Balancing Your Time In and On Your Business
When running a consulting business or any other service based business, clients always come as a high priority. But how do you grow your business? Julie Sellers of Ellevated Outcomes shares how to structure your priorities and balance time when it comes to working on your business vs working in your business.
Notes from the Show
Julie Sellers is the owner of a boutique business, Ellevated Outcomes. This is her second time on the show, and today she is sharing her knowledge on a frequently asked question: How should I balance my time working in my business AND working on my business?
What do you want? Where do you want to go? Where are you starting? These are all the questions Julie asks when it comes to determining the time you're going to spend in the various areas of your business. There are three types of business structures depending on your end goal in mind; Lifestyle, Legacy, and ‘Faceless’ Startup.
Working on your business entails all of the following: systems, procedures, operations, development, and planning. While working in your business is usually the why behind it, this is the servicing and finding new clients. Many consultants work through three phases; Optimizing Profit, Amplify, and Transition…these are all related to the time you’ve been in business, your goals, and the amount of time spent on high priorities. Shifting to a balanced time in and time out requires time and development that won’t happen all at once.
Julie outlines high priority strategies that will help in the development of your business and combat big mistakes that will hold you back or put you out of business.
Honing product and pricing
Nailing the ideal client
Marketing plan with intentional action
Structure of profit first with cash flow
Document systems, organization chart plan
You can find Julie Sellers on LinkedIn, reach her via email, and check out the Ellevated Outcomes website.
Balancing time as a consultant between working on your business vs in your business.
The three “end goals” of business.
High priority strategies for your business.
The gradual timeline for building and growing your business.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:36
Welcome back, everybody. I'm here today talking with Julie Sellers, the CEO of ellevated outcomes. This is Julie, this is her second time around. We talked a year ago and Julie runs a boutique business advisory for creative small businesses. Welcome back, Julie.
Julie Sellers 0:53
Thank you. I'm so happy to be here. I always love talking to you.
Susan Tatum 0:57
I got a lot of good questions for you to talk about today. So we're, I've been getting a lot of questions about balancing, which How do you balance your time for consultants and owners of consulting firms? How do you balance your time between getting new business, making sure you have clients servicing the clients that you have, which is why you got into this business in the first place is helping the clients right? And then doing the things the the operational, foundational things that you have to do just to run a business? And this is this sort of falls inside your wheelhouse, doesn't it?
Julie Sellers 1:30
It does yeah. And I think you know, to just kind of open up the conversation about that question and are wondering that people are having, it depends what you want, and where you want to go and where you are today. And I don't think there's a right answer. I think there are patterns that we can certainly identify to answer. Essentially, what you're asking is like, how much time should I spend on my business? But it does start with kind of like, recognizing and thinking about, like, what is my endgame? And maybe not my ultimate end game? But like, what is the next stage that I'm trying to get to? If there is a next stage?
Susan Tatum 2:12
So you mean, in terms of do I want to have employees? And if so, how many? And you know, are my goal is to grow the business? Is it going to be lifestyle business, this is going to be something that I want to sell?
Julie Sellers 2:22
Exactly, yeah. So we kind of put, we have a framework that we use to talk about, like, what is your optimal growth as a small business? And one of the things I like to say to people is like, look, it is not my job to tell you what growth should in quotation marks be for your business, like, you have to figure that out for yourself, right? Like, I want you to tell me, what does your optimal growth look like. And then our job is to help you figure out the most effective and efficient path to get there. And so within that, we kind of talked about their three ends games for a small business. One is and you just kind of nailed a couple of them with your language. So we talked about like the lifestyle business, and that's often a solopreneur. Business. And yeah, that's exactly as you said, like that person is doing the thing they want to be doing with the people who want to be doing it with and it's providing, you know, financial means and the lifestyle that they want. The second kind of category that we talk about is what we call the legacy business. And that's more of me to kind of shorthand it maybe we can think about it as an agency type of model where you do have employees, you do have other people servicing the business and representing your brand consistency and customer experience, etc. But that's kind of the best of both worlds where you can have a great lifestyle, but if you set it up correctly, you can have an end game of selling every it should be something that has value and exists outside of you. And then the third style of business is more of Shall I call it like a traditional startup business. We call it like a faceless startup, you have outside investors, like your only end game is to grow. That's not typically like the agency or kind of the types of consultants or small businesses that we're talking about. But that's the third category.
