Both as humans and as business owners, we tell ourselves stories.
I might tell myself that no one will pay what I need to charge for my work.
You might tell yourself that you can’t hire anyone who will do the work the way you want it to be done.
Someone else might tell themselves that they don’t have enough experience to be taken seriously, that hard work equals results, or that they can do it all themselves.
These stories aren’t necessarily good or bad–but they do frame the way we see our opportunities and challenges. These stories influence our plans and calculations. They impact our relationships with others and the relationship we have with ourselves.
The more I’ve learned about business, the more I’ve learned that these stories play a huge role in how likely our businesses are to succeed or stagnate.
The stories we tell ourselves as entrepreneurs make up our mindsets.
Another way to look at it is that these stories create a pattern of expectations and beliefs. Every action you take and every decision you make is filtered through these expectations and beliefs.
Your expectations and beliefs can keep your business stuck—even when it feels like you’re doing everything right. Your mindset can reinforce assumptions and prevent you from seeing opportunities to innovate. Your mindset can even create problems where there were none before.
You might build a new product, streamline your business model, employ a new marketing strategy, or even pivot your business entirely–but if your fundamental beliefs and expectations about your business are off, you’ll remain stuck.
Last week, I realized an old story that I need to work to rewrite and redefine.
It’s a story about not being popular–an old, ingrained expectation that who I am, what I create, and what I value isn’t something people actually want.
And when I say this is an old story, I don’t mean “as old as my business” old. I mean it’s almost as old as I am.
I can see how this mindset has repeatedly caused me to sabotage my own work. I start a project assuming it will flop or be misunderstood. I finish a project with half the attention I started it with because I can already see it bombing.
Maybe it surprises you to hear this. It surprised me to realize it! But it’s true.
This is the #1 thing I need to address in the new year–for both my personal satisfaction and the health of my company. I know my true goal isn’t to be popular or to create something for everyone. However, I am on a mission to create work that serves people in a big way and I can’t do that while continuing to operate under these expectations and beliefs.
As you can imagine, discovering a story like this can start to change everything. Suddenly, you see yourself, your business, and your opportunities in new ways.
It’s been a constant theme here on the podcast as many conversations about marketing, management, or brand have turned into conversations about an unexpected identity crisis or mindset shift.
So we wanted to dedicate a whole episode to exploring the ways that shifting your mindset can shift your business.
Now, before we get too far in, I want to make one thing clear: shifting your mindset is not a magic bullet. While your mindset can absolutely get in your way and impact your actions, it does not instantly solve systematic racism and sexism. It doesn’t break down very real barriers that exist because of your gender, your sexual orientation, the socioeconomic status you come from, or the place you were born.
These things are not in your head. They require extra work and energy–whether you’re a white man doing the work to create a more inclusive work culture or a genderqueer person of color battling these obstacles on a daily basis.
But again, to do that work effectively, you have to be aware of the assumptions, beliefs, and mindset you have around those issues and how they impact both your business and the people who are impacted by it.
So we asked 5 small business owners to share the mindset shifts that have changed things for them and their businesses. You’ll hear about old stories of who to serve, how much to hustle, how to create the most value, and how much we should get paid.
Each story is unique–but I have a feeling you might just find yourself nodding along with deep understanding as each business owner shares their journey.
Finding Your Best-Fit Client
In order to truly fulfill her mission, Annie Schussler realized she needed to shift the story she told about the people she worked with and update her business accordingly. Listen for how Annie didn’t just tackle this shift from a business strategy perspective but from an emotional perspective, too.
Hey there. I am a business coach and strategist for people who are trained as therapists at rebeltherapist.me and the host of the podcast Rebel Therapist.
I run group coaching programs to help these folks become empowered entrepreneurs and to create businesses that make a much bigger impact and make them much more money.
To give you a couple of examples: Rebel Therapist is for the therapist who wants to grow their therapy practice using a Health at Every Size model. Or it’s for the therapist who wants to take their work beyond the therapy room by creating an anti-racism online coaching program.
My big mindset shift was to go from trying to reach lots of really good clients to focus on serving only clients who make the absolute best of what I offer. It was a shift to focusing only on the people who are the best fit for my work.
I’ve noticed a few things about my very best-fit clients over the years. They tend to be very progressive and have a social justice orientation. They became trained as therapists because they wanna transform lives. They see the bigger picture of how various forms of oppression like racism and sexism impact their clients, and they wanna have a role in changing that.
My best-fit clients respond to certain things about me. They like that I’m queer. They like that I swear. They like that I geek out on business. And they also like that I slow down and work on mindset issues and that I’m trained as a therapist too. Basically, the stuff that might annoy many people about me is an asset to them.
