Taking time to Review 2021
I gave myself permission to get off to a slow start this year and January has mainly been focused on Planning and Learning – in fact I finished my 2022 Planning only yesterday! A friend pointed out that my timing is perfect as the Chinese New Year starts today, and many people consider this the “true” start to the year. So if you feel you’ve been off to a slow start, why not make today the day your 2022 really begins?
I was obviously in tune with this new year energy as I woke up unusually early this morning and felt inspired to write a bit of a “review” of 2021 – as a form of ritual as I wave a very happy goodbye to what was an incredibly tough year.
If you haven’t already paused for a review, why not harness the energy of the Chinese New Year and join me in doing that today?
I wrote this early this morning, then had to break to run a Q&A/Coaching Call and a “Behind the Scenes” session for my membership. As I return to it I know I will need to take a deep breath if I’m to actually publish it!
You see, it’s easy to write a review post when things have gone well, but a lot harder when the reality is actually a million miles from the shiny business story I would love to be presenting. And 2021 was TOUGH. In fact one of the most difficult years of my life to date, apart from the years when I was most debilitated and practically housebound due to my ME/CFS over a decade ago.
This year I did my highest financial turnover to date, yet it’s also the year when I feel I made the least progress, and also the year when I felt most like a fraud. You see, I see it as part of my “job description” to be a role model and leader, to encourage others and inspire hope through what I teach – but also through how I live and how I show up. While I still showed up and delivered in 2021 – my business brain still seemed to work when required! – the fact I wasn’t in a great place personally and mentally meant that I felt uncomfortably like a fraud or imposter much of the time “how can I advise people on their business, when I feel like I don’t have it together in mine?”.
The theme I set for my business at the beginning of 2021 was “Hands off” to encourage me to trust and hand over more to my team. Looking back on it, the overall theme turned out to be “Struggle”. (Though to be fair, the struggle did help me achieve the “hands off” – if only through necessity!)
I know I’m not alone in having had a difficult year. An astrologer told me that these struggles are not unique to me, they are due to global planetary influences and we are all feeling it. Still, when life gets tough it’s not always a consolation to know that it’s not just me, it’s all of us… (and if you had a similar year it might reassure you to know that the planets are due to shift out of this stuckness and into a much more positive energy and momentum from late April – hurrah!).
Here are the questions I’ve answered in my previous “Year in Review” posts, so I decided to do the same today:
What were my biggest achievements in 2021?
Well my biggest achievement – and believe me, nobody is more surprised at this than me – is that I had the best year ever financially in my business with a turnover of approx £200,000 (I’m still waiting for the final figures). It was only about £10,000 more than the previous year, but given the challenges of the year, and the fact that I cancelled my biggest launch, I’m very surprised it wasn’t a lot less.
I took on some brilliantly talented and supportive new team members and for the first time in a decade I’ve got a really solid and dependable team who I don’t need to micro-manage – hurrah!
Recurring revenue from my membership meant I was able to take 3 months of semi-sabbatical from the business due to health and mental health challenges. I literally hit a point at the end of June where I felt I couldn’t take even one more step forward. My team ganged up and sent me for a weeks holiday – and during that week I realised that I needed to take a lot more than one week. It ended up being over 3 months. In that time I took care of my members, ran my Mastermind, showed up to some key (online) speaking opportunities, and did (quite a lot of) essential tasks needed to keep the business ticking over but otherwise stopped all other business activity from June to October.
As I look back over the year, I can see that the biggest achievement of all is simply that I survived and I’m here to tell the tale. There were several times during 2021 when I questioned whether I had what it took to carry on going with the business. There were also some dark days when I questioned whether I had what it took to keep going with life (I’m sharing that because it’s important we talk openly about our mental health – but don’t worry, I’m in a good place again – more on that later).
The challenges I faced (in particular in my personal life) were many and felt insurmountable at times, and I haven’t shared most of them here – for reasons of space as much as anything. But it’s only now looking back that I can see that actually it was the health issues that underpinned ALL of it – by stripping me of my natural optimism, resilience and resourcefulness that would normally see me see life’s challenges as all part of my natural human experience and take them in my stride.
What were my Magic Moments in 2021?
When I look back there really were some magic moments – but they often didn’t’ “feel” magical in the moment as for so much of the year I felt unwell. So there was a real sense of just “going through the motions”. I could observe “wow, I’m in a magical, beautiful place” or “I’m in amazing company” but was mostly unable to access the joy in these moments.
