Lessons from Failure

Lessons from Failure

Earlier this month, I hosted a business retreat (it was the second I’ve hosted this year). By most markers, the event was a flop. I only profited $811. It takes about 200 hours to plan, market, organize, and execute the 3-day retreat. That means I earned about $4 an hour. But I’m here to share that there are always lessons from failure.

My first retreat back in May sold out and I cleared a bit more than $2,800. That’s about $14 an hour. Not great, but three times more than this go around.

Why am I telling you these numbers? Well, I’ve realized there are valuable lessons from failure that I really want to share.

I’ve always been quick to tell people that they should always charge what their work is worth. What I’m realizing is I need to be more cautious about giving that advice. There are exceptions to any rule, including pricing, and it’s unfair for me to paint with broad strokes.

I could easily feel like a complete failure for hosting a second event that made so much less than the first and that had three fewer attendees than planned/budgeted.

The truth is, my $4-an-hour effort was a total success (and, frankly, it would have been even if I had lost money). Here’s why:

DATA: This was an amazing learning experience. I discovered that fall is a tough time to host an event because the primary sales period is during the summer when most business owners aren’t in buying mode. I realized I need to do get full or more sizable payments upfront to reduce the risk of losing money. I also learned that I much prefer a smaller group because it allows deeper connections. Finally, I got an opportunity to test new techniques to see what works and what doesn’t.

SERVICE: The attendees got amazing value from the retreat. I created a safe space for women to learn, share, and grow. They walked away with a deeper understanding of their businesses, their goals, and themselves. They made meaningful connections with other women that I am confident will continue for months and years to come. I want to make money, of course, but ultimately I became a mindset coach to empower women and this event did just that.

CONFIDENCE: I walked away from the event with a major boost in confidence. Like most people, I sometimes wrestle with doubt and imposter syndrome. Although I’ve been self-employed for 14 years, I’ve only been coaching for a little over a year. I appreciate any opportunity to do this work and receive positive feedback for my efforts. It’s more than a nice pat on the back; it’s a reaffirming experience that motivates me to keep doing this work I love.

Does this mean I’d be satisfied making $811 for future retreats? Or $4 an hour for anything? Heck no.

I’ll use everything I learned to make mindset and tactical changes so this doesn’t happen again. I’ll do my best to make sure my next event or offering results in a financial payout that leaves me feeling proud and successful.

That said, I’ll also remember that when things don’t go as well as I hope (because sometimes they wont, no matter how hard I work), that it doesn’t mean I’m a failure. And I hope you do the same.

Learning to reframe failure, and find the successes even within the disappointments, is incredibly powerful.

 

The truth is, my $4-an-hour effort was a total success (and, frankly, it would have been even if I had lost money). Learn why.
Business Advice Isn’t Universal

Business Advice Isn’t Universal

Have you ever tried on an article of clothing that claimed to be “one size fits all”? Unless you are a fit model, you’ve probably realized—at best—those clothes are actually “one size fits most” (or, more likely, “one size fits some”). The same can be said for most business advice, courses, tools, and services…what works well for one business owner may not work for you.

Unfortunately, too many companies and consultants take a one-size-fits-all approach to sales. Without context or caveat, they propose their solution as the solution to every business owner’s problems.

Just take a look at a few subject lines from emails sitting in my trash right now:

“The proven 3-step process to land high-value clients”

“3 simple secrets to get perfect clients (even if you don’t have a list!)”

“3 simple sales secrets to render your potential clients objectionless”

(Clearly, there’s power in threes!)

To be clear, I’m sure the experts who sent these emails know their stuff and truly believe in their business advice. They better if they are teaching others, right? I’ve sent many emails offering business advice, too.

The problem is when buyers take claims like these at face value. They fork over hard-earned cash (or worse, go into debt) believing they’re buying the key to their success. Without—insert course, tool, or service here—their business is doomed to fail.

Inevitably, however, the purchase doesn’t change much in their business. Maybe things get a little easier or less confusing, but very likely they don’t suddenly achieve the explosive success they hoped. Why? They put all their eggs in one faulty basket.

They believed that doing one thing (or, more likely, a magical three things) would unlock the doors to success. In truth, it’s almost never so easy. In fact, there is no single secret to success.

