It’s no secret that the longer we work on our business, the more confident we become. It makes sense—confidence comes from little wins building up to big ones.
But what if you could have that confidence now, and skip over those early years of making costly mistakes and feeling that constant overwhelm?
This post was created to help you do just that. Today I’m launching a new series that’s going to help you create a blueprint for achieving the dreams that motivated you to start your own online business.
Build Your Business Blueprint Let me tell you, I wish I’d had this kind of blueprint when I was getting my business started. I look back now and think about how I would have spent time and money differently, in those early days, and how much more quickly I would have seen results.
The series I’m going to bring you is built on the three stages of business development. Today, I’m going to walk through those stages so you can identify which one you’re currently in, and prepare for taking giant leaps forward.
I’ve invited along my favorite mentor on the business building journey—Marie Forleo.
You might have heard of her through INC’s 500 fastest growing companies list in 2014, or through Oprah, who named her as a thought leader for the next generation. Maybe you know her from her award-winning show, Marie TV, or her extremely popular training program “B-School,” which shaped the success of my business when I went through it at the time I was starting my own online business.
In addition to all these credits, Marie is a personal friend and an invaluable mentor whose guidance helped me realize my business’ potential at a time when I was constantly second-guessing myself.
Just like you and me, Marie started deep in the trenches: building her list, figuring out programs and products, determining a voice for her blog, nailing down the techniques of creating video content. Over the years, she has built a multi-million-dollar business, and she is here today to offer her hard-won insight on what the three stages look like and how to navigate them gracefully.
Listen to Episode 45 to get all of Marie's expert insights on identifying what stage your business is in.
In addition to our talk, Marie is offering an immensely exciting freebie to all of you: a free video mini-training series WITH A FREE DOWNLOADABLE PDF all about the ins and outs of building a business you love. Get instant access to it here.
Stage 1: Start Up Start-up stage is all about testing the waters. You need stamina, grit, a whole lot of hustle, and flexibility. Embrace trial and error—you’re going to mess up a lot in this stage, and that’s okay.
Marie recalls that her start-up stage was messy. In addition to working on her business, she was holding down other jobs on the side. She frequently felt scared and skeptical of herself, wondering who was going to hire her.
“I was running completely on passion and drive, not on experience and certainly not on education.”
But the upside of all this was that she was constantly moving, observing from the inside how various businesses were run, overcoming her personal challenges of time and ability. She also realized that, despite the crazy, working on her own business felt more right than any of the big, prestigious jobs she’d had in the past.
During her start-up stage, Marie focused on two important things:
Your mindset is crucial in every stage, but it plays a particularly big part in Stage One. Your self-doubt will tell you that you're too inexperienced, too young (or too old), that you don't have the skills or knowledge you need, that you're not worth what you're charging people...in short, that you don't have what it takes and no one will listen to you.
The followup to these messages, of course, is that you'd better jump ship and go back to your old job, if you can.
The only way to combat this voice and right your mindset is with the other voice--the one that motivated you to start your business in the first place. For Marie, constantly referring to that other voice--the one that said "You must do this"--was crucial to getting her mindset right throughout Stage 1:
"I knew I wasn’t meant to work for anyone else. That was really the thing that drove me past all of those emotional and psychological hurdles that we all face. I knew I had to make this work because I tried the other route and that just isn’t me. This was just not going to cut it."
2. Free stuff
In the start-up stage, you do a lot of work for free just to gain experience and build up social proof and testimonials.
Marie remembers offering her services not just to her friends, but to any friends or relatives they might have.
“Just get me people I can work with so I could feel confident, not just from textbook learning but from real world experience. I wanted to figure out how to work with people who I could create real results in their lives.”
Main Focus of Stage 1: Discipline and Habit Development In Stage 1, you are the primary source of cash and energy—in other words, you are doing it all. You are creating content, you are building your email list. You are networking. This stage is all about adding value, giving more than you are asking for in return. All the while, you are growing in your understanding of your target audience.
In the midst of all hustling to make ends meet, Marie forged some solid habits on behalf of her fledgling business: she consistently created content, she attended trainings, and she committed to building her email newsletter.
Habits like these are crucial in Stage 1, no matter how busy you are. You have to train yourself to do is be disciplined enough to do the things that matter the most for your business. For online business, that means publishing content and getting it out there to your audience.
Danger Zone of Stage 1: Creative Cul-De-Sacs This is Marie’s term for those loops that we get stuck in, where we can waste hours and days and months without making a decision, moving ahead or doing things that truly matter.
This can include things like naming your business, or coming up with a logo—little tasks that somehow can siphon hours out of your day. You can also easily get stuck comparing yourself to others who seem to have reached the kind of success you would like to experience, which seems so far out of reach in Stage 1.
