Imagine building a house.
No, not just any old house.
Your dream house.
I bet you can picture it now.
For me, it involves a beach view from my sun-drenched kitchen, a massive backyard with fluffy green grass for my kids, and an oversized clawfoot tub filled to the brim with bubbles!
Your dream home would probably look different.
But no matter your tastes and preferences, every home needs a solid foundation and structure.
Because is it REALLY a dream home if those big, bright windows bring in a chilly draft?
If the lawn floods every time it rains?
Or the tub has a perpetually leaky faucet?
No matter what your “dream home” would look like, you would need to build it on a STRONG foundation.
You wouldn’t cut corners! You’d use high-quality bricks, cement, and stone; The same materials used in the iconic buildings that have been standing for 20, 30, 50, 100, or more years.
And you wouldn’t just hand the project over to Joe the handyman. You’d probably hire an experienced architect and a reliable contractor who use tried and true building methods meant to stand the test of time.
And believe it or not, building the BUSINESS of your dreams is a whole lot like building the house of your dreams.
No, you may not literally need cement and stone, but if you want to bring that vision to life, you need to focus on the foundation and structure that will make everything sound and secure so you can confidently build your dreams on a solid foundation.
In this blog, we’ll explore how to intentionally, strategically, and wisely build a business from the ground up that will stand the test of time.
So, back to your house.
If you were to build a home, you’d follow a process that would probably look something like this…
1. Start with an inspiration board (this will influence the home’s style, layout, and functionality).
2. Then draw up some blueprints (these will map out the dimensions of each room)
3. Next, get those pesky permits (gotta keep it legal and safe!).
4. Then lay the bricks (to create the structure of your home).
5. Add the mortar (the “glue” that holds those bricks together).
6. And finally, add the finishing touches (like paint, fixtures, furniture, and landscaping to give it your personal flair).
Your business is no different!
This process mirrors how you would go about building a strong, solid business:
Let’s dig deeper into each of these steps, and how they parallel the steps we would follow to build a house!
The vision you have for your business is like the inspiration board you’d use to build a house! It will set the overarching tone for every decision you make so that you can be sure your choices are cohesive, aligned, and keep you on track as you set, work towards, and meet your goals.
While your business will naturally evolve over time, it is crucial to get clear about what you aim to build. You’ll develop your business intentionally by getting clear on your vision and goals. This involves looking at how your business fits into the big picture of your life, defining what success means to you, crafting your mission statement, vision statement, and core values, and connecting to your greater “why.”
Step back and consider how you want your business to fit into your life and vice versa. How do you hope to serve, and who do you want to serve through your creative work?
Each business and entrepreneur will have a different understanding of what success means to them. Some people define success financially, while others find success through time freedom, flexibility, client retention and satisfaction, work-life balance, and creative pursuits. You may even view success as a combination of these. When setting your vision, you’ll want to get clear on what success looks like to you, so you know when you’ve achieved it.
Your vision statement, mission statement, and core values work together to establish the core of the culture you are building in your business.
A vision statement is aspirational. As you establish a vision for your business, consider where you want to be in three, five, or even ten years!
For example, Google’s vision statement is “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
Your business mission statement is the purpose of your business and the intention behind your work.
Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Your core values are the principles that guide all of your actions. What do you stand for as a business? Are there certain causes or organizations you support? Expressing these values will help your audience, clients, and team members connect with you on a deeper, more personal level.
Google’s core values include:
Just to name a few!
I like to think of these three things as your guiding light, the north star of your business that everything should aim towards. The mission statement is the ultimate goal you want to achieve. The vision statement is how you are going to get there. Finally, the core values are the principles and beliefs that guide the actions you take to make it all happen.
While you need to make money to be a business, money isn’t everything and it can’t always motivate us the way something more deeply personal will. The “why” behind your business is your TRUE motivation. The reason you wake up each morning passionate about the creative work you do! It will help carry you through the challenging moments that will inevitably come up along your entrepreneurial journey.
Dig down deep and spend some time considering:
Why are you really doing this work?
Why is it important for you to be successful at this?
Your why may be connected to what your business provides you, such as financial security or time with family and friends.
You’ll want to revisit these elements of your overall vision to ensure you’re still in alignment as your business grows and changes in the future.
