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The Clever Catalyst Thrives at Year Five

This month The Clever Catalyst will be crossing into YEAR 5 of business. It feels like just last month I was sitting down at the kitchen table with my credit card hesitating to pay that $100 or so odd dollars to register my LLC. I kept coming up with justifications about how even if it failed or even if it only lasted 2 years or even if I could only offset a few of our bills at the time this would be worth it.

I wouldn't allow myself to think about what could happen if I succeeded. Did I think I was capable? Sure. I made the decision to LLC after working with several companies as a freelancer and realizing they would let anyone open a business. I was determined, intelligent, and capable. I knew this but I still thought maybe I'd make a few hundred dollars a month in profit. $1,000 would be more than perfect and I'd have a modest little hobby business to be proud of.

Flash forward 5 years later as much as I still like to pretend The Clever Catalyst is far from the modest hobby I once envisioned.

  • In year 1 I exceeded my personal earning expectations and brought on part-time help.

    • We closed that year with $25K in sales.

  • In year 2 we were in the heat of the pandemic and Bryan told me he wanted to leave his full-time job. We set a target earning for him and hit that earning in the same month. He left his full-time job and has been happily working from home since.

    • We closed 2020 with $54K in sales.

  • In year 3 we continued to bring on new team members, like our irreplaceable Tronisha, as well as new clients; expanding our service offering along the way as our skills developed.

    • Sales in 2021 broke $73K.

  • Year 4, was when things to switch from humble to we need more help!

    • We doubled our sales that year breaking $150K.

  • In year 5, my husband was able to leave his 9-5, which had always been our main source of income and I had to face my imposter syndrome dead on because honey I am doing the dang thing.

And as ego-boosting as all of this is to go over with you my goal isn't to brag. My goal is to illustrate to you just how achievable your small business dreams are. When I started this business I had $0. Literally. I had to save money for literally months to get my LLC and that was less than $200.

I had no wiggle room with expenses. My husband worked an entry-level state job, we had a toddler at home and student loans to contend with. Starting this business was terrifying. Growing this business has been hard. But it has also been one of the most rewarding and empowering experiences of my life.

So as someone who's been there before and as someone who talks to aspiring and budding business owners every day and knows how common my experience was I wanted to take some time today to help quell your doubts.

Not with inspirational quotes or pictures of my standing next to a Bentley - because your girl has a busted 2012 Kia Sportage but that sucker is paid for - but with actionable advice you can use to help you fake it until you make it.

So without further ado here are my best tips to THRIVE TO AND BEYOND FIVE!

Support your Support

Your team, whether they are full-time or just occasional help, is your greatest asset. Always. Point blank. Period.

This used to be a thing they knew in the business world but somewhere between the peak of industrialization and the beginning of late-stage capitalism, we all forgot that. Somewhere along the way, it became "good advice" to pay your workers as little as possible and keep them in line with the constant fear brought on by job insecurity.

If I had to choose the ONE, SINGULAR thing that made it possible for me to get as far as I have in one piece (professionally speaking, of course) it would be my team. They have come through in the clutch for me in ways I could have never asked them to and I am frequently scaffolded up by their support when work was less than ideal.

They are literally the best.

So why doesn't everyone just have an awesome team like you, Christi? If it's really that important.

For the same reason people don't do many of the things they know are important - because it's not easy. You have to support your support. You have to pay them fairly, give them space to have ideas, allow them grace when they make mistakes, and help them feel like they are a part of your team - because they are. Your team cannot be more committed to you than you are to them. It just isn't possible.

And if you're thinking that you can't do that with the people on your team now - you hired wrong. Go back to square one and start over. :)

Do the Damn Work

Listen, if your goal is to be off work by 4 pm sharp every day and choose what hours you're working based on how you feel each day because you're a Boss then you should really get a job at a bank or maybe a public school. When you're running a small business - especially in the first 5 years - you have to just do the damn work.

As we speak- Houston is recovering from a HUGE storm that left a million people without power. We have no less than 6 clients in Houston. Several of them need last-minute closure alerts and marketing material that was pre-planned to launch needs to be moved around to not just be wasted on a population with no wifi or interest at the moment.