So, before buying into any one person’s business advice or investing in any one solution, I urge you to slow down and think critically.

Being in a mastermind or other community (like my Own it, Crush it VIP membership) is a great start. It allows you to turn to other business owners you trust and ask for their input. What purchases did they make that worked out? What didn’t? What do they think about the course, tool, coach, etc. that you’re considering? Do the claims sound legit?

Similarly, this is one way a business coach can help. They should be there to talk you through these decisions and look at them from every angle. Are they right for yourbusiness? Does this serve your goals?

More than anything, though, it’s important to trust your own intuition. What is your gut telling you about a purchase? Do you have that pesky “too good to be true” feeling? Trust that inner voice.

Too many of my clients end up investing in things from a place of fear—FOMO anyone? They’ve lost sight of their mission and values, they’ve lost trust in their instincts, and they’ve let all the voices around them drown out their own.

You know your business better than anyone else. Period. If you don’t feel right about something, it doesn’t matter how many other people are telling you it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

So, the next time you get a “buy this or you’re doomed” or “pay me for the secret to success” type of email, think long and hard. It’s not necessarily a bad purchase, but just be sure it’s the right purchase for you.

Talk Like a Boss

Talk Like a Boss

Talk like a boss if you want to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur

 

Tell me if any of this sounds familiar…

“You work from home, so you’re available to take me to the airport, right?”
“So you’re doing [insert your business] until you can find a real job?”
“Sounds like a fun hobby.”
“You’re so lucky to have your husband’s (or wife’s) salary so you don’t have to work.”
“You work from home? Must be nice.”
“It’s so great that you can be a stay-at-home mom.”

After 14 years of self-employment, I’ve heard all of those (and many more) ignorant remarks. They’ve even come from people I thought would know better, like family and close friends. And I’m not alone; most self-employed people deal with the perception that we spend our days in pajamas watching soap operas.

Of course, you and I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. We work our asses off—probably harder than most people with “real” jobs (after all, we don’t clock in and out or leave the office at the end of the day). So why the disconnect between our reality and others’ perceptions?

 

Watch Your Language!

Have you ever taken stock of how you talk to others about your business? The kinds of words you use or body language you display when asked about your work? Most of us don’t give this much thought, and the answers might upset you.

Very often, we minimize or discount what we’re doing without realizing it. Whether we say something like, “I’m just a freelancer,” or simply describe the work we do for others, most of us never say, “I am the CEO of a company that…” But that’s exactly what you are.

A CEO is the highest-ranking person in a company and is responsible for making all managerial decisions. That’s what you do EVERY.SINGLE.DAY as a business owner. Sure, you provide a service for your clients—and that’s important—but that’s only one aspect of what you do.

You also handle your finances, run your marketing campaigns, head up all sales efforts, take care of customer service, and much more. Even if you pay someone else to do some or all of those tasks, the buck still stops with you.

How we talk about our business and our role in it has a direct effect on how others perceive what we do. If you’re selling yourself short when someone asks, “what do you do?” then don’t be surprised later when they assume you have loads of free time or are just waiting to find the perfect day job.

 

Moving Forward

I challenge you to take an inventory of everything you do for your business. Write it all down. Remember it. And next time someone (even if it’s your sweet old grandma or a nosy neighbor) asks what you do, tell them you’re a badass CEO in charge of X, Y, and Z.

My answer to the “what do you do?” question used to be, “I’m a freelance writer”. Not a business owner, not a CEO, not a badass boss. I was just a writer who happened to make a pretty good living doing it. After spending some time really examining my language and itemizing everything I do in my business, however, just left my vocabulary. And everyone, from my myself and my mom to current and potential clients, started treating me and my business with far more respect.

If the thought of trying to talk like a boss makes you feel a little queasy, then take a minute to read my recent blog post about fighting imposter syndrome You may be among the 70% of us who frequently feel like a fraud. And if you want more tips for stepping into the CEO mindset, check out this post I wrote for Think Creative Collective. It’s all about how to start treating your business like a business (and not a hobby).