Once your vision is clear, it’s time to outline how you will reach these goals. You can think of your business plan like the blueprints of a house.
Just as home blueprints tell you the layout, dimensions, and specs of the structure, your business plan will provide both a bird’s eye view and the specific details of your company. Your Business Plan should include several components such as, but not limited to, your offers, pricing, schedule, and capacity.
Simply put: What products or services will you offer?
This is an incredibly important piece of your business plan to establish. As creatives, it can be easy to get sucked into the trap of picking up random projects here and there. One day, you might wake up and realize you have an accidental business full of projects you don’t truly love OR that don’t actually add up financially or energetically.
You don’t have to do anything and everything. In fact, sometimes, keeping things simple and streamlined can be to your advantage and can help you stand out as an expert in your particular niche.
Take time to decide what kinds of products or services you will (and will NOT– hello, boundaries!) offer to your clients.
Consider these questions:
You are so incredibly in control as CEO of your business. Don’t forget that YOU get to call the shots!
Once you’ve established your offer suite, it’s time to price your services or products! Sure, doing a bit of market research to see what your industry competitors charge can be a good place to start.
But you also need to make sure that your prices make sense after all the time, energy, and resources you pour into each project. How you do something is likely very different from how someone else does it! Get really clear on how much time and energy you spend on these projects so that you can price strategically and profitably.
COO Tip: If you are looking for ways to increase profitability, be sure to check out this blog post, The Creative Business Guide to Setting & Meeting Your Money Goals. It explores the different capacity levers you can “pull” to optimize your profits and your capacity!
Just like you get to decide which projects you work on and how much you charge, you ALSO get to determine your schedule and availability!
Take time to reflect on your lifestyle goals first.
How many hours would you prefer to work per week?
Do you want to work Monday-Friday?
Or do you prefer to take certain days off?
What will be your typical work hours (consider things like picking up the kids from school at 3 pm or making time to take your favorite morning yoga class at 8 am)?
Then consider where your time is currently going to see if you can be more strategic about where you’re channeling your time and energy. I created a simple time audit tool that you can grab here for free!
Once you’ve defined your work schedule and availability, make sure your capacity adds up! Consider how much time it takes for you to complete one of your offers and services. Given the number of hours you plan to work and what you charge for your offer, does it all make sense?
If you find that your current capacity doesn’t add up to your financial goals, you can explore adjusting your schedule as a way to expand your capacity. If you work an abbreviated workweek but want to increase your profits, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons and decide what feels right for you.
This blog post is an excellent resource when determining if your capacity can realistically meet your business and personal expectations and goals!
These pieces will ensure that your business vision adds up to your business reality.
*Please note the below information is not financial or legal advice. Please consult your business accountant or lawyer before taking any financial or legal action.
Anyone can start a business. Heck, the neighborhood kids down the street popped up a lemonade stand last weekend and started making money in 5 minutes flat!
But the question isn’t about doing it, it’s about doing it RIGHT.
Is your business made to last? Making sure your business is legally and financially sound is like getting the proper permits to build your house up to code!
Be sure to consult your tax professional and business lawyer as you set up:
An LLC is a Limited Liability Company. An LLC can protect you and your personal assets from any company debts or liabilities.
An EIN number stands for Employer Identification Number. It is used for tax purposes in the U.S.! The IRS states, “An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, and is used to identify a business entity. Generally, businesses need an EIN.” You can even apply online!
Yes. You NEED contracts, especially if you’re a service provider! Contracts help to protect you, offer clear boundaries, establish firm timelines, and clarify expectations to leave little room for misinterpretation. Plus, they are there to serve you in case a legal situation arises. You can work with a business lawyer to create custom contracts for your needs. There are also contract template resources available, but be sure that these fit your specific needs and industry.
You may also want to explore:
Having these pieces in place and receiving expert guidance will help you sleep soundly at night, knowing your business is in safe hands!
As an outsourced COO, I am a huge advocate of implementing and maintaining effective systems, software, and SOPs in business. I compare these tools to the bricks of a home.
My rule of thumb: if you’ve done a task more than once, you need a system!
Systems dictate exactly how things are done in your business, so you don’t have to start from scratch each and every time. This will save you lots of extra time and energy!