Susan Tatum 4:22
Okay. So let's talk about so when you say working on the business versus working in the business, my definition of that or my my, the way that I think that is working on the business is is like the systems and processes and procedures that make the business more efficient. And they could fall in, in different areas. It could be your their consulting processes. It could be your business development, marketing processes.
Julie Sellers 4:50
Yeah, it could be any process and I would even extrapolate that a little more. I have a couple of examples of working on the business that I Think about are working on your internal team. So be that the processes you use, be that hiring be that, you know, coaching and developing your team and shadowing their work and reverse shadowing, if operational flows exactly, as you said, of any part of the business, your operations, but I think it's also anything that has to do with the future. So managing and forecasting your finances and doing business level financial planning, doing any other type of strategic future working, planning, and then also product creation. So really thinking about and working on developing products, not just those things that you're serving thing today, but planning new products. And when I say product, I include surfaces. Yeah, not a few awkward intangible products. So doing Yeah, creation of future products and services that you want to roll out is pretty clear. It's not.
Susan Tatum 6:00
So I'm going to jump around now. Because that I want to ask, When do you get to the point where you can focus on creating new products and services?
Julie Sellers 6:08
Yeah, so in kind of our model and robot about, we think in a truly, truly optimized state. So this isn't necessarily true for everybody. But this is where we love people to get to. So in our roadmap, we kind of think about businesses in three phases. So I'm gonna jump to phase number two here, which we call like the amplifier phase. So typically, when you're in this amplify phase you've been in business for five to 10 years, or you might have somewhere between three to 10 employees as what we found. And this is about the time, when you start having enough ability and capacity to crack open and into some new product creation. Ultimately, for people who do want to grow in this way, in a way where the business is growing beyond them, that end game for people is to get to what we call this space three, the transition phase, we're actually like, you're doing exactly what you want, when you're playing the Small Business CEO, role description that it's exactly what you want to do. And that probably includes a lot of product creation. And in our perfect world kind of optimized roadmap, that's probably what you're 10 plus years in and have maybe 11 to 20 plus employees. And I know that sounds far off, so it certainly as a gradual thing that could get, you can typically kind of start to re enter it around year five. But for online app, especially creative, the goal is to get to a place where like they're spending most of their time on product creation.
Susan Tatum 7:51
So that are that that that is for the group of people that want to build these businesses, right, which is, we were talking about this earlier, and I'm probably about half of the consultants that I talked to are wanting to build something, the ones that want to maintain a small, they're either they just want to have a team or they they and their idea of growth might be I'm able to provide increasingly valuable services to my clients, or I'm learning new things and trying different things. So I know that so I know you're not saying you'd have to be 10 years old to create more products. Yeah. So what is there an answer there of
Julie Sellers 8:31
for those who are kind of lifestyle? Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I kind of jumped ahead to what we think of as phase two and phase three. So phase number one, and again, for some people, that might be their endgame. And that's wonderful. I call that that kind of area that speeds up business, when you're optimizing for profit, market fit. A lot of us have heard about product market fit. This is actually a new term I learned just weeks ago, you're optimizing for profit market fit. And so when it comes to that exact scenario that you're describing, I mean, look, the lifestyle, business and generating money is a realistic, important piece of it. And so the way that I think about time allocation, if you're in that phase of the business that if you want to remain and that is the business, is you're probably spending about 90% of your time in the business, and about 10% of your time on the business within that 90%. And if you're at a fully optimized state, I think if you divided that time at 60% at servicing clients, and 30% marketing and business development, but exactly to your point about like okay, then how do you carve out time to really work on your craft and your passion and your products? I think what's cool about living in that stage is The time that 60% of time that you're spending with clients and doing your service delivery. Yeah, you're bringing, again, product creation in an iterative way. So that you're, you're meditating with new variations and styles. And you're continuing to upgrade and tweak and exercise your creativity and whatever that means to you. But you're actually doing it in a live money generating way, as opposed to like in that other stage I was talking about, you're going off to your laboratory for weeks at a time and like,
Susan Tatum 10:35
you're doing tests,
Julie Sellers 10:36
but it's not generating money anytime soon.
