Plus a sneak peak at my 2021 word of the year and why I chose it…
This post pretty much frames itself 😂 but in case you’re reading this in the distant future, 2020 flipped the world upside down and we had to adapt. Fast.
Over the past 12 months I’ve made and implemented some big, exciting business decisions, and learned some challenging and necessary lessons.
Here’s the round up:
1. We had to commit to being responsive > reactive
I’ve definitely done my fair share of both 😬, but ultimately 2020 has been a crash course in how to respond and make the best decision as quickly as possible.
Assessing opportunities, pivoting and tweaking, taking on criticism and moving forward accordingly are all muscles I’m grateful to have had the chance to build this year!
Have I got it right every time? Absolutely not. However I’ve learned a ton, and we’re starting 2021 with a business agile enough to respond to what’s needed, yet mature and secure enough not to get sucked into reacting.
2. We focused on equitable pricing
This year I’ve experimented with what feels like every pricing model under the sun. I’ve tried tiered and scaled pricing models. I’ve tried pay what you can, I’ve tried providing a means guide. I’ve offered one-time discounts, and fast-action cash incentives.
It’s been an INVALUABLE process, but not without its flaws.
Tiers and scales can be great, but communicating and managing all the payment plan variations made it unsustainable, and often confusing.
Fast action or one-time incentives are great for folks who already have money in the bank ready to go… but for folks who need a little time to assess/access funds before making an investment, not so much.
Pay-what-you-can and means-based pricing guides can work well for some, but I’ve found they can also lead to lingering (and unfounded) feelings of guilt, shame or “not enoughness” for others.
Having thrown a whole pack of equitable pricing spaghetti at the wall this year, we’ve decided to strip it right back to basics in two ways:
3. The decision to remove payment plan fees altogether
We’ve decided to completely eliminate the traditional fees commonly associated with accessing payment plans in the online coaching space.
Moving forward, there will be zero premiums for our clients who choose to pay monthly, as opposed to upfront. We’ll only ever charge late fees if and when payments are actually late and we are actively working to recoup outstanding invoices.
For us, we believe this is the simplest and most effective way to offer equitable and accessible pricing.
4. And starting the Squirm-Free School of Business Stipend fund 💸
This is our new fund for clients who need access to a little extra capital in the short term, so they can grow their business in the long term.
Whether that’s to invest in a new piece of tech or an accessibility device, cover the first month of hours with a VA, invest in a critical piece of software or training, or simply to cover the first couple months on a payment plan without feeling stressed.
The stipend will open for applications in the Spring (drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested)
5. I learned to relinquish control over the outcome
2020 has been a masterclass in that has it not? Every time I made a plan, a curveball showed up with a different idea.
Has it been frustrating and exhausting? Yes.
Has it taught me to be less of a control freak, and untangle my self worth from my results? Absolutely.
6. I‘ve got better at knowing when to call it quits
My people-pleasing steak runs DEEP, ok?
and I’ve realised that if I’m going to grow into the kind of CEO I aspire to be… that reflex to smooth things over, to chronically overcommit, to brush issues under the rug, to put other people’s comfort above my own goals, boundaries, values, and limits has got to go.
This year, I’ve ‘fired’ a number of contractors, clients, so-called “friends” and situation-ships. The conversation is always tough. The urge to take the blame and make things smooth is always there. But I’ve learned to value being respected in the longterm, over being liked in the short term.
7. There’s (much) more to inclusivity than using diverse stock photography
This year we truly started to bake inclusivity into our business (I say ‘started’ because the work is never done)
Yes, inclusive marketing and messaging is important, but if the paid experience on the back end doesn’t match up, then what’s the point?
This year we began to implement the excellent Accessibility Made Easy course from Erin Perkins. As far as I’m aware, we’re the first and only coaching company to now offer captions and/or transcripts with 100% of our live and prerecorded coaching calls.
If you’re captioning all your Instagram stories — GREAT — AND…. know that you’re setting the expectation for captioning the other side of the paywall.
Make sure the way you are marketing truly reflects what you’re selling.
8. We must dismantle ideas, not other people
Didn’t like the way so-and-so handled such-and-such? Great. Instead of tearing them a new online asshole, let’s focus on your messaging, how you do it differently and why your way is better.
Pointing the finger is easy. Taking meaningful action that creates change is hard. I’m committed to doing the hard stuff, and hope you are too.
That being said… there are definitely many people and organisations my business and I are choosing to avoid indefinitely — and that’s ok, too. New year, new block list!
*to be clear, I’m not talking about when someone is actively causing significant harm / is a danger to others / is silencing marginalised voices. Call that sh*t out. Loudly.
9. We grew from sole trader → limited company
I know it’s just a piece of paper and more complex taxes, but this felt monumental. Proud moment.
