2019 Year In Review- 8 Tough Love Lessons from the Year That Defined My Business

Entrepreneur Life

It seems like most people publish their year in review in December when it’s wrapping up. I’m a little late to the party here in early March but that certainly doesn’t diminish the lessons learned or the growth I experienced.

2019 was a really interesting year for me. I started the year growing my side hustle thinking I could maybe take it to a full time job in a year or two. I had a nice revenue goal and some great projects lined up.

At the end of April I submitted my notice to leave my job in early June. Well- that escalated quickly! I didn’t really plan that out in advance- I just got the sign that it was time and I needed a change for personal and professional reasons. So off into full-time entrepreneurship….

*Note to anyone looking to make that jump: do some planning. I knew we could jump onto my husband’s medical benefits- a luxury I understand not everyone has. I did not have the clients lined up that I wanted before the jump and it caused some major anxiety for a month or so. Read on…

So I retooled my marketing and let my current clients know what I was up to. The month of May while planning this move was very quiet which really stressed me out.

Did I just do the dumbest things I’ve ever done? Holy crap, Kate, you have kids- what’s wrong with you? I mean ALL the self-doubt.

June hits, we take a family vacation and I get a chance to reset my brain for this transition. A few inquiries start to come in.

Fast forward to mid-August and I’m booked solid through the end of the year. That’s right- full book, past my initial monthly revenue goal, every month to finish out the year. I’m excited and proud and feeling super blessed. Boy, did I HUSTLE!!! I felt that have to prove myself. I made mistakes. However in that time I have seen massive growth not only in my business, but on a personal level as well.

I am almost always the person that has to learn the hard way. You can’t tell me not to touch the stove, I have to make sure its dangerous – and dumb – all by myself. All of the self-care lessons people preach about when it comes to working for yourself, turns out they are all right! Funny!

Maybe you can learn from my mistakes and you won’t have to ‘touch the stove’ like I did. Here’s a rundown of my ‘Lessons of 2019’ or ‘Kate’s Mistakes in Entrepreneurship- 2019 Edition’

1. You can do it all- just not all at the same time

Maybe I’m super-women, super-mom, and super-wife all rolled into one- or maybe I’m headed for burnout. I cannot accomplish 20 hours of work in a 10 hour day. Blocking my time – when I’m working, when I’m with family, when I’m on date night- has been very helpful. If I don’t create these ‘buckets’ of time, I try to do all things at the same time, which never goes well. I work more efficiently when I see how much time I realistically have for each part of my life. Balance is a myth- priorities are not.

2. Get yourself to a personal or professional development conference

I sound like a cult member sometimes and I see my friends roll their eyes at me. You can spend some time everyday or every week on personal development OR you can spend a couple days in a totally new environment and have significant breakthroughs. I attended Lewis Howes Summit of Greatness in September and it fundamentally changed my outlook. Being in community with other people also working on themselves creates an amazing environment of vulnerability and acceptance. Improving yourself and your perspectives on life is not selfish or ‘woo-woo’, it is required to level up your life and your business.

For professional development, I highly recommend the RISE Business Conference. It was light and motivating with a ton of great information- not stuffy or boring by any measure.

3. Learning how I work best

One book says to workout first thing in the morning or you won’t do it. Another expert says to do your most important work first then everything else. Yet another will tell you to workout later in the day to transition from work to home. Still yet another will advocate for 60 or 90 minute blocks of working time.

Guess why these all have shelf space at the bookstore? Because they are all right and they are all wrong. Just like diets, personal development mentalities, tastes in clothing, and how much salt to use on chicken- we are all different. Learning what works for YOU is what’s most important.

I loved ‘The One Thing’ by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It helped me drill down to the most important priorities and tasks for my day. But scheduling that work is really up to you.

People look at me like I’m bananas when I tell then this- I now get up at 4:30am to get my most important work started right away. Every single day. Not a workout, not a smoothie, just work. And right now that means writing this blog post at 5:19am. No joke. Once the kids are up I take a break for breakfast and getting ready for school. Since I’ve started my day with a win, it is much easier to keep the momentum going.

