The 5 Signs Your Business Foundation Needs Some T.L.C. - erincantwell.co

The 5 Signs Your Business Foundation Needs Some T.L.C.

The other night I sat down on the couch, feet up, a glass of wine in hand, to watch one of those home improvement shows on HGTV. 

Besides walking on the beach at the Jersey Shore, it’s my favorite way to unplug and chill once business tasks are closed, the kids are asleep, and the dishes are done. 

I think I gravitate towards these shows because home renovations are equal parts strategy and design. It’s a perfect blend of the technical and the beautiful! It reminds me of my work as a business coach for creatives a bit!

Often these shows skip over the “ugly” parts of a major renovation project. They acknowledge tiny speed bumps along the way but quickly fast forward to the jaw-dropping transformation without showing all the incredible hard work and skill that went on behind the scenes to get to that point. 

But this episode was a bit different. 

Understandably, they can only squeeze so much content into a 30-minute episode, but I appreciated how REAL this episode was. 

You see:

They had lofty plans for this home. Everything fit perfectly into the budget. The homeowners were getting all of their figurative boxes checked and were on their way to making their DREAM home a reality. 

Until–

The contractor got on sight.

The inspection revealed that the house they were about to renovate was on a shaky foundation. A massive chunk of their budget would have to go toward repairing this foundation so that their home would be safe and secure

Sounds like a no-brainer. 

But you could tell the homeowners, heck, even the designers, were absolutely crushed. They had no idea! The house SEEMED in good enough condition to the naked eye. But once they were aware of the issue, it simply could not be ignored.

I mean, can you IMAGINE building (and spending lots of time and $$$) on the perfect home, only to find out years or even just months down the road that you’d have to scrap it all and start from scratch?!

NO, THANK YOU!

In the end, the home STILL looked spectacular. The design team came up with some budget-friendly, creative solutions to ensure the homeowners still got a home they ADORED that was ALSO safe, strong, and made to last!

You know I couldn’t help but draw the connection between the foundation of this home and the foundation of YOUR creative business. 

It’s such a strong analogy that can help creative business owners understand the value of building a solid foundation first. 

While every business (and home reno, for that matter) will come with some passing feelings of…

  • Overwhelm
  • Confusion
  • Disorganization
  • Frustration

They should NEVER be the norm in your business! And if they are, it may be a sign that you’re trying to build on a less than solid foundation!

That’s why this blog is dedicated to helping YOU identify if the foundation of your creative business needs a little T.L.C.

You can think of me as your personal “business”  contractor, guiding you as you identify the gaps, cracks, and holes in your business so that you can repair them intentionally (instead of just slapping on some duct tape and hoping for the best). 

Let’s talk about the five signs your business foundation needs some T.L.C. so you can strategically build a creative business that LASTS. 

Sign #1 The “Duct Taped” Business

Ask yourself: Have I taken on projects here and there, but never really thought about (or treated) all these standalone projects as one cohesive business?

This is one of the most common roadblocks I see when working with clients who are early in their business. So, if you feel your business has become one big paper mache project, you’re not alone. 

Even I fell into this trap early on in my own business! 

When you’re starting out, you’re thrilled to have work of ANY kind! You start taking on projects as they pop up: a logo for your uncle, a website for your friend, a brochure for your brother. It might even feel a bit surreal that you’re making money doing the type of creative work you love. 

I remember thinking, “pinch me, is this a dream!?” 

But picking up random projects that don’t feel aligned with your goals can be a slippery slope.  Quickly your energy becomes scattered and you’re taking on projects out of obligation instead of from a place of strategy and alignment. Your processes are non-existent because every single project is built from scratch instead of a reproducible system!

Sound familiar?

Once you become aware of how you’re approaching your business, you can start treating your creative work like the REAL business it is. If you don’t, it will never be stable or sustainable. 

Let’s start thinking of it as one cohesive business today. 

How?

Get clear on your offer suite (including services, courses, workshops, or products), pricing, and the systems that support your work. Honing in on these pieces will provide you with direction and the confidence you need to take on the “right” projects (the ones that move the needle in your business and help you build towards your entrepreneurial dreams), so you can truly step into your role as CEO!

Instead of throwing together a foundation with some flimsy cardboard and duct tape, it’s time to pour the CONCRETE that will firmly bind everything together.  THIS sets apart the casual side-hustle from the strategic, built-to-last BUSINESS you deserve!

Sign #2 Scope Creep

Ask yourself: Do my projects keep going over budget and timeline?

Scope creep is a BIG issue in the creative industry! 

What’s scope creep, you ask?

Scope creep is the term used to describe when the terms of a project slowly “creep” beyond what was originally agreed to. Often this looks like an extra illustration, another round of revisions, alternate logo options, or juuussstt a few more pages. 

Scope creep can often cause your project timelines to extend which is an issue in and of itself! This can result in wasted time and energy, and lower satisfaction of all parties involved. Plus, it can even harm the value of a project.