Susan Tatum 10:37
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. When you say fully optimized state, what does that mean?
Julie Sellers 10:43
I just think of that as like, in these kind of three stages, as we talked about that, though, optimize your profit, profit market that amplify and transition, it's like, there's going to be a period of time where you are moving into that space. And you're really spending your time in the most effective ways. On the activity, it's you should in quotation marks be sending them on. But the reality is like, it's going to take time to get there. So in that stage of like, amplifier, we're talking about five to 10 years or three to 10 employees. And I say, you should be spending 50% of time in your business and 50% on your business. That doesn't happen overnight, right? Like there's a ton of development to do to get it to a place where you're not spending most of your time generating money for your business. And it's a gradual process.
Susan Tatum 11:40
So I lost my train of thought the student when you say spit, you're not spending most of your time generating money that would be either servicing clients, or bringing in clients.
Julie Sellers 11:50
Susan Tatum 11:51
Okay. Yeah. Okay. So how do you so I know that you, you work a lot with getting clients, I think the first time that you came on the show we talked about, we were talking about business strategy, and you define strategy is how you allocate your scarcest resources
Julie Sellers 12:09
to the highest priorities
Susan Tatum 12:10
to the highest priorities? And if if I'm my only resource, initially, yeah, it's a matter then I'm guessing, of identifying what are the highest priorities? What are the most important things and not getting distracted? And this could go to that shiny object syndrome stuff? Not getting distracted by other things. So and what would you what do you advocate in? And how to do that? Is it all in the planning?
Julie Sellers 12:39
I don't think it's all in the planning, which actually, the people who know me may be surprised to hear me say that, you know, I think there's a time and a place for just doing what you're supposed to be doing, like stop planning and just start doing. So maybe I'll answer that question if it's okay, like in a really, really practical way. So if I had moved, reroll this framework of these three business stages, again, not saying stage three has to be your endgame. But for each stage, here's what I think of as the key work to do and the key priorities to really get to that optimal state that we're talking about. So in the first stage, when we're really optimizing for profit market fit, I think the most important work to do is to continue honing your product and your pricing. You know, this from our conversation a year ago, I'm such a proponent of this, I think this is the most important thing for any service base not to have super, super tight. So really getting tied the foundation of your product and pricing numbers to really nailing who your ideal clients is. And I know we might go into that a little bit more Axio having your marketing and business development plan. And here's the place I do advocate a plan. So it's not just willy nilly, like you have intentional actions, so that you are controlling your cash flow. And then the last piece of this is, I really like using from a financial point of view, fee structure of Profit First, as a way to think about your cash flow and how you're allocating money to something that we see. And as just, you know, a truth from the number of sleeplessness failure rate is people are not making a plan for how they are spending their money. And I think even if you do want to have a lifestyle business, and that's your ultimate goal, that's great. But one of the biggest financial mistakes people make in that model, whether they want to grow or they don't want to grow, is they just take all the leftover, so health profit, like whatever money is there, that's what they take out their salary, and I think that's a huge, huge, huge mistake. And then the very last piece of that stage if you do want to grow and your ambition is to, you know, kind of grow into what we call this legacy business that can operate beyond you, that's when you also start documenting your systems, making an organization chart plan, position, agreement.
