Growing with your business

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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,ย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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32 Responses to “Growing with your business”

  1. Ines says:

    Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a
    team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You
    have done a extraordinary job!

  2. Griselda says:

    This is an amazing post Pam. I was told the same things by my boss before I had my son, but I have to say my son has been the bust of motivation and creativity I needed to live life on my own terms. I now have a consulting and accounting practice and also working around the clock establishing the reputation and promoting the business. I just feel really blessed each day I’m able to do this with my son next to me.

  3. […] to say no. My business partner Charlie Gilkey said it well this weekend at Lift Off: the first two stages of business are about saying YES and the last two stages are about saying NO. Most new entrepreneurs come […]

  4. […] I got to talk with a lot of interesting people.All of them are at very different stages of the business cycle.Some of them have well-established businesses and brands, and healthy revenue streams.Others are […]

  5. […] that’s my plan.ย  In truth, I would love to be so inspired by my new little baby that I follow in Pam Slim’s footsteps and have an extremely creative business period post […]

  6. Steph says:

    Pam, I totally agree. Having kids really is inspiring. I think for me, it was more of a push to do something different so I could provide a better life for my family…and knowing I have to create my own destiny, since Corporate America won’t.

    Having a kid pushed my entrepreneurship into high gear!

    Steph

  7. Scott Ellis says:

    Pam,

    Incredibly insightful analysis of the phases. I love the way you have laid this out. My personal business stalled at the end of Stage 2 early Stage 3, so for me the change I had to make was to break form the business I had started with partners and move out on my own (not an easy decision but a necessary one).

    It was a nominal setback in the grand scheme of things and I’m about to launch deep into Stage 3 like a rocket.

    Keep up the good work, you’ve helped a lot of people in a lot of ways!

  8. Craig says:

    This post gave me a wonderful lift and inspiration. I recognize a thread in your journey that I see in my own, which is a dedication and love of what you are doing. What a gift to find and nurture in one’s life/love/work.

  9. Sara Kmiecik says:

    Great post! I would love to have the same experience when I decide to start having children.

  10. It’s lovely to see how things build on one another, and how the arc of your family story integrated with the arc of your business story.
    What happens when you transcend step 5? Where do you go from there? What’s exciting you today?

  11. Denise Green says:

    I so appreciate how you authentically and lovingly share your experiences. And both my business partner and I can relate to the first part of your story all too well. I left my job and began our leadership coaching business in 2007 when my daughter was 8 months old, the recession was about to hit hard, and I was diagnosed with PTSD (which I thought you only got as a soldier). If not for my partner Heather, we wouldn’t have got off the ground. Now she has twin babies and my daughter is almost 4. Who knows what will happen when we are both well rested! I’ve come to terms with real physical challenges that remind me of my limits and help me take care of myself so I can enjoy my time with my family and the business. Hopefully we will all grow and prosper with grace, heart, and lots of humor. I wrote about my own bucket of limitations on http://brillianceinc.com/?s=love+limitations

  12. marie-jeanne juilland says:

    Pam: Thanks for laying it out for us all – we learn from those who go before us … 2011 awesomeness coming for you – go products!
    Thanks also for the pix of your kids. Yes, they will demand more time as they get older – in a different, but wonderful way! Enjoy!

  13. Sarah Novak says:

    Loved this in-depth look at your path – thanks for pulling back the curtains and let us peek! Life design is what it’s all about…

  14. Shelley West says:

    Hi Pam,
    I love how you are making your life #1 priority but keeping your business growing as well. Thanks for sharing your journey. It is really inspiring. Good luck with the new membership site launch. Sounds like an exciting time on all fronts.

  15. Lexi Rodrigo says:

    How I envy you, Pam! I’m pretty much useless to everything else in the first year of my babies’ lives. However, I know some women, such as you, manage to get a LOT of stuff done while changing diapers. What’s your secret?

    I love this line: “your life design comes first, and your business should match your life goals”

    See, this is what’s wrong with employment: most of the time, a job is too inflexible to accommodate a woman’s life phases. So her life must conform to her job — which isn’t always satisfactory.