Often new business owners THINK that they are being helpful when they make exceptions, loosen their boundaries, and try to bend over backward to accommodate their client’s requests. But more often than not this practice is more hurtful than helpful. 

While it may be common, it doesn’t have to be! In fact, if you’re regularly working outside of your scope, budget, and timeline, it’s a sure sign that there are some weak spots in your business foundation. 

So, where to begin?

If this is happening to you consistently, start by establishing clear deadlines and communicating strong boundaries with your clients, team, and yourself!

You likely need to take a good hard look at your contracts, client management, project management, and even communication systems to get to the root of the issue! All of these areas are critical to keeping your business sound and supported.

Sign #3 Client Frustrations

Ask yourself: Am I frustrated with my clients more often than I’m happy with them?

A little tough love moment:

Hate to break it to ya, but your clients AREN’T the problem.

Out of all the people you serve in your business, YOU are the common denominator. So YOU have to be the source of the solution

This can be a tough pill to swallow, and a complex problem to solve. It will require you to dig deep and ask yourself WHY you keep hitting these frustration points with your clients. 

Likely it has to do with boundaries and/or communication (are you sensing a theme?!). But the good news is you can influence these aspects of your business. As CEO, you are SO incredibly in charge!

Put simply: you teach your people how to treat you!

Empowering huh?

Start by:

  • Establishing clear timelines and expectations for projects (and then enforcing these boundaries)
  • Developing a common language for feedback and expectations around communication.
  • Meeting your clients where they’re at and genuinely understanding their pain points and how YOU can offer solutions through your work together.

You deserve to work with clients you absolutely adore serving. And your clients deserve an experience full of mutual respect, trust, and communication. 

You have the power and the authority to repair your relationships with your clients, your work, and most importantly with yourself so that you can get back to doing the work you love for the people you love to serve while building positive, healthy, long-lasting client partnerships along the way!

Sign #4 Tail Chasing

Ask yourself: Do I feel like I’m always playing catch up and trying not to drop the ball?

The success of your business (and ability to get stuff DONE) shouldn’t be left to chance or sheer willpower! You need foundational systems to help you organize projects, prioritize tasks, and appropriately channel your energy where it counts!

It’s time to dig into your project, task, and business management. 

You need systems and rhythms. Ones that are ACTUALLY sustainable and work WITH you and not against you. I genuinely believe that what gets measured gets managed. 

Let’s take a look at a few ways to monitor and measure your progress:

  1. Get clear on your vision and goals so you can make sure your current tasks, projects, and systems are aligned. If they’re not, allow yourself to cut out or reframe tasks that aren’t relevant anymore!

  2. Identify recurring tasks in your business and create a system for each. Anything you do more than once should be systematized!

    1. Create SOPs (standard operating procedures) that outline who, what, where, why, and when of those tasks (click here to get the full scoop on SOPs)

    2. Set rhythms that indicate how often you complete these recurring tasks so you never have to drop the ball or worry about losing that critical sticky note reminder!

COO Tip: I actually created an entire 8-blog series about Rhythms in Business and outlined how to approach each of the rhythms your unique business relies on, such as marketing, finances, communication, and even creative time! Check them out here!

Sign #5 ZERO time for creativity

Ask yourself: Am I spending more time and energy on running my business than I am on the creative work I love?

This is a MAJOR red flag! 

But it’s also SO common. You started your business to pursue the creative work you are passionate about. But the steep learning curve of the business side of things can become all-encompassing. You quickly realize you’re spending your work days in the weeds of your business more often than not. You’re doing things outside your zone of genius that keep you from the work you are most skilled in.

While running a creative business will always involve some not-so-fun tasks (there’s always going to be stuff that simply has to get done), there should be a balance between the business and the creative side of things. In fact, it’s the mission behind my entire business!

I highly recommend that all creative entrepreneurs carve out time to be creative just for creativity’s sake and to create BEFORE consuming anything from the outside world. 

Make creative time a priority by time blocking it on your calendar just like you would a client meeting or a doctor’s appointment. Make it a non-negotiable so you can breathe easy, knowing you won’t fall into the trap of putting your creative pursuits on the back burner!

Creating before engaging with the outside world is another way to tap into your own creative perspectives without being prematurely influenced by others. 

Being an entrepreneur is about trailblazing, not following in the footsteps of others! Prioritize time to reflect on your own unique opinions and ideas. You’ll feel more connected to your creativity and learn to trust yourself as a creative and a business owner too!

Shore Up Your Business Foundation

We’ve only scratched the surface of what it looks like to build a strong foundation for the success of your creative business. I know this may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! You have all the tools you need to get started and THAT is what matters most.

I think this quote captures it perfectly:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. You just have to take the first step.” –  Martin Luther King Jr.

And then, when you’re ready for steps 2, 3, 4, and beyond, I’m here for you. 

In fact, I’ve designed an entire course specifically for building a strong business foundation. 

It’s launching soon, and I want you to be the FIRST to know when it goes LIVE!

Get on the no-obligation course waitlist here!

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