Susan Tatum 15:18
Question, you were saying that the biggest mistake that or one of the biggest mistakes you see people make is that they take all of the money as their salary is there some kind of percentage or amount that should be left in the the, what's the minimum viable, leave it in business,
Julie Sellers 15:38
leave it in the business, start with just kind of repeating what the profit first structure is, because I think that's a really valuable at least like place to start from and edit from what profit first recommend says, if you make 200, if your business makes $250,000, a year or less of real revenue, and so this real revenue piece is really, really key. So if you spend any money on materials to service your business or on subcontractors to serve it to your business, those say I make 200 grand a year, a top line, but I subcontract out 50,000 of that are in the profit first structure, my real revenue would be 150,000. So whatever that real revenue number is, there recommendation is the owner is taking 50% of that as the owner salary. Okay. And then they're putting 5% aside for profit, and they're able to take a quarterly allocation for that profit. Okay, if I remember correctly, and we'll have to see if my math adds up. I think in that case, the thought processes, you're leaving 35%, maybe it is back in the business for expenses. And then there's tax money put aside as well.
Susan Tatum 17:03
Okay, no, that's good. That's a real, that's a real thing to be able to follow. Alright, so we're at this profit, we're optimizing for profit, we're at 50%. Wait a minute was the 50 50 40 and 10? For something I didn't, didn't write it down
Julie Sellers 17:18
it down, optimizing for profit market fit our time in the business is 90% 90%. Yeah. Okay. And then that sub divided 60% servicing clients, 30% marketing and business development. Okay, so just super simply, we're saying like a quarter of your time spent on bringing business into the business, and a little over half your time is doing the business.
Susan Tatum 17:42
Okay, then first for several consultants, what, what gets them to the next level? Because they think you were so was based on years in business and employees. Okay, so what we'll get a solo to the next level.
Julie Sellers 17:55
So I mean, there are really two things. So building on that kind of list of work I just listed out, it is also three things. One is having that marketing and business development plan. So that business is consistently coming in like you've built your flywheel. So you now start to have momentum, and it's coming in without all of your actions being a one for one action. So that has happened in the backgrounds. Number two would be you've implemented Profit First or some type of structure. So you have a structured regular practice of how you are either saving money or reinvesting money in the business, right? Because the number one reason small businesses fail is cashflow,
Susan Tatum 18:40
they run out of money.
Julie Sellers 18:41
And I think she was interesting about like thinking about this in time buckets is if I say this timing is a business that's been in here. This is business that has been in business for two to five years, 49% of businesses fail after year five, and the number one reason is cashflow. So that's another reason I kind of double down on that. Yeah, so then the third component of that is documenting your systems and starting to put a plan in place for the hires that you want to make like oh that list of work those are the three key things that transition you from this stage to the next stage.
Susan Tatum 19:20
So you know one of the things that I found that made me much more efficient and therefore more profitable was even even wwll it took me meeting the right people to understand to do this but the earlier the better is that if you if you actually are documenting the processes that you use with your with your clients, and you're not starting from scratch every single time and you actually have a a framework that makes all the difference in the world
Julie Sellers 19:50
I'm just realizing that I'm nodding my head shake your vigorously and no one can hear me of course but yes, I've not a degree but with with emphasis yeah I did that too. I mean, look, it's not just it is a process operational thing. But there's another piece of this, that I think it's really important that I don't hear folks talks about a lot. And that is, in a service based business, client intimacy is your key, right. But it's not just like the work deliverable that you're handing to someone on a piece of paper. It's the area's they're having while they are working with you. And so really, in a business where client relationships and intimacy are an important part of your business, what you really have to be able to do is not just transfer the nuts and bolts of like 12345 hair, the steps that we follow, but also transfer brands and experience constituents. Right, when someone works with elevated out have, they need to have of course, like the personality and flair of all of my colleagues individually. But there has to be a consistent and expectation brands experience to working with ellevated outcomes. And so it's the same you go through the step as you do of just documenting your house a deed, but it is this whole other layer. Oh, yeah. Shot ad if not more important than the actual, like 12345 piece,
Susan Tatum 21:22
right. And boy, that's a whole nother that's a whole another topic for how you get there. And it almost gives me a headache to think about it.
