What 13 years in Business has Taught Me

What 13 years in Business has Taught Me

It was October 2010. I’d recently qualified as an NLP Practitioner, hypnotherapist and coach  (I already had a Postgrad Diploma in Nutritional Therapy and my Yoga Teacher Training certification under my belt).  Always one to do things “properly”, I’d registered my business as a sole trader and set up a business bank account – after all I needed somewhere to pay in that £60 I got from my first ever paying coaching client!

Incredibly, that was 13 years ago, and during that time I’ve moved slowly but surely through all of the Stages of Business that I teach in the Business from the Heart Pathway. And learned a whole heap of lessons along the way!

Watch the video or scroll down to read more:

The Milestones on my journey included the following:

  • Taking a very very, I mean very, long time to get clear on my target market and core message
  • Working for free to get testimonials
  • Signing up my first paying clients
  • Getting all of my clients through activity that took place offline (even if some of the actual sales happened online)
  • Running my first workshop
  • Setting up a website and social media profiles
  • Creating a Free Giveaway and growing my mailing list
  • Sending my first email out to my mailing list – a truly terrifying moment!
  • Taking on my first team member
  • Finding my marketing “sweet spot” — that one thing that works best for me and with the least amount of effort
  • Launching an online course
  • Launching a high-end group programme
  • Passing that mythical 6 figures mark that all the experts tell us we “should” be aiming for!
  • Going through a long and painful period without the right team, systems or processes to support my business and burning out repeatedly
  • Making a conscious decision to transition to be (almost) 100% online
  • Realising that what I was doing wasn’t fully working for me (financially yes, but in other ways no) and having a major change in my business model
  • Launching a membership!

From what I see, my journey has been fairly “typical” of someone whose been in business as long as I have (though many of my clients choose to stop at the 121 model and get that sustainable, instead of moving into group programme) and with all the typical ups and downs and changes in direction too!

Throughout all of that — both through my own experiences and also observing my clients over the years — I’ve learned six key lessons…

What 8 years in business has taught me

1. There is really only ONE fatal mistake you can make in business

All the time I see small business owners worrying too much about taking their next step; whether that’s “what if I put myself out there and nobody is interested?” or “what if I make an offer from a webinar and nobody buys?” But here’s the thing: no matter what you do, none of it is likely to be a disaster, and at the very least you will learn something incredibly valuable that you can use going forward to make you more effective and successful in the future.

There is actually only ONE mistake you can make, and it’s one that I see heartbreakingly too often, and that is giving up too soon.  Success in business usually takes longer than most people imagine it will, and so when they are not seeing green shoots within the first few months they often throw in the towel – but the green shoots are there under the surface, you just can’t see them yet.

That’s why it’s so important to get support and connection from other people on the journey with you, to remind you to keep going when you feel like packing it all in. It’s also important to learn about what it REALLY takes to build a business so that you get a good grasp of what is normal and realistic despite the big promises you might hear from people trying to sell you their programmes.

2. Everything takes a LOT longer than you think it will!

If you sometimes feel frustrated because you think you should be further ahead than you are, it’s not just you — join the club!

One thing I can pretty much promise you is you will probably always feel you are “behind”.  I know I do, if I’m not careful to manage this. And it’s all of us — I clearly remember one friend whose business was doing an impressive £110,000 every month bemoaning the fact that she was frustrated because she wasn’t managing to grow as quickly as she wanted!

And I’m the same! It’s too easy to look back over my business and think “Thirteen years, all this work…. and I’m only here…? How is that possible? Where have I gone wrong?” and start comparing myself to people who I know started around the same time as me and are now huge online celebrities with multi-million turnover businesses. I’ve learned to not allow myself that sort of unhealthy comparing myself to others. Instead, I focus on how far I’ve come, and on how lucky I am to have work that supports me and that is so fulfilling. Comparing the size of my business to someone else’s is really just vanity and ego.
My business gives me what I need both in income and fulfilment — why should it bother me if someone else’s is bigger and shinier? (and how do I know if their life behind the scenes is happy and fulfilled?).

If we are not going to spend our whole business life berating ourselves for lack of progress it’s so important that we can learn to follow our own path, to measure our success against where we were last year, and against our own personal dreams and aspirations, rather than against other people with completely different life circumstances, or against some arbitrary and maybe not even realistic goal we have picked up from someone else. In other words it’s OK to be a tortoise.

3. Business Hurts

As heart-centred business owners we tend to take our businesses very personally. After all, we’ve gone into business because we care, because we want to make a difference to others. We want to do a good job.

If you are reading this it’s highly unlikely you went into business to make a quick buck and try and make as much money as possible with as little client contact as possible (though if that’s your thing there are plenty of people queueing up to teach you how to do it). If you’re like me, you probably pour your heart and soul into your work, into figuring out the best way to serve your clients, thinking deeply about  your programmes, and how you can structure them to help you get the best results for people.

What this means is that we can be easily hurt. People who don’t like or don’t appreciate what we do, friends who we offer to help for free who don’t value the gesture, strangers who make negative comments on social media, and clients who complain and criticise without offering constructive feedback to help us improve, or who pay us for our expertise, advice and coaching then decide to ignore all of it!

This hurts. Of course it does!

But this is all part and parcel of being in business and as time goes on we do become more resilient. And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to grow too thick a skin as it would mean I wouldn’t care as much, and I think that when I stop caring a certain flame will go out for me around my business.

