This post covers the three phases of business that you work through in order to scale to 6-figures and beyond. If you’re ready to set a solid foundation for your business so you can step back from the day-to-day and truly build a business that supports the life you want to be living…this is for you!
Do you have a future vision for how you’d love your business to run, and how you’d love to live your life? Maybe that looks like 4-hour workdays, Fridays off for forever, or being able to spontaneously take the day off to be with your kiddos without it stressing you out or affecting your business. I know these are the types of things I had always dreamed about when starting my business!
And now? It’s my reality! This is going to be a long one, so sit down, grab a cup of coffee and settle in here. I want to share all the details on how 3 years ago I made the decision and started implementing the plan to grow my business to a place where I could live this balance between work and family.
You ready? Here we go…
In April 2019, the biggest life change happened in my life and business. At 2AM, I went into labor and gave birth to my first baby, Carter at 8:34 later that night.
For me, having Carter was the epitome of what I had been working towards for the past 3 years. Building my business to grow while I balanced family life was something that I started planning 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis.
With this diagnosis, I realized that this whole having kids thing would have to get started earlier than Todd and I might have hoped. We always planned on having kids, but didn’t think it was something we wanted to make happen so quickly after getting married. One of the biggest symptoms with this type of diagnosis is infertility, so we didn’t have time to wait. We knew this would be a journey, so I went into future forward-thinking mode as the crazy planner human that I am. Here’s how this whole business building thing happened…
My biggest dream has always been to run a design business from my home while raising children. In order to make this happen, I had to have a solid business running and supporting our life in order to be able to spend time with the family like I wanted to.
…I didn’t want to be glued to my computer.
…I didn’t want to feel like I had to be on call with client details every minute.
…I wanted to be able to take days or weeks mostly off so I could be there for my family and live a (mostly) peaceful existence.
I wanted to be able to creatively direct projects and vision for our clients (my genius work!) and have our clients taken care of through the entire branding experience. Basically — I wanted to be CEO of my business, and guide the business from a higher level. This wouldn’t be able to happen the way I’d like if I was also taking on every other job role in my business.
When I got the endometriosis diagnosis in April 2016, I knew it was time to start working towards this vision. Pinegate had been running as a successful side-hustle for 5 years, and it was time. I put in my notice at my corporate job, and prepped to grow my business to support the life I knew I’d always wanted.
Before I could step into the CEO and Creative Director roles in my business, I knew this meant my business had to grow through a couple of different phases:
I had to create my offerings, get new clients working through these, and get great results for them. At this point, I was doing everything — from bookkeeping, project management, design, contracts, marketing…everything! In this phase, it was all about proof of concept and creating solid offerings that got results. This phase was all about getting solid with what Pinegate Road stood for, and to stop trying to be anything and everything for everyone. This was about transitioning from freelancer to business owner.
Things were growing, but they felt chaotic and messy. I was overwhelmed all the time and questioned why I left my full-time job. I applied for jobs thinking that I’d made a mistake. It was me doing everything. I couldn’t keep up with my perfectionist tendencies, because I’m not perfect or great at everything (note: none of us are!!) Schedules would get delayed because I’m not the best project manager, and I’d make spelling mistakes because I’m not a great proofreader. I quickly realized the parts of the business that I excelled at (strategy, visioning, creative direction) and what I lacked passion and talent for (project management, development, production design). Realizing this made me realize that I had to re-strategize and start to do things differently.
I had to make a decision and commitment to a different way of doing business…
Here, I made a commitment to a future vision that would allow me to work in my genius and have others support me in everything else. This was when I decided to build my business with an agency model, and that meant getting really detailed about…well, everything! The first thing I had to do was to map out profit margins for projects. IF the different parts of each offering were to be delegated, what would that cost? What would I need to charge to make this profitable for the business? At the beginning of this phase, I was taking on ALL the job roles, and technically getting paid because I was contracting all the different jobs to myself. If these jobs were going to be hired out…I realized quickly that my prices were way too low and that no profit would be made if the different roles were delegated to people other than myself. Honestly, I think things were priced so that I’d be LOSING money if I hired things out! I raised prices to reflect the value they were giving our clients, and to keep things profitable for business growth. Game changer!
In this phase, I also committed to my vision and invested in a year-long mastermind program. The financial commitment for this program was like nothing I had ever done before, and something that could have completely devastated my business if it didn’t work out. I panicked in silence for 3 days before I talked about this with anyone! I made the aligned decision to do things differently than I had been doing in phase one, and knew that in order to get to where I wanted to be more quickly, I had to invest in support. I wanted to learn how to do this right, from someone who had been there and could help me through the ups and downs. I felt so scared, but I also knew that I was committed to this future vision and I was willing to bet on myself to do what needed to be done to make this work.
It was the BEST decision I’ve ever made! In my first month I had made back the ENTIRE YEAR’S investment, and I was feeling more empowered than ever that I had what it took to make this future vision for my business a reality.
Transformation into your future self happens when you decide that you ARE that future version of yourself. By making this investment, I BECAME an agency owner. My mindset and business transformed to align with who I truly and deeply believed I was. When you make (scary) but aligned decisions towards who you want to be in the future, sometimes those can be the catalyst for making that happen!
THINK: What kind of decision would (insert type of person you want to become) make? Make decisions from that state of being, rather than from your current state!
It feels scary and occasionally overwhelming. You’re making big decisions and investing in yourself and your business like never before. This is where huge personal growth happens, and your mindset practices become key to growing your business. You’re not just relying on the doing and the hustle like you were in phase one.