During 2021 for the first time in a decade, the stars aligned and I gathered together a team of truly talented people to work with me and support me in the business – and thank goodness for this, because it’s what kept the show on the road, when I effectively dropped out of it in June.
As a HSP, with (self-diagnosed) female aspergers and overlapping health challenges I do have a larger team and more support than I think most businesses of my size would but I’ve learned this is essential to my enjoying the business as I get easily overwhelmed and burn out when I’m responsible for keeping too many plates spinning, and especially too many details. (and a business like mine, much as I love it, has a LOT of moving parts!). I’ve learned that I’d rather earn less personally, in order to have the support I need so I can enjoy my business than work all the hours and be constantly stressed.
I celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Selling from the Heart with an amazing launch of the Business from the Heart Membership in November, with a special “anniversary offer” and very generous bonuses. After nearly 4 months not being very active I knew it was time to reconnect with the magic of my work and that a big launch would be just what I needed to re-ignite my energy and purpose, and reconnect me with the business owners that I love to serve and help. And it really did the trick! The launch reminded me just how much I love my membership and my work, and also just how darned *good* at I am at it – when I’m in my flow. And reignited my vision for how I want my business to be, and to feel.
I wanted the launch to feel as easy and fun as possible after such a challenging year. I didn’t set sales targets as I’ve learned that when I get attached to a particular outcome something in my energy shifts and the magic is lost. So I leaned into what felt fun and created a brand new Business from the Heart Experience and invited people to come and have a direct experience of what it’s like to be in my membership for a whole week. And for the first time ever, this “sales and webinar queen” didn’t even run a sales webinar! Instead I was uncharacteristically “low key” in the way I made the offer and still saw a 20% conversion from the launch event to sales! Whoop!
Other magical moments came from travelling in my campervan “Elsie” over the summer. After a really stressful summer in 2020 when my partner and I lived in her full-time on the road, culminating in us separating, I had fallen out of love with what had been a 12 year dream. But this summer I spent a lot of time in Elsie- we travelled for work meetings and events, a festival, a beach party, camping with friends in Devon, the Lake District, and even a holiday with my now ex-partner in Pembrokeshire (which was a healing experience for all 3 of us – him, me and Elsie!). But this also meant too many long hours on the road between where I’m currently based in North Wales and “the rest of the world” when what I probably needed most was rest.
What were my biggest disappointments?
My biggest disappointment was simultaneously turning 52 and marking my 10 year anniversary in business. It hit home that for all my hard work had not created the “7 figure business” we are all told we should be able to create – if we just follow the blueprints and do what our mentors tell us. But growing the business hasn’t been something that’s come “easily” to me. Mainly, if I’m honest because I’ve always struggled with managing a team and/or with doing “all the things” on my own when I haven’t had much of a team. Marketing, sales and delivery of programmes are not a problem for me, but I’ve often had big setbacks due to bringing the wrong people on to help me, and then being “too nice” (or too conflict averse) to do anything about it as things have unravelled.
I also had the big realisation that at 52 I want very different things for my life and business than I did when I started at 41. So I consciously released that “7 figure” goal that was actually never really mine in the first place but had been planted in me by so many gurus and online marketers – and that in reality only a very small number of people actually achieve. I’ve also reflected on the fact that the times I’ve been most unhappy in my work have been when I’ve been pursuing big financial goals, so I’m letting go of that.
Instead this year I’m consciously creating a business that will give me the nourishment and enjoyment I need from my work, as well as reward myself financially, pay for my team and overheads and leave enough to save and invest for my future.
(And truth is, I do already have a 7 figure business – in the past decade I’ve made (approximately) £1,600,000 from sales of my courses, membership and masterminds. So I could quite credibly label myself as having a “7 figure business” – which in fact is exactly what a lot of people do!).
Another disappointment was parting ways with my Business Manager who had been a huge support and a great friend. We started out with big plans of growing the business together in partnership, her running all of the back and pieces that are not in my flow, and me at the front end focusing on marketing, sales and delivering the training and mentoring. This year it became clear that we had conflicting priorities that were actually holding the business back, and after some deep and searching conversations we parted ways. It was a huge loss that felt more like a relationship breakup than a work ending.
And of course the biggest disappointment of all is the way my health challenges stopped any sense of progress and took away the joy. It feels like a “lost year” in so many ways. At the beginning of the year I’d set a plan, and pretty much everything on the plan was either cancelled or dropped by the wayside as I failed to keep all the balls in the air. In fact there was only one thing on my list of goals for 2021 that I actually achieved – hiring a Membership & Community Manager to help me run the membership. Which I did, and thank goodness or who knows where I’d be by now!
