EP 187: Spring Cleaning Your Small Business

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why taking the time to tidy up your business is so important
  • The 3 ways Tara has cleaned up her business over the last few years
  • Information on The What Works Network Spring Cleaning Virtual Conference
  • Plus, a sneak peek of interviews coming out in March
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Does your business spark joy?

Or are you overwhelmed by the piles of business clutter that have grown up around you over the years?

Maybe you have dusty products in one corner of your business, crusty old marketing assets in another, and a mess of outdated prospects in another.

If you’re like me, that kind of business clutter can weigh heavy on your mind.

Six months after I started my very first website, I had the opportunity to purchase a website from a friend who wanted to get out of the blogging scene. She had a much bigger audience and a global platform. I seized the opportunity and used it to catapult my ambitions into the big time.

But a few years after that initial purchase, I had moved on to other things.

I was coaching and teaching business to a different audience and using my own name as my brand.

Yet, that website persisted.

I had a team member manage the editorial calendar and guest contributions. We’d stopped selling ads—so the site wasn’t generating any revenue directly—but we occasional used it to promote other offers.

On paper, the website didn’t take up any of my time or energy.

But mentally? That was a different story.

Of course, I only discovered the mental load of that website when I decided to sell it.

When I finally handed off the keys to the domain name, email list, and web host, I realized just how much the upkeep of that website contributed to my baseline stress level.

What a relief!

I wish I could say that was the only time an old opportunity took up space in my brain… but it certainly was not. Is not.

  • I don’t use Twitter at all anymore but I still have it on my phone. My account is still active. People occasionally still tweet at me with questions or thanks.
  • I don’t—and won’t—promote my old books anymore but they’re still available on Amazon. People still buy them.
  • I don’t use plenty of old Facebook groups that I belong to. I still get notifications from them.

The clutter piles up. I might not be tripping over it but it would be silly to think that it doesn’t impact my day-to-day life and my ability to create results for my business.

Today, I want to share 3 ways I’ve been cleaning up my own business—with ideas for how you can do the same.

But first, I want to let you know that March is Spring Cleaning month at The What Works Network and we’re hosting our next virtual conference on March 21st with 4 different ways you can tidy up your own business.

What’s a virtual conference?

Well, we host these events ever quarter at The What Works Network. They’re community-wide collaborative learning experiences that you can attend from anywhere and, yes, they’re recorded if you can’t make it live.

Let me run it down for you: our members gather in our virtual conference space on Crowdcast starting at 11am Eastern/8am Pacific.

Our first session sets that stage for the day and I guide you through some reflection & conversation on the areas of your business you might need to clean up.

In the second session, I’ll speak with Kyla Roma about how streamlining your business model can lead to a smaller workload and bigger profit margins.

In the third session, Helen Tremethick joins me to talk about tidying up your message and website copy.

Then we’ll meet up for an Integration Session. This session is designed to give you the space to dig further into what we’ve talked about so far and start making a plan for implementation.

In the fifth session, I’ll be talking to Andréa Jones about how to reduce your workload when it comes to social media.

And finally, in our sixth session, we’ll close things out with Ashley Gartland who will share actionable ideas for maximizing your time and streamlining your schedule.

All throughout the day, you can chat along with What Works members, ask questions, and become a part of the conversation. It’s more interactive and collaborative than an in-person conference—and you don’t even have to leave your home office!

This virtual conference is only available to What Works Network members, though. So if you want to join us, go to explorewhatworks.com/network and request your invitation to The Network.

Like I mentioned earlier…

I’ve put a good bit of energy into cleaning up my business over the last couple of years.

It’s no secret that my business has evolved quite a bit in the 10 years I’ve been working online—you can hear more about that in Episode 181—and that means that I’ve accumulated plenty of business clutter!

The first place I started cleaning things up was our company expenses.

If you’re like me, you sign up for all sorts of services looking for something that’s going to help you reach more people or remove some manual work from your schedule.

Now, about twice per year, I grab my expense report and go line by line through the services we’re currently paying for. If there’s anything on there that we’re not using—or rarely using—I cancel it.

I also look for the things that just aren’t really pulling their weight. As my friend Jacquette Timmons would say, every expense on that report needs to fight for the right to stay there.

Once I’m done with this process, it’s not uncommon for me to save the company $1500 or more per year in recurring expenses.

Now just like any decluttering project, it would be easy to get down on myself for wasting money… but I choose to remember that those services had a use at some point and there’s no shame in the business evolving!

If it’s been too long since you tidied up your business expenses, make a date with yourself to do just that. Run your expense report—or ask your bookkeeper to do it—and start going down the list one by one.

Make a first-pass on it to take note of the things you know, without a doubt, you can get rid of.

Then, take a second and maybe even a third pass on it and consider the things that you’re only still paying for because getting rid of it would be a pain. If it’s not adding significant value to your business operations, it doesn’t need to be there. Getting rid of it will feel better—and save you money.

The second way I’ve been cleaning up my business is by streamlining our payment systems.

Payment processing has changed a lot in the last decade—and by that, I mean the services we use to accept payments from customers.