Julie Sellers 21:30
It's a lot of work. Yeah. I think what is you What does they have? If its, okay, like, it is possible. I just, I'm sure you hear this all the time to like, people are like, no one can do this in the way that I do it. And with me, right? And I just want to say to people like no, it is actually possible to transfer and translate the brand experience. It takes a lot of attentional work, but it's absolutely possible.
Susan Tatum 21:57
And if you don't do it, you're limiting yourself and the ability to grow, if that's what you want to do. Yeah,
Julie Sellers 22:03
you know, you're making me think of we have a client who had a very high end business. And as we were kind of wrapping up the retrospective of the first year for work we did together, it's a high, it's a high end business, and the clients are very high end and have expectations of what the experience is like. So she was really resisted for a while, like, no one can do this, the way that I do it. And one of her concluding reflections at the end of the year after she made a couple of hires that were the right people, and were open to learning what the brands experienced needed to be of her firm. She said, I really realized like, I've mostly got the business here. Like I'm not helping it grow. I'm in the wave its growth.
Susan Tatum 22:49
You're like bingo.
Julie Sellers 22:52
Yeah, yeah, we've started saying a phrase of like, don't be a bottleneck BSF? Like, that's kind of the
Susan Tatum 23:01
You could have t shirts made with that on it. So the another question along this line that that I see a lot is What are the most essential support roles? Or maybe what what do you hire for first, whether it's an employee, or you're outsourcing something? Where do you see? And I have a feeling you're gonna say depends. Yeah, because that's a good answer.
Julie Sellers 23:25
Yeah, yeah. I had to think it depends but I'll try to be more specific about what I think it depends on, I think people initially automatically think I need a bookkeeper. And that could very well be true, especially in the creative world, that tends to be an area that's lacking for some people. But look, it depends on what you like to do in the business, what you're good at doing in the business. And also, the number one mistake I see people make when they're thinking about hiring or outsourcing is they think, I don't know anything about numbers, I have to outsource bookkeeping, or I don't know anything about marketing, I have to outsource social media. But like before you do that you do have to get educated on what it is you don't know and what it is you're trying to achieve, because I just see so many people wasting a lot of money because they've outsourced all these things. But there's no like benchmark or success criteria that they're usually working toward with the person they're outsourcing. So I guess that's my more philosophical answer. But then to be really specific, I mean, accounting, of course, probably bookkeeping for a lot of people, but I definitely don't think that the first thing you need to do, and that I think if you can find help with product and pricing to happen There's set of eyes look over that. And then shortly after that ideal client business development, marketing, those are the pillars of your foundation that are going to make everything else that you put on top of it stronger or weaker. All right,
Susan Tatum 25:16
well, I think that is a great note to end on. Because we're running out of time, even though I've still got a whole half a page of things that I wanted to talk with you about. But thank you so much for sharing all of this I it I like that there's just actual numbers and steps that that we can follow. I like the tactical stuff. So I appreciate your doing that. And for anybody that wants to get in touch with you and and find out more about what you do. What's the best way to do that?
Julie Sellers 25:44
Yeah, the best way is just our website ellevated outcomes.com and elevated has two Ls the ELL. E elevated and we have information there about our advisory practice and our team you can see my fellow colleagues to all carry out the brands consistency and experience consistency and yeah
Susan Tatum 26:08
Anybody that is interested in that I really do recommend that they they talk to you and take a look at you because I think you've done a wonderful job of expanding your vision through other people to be able to serve more people. All right, Julie, as always, it was great talking with you and have a lovely rest of your day.
Julie Sellers 26:27