Most of your profits are going back into your business — but you’re feeling some relief from the daily stress as you delegate more and get support. You’re hiring a team, and learning how to delegate and lead a business. You’re working through limiting beliefs, and committing to doing things differently. At first, I felt like no one could do the work I did as well as I did, it would be too expensive to hire support, and I felt like it would take way too much work to pass off work to others. These were huge limiting beliefs that were holding me back and keeping me stuck in all the doing that was making me a stress ball. I learned that it might be a little more work at first to hire and onboard a team, but the goal is to get solid procedures down for every project and task. If you ever need to hire someone else for that role, you have it all detailed to easily train someone new! Getting these SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) down is the key to growth and scaling your business. Because I worked through profit margins, I had to get out of contractor mode and switch to CEO mode to realize that my personal income will come from building the business…not contracting to myself and spending my time and effort there.
This phase is not sexy (or super fun! hah!) but it’s literally what builds the foundation for a successful business. For me, this took over a year to get down. I took one task off of my plate at a time, starting with what I disliked and was pretty bad at. I hired for my weaknesses instead of trying to clone myself. My first hire was an account and project manager. Suddenly, I was able to focus way more of my time on design and visioning for our clients and the business. Contracts, schedules, client feedback, and emails were all being taken care of! My next hire was a production designer and developer — someone to take on the bulk of the work that comes with branding and websites that take up a ton of time and are pretty technical (taking the design for a website and building it online, taking the final logo files and packaging them up for clients, creating the brand guideline book from the final logos, etc.) Hiring these two roles saved me 20+ hours each week and allowed me to focus on more of what I loved!
Over time, you can keep hiring out the job roles that you no longer want to be in. I slowly did this over more than a year, and honestly — having Carter was what made me pull the trigger on the last couple positions. The last person I hired was our new amazing client services manager Becca! She’s so in alignment with the Pinegate Road values, and she’s now taking all the calls with prospective clients. I knew that for the time being, I wouldn’t want to be on any kind of time constraints for the business, and I needed someone to be available to support potential clients and have that availability. I’m all for doing things on my own time right now (like writing this newsletter, showing up on Instagram, creative direction for projects, and doing some courses to keep my biz skills sharp). The thought of having scheduled calls was not something I could manage while in this newborn phase, and sales weren’t something that I wanted to do for forever. This has been game-changing this past month, and it was the last piece that I needed to step fully into the two roles I want to have in the business.
In this phase, you get to step into your zone of genius and scale your business. You have proven services, and a team to execute them. The hardest part here is committing to this and only this, and not falling back on taking on the work that you should be delegating. The work you have been doing feels comfortable, so it’s easy to do! With having Carter, I was forced to make a clean break and step into these roles, but I’m not sure that I would have made such a clean switch had that not happened. This was hard for me!
In this phase, I had a transition period where I decided on the boundaries I wanted to have around my time and how I wanted to interact with my business. In phase two, I was in my email 100 times a day, and constantly in Slack to communicate with my team. Both of these things kept me in the nitty-gritty details, and didn’t give me a clear space to operate from a higher level in my business. In phase three, I made the intentional decision to step out of my email and Slack so that I could create from a place of space and flow. I am available for voice memos on Voxer with our project manager Janet, and that’s where I can chat through anything popping up in the business that needs my attention without having to be in every single detail. This is training our team to work from a place of making empowered decisions on their own, instead of looking to me to make decisions for them — it’s been awesome!!
Every Thursday, I get an email with all the work going out to clients on Friday. Here I get to record my screen, give my creative direction, and approve anything clients are seeing. This has allowed me to put that higher-level strategy into the work we’re doing with a clear mind, and made the work we’re delivering even better because I’m not getting burnt out trying to do everything myself. Everyone on the team is working in their zone of genius, and that’s magic!
In this phase, I have also been able to step back from the day to day and intentionally design the future of the business. It’s from this space that I’ve been able to set my business up to scale into the millions (note: while we haven’t hit the million-dollar mark yet, the business is set up to support it…I KNOW it’s happening this year!) When I was in phase two there wasn’t enough bandwidth. If we suddenly had an influx of clients or sales…the business wouldn’t be able to support it. In phase three, it’s about setting your business up to scale. You’re intentionally stepping into the role of CEO so you can create offerings that scale, test marketing techniques, and work on visioning for the future.
Awesome! It feels like your hard work has paid off, and you get to live in the experience that you’ve created for yourself and your business through the first two phases. You’re in a place of openness and growth, and you get to design the future of your business from a stable place. The foundation is set, so you can dream and create what you want to do next. You’re committed to forward momentum and personal growth. You’ve realized that the business growth happens when you invest in yourself and your vision and make those uncomfortable decisions when they are aligned. While strategies can be great for growth, if they aren’t paired with the right mindset and vision…they aren’t going to work. You’re still going to work through scary moments and hard decisions, but there is an underlying knowing that you’re going to make it…that you have the strength and stamina to scale a successful business on your own terms.
In phase three, you get to intentionally design your business experience around the life you want to live. Here, you have to think about how you like to be communicated with, what you want your days to look like, and what you want to do and not do in your business. It’s the dreamy stage where you get to live out the exact experience that works for you and your personality. This isn’t going to be the same for everyone. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to be your dream scenario, and that’s ok!
And there you have it! This has been my journey over the past three years to build Pinegate Road to a place where I can step into my zone of genius and live out that elusive balance with family life. While I know there is no such thing as balance, and it’s more of a thoughtful give and take at best…I’m so excited to be stepping into the Creative Director and CEO roles only in my business for now.
Are you in one of these phases and want to set your business to scale into 6-figures and beyond?
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Imagine a year from now where $10k+ months are your norm, and you get to have the freedom to design your days as you please! You can peacefully start your days with a coffee in hand, getting to have solid time to work on your business without dealing with the minutia. Over lunch, you get to browse through Airbnb’s to plan your celebration getaway — knowing that your business is strong and can 100% support you taking two weeks off without your computer.
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