Starting a Business is Tough
First off…YOU are a Superhero. Anyone that starts a business from scratch, that creates something that didn’t exist before- those people are heroes.
But when you give birth to a new idea, there is going to be some friction. So much friction that you might think that this was a bad idea, that you should just quit this crazy adventure.
And you wouldn’t be alone. So many businesses fail at this stage. The truth is, you don’t need to abandon the business, you just need to get away from the chaos.
Whether you are brand new to the lesson business or have been at it for a while, you might find yourself in a place of chaos. We have observed five stages in every lesson-based business that we continue to cycle through.
As we covered in the intro, the stages are
- Stage 1: In Chaos
- Stage 2: Getting Organized
- Stage 3: Engaging Students
- Stage 4: Fueling Growth
- Stage 5: Building Culture
You can make it all the way to having a great culture, everything is smooth sailing, and then the unexpected happens. It can be unexpected growth, a pivot in the business, or even an unexpected pandemic that sends things into chaos and you start the cycle again.
Chaos comes in many shapes and sizes, but there are some common causes that we have found from working with hundreds of lesson-based businesses. Just know that you are not alone and that you are not stuck!
Identify that You’re In Chaos
So how do you know if you are in chaos?
Is it when you are losing all your hair like Chris?
Some of you are very aware the train is off the tracks, but some of you think the constant frenzy is just what a successful, booming business looks like. You’re so excited to be doing this work that you aren’t paying attention to the unsustainable nature of what you are building. So let’s break it down.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Every day feels like there is a new problem or set of problems
- You’re constantly chasing down payments
- Your phone is always blowing up
- You are doing the work of the owner, social media manager, instructor, payment processor, janitor and more!
- More and more you spend your days reacting instead of doing what you had planned
It’s normal for any business to have unplanned work, but when the majority of your time is spent on unplanned work, it’s time to put some systems in place that help alleviate all of that.
This is the stage where most people give up the business entirely or go into survival mode and don’t make time to actually identify what is causing their problems.
So if you feel like you are in chaos and you are still keeping the business afloat- you are one of the few. Give yourself some props! Then… you can work to make some changes that help make this thing last.
Identify What is Causing Chaos
What are the things in your business that wake you up in the middle of the night? The first step in getting out of chaos is getting clear about what is creating it.
Common Areas of Weakness
Nine times out of ten, the business is weak in the following areas:
This could be enrollments, registration, communication with parents, etc. If you are doing this all with a pencil- there goes half of your day.
- Chasing payments
A lot of lesson-based business owners really struggle with the money part. They don’t think they deserve it or feel guilty about asking for it. But money is the lifeblood of the business and necessary to keep things going.
Money is just a metaphor for the impact you are making. The greater your impact, the greater the financial windfall. The greater your financial windfall, the greater your future impact.
Even when you are confident about what you are charging and the value of what you are offering, you still have to get the payments. If you’re doing this part wrong, it is taking up way too much of your mental capacity.
- Customer service
Are you getting drained because you are dealing with families and their nuanced requests all the time? It might be time to change some things.
- Communication with your students
Are you manually sending out reminder texts or getting questions about when and where lessons are taking place that week? When something changes last minute, do you have a way to communicate that? If you conduct lessons for kids and teens- are you letting your instructors text your students directly or do you have a layer of safety and transparency?
- Communication with your instructors
Similar to your students, if there is an unforeseen change in the schedule, how do you let instructors know?
If you break into a cold sweat just thinking about these five things, they might be where the business is weak. If you can learn to accept that, you can learn to get out of your own way.
You made up the rules of this business when you started, which means you get to make up new ones. If the way you are doing things drains you, change it up! In the next post, we will talk about how. First, you just need to be aware of the what.
Wearing All the Hats
The next thing you need to identify is all the roles you are actively taking on as a business owner.
Often those of us in the lesson business are passionate about what we do and want to save everyone and everything. But that is not fair to you, it’s not fair to your family, and it’s not the best way to create something sustainable. You can’t do everything.
- An instructor
- Team manager
- Customer service rep
- Sales person
- Social media director
- Office Administrator
- Billing and payment processor
- Marketing director
- Facilities maintenance
- And more?
Sit down right now and write an exhaustive list of all the roles you are trying to fill. Write down your company organization chart and make a note of the roles you are handling.
It’s important to acknowledge the roles in your personal life that impact and sometimes add chaos to your business as well.
Mom, wife, coach, business partner, church volunteer, etc. When planning your roles in the business going forward, you need to consider these too.
The stress of running a business is real, but a lot of it is self-induced.
Everyone will have to go through chaos at the start of a business, and then again when you make some big changes. That’s when you have to put your big girl and big boy pants on and say, “Let’s solve this.” You don’t just stay in the chaos.
Accept Where You Are So You Can Grow
Businesses are an adventure and challenges come with the territory. Think about a James Bond-type film. Think about how boring the story would be without any adversity. What if there were no villains or no obstacles? The challenges make the whole endeavor more exciting and rewarding.
So we know there will be challenges. Identifying them is the first step. Then, we have to accept that these issues are causing some unnecessary chaos. We have to accept that we can’t do it all by ourselves. Acceptance allows you to take the first step toward change.
When Chris and Tyler first joined together for this business, Tyler was already doing a lot. It took an outsider, Chris, coming in to point out that the 9,345 things Tyler was trying to juggle himself were unsustainable.
Then, it took Tyler being willing to accept that Chris was right and that he needed to shift some things around.
They started by assessing their superpowers. They made a list of the things they each did well and the roles that Tyler was already trying to manage by himself and went from there.
And that is what we recommend you do too. Building a culture starts with accepting that things need to change.
Solving the Chaos Problem
When you dreamed of having a business in the first place, you didn’t dream about this chaotic part. If Walt Disney imagined all the chaos and drama and struggle it would take to get where they are today, he probably wouldn’t have done it.
So here is your homework:
First, identify all the weaknesses in your business.
- The places that don’t have systems
- All the rules you’ve created cause friction
- The wishlist of things you want to implement
Second, identify all the hats you wear. List all the roles you are taking on yourself. Then circle the ones that are your strengths and/or that you enjoy doing. These are your superpowers. If you are great at something but hate it, you can delegate that. If you’re okay at something but love it, keep it. This is life by design.
Next episode, we are going to start with your superpowers and go from there. We will discuss getting systems, software, or humans to take the other stuff off your plate and reduce the tension.
We are not saying change today; we are saying evaluate and accept your reality first, then you will have clarity about what you need to do next.
You don’t want to build a brand from a place of stress and tension; you want to build from a place that is relaxed and inspiring. If you have fallen into chaos, you don’t need to stay there.