And because we have members who have been around for years and years, as well as products that have been available just as long, that means we have had people paying through a bunch of different systems! We actually have a monstrous spreadsheet to keep track of it all—and things still get overlooked and confusing.

So started cleaning these things up. Sometimes that meant cutting off places people could buy from us—like getting rid of our ebook shop. Other times, it meant sacrificing old sources of recurring revenue to streamline our offers.

Slowly but surely, we’ve gotten things to the point where 95% of our revenue flows through Stripe and that only two companies—SamCart & Mighty Networks—process our payments.

This has been a huge help to the folks on the team who manage customer service, as well as a huge mental burden lifted!

If this mess sounds familiar, it’s time to take an audit of your own payment processing. Make a list of all the ways you currently get paid: invoices, PayPal, bank transfers, Stripe, Gumroad, WooCommerce… all of them.

Then, similarly to the expense report, consider which payment processors—and the offers attached to them—are actually adding value to your business operations. Is it possible that some of those processors are only there to support old products you don’t really need to be selling in the first place? When was the last time someone actually paid you through that system?

Once you’ve taken inventory of how you’re getting paid and what you’re getting paid for, then you make a more informed decision about what you can get rid of and what needs to stay.

Finally, the third way I’ve been cleaning up my business is streamlining our brand.

Like I mentioned, I initially shared some behind-the-scenes on this in Episode 181. I also recently shared the story with Joanna Penn on her fabulous podcast, The Creative Penn.

But I want to get into more of the nitty-gritty now… because I think this is a pretty common problem for digital small business owners.

I’m very much an experimenter when it comes to my business. If I have a hunch or an idea, I’ll arrange an experiment to try it out. Sometimes those experiments pay off and sometimes they don’t.

Inevitably, each experiment creates a small buzz and a little life of its own. It’s something that somebody remembers. It makes an impression on people—even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to.

My business is just littered with these ideas—old names, old projects, old pieces of intellectual property. People still ask about them, even if (I think) I’ve forgotten about them.

Over the years, my business has been sort of a conglomeration of these names, projects, and pieces of IP. It’s been a mess to keep track of!

Back in 2017, we streamlined our business model so that we were only focusing on our community-oriented projects: this podcast, our facilitated mastermind groups, and, of course, our community. This was a huge step in the right direction!

Unfortunately… in streamlining the business model, I missed the opportunity to also streamline the brand. I missed it big time.

Well, back in January, we decided it’s never too late to do the right thing and started the work of bringing everything under the name What Works.

Now our podcast, our community, and our facilitated mastermind groups all share some piece of the What Works brand.

I’ll be honest: after all the name changes we’ve made in the last few years—including changing my own name!—this change gave me a lot of anxiety. But as soon as we made the announcement, I felt a huge sense of relief.

Things started to feel easy again for the first time in ages.

There’s a new sense of everything being in the right place.

It really is the same feeling as cleaning up your kitchen or tidying your closet!

Do you have brand names, projects, or ideas that are constantly floating around just out of sight? Do your business and brand feel a bit fractured and unfocused?

This is a great opportunity to look at what you want your business to be—instead of making do with what it’s become.

I like to use a mind map for this decluttering project. That way I can see, in its simplest form, the shape of my business. What is the heart of what we do? How does that take shape in the form of offers or projects? Can I better show—through branding or messaging—how these things relate to one another?

Every time I’ve done this, it’s brought greater clarity and peace of mind to the way I approach my business.

Those are just 3 of the ways I’ve been tidying up my own business.

Over the next month, we’re going to be featuring a series of episodes with small business owners who have found success by streamlining, focusing, and decluttering their businesses.

You’ll hear from Jereshia Hawk, whose business took off when she decided to retire all of her offers and focus on just 1 program. She’ll explain the mental challenge she faced making the decision, exactly how she retired her offers, and the system she uses for reliably selling her sole program again and again.

Next, you’ll hear from Mindy Totten, a business strategist for bodywork therapists, who pared down her workload to fit in just 3 days per week. You’ll hear what she needed to eliminate in order to do it and how her business adapted to the change

You’ll also hear from Nicole Antoinette who shares how building a Patreon community has allowed her to focus her business on her podcast, Real Talk Radio. You’ll learn how this focus has not only given her the ability to concentrate on podcasting, but has allowed her to achieve goals like paying all of her podcast guests and hosting small retreats.

Finally, you’ll hear from Janeris Marte, who worked as a bit of a jill of trades in family photography for years before streamlining her business to focus on the adoption process and adoptive families. You’ll learn how choosing a niche didn’t just impact her marketing but her whole business operations.

Ready to get in on all this spring cleaning?

Ready to tidy up your own business? Then join us at The What Works Network and we’ll support you as you declutter, streamline, and focus.

When you join us, you’ll get access to our monthly Flash Masterminds, monthly Community Roundtable discussions, our private community forum, a global network of experienced small business owners, and concierge service from the What Works team. And, of course, you’ll get access to the Spring Cleaning Virtual Conference on March 21—as well as the recordings of all of our virtual conferences on topics like content marketing, mindset, goal-setting and planning, money, and more!

We’re going to be opening enrollment at The What Works Network for new members in just a couple of days—so click here and request your invitation.That’s explorewhatworks.com/network

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support