In 1995, I started the business of my dreams with lots of passion but no business experience of any kind. That first year I had lots of time but almost no money. A few years in, I had plenty of clients but hardly any time. Friends and family often complimented me on my business success, but I didn’t feel successful. To me, success was having both time and money. I was working 12-14 hour days seven days a week and still not making much compared to when I worked full-time as an employee.
I was exhausted, frustrated and ready to call it quits, but instead I committed to one more year and to making fundamental changes in how I ran the business. If I didn’t have both time and money by the end of that year, I decided I would just walk away. Having nothing to lose freed me to try both traditional and nontraditional approaches to create more time and more money:
- I gave everything I had to the transformation. Despite my exhaustion, I was willing to work harder over the short term in order to create time and money in the long term. I felt like an exhausted runner at the 22nd mile of a marathon, but I kept my eye on the prize—a three-day workweek and more income than ever before.
- I wrote down everything I would do when I had more time. I knew I needed to spend that extra time intentionally or risk filling it with more work. My list started with triage for my burnout (naps, quality time with loved ones, leisurely hikes) and then moved to dreams I’d long neglected (horseback riding lessons, the book I wanted to write, travel). The list gave me the drive to create more time.
- I created new neural pathways to support my “new” business. At the start of the year I had two long-held negative beliefs: Making money is hard and I can’t have both time and money, so I made my own affirmations to support my new mindset: Making money is easy and I can have both time and money. At first these new beliefs felt impossible, but I committed to making them real. I posted them on my computer, bathroom mirror and on the dashboard of my car and said these affirmations while driving, walking the dogs and at the gym. Eventually I began to believe them, and my schedule and bank account started to reflect them.
- I committed to generosity. I made it a point to show gratitude to my staff, both with praise and with money. Holiday bonuses, regular verbal and written appreciation and increased pay resulted in happier staff and lower turnover. Staff longevity created more stability and client satisfaction, which brought positive referrals, more money and less stress.
- I raised my rates. I hadn’t raised rates since I’d started my business because I was afraid clients would leave. Now that I was the one considering leaving, that fear no longer held me back. Because I had so many clients, raising rates just a few dollars significantly raised my income without adding more work.
- I hired people who could self manage and quickly delegated tasks I didn’t need to do myself. I made a list of all the tasks I handled myself and answered two questions for each one: Do I enjoy this task? and How much time does it take? If the task demanded more than a couple hours a week and I didn’t enjoy it, I delegated that task. One of my most time-consuming and least enjoyable tasks was returning client calls and emails, so I hired an office assistant to help with those duties. Turning over my business “baby” to an assistant was scary, but I found courage to let her do her job by stepping through my fear. As she and I grew more confident in her ability to run that part of the business, she worked four days a week and I worked three.
I applied these affirmations and strategies for the remaining years I had my business, when I eventually sold the business and now in my current work coaching business owners through their own transformations. It took concerted effort to change my habits and beliefs, but I have never once regretted it. Today I am living a life beyond what I could have imagined—I am so much more productive at work and spend the rest of my time checking things off my growing list of dreams and goals.