Shifting all of my focus to these best-fit people has changed just about everything in my business. It’s changed my content strategy because I create my podcast episodes and I write my emails just for them. I write my sales pages for them. I create webinars just for them. And it’s even changed the kinds of headshots I get taken.
One of the most profound ways this shift has changed my business is that it’s helped me declutter my business model. Now I craft my offers to help just those best-fit people and meet their most important goals.
I used to offer one-off sessions for therapists who wanted just a small amount of coaching because I was asked for that a lot. And I realized that folks who signed up for one-off sessions rarely made the best use of what I had to offer, so I dropped that. Now I’m just doing group work. Because I’m only targeting my very best-fit people, they actually wanna be together. And they benefit from hearing each other’s questions and feedback.
Another recent example of how this mindset shift has changed my business is a shift I just made to all of my group coachings offers as of 2019. For years I ran my groups over two or three months with calls every other week. And I had just seen it done that way so many times. I had been through programs that ran that way.
Then I experimented once with a three-day intensive model, where we did all the work together over three days in real time. People who did the three-day were my right fit people, and they got way more accomplished. Some of them even said they had been waiting for me to offer something like this.
Now I’m moving everything to an intensive model with follow-up monthly group calls. In making this decision, I didn’t have to get stuck in thinking, “But what about how people are used to three-month programs?” Instead, I asked myself, “Well, what about Nicole? What about April? What about Bianca?” Lots of other people. “What do I know would help them the most?”
The tough part about this mindset shift has been facing my fears. I have to work through my scarcity thoughts in order to stick with this way of making decisions. That’s where my edge is.
So I’ll think, “What if focusing on these people means I won’t have enough clients? What if I alienate too many people?” It takes a leap of faith over and over to remember that for each best-fit client I’ve worked with, there are many more people like them who I haven’t worked with yet. It’s a leap of faith that focusing on my best-fit people is gonna bring me enough people and enough income. And I do have data to back it up. It helps me to look at my actual numbers. My income this year is almost double what it was last year.
Another hard part is facing feelings of vulnerability. In being visibly bolder and more me and highlighting the things that are assets to my best-fit people, I am more likely to get criticized or made fun of or written off by some people. So, I need to lean into why I’m doing this. When I lean into why I’m doing this and who I’m doing it for, my best-fit people, that vulnerability is really worth it. And I can’t accomplish my mission without being vulnerable.
This boldness definitely allows me to have a lot more fun in my business. This mindset shift has me on track to stay excited about my company rather than burning out over time.
Giving More Space To Your Community Members
We make a lot of assumptions about how we create value and what’s useful for our customers. And, often, these assumptions mean we end up working harder for lackluster results. Thien-Kim Lam shifted her mindset about how she needed to show up for her members so she could take a step closer to fulfilling her mission.
I founded Bawdy Bookworms about three years ago because I saw that romance books could be a good way to create conversation about women and sexuality and pleasure. Bawdy Bookworms is a subscription box that pairs romance books with sex toys and essential products, including tips and fun ways for women to explore their sexuality.
A big component about my business was creating a community to a safe space for women to talk about sex, relationships, and obviously romance books that got them all hot and heavy. We read for fun, and there’s more to reading than just what’s on the page. People bring it into their real lives too.
A major mindset shift that I had was in the beginning. I thought I had to be the expert on the topics that we cover in Bawdy Bookworms – mostly the female sexuality part.
My background was in direct sales selling sex toys and lotions, and lickables, as we used to call them. I had a lot of experience and spoke with a lot of customers about female sexuality, so I thought that in my online community that I had to be the one that knew it all and share all the information. I think it really stifled my community.
People waited for me to discuss things or there would be no conversation in our private Facebook group at all. I decided this summer to kind of step back a little bit and just ask more open-ended questions, and model the type of conversation that I wanted the group to have.
And for me, it’s hard because it’s a slow process. It took a few months but I’m starting to see a big change.
My group is more active in the conversation and they kind of fit in with the group. They’ll share. They’ll ask questions about what books to read or talk about what’s the best lip gloss to wear during sensual play that won’t smudge. Just really fun things and things that I might not have thought about.
Another way that I’ve been pulling back to encourage my community to participate more is asking members to co-lead our virtual book club. A part of our subscription box is that we have virtual book club discussions of each book that’s featured in our quarterly boxes.
In the last discussion we had, the person that I asked to co-lead with me was thrilled to be asked. She had some fantastic discussion questions. She thought about things that never occurred to me when I was reading the book, and I think it made our discussion more interesting with the different viewpoints.
It was more engaging, and it felt more like an in-person book club discussion by having more than just me leading it.
This has encouraged me to just kind of sit back a little bit more when people ask questions in the group and let the other community members step in to share information or their experiences. This can be hard because I want to get it done and help people out. But by encouraging my community to step into that role we’re building relationships with each other. They’re not only building relationships with me.