When the tasks and responsibilities in your business are systematized, you can reduce errors and ensure consistency.
Your business systems should include:
Financial systems are important for everything money-related, including payroll for you and your team, sending out invoices, meeting with your accountant, updating your books, collecting payments, filing taxes, and paying your bills. These systems and SOPs (standard operating procedures) will define who is responsible for each task and how specifically it should be completed.
Sales systems will tend to all of the tasks related to bringing on new clients. Your sales systems should account for recurring tasks such as discovery calls, sending proposals, drafting contracts, invoices, and more! First impressions count and setting the tone for your new client relationship with a smooth, organized, and impressive sales process will kick off any project on the right foot!
Your business relies on marketing to spread the word, get in front of your ideal audience, promote your offers, and keep your products or services top of mind.
You need marketing systems in place to make sure your marketing plan is manageable and consistent every single time. Marketing systems can be created around paid ads, referrals, affiliate programs, content, and more!
In our current (social!) world, most businesses also choose to include content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy. And for a content marketing strategy to be effective, consistency is key – which means systems are essential!
Your content marketing systems should include guidance related to the types of content you share (blogs, social media posts, reels, TikTok videos, YouTube videos, etc…) and your process for creating these content pieces. Map out each stage of the process, such as brainstorming, writing or creating, editing, and posting or publishing.
No matter how you choose to market your business, it needs to be systematized to be effective.
Early on in business, you may be able to keep all of those to-do lists in your head or on post-it notes. But as your business becomes more robust and the volume of tasks multiply, you need a better and more sustainable system. It’s never too soon to get a project management system in place!
Project Management Systems such as ClickUp and Asana are excellent tools for managing project tasks, deadlines, materials, and notes. Plus, you can delegate tasks amongst your team and share reminders with clients as needed!
Quick Disclosure: Some of these links happen to be affiliate links, which means when you click the link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!
Don’t leave your client experience to chance. Good intentions simply aren’t enough. In order to maintain a consistent, reliable, and predictable client experience from one project to the next, systems must be established. Software can be a huge help here, especially for recurring client-facing tasks like onboarding and offboarding. I highly recommend you look into investing in a CRM (Client Relationship Management System) such as Honeybook or Dubsado to streamline these processes and organize your systems in one easy-to-use location.
Your business may require other unique systems, such as an inventory management system, if you’re a product-based business. But, these core systems will serve as the strong building blocks of any successful business.
Rhythms are the glue that hold everything together in your business! Rhythms ensure that you are tending to your business tasks regularly and in a timely manner so that everything runs smoothly like a well-oiled machine. We can compare rhythms in business to the mortar of a home that binds everything together!
Your systems are the processes (HOW you do things). The rhythms you implement to support these systems will dictate HOW OFTEN you repeat and tend to these systems. With both of these elements firmly established, you’ll experience how rhythms can fit together in harmony to support each other.
Rhythms in business include:
As the CEO of your business, it can be tough to get out of the weeds. So often, we are absorbed in the day-to-day grind that it can be hard to take a step back and actually step into your leadership role. CEO Time Rhythms can make a huge difference! This is time you spend working ON your business instead of IN your business. CEO time is dedicated to big picture planning and vision casting. Some people take CEO Time every week (for example, I take CEO time every Friday), while others take CEO Time annually for several days (I’ve even had clients who take a CEO Time trip to get away and just focus on tending to their business without any interruptions)!
If keeping up with your business finances in a timely manner gives you serious anxiety, financial rhythms are going to be a lifesaver for you! Financial rhythms oversee WHEN certain money tasks are handled. They can help you keep your financial systems organized with things like sending client invoices (so you don’t have a huge collection of overdue balances), paying your credit card bills on time, taking care of payroll for your team members so they can count on you, and all those other money tasks that, quite simply, cannot fall through the cracks!
Sales can feel daunting for many business owners! Having intentional sales processes and rhythms can help take the overwhelm out of the process without feeling icky or pushy. In fact, selling is less about pouring time, energy, and money into ads, promotions, or sales tactics and more about being of service to your clients. The best sales strategy starts with rhythms that tend to all parts of the Customer Journey and nail the Client Experience. Establish rhythms so that you can follow up with prospects in a timely manner, send proposals punctually, and follow up with past clients to see if you can support them again in the future!
