Rosie (3) and Josh (5), my kids and the heart and the soul behind my work
Before having kids, I was told all kinds of stories about what my work life would be like post-childbirth. I have been working since I was twelve, and ran a successful consulting practice for ten years before becoming a mom. Most of the “life after kids” comments were like this:
“Oh man, if you can take one shower in a week, you will be lucky!”
“As soon as I had kids, my brain turned to mush. Forget thinking up complex business strategy, if I could find my mouth with my toothbrush, I was happy!”
Needless to say, I was quite concerned.
But then a surprising thing happened; once I saw each sweet face of my precious little babies, I got enthusiastic. Really enthusiastic. And ideas flowed in my sleep-deprived brain, almost as fast as my kids went through diapers (which in the early months felt like once every ten minutes).
So when my son Josh was three months old, I took a class about online marketing. And I got so fired up that I started the early iteration of my blog when he turned seven months old.
Fast forward two and a half years, and baby Angela Rose (we now call her Rosie) was born. When she was three months old, I got an email of interest from an editor at Penguin/Portfolio and my book deal was signed.
So as I was raising these cute little humans, aware of their needs and wanting to be as present as possible, I was also raising a business.
But central to my philosophy about entrepreneurship is the belief that your life design comes first, and your business should match your life goals.
So I went through some very distinct phases of business growth, some by design, and some driven by external circumstances.
My business partner Charlie Gilkey has a very effective model for understanding the stages of business growth. You can see his graphic below and find details in his post here, but let me illustrate his stages with my own examples.
1. Stage 0 – The Aspirational Stage. People in this stage want to start a business and like the idea of it, but they haven’t committed to becoming entrepreneurs.
My 2004-2005 – I had been a committed entrepreneur for a decade, but the online marketing/business world was completely foreign to me. I started to poke around on Google to see what was possible.
I sold: nothing (besides my corporate consulting services).
2. Stage 1 – The Entry Stage. These are people who have decided to start a business and are actively building their market and offers. They may not have many or any customers, but they’re no longer sitting on the fence about being an entrepreneur.
My 2005-2006 – With my baby son Josh at home, I was mainly focused on building my body of work through blog posts, building my reader base and making relationships in the blogging world. I had saved a lot of money from a big consulting project for maternity leave, so I did not have a pressing need to generate cash right away.
I sold: one-on-one coaching.
3. Stage 2 – The Growth Stage. Entrepreneurs in the growth stage have a business plan and are growing their revenue streams with new clients and customers. They aren’t booked solid and running at full capacity yet, but there’s no longer a question that they have a viable business model.
My 2006-2007 – With Josh getting bigger, and some good babysitting in place, I began to expand my coaching practice and educational offerings.
I sold: one-on-one coaching, a few teleclasses and training (I started teaching for Martha Beck’s coach training program).
4. Stage 3 – The Crucible Stage. Entrepreneurs in this growth stage are in the delightfully frustrating point in which they’re booked solid and working at full steam, but the demand for their goods and services outstrips their ability to meet it. Something has to give, but many times they don’t want to let go of the business activities that have gotten them to this stage.
My 2007-2010 – We added baby Angela Rose to the brood in October 2007, and almost at the same time, the Phoenix construction market crashed (remember Darryl’s journey?). Suddenly, I needed to write a book, coach a full roster of clients and be the primary income earner in the family. I was at a creative peak and worked with an amazing array of people in all kinds of businesses. My book dropped in April, 2009, and I went on a book tour to 12 cities in the U.S. and Europe. This was a tremendously creative time, and also was very exhausting.
I sold: one-on-one coaching, teleclasses, training programs (I started two programs with my friend and colleague Michele Woodward including KickAss Mentoring and Career Invention Certification, Lift Off Retreat with Charlie Gilkey and $100 Business Forum with Chris Guillebeau), professional speaking and also launched a small membership site, Quickstart to Self-Employment.
5. Stage 4 – The Cruise Stage. Entrepreneurs in this growth stage have figured out what it was that kept them bottlenecked and constricted at Stage 3 and are running full steam ahead. They have the necessary team and support that allows them to focus on their core competencies, or, if they don’t, they have a specific plan in place to get those resources.
My 2011-? – That brings me to right now, where I am undertaking a website overhaul to reflect a more mature business and to support the needs of a growing readership. I am also sensing that my kids really need to have me around, so I want to build a business that allows me more flexibility in my schedule so I can do things like take martial arts with Josh and take Rosie to dance class. I also want to have time to write my next book!
I am formalizing an Escape from Cubicle Nation Trusted Adviser Board with many of the people who I have referred my clients to over the years. This will include experts in law, intellectual property, personal finance, technology, health benefits and more. This group will provide expert guidance for content in the new membership site, as well as help my clients grow their businesses faster and more profitably.
I am expanding the team that works behind the scenes, and upgrading technology (like moving to Infusionsoft). Some of the change is so big it is scary, but if it weren’t scary, I would know I wasn’t challenging myself to grow.
My writing outlets are also expanding, and I will contribute to American Express Open, Forbes Women, Psychology Today and Escape Velocity, as well as guest post more often on other blogs.
I will sell: limited one-on-one coaching, a membership site Escape from Cubicle Nation Community (launches in February!) Career Invention Certification, Lift Off Retreat and a whole suite of new information products that will deepen and enhance the content in my book. I will promote a carefully vetted suite of affiliate products from trusted friends and partners. I will do some limited speaking engagements, and hopefully sell my next book proposal!
I hope seeing this living business model is helpful to you as you evaluate your own stage of growth, business model and business plan.
The constant through all these years has been my amazing blog readers, clients, and in recent years, Twitter and Facebook friends. I am truly blessed to do this work, and will listen closely to your advice and feedback.
While I do not believe in the myth of work-life balance, I do believe it is possible to design a business to meet life and family goals. That is my aim, and we shall all see how it works out. 🙂