Want even more help stepping into the CEO role? My coaching programs can help. They are an equal mix of mindset and strategy work, all geared to get you owning your authority so you can crush your goals.

Talk like a boss if you want to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur
Does Email List Size Matter?

Does Email List Size Matter?

Let me tell you a little story. A woman reached out to me on Facebook about an online summit (virtual conference) she was hosting. She wanted to know if I was interested in being a speaker at the event.

I’d been focused on visibility at the time (I’d already done two of these events and enjoyed them) so I agreed to a phone call to learn more about her audience and goals. By the end of our chat, I decided it was a good fit and we hammered out a topic for my talk. She sent along the contract, which I signed and returned. I put the event on my calendar and started thinking about my presentation.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened my email the next day and saw this:

Yep, I just got list shamed.

Does email list size matter? Yes, of course, but probably not as much as you think. Learn why it's not everything from https://beckymollenkamp.com

Although she never mentioned it in her initial message to me via Facebook, during our phone call, or in several email interactions, she was only interested in expert speakers with email lists of 10,000 or more. At the time, my list had 500 people on it.

Before she knew the size of my email list? My topic was perfect, my background was excellent, my experience was on point, and she was excited to have me be part of the event.

After she knew the size of my email list? Buh-bye.

I won’t lie. It stung. It immediately stirred up all my imposter syndrome feelings. My list is tiny, no one likes me, I suck, why do I even bother? Thankfully, I’ve been doing enough self-growth work that those feelings didn’t last long. In just a few minutes, I got angry. That’s no way of doing business. That’s not how you should treat people. At least, that’s not how I want to run my business or treat people.

To make sure I wasn’t reading the situation all wrong, I asked a couple of Facebook groups if they thought this was an acceptable way to run an event. The response was overwhelmingly in my favor (out of the hundreds of comments I received, only one person took the side of the event host).

While I was sad to hear from many other people who’ve fallen victim to this type of list-elitism, I was uplifted to learn that almost no one believes it’s a good business tactic.

Oh, and I didn’t mention that she also expected me to email my list about her event twice. And I wouldn’t be getting the email addresses of everyone who registered (only she would get that), just those who signed up for my opt-in bonus. So, to say it was unfair to the other experts is disingenuous. The only person my small list hurt was her.

Does Email List Size Matter?

Why am I sharing that story with you? First, I am hoping everyone learns a little business lesson from it. How you treat people matters. It’s important to be upfront and honest if you have certain expectations (like a list minimum), but it’s also valuable to realize each person you meet is more than just a number. When you are rude and unprofessional, people will remember and it will come back to haunt you.

But mostly I’m sharing this story because I feel compelled to tell other “small potatoes” like myself, who have small but mighty lists, you are more than your email list.

Yes, email lists are important. They have incredible value for your business for all the reasons Melyssa Griffin lays out here, and I’m working (like everyone else) to build mine.

That said, I think it’s important to avoid getting overly fixated on list size. It’s easy to do—I know I’ve been guilty of checking my subscriber count multiple times a day—but I don’t think it’s healthy or helpful and here are two important reasons why:

Your list is not you. The size of your email list is not a reflection of who you are as a person or a business owner. It doesn’t speak to your skills, knowledge, talents, or worth. The most amazing entrepreneur can have a list of zero, and an ignorant fool can build a list of hundreds of thousands.

There are so many factors that affect list building. You need the tools to create and manage a list (technical skills). You need to understand what motivates people to subscribe (psychology skills). You probably have to make an attractive opt-in (design skills). You need to attract an audience (social media skills). You have to figure out what to say to them in your emails (marketing skills). And it also takes a heap of time and often a lot of old-fashioned luck.

Judging a person or their business based only on the size of their email list is just plain silly. It’s shortsighted, rude, and a piss-poor way of really understanding anything about what they have to offer. Don’t do it to others, and certainly don’t do it to yourself.

Quantity doesn’t necessarily equal quality. There are a lot of things that determine the value of an email list, and size is only one (and, honestly, not the best one). Having a list of 10,000 matters very little if only a handful of those people actually read the emails and take action. Meanwhile, a list of 100 people who read every word and eagerly buy anything you’re selling is pure gold.

