What I Wish Every Small Business Owner Knew About Making More Money

More work doesn’t equal more money.

More offers don’t equal more money.

More marketing doesn’t equal more money.

More lead magnets, more email subscribers, or more followers don’t equal more money.

And, the flip side is also true.

Making more money probably doesn’t mean working more, developing more offers, or investing in more marketing.

Nor is making more money precluded on gathering up more email subscribers or more followers.

Yet, almost every business owner I talk to has some anxiety about how they should be doing more of something.

I believe this anxiety tends to stem from not actually knowing what the “problem” is they are trying to solve in the plans to make more money. Many business owners assume they have a marketing problem when, really, just adjusting their pricing would accomplish their goals. Others assume they have an offer problem when, really, they have a fairly simple marketing problem to solve.

So what I wish every small business owner knew about making more money… is the actual issue they’re trying to address.

Making more money isn’t so much a problem to solve as it is the result of solving a core problem in a business.

But when we focus on making more money, the “more” is all we can see and that’s why we end up piling on instead of stepping back to address underlying issues.

Most often, the core problem in a business is that there are some fundamental misalignments between operations, offers, marketing, sales, and personal or social priorities.

In other words, one part of the business is functioning in opposition to another part of the business. This happens precisely because of our tendency to pile on tactics, technology, and “solutions” without first understanding how they fit into the bigger picture of our businesses.

We overcomplicate it when the path toward making more money is almost always to keep things simple. And with each complication, it becomes more and more likely that we’re working at cross-purposes.

When different components of a business are misaligned, it creates friction, frustration, and slow results.

How Misalignment Can Mess With Your Best Intentions

Let me give you an example:

Over the last few months, I’ve had the same conversation over and over again with business owners who think they need to do more marketing. This typically gets diagnosed after they’ve built a group coaching program or an online course after offering 1:1 services for years.

Their goal is to make more money without it being tied to the number of hours they work.

Solid plan.

Except this strategy rarely takes into account how this type of offer aligns with the rest of the business. When you introduce a group coaching program or online course into a 1:1 service business, you’re not just introducing a new offer. You’re also introducing a new way of marketing, selling, and operating.

Now if you’re prepared for that, cool! This is a great move to make—and it can serve other goals in the long-term, too, such as working toward a book deal or becoming a public speaker.

But most of the time, business owners are not prepared for adjusting the rest of the business to align with their new leveraged offer.

And often, they don’t actually want to adjust the rest of the business to bring it into alignment.

They realize that their personal priorities are actually being served best by 1:1 services and that by tightening up who they’re connecting with, what they’re promising, and how they’re packaging their offer, they can make dramatically more money without making substantial changes to their businesses.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that in this scenario, you say, “Yep, I truly want to make some substantial changes and start aligning my business model toward leveraged offers.” And in that case, you examine the business from top to bottom to see how to turn structures & activities that align with a 1:1 services business into structures & activities that align with a more leveraged business.

It takes considerable time and a wide-angle lens on the whole business—not just your marketing activities—to start making more money that way.

Let’s get to work.

Okay, if you suspect you might be dealing with a misalignment in the way you want your business to work, how do you figure out what’s going on so you can correct it?

I’ll frame this up with 4 questions that can really change the way you view your business and your path to generating more revenue:

  1. What is preventing your business from making more money just as things are now?
  2. What is the simplest way to double your revenue (whether it feels “realistic” or not)?
  3. What is more valuable to you than money and how is your business currently providing that (or not)?
  4. How does each component of your business align with the others?

Let’s take a closer look at each question, how they’re commonly answered, and what might really be going on instead.

This article is not designed to tell you the specific problem or issue that’s keeping you from making more money. Every business is different—as are your needs, values, and preferences as an entrepreneur. But it will give you a head start on thinking about how to make more money without overcomplicating your business.

And by the end, you’ll have a way to map a simpler, more sustainable business that’s in total alignment.

What is preventing your business from making more money just as things are now?

Your business is designed to make the money it’s making right now.

It’s easy to think that there’s still “room to grow.” But except for very early businesses, this is rarely actually true.

There is something about the workings of your business—“good” or “bad”—or how you approach them that has created the revenue results you’re currently experiencing. Without some sort of adjustment, the business will keep producing the same results.

This is not to say that your business needs to be totally redesigned to make more money! Far from it.

But when you assume that there’s “room to grow,” you’re more likely to try to do more to fill that capacity. That’s when we start to get in trouble.

Over the years, I’ve seen some common trouble spots that tend to prevent a business from making more money than it could. These things are baked into the design of the business but can, typically, be easily adjusted. The result is a simple, sustainable business that makes the money you want it to make with very few headaches.

Common trouble spots:

  • The target market isn’t aligned with the type of offer you’re making, the way you’re marketing, or the price you’ve chosen
  • The price you’ve chosen isn’t aligned with the market value, the way you’ve packaged the offer, or the messaging you’re putting out there
  • The way you’ve packaged your offer isn’t aligned with the want the business to operate, the customer you want to serve, or the way you want to market
  • The way the business operates isn’t aligned with the offers you’re making, the price you’re charging, or the number of people you want to serve
  • And so on…

Now this is can be a really challenging diagnosis to make! Often, it’s not a single diagnosis but instead a syndrome of symptoms and underlying causes.

So start with what’s obvious.

What’s preventing you from making more money right now?

Maybe it’s that you’re not making enough sales. Or that, when you do make a sale, the price paid isn’t sustainable. Maybe you feel your audience isn’t big enough to make more money. Or that your sales process could use some serious work.