10. I’m reclaiming my personal brand, through launching our company brand
Hello Squirm-Free School of Business!
As the team and company grows, it only makes sense to invite folks to connect with our brand, not just with me.
We’ll be sharing most of our sales and coaching content via @SquirmFreeSchoolOfBuisness moving forward, freeing me to create and write about other topics I’m passionate about (eg. sobriety, tech, travel, and pizza) without being confusing.
11. Our programs have shifted from cohort → evergreen
This one I am BEYOND excited about. This means that from 2021 onwards, you’ll be able to enrol in either Squirm-Free Sales Masters or the Squirm-Free Coach Certification program 365 days of the year.
Why? Because we want to meet our clients at the moment they most need support — not in a couple months time when our next ‘cohort’ opens.
What’s different? Honestly, not much — other than our internal training and delivery schedule, and our sales process has shifted too. The best part about shifting to evergreen, is — not only do you get to connect with more business owners than you ever would in a cohort community, but, it also frees me from launch cycles, meaning I will have more time and energy to dedicate to creating free and paid content for you.
12. That a month off (or more) won’t sink your business
I took a mental health break from late August to mid-October. I was exhausted, and had been in “coping” mode since way before the pandemic began.
This time offline, although it felt “unproductive” is what led me to make and implement a lot of the big decisions I’ve shared with you here.
The saying “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” couldn’t be more true. And, believe me, if I’d have known a month on the couch bingeing Parks n Rec would’ve helped give me THIS MUCH clarity, I’d have done it way sooner! 😂
13. To perfect your sponge recipe before you go trying to ice it
(aka don’t feel pressured to cover a turd in glitter)
Did your comparison-itis skyrocket, too, this year? All that extra time online has been fuel to the flames for that little “You’re so behind”, “Hey, look at what so-and-so already did”, “You really should’ve ____ by now!” voice.
It’s you’ve ever tried to ice a warm, uneven cake, you’ll know exactly what happens when you try to ‘prettify’ things in your business before the substance is in place.
Promise me you’ll; stop investing in pricey branding before you’ve tested and validated your offer; Stop launching fancy websites before you’ve made any sales; Stop ploughing your time into podcasts, YouTube channels, endless Instagram posts etc before you have a consistent and reliable sales process.
Sales > marketing, friends. Every single time.
14. Real growth costs real money
The more clients we serve and as our programs grow, so does our team, our infrastructure, our payroll, hiring, tech, software, and training costs.
Our program prices will be increasing as follows on March 31st 2021.
7 Days to Sales Success: $97 → $147
Squirm-Free Sales Masters: $2,997 → $4,997
Squirm-Free Coach Certification: $11,997 → $13,997
If you haven’t crunched your numbers lately, go ahead and do the math — profitability is key for sustainability and growth (which is what I want for you!)
15. Understanding how few activities ACTUALLY MOVE THE NEEDLE when building a business.
That Instagram post you’re stressing over… doesn’t really matter.
That email you didn’t quite manage to send this week… probably didn’t either.
Dealing with that negative DM… isn’t going to be your make or break moment.
The single key activity that will ALWAYS move the needle for you?
So, if you have a spare 30 minutes right now (or are willing to make the time!) try some of these needle-moving activities:
- Follow up with lapsed leads / previous unconverted sales calls and asked them how they’re getting on
- Follow up with new contacts / referrals and ask what they’re looking for help with
- Send DMs to folks who have liked, commented on, or shared your content recently and ask what content they’d like to see from you next
- DM everyone who came to your live or watched the replay asking what was their biggest takeaway
- DM the newest members of your facebook group saying how stoked you are that they’re here and what made them decide to join?
- Send a gift / some snail mail to your warmest leads or former clients
- Invite the last 30 people you DM’ed to a free hot seat or Q+A session
- Email the last 10 people who downloaded your freebie / opted into your list and ask them what they need help with
So, there we have it — my 15 lessons / shifts / changes from 2021.
What about yours? Let me know in the comments below!
Oh, and before you go — here’s my word for 2021…
My focus for 2021 is simple: focus on creating, developing and caring for my assets.
Asset is defined as:
a useful or valuable thing or person
an item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies
For us, our key assets are our team, our clients, our programs, and our sales and marketing assets. In that order.
I am most valuable to the business and best fulfilling my duties as CEO when I am either:
- Creating new assets
- Developing existing assets
- Protecting and caring for assets
What about you? What’s your word for 2021?
Remember to let me know in the comments!
Mentions and thanks to those who have mentored and inspired me this year, and whose work / advice has directly impacted what I’ve shared in this round up include:
- Africa Brooke, Kelly Diels, Jenny Jay, Mariah Coz, Rachel Rodgers, Stephanie Joanne, and many many more!