Once you get clear on HOW you want to market your business (paid ads, referrals, content, etc.), you’ll want to put rhythms in place to support these tasks. The marketing game is all about consistency. To be an effective marketer, you need to be consistent in order to build the “know, like, and trust” factor with your audience. A person needs to see something at least 7 times (called the Rule of 7) before it sinks in, and they actually are ready to go ahead and buy. The marketing rhythms are what create the consistency that will warm your audience to become clients, buyers, and raving fans.
Marketing isn’t just about putting content or promotions out there on a regular basis. In order to stay relevant and connected with your ideal audience, you need to engage! Engagement can be tough to keep up with and often becomes an afterthought. However, engagement can help your business stay relevant and on the pulse of trends and needs in your industry. Establishing engagement rhythms can help you connect with your people on a consistent basis without feeling overwhelmed! Even showing up for just a few minutes each day to respond to comments on TikTok or answer questions in the DMs can go a long way to building trust and authority with the people you serve.
Operations (often called “ops”) are any and all of the tasks, responsibilities, or actions that keep your business functioning. Ops rhythms help you regularly keep up with things like file and asset backup, organization (file naming conventions and folder hierarchies), software setup, administrative work (the fun stuff, I know), team training, and customer service or client experience. When operations rhythms are solid, your business will hum like a well-oiled machine!
Communicating and communicating well are two entirely different things. Just because words are being said and ideas are exchanged doesn’t mean genuine communication is happening! Communication rhythms add structure and consistency to your communication with your clients, team, vendors, and all other stakeholders in your business. Communication rhythms establish when recurring communications should happen. They can be used to set boundaries and expectations around things like team meetings, project calls, and even OOO (out of office) periods like vacations or CEO Time! These rhythms will help build trust and ease in your work!
This is time that you reserve to be creative just for creativity’s sake! As a creative business owner, it can be easy to start seeing your work as a means to an end. But creativity is the lifeblood of your business, and as such, it needs to be something you nurture and celebrate! Carving out time for your creativity can help you tap into new forms of expression. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to approach your work in a different way or solve a problem in your business from a fresh perspective!
COO Tip: I have found that rhythms are the most simple and impactful approach to meeting my business goals. They have made ALL the difference for my clients and me. Interested in getting started? I created an entire blog series on the 8 rhythms everything business needs. You can check it out here!
Creating rhythms to support your business is like the home maintenance plan that ensures the figurative paint is fresh, the appliances work, and the roof is intact!
Now that you have the inspiration board, the blueprint to map out your plans, the proper permits to make sure everything is legit, the building blocks, and the mortar that holds it all together, your house is ready for the finishing touches!
The finishing touches in your dream home may include planting a garden for some curb appeal, painting the walls a soothing color, or selecting beautiful hardware for your light fixtures and cabinets– the things that make it uniquely yours!
Your business needs and deserves finishing touches too! Just as your personal style and preferences influence the accents of your home, YOU and your one-of-a-kind talents, creativity, skills, and perspectives are what make your business unique!
Here are some of the best ways to make it personal and add that “cherry on top” to a sustainable, sturdy business that’s built to last:
Self-care is important for your personal life and your business life! No matter how “successful” your business may appear on the outside, if you’re not doing well or aren’t feeling happy, the foundation of your business will never be solid.
You can do this by implementing healthy routines and reinforcing boundaries with your team, your clients, and even yourself!
An investment in yourself is an investment in your business. Learning new skills and pouring into both your professional and personal development is always time and money well spent! Remember, a big part of stepping into your role as CEO is understanding the difference between an expense and an investment that will offer a good return in the form of time, energy, money, or other resources. After all, YOU are your biggest business asset!
Just like your home is constantly evolving with new decor, appliances, an addition, or renovations to fit your needs, tastes, and lifestyle, so is your business. No matter where you’re at in your business, you’ll revisit this process and these key pieces again and again.
This is foundational stuff.
It’s not something you do once and never need to address again. You will come back to it as you grow. These things are the key to keeping your business solid and stable.
If you’re looking for more support as you build the foundation, structure, and design of your business, I’ve created an entire course specifically with you in mind to help you build the foundation for your successful creative business. Click here to learn more!