What’s the very first thing that comes to mind when it comes to what’s preventing your business from generating more revenue right now?

Once you have that in your mind (or better, on paper), jot down all the things that could be contributing to that problem. What is that the first thing you think of when you consider why you’re not making more money?

Then repeat the process. Why are those things happening and how are they contributing to your challenge?

Keep repeating that process until you can come up with 1-3 strong hypotheses of why the business isn’t making more money. For example:

  • If I got clearer about what I offer, I could raise my price
  • If I focused on referrals & word of mouth, I could spend less time on social media
  • If I prioritized flexibility, I could work with clients in a way that works better for me

We’ll come back to these in how we tackle the 4th question.

What is the simplest way to double your revenue (whether it feels “realistic” or not)?

We love to make things harder on ourselves than they have to be! So we’re quick to dismiss simple solutions to problems we perceive as complex.

Unfortunately, this robs us of some really valuable data—even if the simplest solution isn’t the one we ultimately pursue.

Consider how you could double your business’s revenue in the simplest, most straightforward way possible.

There are really only 3 ways to answer this question:

  1. Double your prices
  2. Double the number of sales you make
  3. Double the frequency of times your customers buy

Once you’ve chosen the option that makes the most sense to you (there isn’t really a “right” answer here), then you can consider what would need to change in your business to make that possible.

Doubling your prices might mean adjusting your offer or your target market.

Doubling the number of sales you make might mean asking for the sale more often, asking for referrals more often, or more clearly communicating with your ideal customer.

Doubling the frequency of purchase might mean turning shorter packages into longer packages, developing a new offer, or upselling buyers more often. Proceed with caution! Using this strategy has a tendency to complicate things.

In the first question, we examined how to bring the business into alignment by looking at what’s preventing you from making more money. In this question, we’re gathering data on how we can bring the business into alignment as we take action on making more money.

Now you might have 1 or 2 more hypotheses for how your business could make more money.

What is more valuable to you than money and how is your business currently providing that (or not)?

Money is only one way we can measure how our businesses are taking care of us.

Most of us have other key priorities for the way we choose to do business and the way our businesses run.

You might really value a flexible schedule or the chance to share your message through a podcast. You might really value employing moms or redistributing wealth. You might really value creative freedom or predictable responsibilities.

Think of these things as your personal priority, your team priority, and your social priority.

But these priorities help us make decisions about how we ultimately want to bring our businesses into alignment so that they can make more money.

For instance, if you really value a flexible schedule, setting up a labor intensive business model might not work for you. If you really value employing moms, you’ll want to make sure that your pricing allows for enough room to bring on team members. If you really value creative freedom, you might not want to make an offer that requires dogged consistency.

The good news is that there are almost no personal, team, or social priorities that preclude you from making any decision about your business—even if it might seem like that on the surface. But being aware of what’s truly valuable to you gives you a clearer guide for how you want to align all the different components of your business.

How does each component of your business align with the others?

As I explained at the top, the overarching problem that is most often at the root of why a business isn’t making more money is misalignment.

The business’s core competency, core offer, primary marketing channel, sales process, and personal, team, and social priorities don’t match up.

That creates a lot of friction. Friction might show up as:

  • Not wanting to make offers because you don’t like to deliver what you’re selling
  • Not attracting new potential buyers because your message and marketing to match
  • Not delivering consistently becomes your systems and operations are jumbled
  • Not making sales because your pricing and your customers aren’t aligned
  • Not keeping great team members because your operations are at odds with your team priority

That’s a non-exhaustive list, of course.

These misalignments occur not because you’re a bad or ignorant business owner but because, as you’re piling on all that more that’s supposed to make you more money, you tend to look at solutions as isolated actions instead of new inputs in a deeper interconnected system.

That’s natural.

Honestly, it’s quite difficult to imagine the whole system of a business let alone make decisions based on how making an adjustment in one area impacts the rest.

I think we need a map.

So I made you one.

There are all sorts of ways you can use this to take stock of where misalignments might be happening in your business and how might address them so that the business can make more money.

First, map your business as it exists right now.

Take note of anything that feels wobbly or unclear. Notice if there’s anything that feels “extra,” unnecessary, or out of place. Investigate whether you can see any aspects of your business operating at cross-purposes.

Second, use the hypotheses you created in answering the first 2 questions to map different iterations of your business.

Each of your hypotheses is a potential path forward (i.e. double my prices and adjust who we’re serving, focus on a single offer and reach more people, make a clearer brand promise with systems to match).

Finally, map out the business you’re working toward as you make the necessary adjustments to generate more revenue.

Using all of the information you’ve gathered and the different ways you’ve envisioned your business, choose how you’ll move forward and map it out.

The key to keeping things aligned and making your business really work is to prioritize simplicity.

This map should help you do that. There’s just no room for complicating it!

But do double-check that your business in its simplest form achieves your goals and fills your needs. Because no amount of piling on or doing more is going to help you build a business you love to run.

What I wish every small business owner knew about making more money is that it does have to be complicated or a ton of work. It doesn’t have to mean doing a whole bunch of new things or completely rethinking your business.

By creating a simple business that’s in total alignment from top to bottom, you can make more money without the headaches. However, you have to be willing to do the work to see that—and now you have a plan for how to do that.

At The What Works Network, we’re working through answering these questions, mapping our businesses, and simplifying all month long. Click here to join us for this deep dive!

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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