Just as important as the number of people on your email list are things like open rate (are people actually looking at what you send?), click-through rate (do they take action?), response rate (are they engaging in conversations with you?), conversion rate (how many people actually buy what you are selling?), and unsubscribe rate (how many people stick around for multiple emails?).

Also, your email list doesn’t show how well you’re engaging with your ideal clients and audience in other ways. Do you have a giant blog readership, a huge social media following, or tons of repeat clients? Those are all awesome things that aren’t necessarily reflected in the number of email subscribers you have.

So, the next time someone tries to list shame you (or, worse, you start doing it to yourself), just remember you are more than your email list!

Does email list size matter? Yes, of course, but probably not as much as you think. Learn why it's not everything from https://beckymollenkamp.com
Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

I’ve earned two degrees, have 20 years of professional experience, and have been a successful entrepreneur for 12 years … and some days I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before everyone finds out I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. Soon enough, I’ll be called out for the fraud I am.

Sound familiar? It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and according to one major study, 70% of us suffer from it.

Do you think 7 out of 10 people you meet are fakers and frauds? Of course not. It’s just not possible. That means most of us must be wrong and, in fact, are qualified, competent, skilled, talented, and amazing. So why can’t we get it through our thick skulls?!

While I’ll never claim to have all the answers, I have figured out a few ways to fight Imposter Syndrome when it rears its ugly head. Here are my five best tips for keeping it from crippling you and holding you back from success.

Give it a Name

Completely eliminating Imposter Syndrome just isn’t realistic for most of us. Instead, the solution is to find ways to manage it. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s approach, which she shares in “Big Magic.” She gives that inner critic a name and talks to her as if she’s a completely separate person.

Rather than scold that voice, however, she treats it as a friend who’s trying to protect her. Next time you get those icky fraudy feelings, try saying something like this: “Thanks, babe, for trying to help me avoid disappointment/hurt/embarrassment, but I don’t need protection today. I got this.”

Create a Mantra

Another approach? Have a mantra at your ready for days when Imposter Syndrome shows up. Choose a simple line celebrating your awesomeness, and repeat it aloud (or silently, if you must) until that nasty voice inside your head shuts up.

Here are a few mantras you can try (or come up with one that’s uniquely yours):

  • Great things never come from comfort zones
  • I’m not afraid to be great
  • I am open to new adventures
  • Failure is not fatal
  • I’m meant to be here
  • I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me (sorry, I had to!)

Celebrate Yourself

For some of us, it may seem a little egocentric (or perhaps a bit hokey) to keep a running list of achievements, but it can be a powerful tool for those days when self-doubt puts you in a chokehold. Every time you do something well or receive a compliment, write it down. Go back and read those highlights every time you begin to question your abilities, and you may realize you can do whatever is scaring you.

Ask for Support

If you’re having trouble snapping yourself out of fraudy feelings, ask for help. During some of my worst bouts with Imposter Syndrome, I’ve asked for support.

One time when feeling particularly low, I posted this question on my Facebook wall: “What do I do well?” The responses I received from close friends and others I barely knew were illuminating and inspiring. At other times I’ve mentioned my battle with Imposter Syndrome in Facebook groups for entrepreneurs. Hearing “me too” from so many other biz owners immediately helped me feel better. Finally, my mastermind group routinely helps me remember my strengths.

Be Ok With “Good Enough”

One of the biggest reasons for Imposter Syndrome is when we get too caught up on perfection. No one and nothing is flawless, so when you measure yourself and your successes against that impossible expectation, of course you end up feeling like a failure and a fraud.

While it may be easier said than done for us Type As, it’s so helpful if you can slowly learn to be okay with “good enough.” This starts by admitting perfection isn’t possible, recognizing when you have unrealistic expectations, and then reframing your thoughts and language from “perfection” to “acceptable”.

This can be a long process that requires practice to perfect (that’s a joke, of course). Seriously, it will take time to change a lifelong fixation on perfection, and you can expect setbacks as you work on it, but making the shift to “good enough” can be completely life-changing and life-saving.

How to fight imposter syndrome with video
Feel like a fraud as an entrepreneur? You're not alone. Practical tips for fighting Imposter Syndrome.