What Lessons did I learn?
Well oh boy, 2021 really *was* a year of lessons.
I learned – or rather had the very important reminder – that if my health isn’t good then nothing else is good either. Of course I already knew this. When I started this business a decade ago I was slowly recovering from ME/CFS. The business grew as my health improved, and I learned through absolute necessity to put my health and wellbeing first.
But this year I was hit by another health issue – it turns out to have been digestive problems and multiple food intolerances triggered by the incredibly stressful summer of 2020. But I didn’t know this until recently. All I know is that I can count the days that I actually felt fully well during 2021 on two hands. Over the year I tried lots of things – several thousands of pounds on tests and treatments at a naturopathic clinic in March, another several thousand having my mercury fillings removed in July, then starting HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in September, but for all my commitment to solving it none of it really made “the” difference. It’s literally only been in the past few weeks that I’ve got to the bottom of it all (through an extremely strict elimination diet) and am feeling my old self again (I REALLY am, I’m not just saying that!). Just in time for a fresh start with a fresh year! And not a moment too soon!
I learned the power of recurring revenue. Four years ago I started a membership because I wanted to make my teaching and mentoring accessible to a much larger number of people, and I also wanted to create a safe, encouraging community for business owners, but the recurring revenue wasn’t the big draw. But that recurring revenue has made THE difference this year. If I’d had the same health and mental health challenges without it, it’s likely I would not have been able to keep the business going, OR the pressure to keep making sales would have meant I didn’t have the space and time to take time out to focus on my health.
This recurring monthly revenue (and my brilliant team) meant that I could take my foot of the pedal for 3 months for a semi-sabbatical, and it meant that I could cancel the big annual launch of my flagship course. It did take courage to do that, but in other ways there really wasn’t a choice as I didn’t have what it took to do it. And I was able to do it knowing I had the safety net of revenue would be coming in every single month. Hurrah for recurring revenue!
I also learned how important it is not to have all my financial eggs in one basket and so, in addition to my existing “saving for the future” plan I’ve started investing in property and have added 2 properties to my small portfolio by partnering with someone who is doing all the leg-work since I haven’t been well enough to do it myself. My aim is to build my rental income to a level where it could replace the income from my business if I chose to stop.
I also learned that I have a habit of over-committing to things in the business, and then end up feeling I’m running to catch up. I stress to members of my community the importance of just focusing on One Thing at a time, and I truly believe in that – but particularly last year I found that I stopped taking my own advice, and with the health stuff in the mix spent most of the year alternating between not being very effective at all and then running to catch up.
I’ve just completed my 2022 plan which I’ve labelled “radically sensible” as I try and create a plan that is actually realistic to accomplish. Lets see how I go with that!
And with that my Theme of the year is “Simplify”
What are my top 3 business goals for 2022?
My top 3 – Okay 4 – goals for this year are:
1. Reach more People
I know I’m not alone in this, but when things get tough and I’ve got clients to deliver to, launches I’m running and all the other things that happen in an established business, the one area that “gives” is always my marketing and audience growth, and in 2020 and 2021 this was definitely my area of weakness. I’m very lucky that I have hundreds of current and clients who love what I do who will shout from the rooftops about my work, and lots of partnerships with people who will tell their people about me, as well as regular invitations to get in front of new audiences. But I’ve fallen out of the “rhythm” of regular and consistent marketing activity, and my number one focus this year is to get this back on track (I also let myself get sidetracked by the Clubhouse craze in Jan, Feb and March. I actually did well from it while I was there, but my core “stuff that works” got neglected while I chased the shiny new thing).
2. Double my Membership
The membership is where my heart and soul lie my business, I love it, but I’ve yet to build it up to the vision I had for it when I started, which is to have the membership be my core revenue stream, so that I can give it my full focus, with just one launch of my course each year alongside it. At it’s highest the membership numbers reached 450 and it’s currently around 350 members.
Very often when I talk about my membership to other business owners and mentors I hear one of two things – and usually both!
“You can’t create an easy, successful business on a low-cost membership alone, you have to have high-ticket offers too”
“It’s too cheap at £47, especially for what you include, you have to charge more”
I hear these things over and over again from other people who are more “successful” and more “experienced” than me, and I can’t deny it has caused me to doubt my vision – despite the evidence that plenty of people DO have hugely successful, hugely profitable low-cost memberships. After a fair amount of soul searching over the past month, where I even seriously considered a pivot back to the sort of “high-ticket” group programme that I ran from 2013-2017, I have recommitted my heart to my membership and course. And as part of that have stopped my high-ticket Mastermind this year in order to go “all in” on the membership.