All of this is happening while my #2, Bryan is off for the day because they are having an adoption ceremony for their youngest. And it's a Friday, so the rest of my team is either out or busy wrapping up invoice-able projects before the close of the week.

So guess what?

I'm over here making graphics designs, writing social media copy, sending emails about closure information, and doing all of this at 10 pm after coming home from The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes movie. . . and that's just another Friday night.

I am not saying you have to plan on working on the time - I am not that girl - but I am saying you cannot be work-adverse. Entire projects will need to be redone. You will have team members bail on you (intentionally or not) and those are the moments when you and only you have to do the work.

Because to be VERY CLEAR in this world you're constructing - this "empire" if that's more your vibe - you are the cornerstone for your entire team, your entire client load, and yourself. YOU. Accepting that is an essential step I've seen many a business owner entirely miss. Registering an LLC doesn't mean anything. It's your business when you work it!

Avoid the Kool-Aid

Speaking of empires and working too much I need to address the over-cologned-elephant-selling-snake-oil in the room. There is a propensity these days to overestimate what can be learned in an afternoon over a Zoom call and/or just how applicable these general guidelines can be to your bottom line.

I am a lover of learning. I actively homeschool my gifted 10-year-old and I legitimately enjoy it. I do math, electively as an adult and I haven't read a fiction book since I was in college. And I say all this so that you understand I'm not just a hater.

But - and this is important so lean in closer so you can hear me - AVOID THE KOOL AID! You don't need to sign up for that $3,000 coaching program. It's not an investment. It's a scam. Even if they don't realize they are scamming you - they are.

They want your money so that they can tell you what worked for them or worse whatever they want to pretend worked for them. Oh, and there is probably a community you can opt into as well for an additional subscription, of course.

I could go on about this for literally 100 days but to keep it brief here are my biggest arguments against spending your first 5 years using someone else's game plan:

  1. They are expensive.

  2. They don't tell you anything you couldn't find for free on the internet (because they didn't make this up!)

  3. You could learn more by just experience.

  4. If it worked for them it likely won't work for you. (i.e. Pet Rocks)

  5. If the advice is any good they aren't the only ones who know about and that takes me back to points 1 & 2.

So are you saying we shouldn't try to learn more about what works for what we're trying to do Christi?

Of course not. You can learn anything you want and you should. I use Google and YouTube just as much as the next guy. But what I don't do is put stock in the words of some dude who works for ClickFunnels and only believes in landing pages when I know my website needs a navigation menu. Or change all your ad settings because your friend paid for a course that said your ads would perform better at 2 am.

It's important to remember that there are entire industries that exist now just to sell you ideas. And that isn't for the kindness of sharing these ideas, it's a means for those selling the ideas to make a living. This doesn't make them evil but it doesn't make them what you think they are.

Always Remember: You've got this!

There is a reason a lot of people refer to their businesses and their babies. It isn't because we're naive to what it means to have children.

In fact, for many of us, it's quite the opposite. It's because we can recognize the parallels as parents ourselves.

  • The late-night anxiety

  • The hesitancy to let someone else help

  • The separation anxiety

  • The inability to turn it off

  • The blood, sweat, tears, and life-defining moments

  • The fear you have about how things will turn out

You've cut scraps out of your body, your time, your story, and your life to develop this external entity. All of these things make your small business SO much more than a side hustle. They make your small business a part of who you are.

That is what being a parent feels like. (To a lesser degree, of course, but more closely aligned than using the word "obsessed" to talk about Starbucks' new Spicy Lemonade.... you just really like it Stacy.)

And as a relatively successful mother and business owner I can say the best advice I can give you is to just stay the course and stay you!

That's it.

There is a lot you cannot control on this journey but those are two things that are ALWAYS in your control.

Don't let the fear, the changes, the anxiety, and the obstacles YOU WILL ENCOUNTER scare you off your path. And remember who you are, what you're doing, and why you got started! That human element is the single rarest thing in the entire"AI-enhanced" universe today!

Trust me!

P.S. If you're looking for a friend, coach, or just a talents resource feel free to book or bookmark our calendly! We're always happy to help!

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