Iterate and Optimize
Chapter 9 of Make ‘Em Beg To Be Your Client!
Brian stood behind me and placed his hands on my hips.
“Now I want you to hinge here at the waist, grab the matte with your hands, and push the mat to the other side of the gym – as quickly as you can.”
It was early. I was cranky. And this just seemed so pointless. I did not want to push the mat that way! Could I just carry it? Everything about having a personal trainer was annoying me, not the least of which was the fact I had not lost any weight from working out, and we were 16 sessions in. I had reached a tipping point. Working out was not for me, or maybe Brian just wasn’t a good trainer. Anyway, I had my mind made up, I was going to quit at the end of the session.
I pushed the damn mat and delivered my carefully rehearsed speech: “Brian, it’s been 8 weeks since I started training with you. I have come every week, twice a week, and I’ve done everything you have asked to the best of my ability. But I haven’t lost any weight and working out hasn’t gotten any easier. I still dread every exercise, and everything you give me is hard for me.”
The corners of Brian’s mouth contracted and his cheeks slid up, making crow’s feet appear around his eyes. “Wait, did you think working out was supposed to get easier? I make the workouts harder every session. Your workouts should never get easier.”
I was confused. It looked like working out was easy for a gym rat, and it sure felt hard for me. I thought working out more would make me stronger, and therefore the workouts would be more enjoyable. I had been willing to stick with exercise for 8 weeks, as long as there was a promise of a future where working out was fun and easy – and made me feel healthy and strong.
Brian’s words weren’t making sense.
“So, if you always make it harder, when will I be able to enjoy it?” I asked, trying to get inside the mindset of fit people.
“Oh, that’s easy,” Brian said. “When you decide to.”
Outside circumstances were not going to change. The workout was going to get harder every single time. And yet, I had the power to decide to enjoy it. Even if I wasn’t losing weight? Huh?
That day, I picked ambiguity. I didn’t quit, but I didn’t fully commit, either. I wanted to lose more weight, and I wanted to be stronger. Brian said I had been getting stronger, and I could tell my clothes were fitting better, but the number of the scale didn’t move. I didn’t realize I had gotten stronger because I was doing harder things. Did that count?
Maybe he was just a slick salesman trying to pull one over on me. How could I know?
I called my weight loss coach to try to make sense of all of this. I thought she would ask for stats like my weight by day, or a breakdown of the workouts we had been doing, so I had all of that prepared but she didn’t care about the details.
“What do you want the reason to be that you work out?”
I thought it was to lose weight and get stronger. But now I had a different answer: “Because it challenges me to show up and take care of myself.”
“Then don’t fight the challenges or wish them away. Don’t expect working out to do something for you that you aren’t willing to do for yourself.”
I stopped checking the scale, and I met Brian back in the gym three days later, on schedule. I was angry I hadn’t lost weight, but I’d also noticed that I’d been eating twice as much on days when I went to the gym.
Why? Because doing physical things made me uncomfortable. And my solution for feeling uncomfortable, of course, was to eat. Eating more than my body required for fuel was what caused me to not lose weight. Not losing weight was why I was going to quit personal training, because it didn’t work.
But it wasn’t the personal training that was not working for me. It was my brain. I was trying to make Brian responsible to make me feel good when I worked out. I was trying to make Brian responsible to overcome my choice to overeat.
When I changed the reason, I was choosing working out – from losing weight and getting strong to showing up and taking care of myself – I took accountability for the outcomes I was getting.
If I wanted to enjoy working out more, that wasn’t Brian’s responsibility, it was mine.
If I wanted to lose weight, eating less wasn’t Brian’s responsibility, it was mine.
Building a business is like going to the gym. On one level, it may seem like your goal is to make more money and help more people. But the deeper question is the more important one to answer. What do you want the reason to be that you built a business?
Are you expecting your business to do something for you that you aren’t willing to do for yourself? I can give you my reason for building a business: Because it challenges all areas of personal growth and development – often all at the same time!
The money, and the satisfaction of helping people, is reward itself – and each is a fantastic one – but it’s not the reason I do the work. And therefore, I don’t expect the work to be easy.
The steps for using a book to get clients, make a difference for readers, and generate tens of thousands of dollars in revenue aren’t hard. I’ve taught many of them in this book, but like the steps for losing weight and getting stronger (aka eat less, exercise more), the difference between those who fail and those who succeed is determined by the mindset of the person who wants the goal.
If you have the belief that doing 10-20 hours a week of awareness activities should be easy, you might be disappointed. If you have the belief that you should make money and then invest in your business, you will be disappointed for sure. If you have the belief that just because you can help someone dramatically they should buy from you, you are going to be disappointed.
But if you have a belief like, “This is going to be hard and that’s exactly why I’m doing it,” then you can have so much fun!
The fastest path to a sold-out practice is detaching from the need to have a sold-out practice. I know it’s frustratingly counterintuitive, but once you can accept this, the next thing I’m going to teach you is going to be a lot more fun to learn.