As my community grows, I definitely see myself giving more space to my community members. I want to let them feel ownership of the group because it’s not just about me. It’s about the people that I want to help in my business. It’s about creating that safe space for women to discuss relationships and sex.
Recognizing What You Don’t Know
When you’re an expert, coach, or consultant, it can be hard to back up and admit you don’t know the next best step. Okay, that can be a tough thing to do no matter what kind of business you have! Meighan O’Toole shares how she learned to seek out help and why she’s prioritizing her own growth within her growing business.
In my business, Meighan O’Toole Coaching and Strategy, I help coaches, consultants, and small businesses strategically grow their businesses online through business strategy, positioning, and branding.
I’ve started my business in 2012 after losing a job in the tech industry that was less than perfect and highly toxic. Because of this, I started my business on a bit of a negative mindset and foothold. It took me a long time to acknowledge this. I was always operating under the perception that my business was not going to succeed. And, surprise, ultimately that started to chip away at the success I had attained in my business.
I am not proud to admit that it took me almost five years to acknowledge this – which I do not recommend at all. And around late 2016, early 2017, I started to look around to find professional coaching to help me grow my own business.
Yes, I was reading business books and listening to podcasts and watching lots of webinars, but as we all know, that sort of education can only take you so far.
Honestly, up until around the end of 2016, my business had been moving along pretty successfully. But due to some bad choices made out of fear and naivete – not understanding that setbacks are a part of small businesses – my bottom line was affected. This put me in a bad position financially.
So I took a step back and started to recognize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I needed to seek out others who knew more than me.
It took some major setbacks in my business for me to really understand that I was not going to continue to be successful until I grew and learned from those who knew more than me. This was a massive, and not to mention extremely stressful, learning experience.
In 2017 I joined CoCommercial. I started to invest in my business through courses and one-on-one coaching that were of high value. This opened me up to a wealth of knowledge and help that I could immediately apply to riding the ship of my business, so to speak.
I also got very real about what I wanted to do within my business. By this time I was in business for almost five years, and I had outgrown what I had started in 2012. I was actually really bored, I had originally started my business helping people with social media strategy, and, to be totally honest, after the election of 2016 I was pretty much done with social media strategy.
I needed to get clear on who and what I really wanted to do, and I wasn’t able to do that until I started to learn from others, seeing what was possible.
This was a huge, huge experience for me. It was overall eye-opening to see that I have to continue to grow in my business for it to be successful. I saw that around 2016 I had started to get really stagnant.
As of this fall, I’ve pivoted my business. I’m working with a new niche and focusing on what I really love to do – help small businesses grow sustainably and strategically through marketing, business strategy, and positioning. This has been really exciting. Honestly,t has been a godsend. So while it took me a while to get here, I feel like I needed to go through everything I have to continue to grow my business and myself.
Mastering the Magic Of The Fundamentals
A mindset shift rarely happens on its own. In my experience, one mindset shift is followed by another and another. Maybe there’s a mindset shift rule of threes?
Jamila Payne shares the 3 major mindset shifts she’s experienced as her business has evolved–including how she needed to put a focus on mastering the fundamentals.
I am founder and CEO at Daily Success Routine. We work with busy professionals running a business or side hustle and are struggling with consistency and the management of work and life. We offer a daily planning system and community that provides our clients the structure and routines needed to put their ideas in action and to achieve their goals in 90 days.
There are three major mindset shifts that I’ve had during my entrepreneurial journey. The first one was around the idea of putting in the hours. I believe that success as an entrepreneur was really about putting in a lot of hours, working hard, giving it all that you have. And it is, definitely, about putting in the effort.
But it’s not about working really, really long hours, not taking lunches, and starving yourself.
It’s really about completing projects. So the shift that I had was in order to get closer to my goals, I needed to focus on project completion and not hours put in.
Now, when I’m sitting down for a work block, I know if I am completing the social media that needs to get scheduled for the month or completing a new module in the course. That it’s a project that’s done and getting me closer to my goals, rather than just focusing on putting in time.
The second big mindset shift was around the way that a lot of us are conditioned to believe that if you are a serious entrepreneur you aren’t supposed to take a salary in the first year or few years of your business.
But I’ve learned that that is absolutely not right. So I’ve adapted profit first mentality. You can learn more through the book, “Profit First,” by Mike Michalowicz.
The whole idea shift was that my business should be set up in a way that allows it to be able to cover the expenses of the business. It should be able to cover taxes, make a profit, be able to earn enough for compensation for both me and my team.
Using this methodology has been a serious game changer in terms of operating my business more profitably, setting it up in a way that allows me to sustain my personal lifestyle, my goals and the goals for the business.
The third mindset shift was around something that I had been doing for years. I was seeking out this magic strategy. I am a lifelong learner and I kept digging for courses and tools and anything that would tell me the secret to finally growing my business to the next level.