It’s where my heart is in my business. I love my members, I love the membership, and while it’s a long way from perfect, I love what I’ve created and I still want it to be my business “One Thing”.
And truly, hand on my heart, due to the challenges of the past several years (2019 was also a rocky year for me in the business, due to problems with team members) I can’t honestly say I’ve had a really good shot at seeing what I could achieve with this membership if I gave it a really good go.
I’m always reluctant to set goals as I find the energy of pursuing them doesn’t work well for me, so I’m not giving this a timeline but my next milestone is to double the numbers from 350 to 700. Then the next milestone after that will be 1,000. That would keep it small enough to still feel close-knit and supportive and would give me a business revenue of approx. £30,000 per month (after VAT and referral commissions) – more if I do increase the price. Which will be a great revenue stream on it’s own, OR a great foundation for whatever else I may want to offer in future – maybe bring that Mastermind level back in!
3. Launch my Podcast!
Launching a podcast has been high on my wishlist for the past 5 years. Sometimes I’ve put it off due to sensible priority planning, but in the past couple of years it hasn’t happened due to, well, “life and other challenges”. I’ve reached the point where the pain of not having launched it after so many years is outweighing the potential pain of taking on too much in order to get it done. So I’m really hoping this is something I’ll see launched this year. I’ll be starting it off by batch recording a set of “solo” episodes rather than letting the added complexity of inviting guests delay the project, although I will bring in guests once it’s up and running.
4. Automate more of my Sales
I’ve always sold via a “launch” model, where my course and membership are only available to join 2-3 times a year. I’ve always loved this system for all sorts of reasons. (If you want to read more about why I love the launch model click here)
But launching isn’t simple. It’s exciting but it’s also all consuming and launching 3 times a year like I do is a big commitment for me and for the team (and one that I didn’t manage to keep up with last year). While I don’t plan to ever stop launching my programmes – it’s such a powerful way of bringing in new, excited and committed people – I can see more clearly the risks to the business of relying purely on launches. e..g if I’m not on form like this year, or a key team member is off sick it puts the whole launch in jeopardy. I already have an automated sales system in place for my Get More Clients Saying Yes! course and the long term plan is to better optimise that “funnel” and also to create an evergeen sales system for the membership by early 2023. This way new people can join all the time, whether I’m launching or not.
Why do these goals feel important to me?
The health challenges I’ve had this year have felt like a wake up call. For some reason, because I had over a decade of a debilitating chronic exhaustive condition, I thought I’d paid my dues and it wouldn’t happen to me again!
This year has taught me how those health issues can come from nowhere, even for those of us who take really good care of ourselves, and just how hard it is to keep on with “business and usual” and even “life as usual” while struggling with exhaustion, brain fog, depression and anxiety.
It’s reminded me that even though I love my business, at 52 I can’t keep assuming that I will be able to work forever, and I see more than ever how important it is that I can simplify and streamline the business to make all elements of it easier.
It’s also reminded me the importance of more “passive” forms of revenue (I don’t believe anything is truly passive by the way) from property investments, and automated sales systems. I’m wise enough to know that those things aren’t “magic bullets” and carry their own inherent risks. And automated funnels don’t work without really solid journeys in place both before and after sales, and plenty of traffic, so there’s work to be done! Sometimes to get things “easier” we have to work “harder” for a period, and I suspect that will be the flavour of my 2022!
This year has also reminded me of the importance of support. I’m a big fan of a personality profiling system called Wealth Dynamics (*affiliate link). Some profiles are great at working alone – they can create their course, do their own tech, look after customer service, multi-task and juggle all the day long, and thrive on it. I’m not one of them. Partly because of my health challenges and limited energy, and partly because of my “wiring” (female aspergers). This year has reminded me of how essential it is that I have support behind the scenes so that I can focus what energy I DO have on the work that I do best, enjoy most and ultimately has the biggest impact on the business. And luckily for me I now have a great team who can support me in achieving this.
And so with a fresh year, and a fresh page we have a fresh chance at getting it right!
Wow, that was a lot – and in the interests of keeping it short (ish!) I haven’t even shared a fraction of the personal and business challenges I’ve faced this year! It’s not quite the upbeat Review I’ve written in the past, but I do hope you’ve enjoyed it – and maybe there are some lessons for you to take from it too?
Do let me know In the comments below. I’ll be reading them all and I always love to hear from you.