Taking action to market your book and create a business where clients are begging to work with you is going to bring up resistance, and our goal is not to be sad about the resistance, nor allow it to derail us from our work. There isn’t some day in the future where you don’t feel negative emotions.
Feelings are going to come up, so how you handle them is actually much more important than trying to get them to not show up or trying to get out of feeling them. Avoiding is never going to work anyway, so we might as well just get good at feeling and managing them.
Earlier in the book, I explained how you need to let things run for 90 days to find out if they’re working. Now, if something is a total and unmitigated disaster, I am not suggesting you keep doing something that is wildly ineffective for 90 days, bash your head against a wall, and miss a quarter. If you are changing tactics you have to be 100% sure it’s not because you are trying to avoid feeling negative feelings.
One of the ways I know I’m making a change for the right reasons is that there is no drama surrounding it, and it feels sort of boring. Going back to my example in the gym, recall how I was all nervous to tell Brian I was quitting and then I was feeling ambiguous and confused. That’s not what it will feel like if you should switch something you are doing within the quarter. And you should not make any changes at all until you can address the drama that surrounds it. Then once you figure out why you are having negative feelings, you can make a decision about changing your marketing tactics from a clean place. Until it feels neutral, you do not need to take action.
As an example, say you are doing a webinar. You might be wondering if you change it up, will more people attend, will they stay longer, will they convert at a higher rate. But you don’t really have enough data to decide. Give it at least 90 days before you make changes to adjust something that may be working well with just a little more time.
And when you do start to iterate and optimize, you won’t want to change everything at once. In fact, I recommend making no more than one change per week. Make a habit to ask yourself, what’s the one most important thing I can fix this week? Each week you are going to become an expert on one new problem in your business. That’s why we want them running wrong, rather than ripping everything apart and rebuilding it.
Burning down the fucking barn is a terrible way to run a business. Do not burn down the barn. People are living there! Let’s just get new windows. Then we can just replace the floorboards. Or how about we buy some rugs? Each week, we’re going to change one thing about the barn, and eventually you will have a new barn, and it will be beautiful, and you will love it. We did not need to burn it down and kill people, or at least make them homeless and alone, okay?
What’s your problem this week?
The number one problem I see is that people aren’t crystal clear on what problem they are solving. The biggest problem in your business is the one that is blocking your revenue.
“I don’t have enough clients.” That is not a problem anyone can help you solve. It’s too big. You must unwind the Gordian knot. That is your primary job as CEO. The only thing you can’t ever hire someone for is to untie the Gordian knot of knowing what your actual business is, and what your actual problems are.
If you don’t want to do this part, this is a great reason to get, and love, having a job. There are jobs everywhere. There are wonderful people who are happy to be employees. Having faced some of the ramp-up to entrepreneurship, now you will understand part of why you get paid so much less as an employee than you could as an entrepreneur.
Once you identify a specific problem, you can hire people to do those tasks. Until you know what the actual problem is, anyone you hire will disappoint you, and you will want a refund and question their competence. (Kind of like I did with Brian, the trainer.)
You are the problem. You are the variable. This is true for most core business problems!
Good news: Solving your problems is actually quite straightforward when you approach it this way. No problem, on its own, is actually that hard to solve. And most of your problems are in your reach to move toward solutions.
Here are some of the most common problems that people have in their businesses to help you identify:
- Awareness (how people hear of you).You may realize, after you decided speaking was what you were going to do, that it’s killing your schedule, and you hate it, and it’s taking energy away. Great! Keep booking speaking gigs until you can identify and test a better alternative. This is your obligation to the company.
- Lead Generation (how people raise their hand to show interest). What is the actual problem with lead gen? Are people not raising their hand? Are they not showing interest? Are you getting a lot of hand raisers, but they’re not converting? What is the actual problem?
- Sales cycle (how people go from knowing you and liking you to trusting you with their money). Do you have a sales cycle problem, or is it a problem with your emails? Do you have the right data? It doesn’t need to change until we have the data. If you are not at 10 sales calls yet, that’s not your biggest problem yet. Once you are getting better at sales, it is going to be your number one goal – because if you can improve that close rate, you can scale faster.
- Product (having powerful products that get results). Make sure your product gets results. Do you need to optimize your product? That means you have plenty of awareness, you have plenty of leads, you’re converting them, you have clients – and they aren’t getting results. Make sure that is where you are before you change your product.
- Delivering your offer (operations and scaling). Are you having trouble keeping up with demand? Do you need better processes and procedures to get more done in less time? Do you need help?
- Managing the drama (the role of story). Always stay focused on keeping all your stories straight about what the real problem is instead of the imagined or created one!
This is how you optimize and iterate a business. You can do this, it’s not any harder than going to the gym. But you will never succeed unless you are doing it for the right reason. So make sure you know why you are going the entrepreneurship path in the first place, and what you are getting yourself into. It is a great way to make a difference, but it comes with its own challenges.
Get the rest of the chapters of Make ‘Em Beg To Be Your Client! here.