And what I learned is that business is not about a magic strategy. It’s really about mastering the fundamentals.
So things like how are you generating leads and consistently connecting with your target audience? Being able to build relationships, make great offers and referrals, and create an awesome customer experience so that people want to continue working with you.
These are the three serious shifts in terms of my mindset. The result has been that I am a lot happier as a business owner. I’m able to feel good about the work that I’m doing, create value for my clients and community, and I’m able to pay myself in a way that makes sense.
I really believe that being an entrepreneur is the best personal growth work that anyone can do. And when you master your mind, it really helps you to increase your earning power and make your entrepreneurial journey significantly successful.
Using Bad-Assery Instead Of Hustle
What happens when the truth gets a little out of control in your head? It’s true that starting and growing a business takes some hustle. You’ve got to show up, put the work in, and ride out the ups and downs. But lots of business owners turn their hustle into a mindset trap. They think if they’re not working hard, they’re not doing anything of value.
Helen Tremethick shares how she’s replaced The Hustle mindset with something more valuable to her, her family, and her business.
I am a brand voice strategist, coach, copywriter, and the founder of The Communications Distillery. A year or two ago I realized that the hustle mindset was destroying my family life and hurting my business.
To change this downward spiral I needed to add love and bad-assery to my business. Here’s what I did.
I work with scaling entrepreneurs and small businesses to convey their message to their audiences in a way that is truthful, resonant, and impactful.
This plays out differently for each client. Sometimes I’ll offer brand strategy while I coach them through the process of becoming their own copywriter. Sometimes I’ll do the writing for them.
Regardless, it’s always thoughtful and nuanced. I talk to my clients about slowing down, getting introspective on why they do their chosen work, what they stand for, and how they want to connect with their best clients which is why it’s ironic that I based my business on what I call “The Hustle.”
I capitalize The Hustle because it’s a real entity. A pandemic among us business owners. So pervasive that we laud it about as if it’s something to be proud of and frankly, I don’t think it is.
The Hustle is what convinces us to pull an all-nighter when a good night’s sleep and a strong day will meet the deadline. The Hustle tells us that we’ll miss out on something important if we step away for a walk. The Hustle is what stops us from feeling the sun on our face for just a quick second before we get back to work.
The Hustle builds our anxiety, increases our comparison-itis, and prevents us from noticing our successes. It took me years to realize that I needed to shift my hustle mindset into a business that was more than sustainable.
It was regenerative.
Continuously expending energy, shifting roles quickly and saying yes to every opportunity instead of recognizing the great ones, that behavior hurts us no matter what we do. If we hustle hard we burn out.
If we stop, even for a moment, we feel like failures. I was exhausted but I was also setting myself up. One typo, one unforeseeable challenge, one false step and I would double-down on working harder instead of recognizing my need to rest.
The mindset I needed to change wasn’t to stop working hard, it was to stop working mindlessly.
I like to think of my “Fuck The Hustle” mentality as having two supporting sisters: Love and Bad-assery.
To quit The Hustle, we need to focus on what’s important. Add quality and attention. Assure self-care as well as client care. We need to add love and to balance love so that it doesn’t become boring and beige. We need to inject our quirkiness, our nuances. Break the rules if it suits us. We need to bring our bad-assery. Love plus Bad-assery.
I didn’t need to stop working hard or setting big goals. I needed to become more mindful of how I moved my business forward. And since doing so, my well-being has increased. My family time isn’t divided between them and my smartphone. My revenue is still on the rise, and I’m a much happier and consistent service provider.
I stopped doing what I thought I should do and started running my business in my own way. A friend of mine calls this mindful leadership, but I like to think about it in ways that are actually achievable.
If I notice that I’m pulling away from my work I ask, “Where can I add more love?” Do I need to take a walk? Do I need to check in with my sense of balance?” If I feel comparative with another successful business owner or insecure about my achievements I ask, “Where can I add more bad-assery? How can I inject more me into this? How can I make it more fun?”
Big strategic decisions are made in the same way. Does this feel loving to who I am, what my clients need, and the direction that I want to bring The Communications Distillery? Is this new offer representative of what I stand for? If I were to release myself of my internal expectations, how would I then make this decision?
Love and Bad-assery. It’s the antithesis to The Hustle but with better results, and it changed my business for good.
What Have Your Mindset Shifts Been?
So what about you? What stories are affecting your actions and coloring your opportunities? What assumptions have you made about how your business should run or what your customers need from you?
There’s no time like the present to get clear on the answers to these questions. Before you set your next goal or make your next plan, consider how your mindset has shaped your business to this point–and whether you need a shift to shape the next chapter of your business.
What mindset shifts have you had that have changed how you see yourself or the way that you do business? We want to hear about it! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.