4. It will never be perfect

Oh, no — it never will!

You are a human, with a limited budget, limited time and limited resources. You will never be putting things out there with the same quality, shine and gloss as a multi-million dollar business. My own business mentor runs marketing campaigns that cost him more to run than my business brings in in an entire year…. I always watch with awe and admiration, but I also understood that that quality of production simply isn’t possible for me.

And let’s face it, if you have my sort of perfectionist tendencies, even if you had Steven Spielberg come round to film your videos you would probably still find fault with them!

Instead you have to get comfortable with the “less than perfect”. Do this by focusing first and foremost on the people out there who really need to hear your message today, and on how you are going to help them.

And also know that being able to communicate in a way that your ideal clients respond to and that helps them to come to trust you is WAY more important than having the perfect glossy landing page, or a “no hair out of place” video.

5. Two marketing strategies is probably all you’ll ever need

I know this one is totally counterintuitive. The temptation when you start out is to respond to every marketing training or piece of advice that comes along and make yourself over-busy with way too many strategies and actions designed to bring you paying clients.

The problem is, all this activity is often counterproductive. If you are doing too many things you are unlikely to be doing any of them well enough to get any real traction. In addition,  if you are doing a lot of marketing activity without having some of the foundational pieces in place to actually make that marketing “sticky” so that people actually want to find out more once they’ve found you – then you can find you become burned out, exhausted and fall out of love with your business before you’ve even worked with enough clients to know how a business that’s working really feels (it feels pretty amazing by the way!).

Two strategies for attracting paying clients is probably all you’ll ever need for a successful and sustainable business that you can stay in love with for years to come. Any more and you risk spreading yourself too thin, and burning out in the process.

6. Focus on just One Thing at a time

There will always be a new idea a day and a new shiny object showing up on your Facebook feed every hour. But you are just one person and you simply can’t do it all. Trying to do too much at once and saying Yes to too many things is the quickest way to burn out and overwhelm.  It is far too easy to have too many things and projects on the go and at the end of the month turn around and wonder why you don’t seem to have moved forwards with any of them. That’s a place I was once stuck at for what felt like a very long time.

I’ve learned that the best way to get forward momentum and actually see results is to get really clear on my key focus each month and say “No” to everything that doesn’t help move me towards that outcome.

It’s not too late to join the BUSINESS FROM THE HEART Experience!

There’s still time to join me and a whole heart-centred community of business owners in an immersive week where you can experience what it’s like to be inside my business membership — absolutely FREE.
Click here to register to join us

This morning’s lesson is on:

The 5 esssential steps to getting new Paying Clients
I’ll be demystifying what it really takes to attract and enrol paying clients – you even might find you’ve been making things more complicated than they need to be. These steps apply whether your business is offline or online, and whether you are selling 1-2-1 or 1-2-many. When you understand them you’ll be able to focus in on those activities where you’ll get the most impact, and stop wasting time and energy on things that don’t work.  (If you miss it today, you’ll still be able to catch up on the recording).

If you’d like my help guiding YOU through these same typical stage of business the Business from the Heart membership will be opening for enrolment tomorrow, and includes a Vision & Planning Workshop for new members in early December – why not join us to get planned and ready to get 2024 off to a great start!

"THE 7 STEPS TO YES" Watch these short videos and start to fall in love with sales

Please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts


  1. Helen Bligh on November 21, 2023 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing Catherine. Such genuine & heartfelt advice.

    Looking forwards to watching more!


  2. Eva Bhattacharyya on September 7, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    Hello Catherine, thank you for a great learning video that really struck home with me and what I am trying to do. I just started my business a few months ago. Yes, I have learnt to tell myself to take it slow and not expect too much as it is only me with my business. I am really following my intuition and common sense! I have set up my business Prashna Life Coaching to enable the over 50 woman to achieve what she wants and have a better life. I think this is an area I may be able to be of some impact. But do the audience want this? I will be getting some response soon as I will be attending some women networking sessions. Thank you again Catherine

    • Catherine on September 8, 2021 at 2:58 pm

      Hello Eve, lovely to “e-meet” you. That sounds like a great business focus to me. I’m one of those women and luckily I found the courage to leap despite my fears and find a “different” path but so many women don’t because of fear, and then they fear it’s too late and they still don’t. So I can see this being very fulfilling and meaningful work for you. However I LOVE you are asking the question “does my audience what this?” because it shows you are thinking like a business woman and asking the right questions – and your research, curiosity and action will lead you to the right answers.

  3. Vikki Parker on October 30, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Superb video Catherine, so nice to hear you and reconnect over the airwaves! I am the ultimate tortoise! But I have spent the last year trying out all the things I’d like to do and I’m at that point where I can now really heart-connect with what I’m offering and want to be serious about building my business properly. I’ve always loved your approach and this came at the perfect time. Priceless advice. Can’t wait for the email about the membership…I need all the advice I can get… I think I’m actually ready now!

    • Catherine on October 31, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Vikki, It’s great to hear from you! Wow, that’s great to hear you’ve got real clarity about your business at last – I shall look forward to hearing more! And of course it would be WONDERFUL to have you in the membership and have the chance to support you with your business again – fingers crossed I do a good job of telling you how good it is 😉

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