Here’s some other fun facts I’ve learned about myself. I like to work in a variety of locations – I think it stimulates my brain. Random coffee shops with good WiFi are my jam. I would rather start early and finish early versus stay up late and force the work. My morning brain can do in 2 hours what my late night brain can do in 4. Drinking ridiculous amounts of water keeps me more focused than coffee. And I love to work on the floor. I’m sure my posture sucks but I love to spread out on my office floor with my laptop.

4. My health is never second to the work

I learned this one the hard way. I have jokingly called my business ‘my third baby’ because the new parent physical symptoms were the same: weight gain, eating poorly, choosing take out food out of convenience, not working out, messed-up sleep schedule, physical aches and pains, unchecked stress symptoms. You get the idea.

I looked at myself in November and thought- I’m in trouble. I’ve let this business become more important than my heath and if I don’t make some changes, this will only get worse and do more damage to my body.

So after wallowing in the ‘its so hard’ stage for a few weeks, I did something about it. I am working out again. I have my eye on a half marathon later this year. I have a sleep schedule – I’m now in bed before 9am most nights. My husband I started planning out our meals weekly and filling the house with healthy snacks. I have incorporated a lot of the methods from Kelly LeVeque’s Body Love book and cookbook. Not an ad but if you struggle with maintaining energy levels – and I don’t mean mainlining Starbucks- this book can help.

5. Trust the process

My dad says this all the time. A few years ago the family business was going through a big transition. I bought him and I matching mugs that said this. They day before this big deal was finalized, my mug jumped- I swear it did- it wasn’t even near the edge- off the shelf and shattered. What a sign that was! My trust in the process was literally shattered. But the deal went through and everything went well but the lesson isn’t lost on me.

You can’t just say you trust the plan – you have to live it and feel it in your gut. I knew this business could support me full time. When May and June were full of self-doubt and self-criticism, I had to trust that I would not have gotten this far, to only get this far. If I started to market myself out of desperation or neediness, I would not have attracted the clients that finished out 2019 with me. By learning to trust, I avoided attracting the wrong clients or taking work that wasn’t in-line with what I had set out to do.

6. Find your people

Working for myself, by myself, and with myself may push me over the edge one day. Staff meetings- all the time! Strategic planning- while brushing my teeth! This was not healthy. I’ve very fortunate to have met other people in business similar to mine to network, goal set, and talk things out with. Those outside perspectives can give me fresh eyes on my plans and help me overcome challenges. Mostly, I don’t feel like I’m alone.

7. Schedule time to work on your business not just for your business

I can get really caught up in the clients, producing good work, and deadlines. So caught up, in fact, that I forget that I am a business owner too and I need to create for myself. I have been very fortunate that I attract great clients. In 2019 I created such little content that I could fall off the map in 2020. I sucked at social media. Not for my clients, but for me. 2019 was a terrible example of a content marketing strategy.

My goals of creating resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs kept coming in second to the client work. I was constantly choosing this month’s revenue over next years’s revenue. And this can only last so long.

I started to carve out time at the beginning of the year/month/week/day for planning with my priorities in line. I launched a podcast, started writing again, and set goals for not only client work and revenue, but for the resources and content I’m creating.

The trade off of time doesn’t have to hurt overall revenue. I learned that I work more efficiently knowing I’ve handled my own house first.

8. I am the worst boss, I have ever had

I am crazy hard on myself. I never feel that anything is good enough and always feel like something is behind or late for a client – which it isn’t at all! I had a hard realization one day in November- I am literally the worst boss I’ve ever had. I love the work but the pressure I put on myself wasn’t serving me- and therefore not allowing me to do the best work for my clients. I cannot realistically schedule an entire 24-hour day with client work. No one can create like that! I’m not a robot. I started by easing up my scheduling and giving myself realistic due dates.

Then I learned a few things about grace. I learned that I can extend true goodwill to myself and get enormous relief! I can schedule realistically and every client has understood- and if they don’t, are they really a client I want to work with? Extending grace and understanding to myself was huge leap forward.

Final Thoughts

2019 kicked my ass. I’m not ashamed or afraid to admit that. I now have a ton of clarity about it and I know what I can do better. The best part of tough situations are the lessons learned. 2 Months into 2020 and I can proudly say I’m doing so much better. I have great clients, big plans, and a thriving business. If you would like to stay up on lessons and systems that have helped me in marketing, tech, and as a business owner- sign up for my email list here.