Profitability and the Solo Business Owner
- by Urszula Richards
- 2 July 2019
Profitability can be a touchy subject for the solo business owner.
Why? Because in many cases, running our businesses has given us nothing more than a job. "At least I'm my own boss and no one can tell me what to do". This may seem like a fair trade-off.
The problem with this trade-off is that you still end up having to do a whole lot of things you really don't want to do (hello invoicing and financials!) and things you are no good at or that go against your grain (hello sales, invoicing and bookwork). While these may not be your particular weaknesses, you get the idea. You will have your own things you avoid, hate or endlessly procrastinate about.
[Side Note on procrastination. I believe a lot of procrastination is not laziness but lack of a clear and easy path forward. Alternately, it can indicate some internal struggle].
One thing I know for sure is that as an introvert, sales, networking and general 'get yourself out there' activities has me procrastinating my way to cleaning the house, weeding and all manner of household activities which I'm not normally drawn to.
This internal struggle, and its impact on business profitability can come from many places.
I was reminded of this when I re-read the classic 'The Big Leap' by Gay Hendricks, and took the time to identify all of those things which I'm poor, mediocre, ok, great and exceptional in. I made a decision at the beginning of the year to focus on the top end of this spectrum, and to be brutally honest with myself about what I need to let go of.
The point here is - I can't blame everything on my introvert nature.
Sometimes the 'what' we spend our time doing is just wrong. The Big Leap was great for this initial realignment.
But now what?
Now that I have a clear idea of what I should be focusing on, how would I pivot my business to have more of this focus?
But of course! It was right in front of me all along.
I dug out my presentation notes from a keynote I had delivered over a year ago - it was all about retention.
What is the big deal about retention?
For one thing - the statistics are extraordinary (more on that in a moment).
In a nutshell it is all about increasing Customer Lifetime Value, an important metric in any business planning. And for another, it is an approach which completely works to my introvert strengths. Talking more to my existing clients, finding out what else I can help them with, rather than reaching out to new people.
It's not that I'm insular or don't like new people - its just the very act of reaching out which I find difficult.
I thought I'd put this to the test. I created a Marketing Genie mentoring program and only offered it to 5 clients who I most wanted to work with. Three of the five said yes straight away. This was fantastic! It proved that the studies were right.
Here are those statistics if you're interested. (Actually - I have included the whole presentation, including 10 Actionable Tips)
I decided I was onto something. The something was, that not only had I created a new product which worked to my strengths, I learnt so much more about each of these clients and what they need next. I could see this going on for a long time, with a mutually very satisfying relationship where they feel they have really someone on their side the whole time. Thats one thing that introverts are good at. Being present. And where I am more than a 'service' provider.
Another surprise (I still don't know why I'm surprised when I apply sound principles and they work!), was that in addition to the mentoring work, our web business got a lot more implementation work - to implement the strategies we came up with in the mentoring.
I applied the same client/customer retention - focus to the clients who had the most to gain from this approach.
Two of the Marketing Genie clients were able to focus on different activities related to retention - those identified as most relevant to their business.
For one client, we created a Facebook group to build a community around her area of expertise in the courses she was running where course graduates could go and talk about their experiences in implementing the training.
For another client, we looked at how to engage people at the point of their first online order, how to improve their VIP program and how to find out more about what their wholesalers wanted.
I would certainly not go as far as to say that no outreach activities were required for these businesses, as they are all growing - however, the focus on retention first means that less people are being 'lost' and those who stay are being served better. Whats not to love about that?
So you could say I have found my new love. Preachin' about how wonderfully effective retention as a focus is, and how as an introvert I'm going to get stuck right into it. Something I can lean right into.
Are there other introverts out there who have discovered this secret sauce? Please share!