families and live the lifestyle we wanted — seems to overtake everything else, pushing our personal priorities to the background. When you don’t have the standard 9-5 job, it becomes even more imperative to set boundaries with your time, especially if you’re also a parent.
Tip No. 1 is to set up compartments for your time. Start by taking a birds-eye view of your week ahead and designating specific pockets of time to work solely on your business. Block these times off in your calendar and actively communicate these times to your family so they know not to bother you. The biggest key to compartments is setting up not only a designated start time, but a designated end time as well. Knowing there’s an end time allows us to hone our focus, increasing productivity. It seems counterintuitive, but constraints can also improve our creativity. Setting limitations can force you to think outside of the box about the resources you have available. Famously, Dr. Seuss created Green Eggs and Ham after being challenged by his editor to produce an entire book in only 50 different words.
Planning for your business can make a huge difference not only in your income, but your outlook as well. When we have a vision for the future it can empower us to make those decisions even easier. Not only does it help shape our decisions, it allows us to grow in a sustainable way.
When you have that future vision in place, it’s time to automate. Remember that you’re one person and it’s impossible to keep everything in your head at once. Automation takes the thinking and unnecessary stress out of the equation, so your days, weeks and months flow more fluidly.
Related: 15 Ways to Grow Your Business Fast
With my business, I took that idea even further and I created themed days so my mind wasn’t stretched in a thousand different directions, allowing me to focus. We had Marketing Monday, Outreach Tuesday, Warehouse Wednesday (warehouse, at the time, being my spare bedroom), Innovation Thursday and Financial Friday.
On Marketing Mondays I didn’t worry about inventory or paying the bills — I focused mainly on projects and tasks that fell under the marketing umbrella. On Tuesdays, marketing took a backseat as I worked on outreach — creating newsletter content, shooting videos and designing free downloads to give away… anything and everything educational that I felt would help my customers (and even people who weren’t my customers yet) be more productive.
The categories for your business might be different from mine. Here’s a few other ideas:
Team Management: A day to reach out to members of your team and connect with them to cultivate those relationships and encourage their own growth
Partnerships: If you do wholesale with other companies or collaborate with other groups or freelancers, this is the day to focus on those and keep those connections working
Growth and Learning: It’s always good to prioritize growth, having a day focused on building up your education allows you to always be at the top of your game
We’ve made it to the final “S,” which is to streamline. We often think that more is more, but more often than not, less is more. We believe opportunity knocks once, so we feel obligated to open the door again and again fearful that if we don’t answer, we are missing out. The fear of missing out isn’t just feeling like we need to go out more — it’s also worrying that we are supposed to be doing more. We worry that if we choose to purposely miss out, we are failing our business.
To me, there was no greater master at constraints than Steve Jobs. When Steve was reinstated as Apple’s CEO in 1997, Microsoft was dominating the market and Apple was struggling to survive. Instead of coming back and adding more products to try and boost revenue, Jobs did the exact opposite. One of the first things he did was take a good hard look at their lineup of product offerings, and then he cut it back 70 percent. He essentially slashed most of what they had on shelves in the stores along with products that were in development, some of which had hundreds of thousands of dollars of research and hours of innovation behind them. He got rid of all of it and scaled down to four main products. Jobs famously said: “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. It’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
In the course of one year Apple went from losses of $1.06 billion to a profit of $309 million. You see, Apple was distracted by opportunities. Every shiny object captured their attention, and so they scattered their time, energy and focus. When Apple lasered in and created less, they made more money.
It’s not just in our personal lives that we find it difficult to uncommit, it’s a hard choice in business too. It’s sunk cost bias that holds us back. I like how Greg McKeown defines this phenomenon as “the tendency to continue to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped.”
It’s not just products that need constraints, it’s all aspects of the business — from the clients we choose to work with to the groups we partner alongside. Let go of the sunk cost, release that guilt and move on to the next challenge.
My husband and I have been working side-by-side since 2009, and we love it. I love that I get to sit across the desk from my best friend every single day. I love that we have been able to design a life for ourselves where we live where we want to live, we do what we want to do and we create products that create meaning for others. I wish the same for you.