    Thanks for sharing your business/life journey. You’re an inspiration!

  16. Hey Pam: An inspirational post. I love how you have been able to weave a thriving business in with raising two beautiful kids (if you ever want them to visit Canada – I’d love to host!).

    The road map always seems so much clearer once the journey is done. Thanks for sharing and giving us all a little picture of what is to come.

    While I am particularly fond of 2×2 tables – I agree with Chris and Diane that Stage 5 of Awesome…logically seems next!

  17. Love the way you’ve translated to growth of your business. You are a mother of 2 just like me and you have managed to balance and growth you business to such height successfully. You are such an inspiration. Right now Iโ€™m the growth stage. Iโ€™ve hired a VA to help take the edge a bit so I can spend time with the kid while running my business. No more 1-2-1 coaching for me this year. Iโ€™m starting on group coaching, workshops intensive and seminars so that I can leverage my time and make more money while hanging out with me kids.

    I canโ€™t wait to get the 3rd stage of business growth.

  18. Miranda says:

    Pam! I totally agree that having children can lead to a really fantastically creative time in life. And also that, contrary to what so many people think, as your children gain consciousness and develop they specifically need you around more even than when they’re tiny. I tell that to women all the time when they’re thinking about balancing children and work. Such important ideas to introduce. Thanks!

  19. Samuel says:

    Awesome post Pam, balancing work and kids together is not a day’s job. You just have to keep trying till it work out. Thanks for sharing. Have fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. […] give that up. (And if you don’t believe me and several millenia of philosophical teachings, check this out. That’s business modeling, babyโ€”no squishy woowoo stuff […]

  21. Diane Hunter says:

    Wow, thank you for continuing to lead the way with openness. Your children are living, breathing reflections of who you are just as your business is and both shine with brilliance infused with the love and commitment that comes from your core. I’m so excited to see what comes next and witness your transformation in 2011. I’m with Chris, very soon you’ll be adding Stage 5 of Awesomeness!!

  22. Hi Pam-
    I am glad I clicked through to this post. I am 8 months pregnant with my first child expected around March 4th. I am doing this on my own. I would assess myself as being in stage 2. I am 2.5 years into my coaching business and was building great momentum selling mostly 1:1 coaching (small business owners, corporate clients and a few personal clients) as well as some in person workshops and speaking engagements. I am winding down now to have my baby and have the same fears that people exaggerated for you when you were about to have your first. It feels good to hear you say you were inspired by your kids and had lots of great ideas and created a lot of great work shortly after they came on the scene. Here’s to growing babies and businesses at the same time and loving it all ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lisa C.

  23. You are amazing! I hope I can manage my business with the addition of child #2 this spring as well as you have!

  24. Beautiful post and beautiful children. Looking forward to see your progress. This is why I love blogs. They are more personal than press

  25. Pam, I “discovered” you through your book, and it’s wonderful to learn more about the human being behind the (excellent) book.

    Your children are beautiful, and you inspire the heck out of me. I’m eager to learn more about the community you’re launching in February.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks so much Mary! It is so fun to get book readers who come over to the blog, since for the first few years, it was all about blog readers hearing about writing the book. I can’t wait to share the community with you!

  26. Very helpful as always. And 2011 is going to be so amazing for you! You’ll have to rewrite this later to add the crucial “Stage 5 of Awesomeness.”

    • Pamela says:

      Well you sure made Stage 2 fun!! Your “it’s the products, stupid!” (ok, that is a paraphrase, you would not say “stupid”) pep talk really had a big impact on me. Not to mention your own bodacious growth these past few years. Maybe since you multitask so well I can ship Rosie and Josh over to see how you handle parenting ?!?

      xox
      -P

  27. Fascinating process to see how you’ve taken your business from baby to booming and grown it along with those cuties ๐Ÿ™‚ Congrats Pam, very excited for you and the new site offering!

    • Pamela says:

      I could not have done it without you Tia! As you are seeing right now, when you push yourself to grow, good things happen. It isn’t always easy, but it sure is worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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