Rather than get down on yourself thinking they have done it already, and there is no room for you, use their success as inspiration. Rather than waste time and energy and emotion and passion being down on yourself, stay in your own lane and realize if someone else is successful that means success is possible.
Stage 2: Monetization This is the stage where you are at last making a consistent profit. You streamline your product offerings, learning what works and doing more of it. This gives you more freedom in terms of creativity and support and cash to optimize what you’ve created.
Marie remembers the great feeling that came with reaching this stage.
“It was so awesome to realize I had so much to share and that people wanted to pay attention. I recognized if I did certain things I could turn it into a physical product… I started recognizing the power of leverage.”
At the same time, however, she was still doing side jobs. Marie cautions people against moving too quickly in Stage 2—it’s wise to take it slow, methodically and strategically building your business over time. A lot of growth happens in the monetization stage, bringing with it a lot of figuring out where your sweet spot is, what you are great at, how you can serve people the best.
Main Focus of Stage 2: Learn to Delegate Once your business starts to expand, it’s vital to break the habit of having everything in your own head. This is where you start learning how to delegate, to organize yourself, and to set visions and goals for yourself and your company.
These things—delegation, organization and vision—are related. Here’s why:
Most of us start off as a one-woman or one- man show, running the whole ship from our minds. You have to articulate your vision very clearly so that you can delegate effectively. You need people on your team to see the vision of where the company is going, so that they can help you get there.
As Marie’s profits continued to build and she started to get more sophisticated, she realized her need for support. During this stage, she began to hire her first assistants to handle customer service, content creation, tech support…all things that she couldn’t keep going on her own. This left her free to test different content ideas and experiment with optimizing her programs in different ways.
That's how B-School came to be. Marie's events were started gain momentum. When numbers reached into the hundreds, she had to figure out a new way to reach all the people who wanted to attend her event, without compromising the integrity, value and personal feel she was known for. Rather than livestream the event or rent a vast auditorium, she came up with the idea for video programs that deliver the high brand experience while reaching millions of people.
Killing off her other offerings meant sacrificing a couple of million dollars a year in revenue, at first. But by focusing on excellence, she was able to reach her authentic vision for her company, both from a financial standpoint and, more importantly, from an impact and lifestyle standpoint.
This is what it takes to transition from a one-person show into a thriving company. When you articulate those visions for the coming months, you can begin forecasting out, and planning for bigger and better things.
Danger Zone of Stage 2: Forgetting to Stop and Analyze Entrepreneurs are a fast-moving bunch. We are going from the moment we get up in the morning until late at night…and the next day we get up and do it all over again.
But it’s really important in the monetization stage to regularly stop moving so fast and analyze your numbers. Ask yourself if what you’re doing at such a furious rate is really the wisest way to reach your long-term vision and goals. What do you want? Where do you want to go in the next year? Are your actions lining you up to get there?
Don't be afraid to confront yourself and take the opportunity to make big changes, if necessary. It’s easier to make those changes now than it will be down the road.
Download Episode 45 for more details on how you can prepare now for taking your business to the next level.
Stage 3: Expansion Although you are never done growing or expanding in your business, in this third stage you have more financial freedom and creative freedom than you have ever had. Your mind is more open to think of other opportunities you’ve wanted to explore. You’re going full force and everything that you’ve created has gotten even better.
Stage 3 is where you get to reap the rewards of everything you’ve created. For example, during the last holiday season, Marie declared two weeks of total shutdown for her company. Everyone unplugged and enjoyed the opportunity to not be “on." It was, Marie says, the best thing they’d ever done—and it was all made possible by the freedom afforded by their hard work in the first two stages.
Of course, during Stage One and Stage Two you wish you could find that down time. It doesn’t come as easily and it’s probably not going to be shutting down the business for two weeks. But there are pockets of time that you can take those breaks.
Main Focus of Stage 3: Follow Your Vision Stage 3 can feel like a mountaintop, but it's not the end of the journey. When your business is enjoying the creative freedoms and financial stability of Stage 3, it’s important to remain true to your vision and expand it in the right ways, especially as more opportunities arise.
Danger Zone Stage 3: Ignoring Your Intuition Bigger isn’t always better. More isn’t always what you truly want. In Stage 3, as new possibilities and greater freedoms arise, you’ve got to listen closer than ever to your own intuition to build the business that you want.
Enjoy the Journey The great thing about this business journey is that it never really stops. Even while Marie is in Stage 3 of her business as a whole, she’s in Stage 1 with certain aspects. No matter where you might be right now, you can always find yourself circling through these stages, embarking on new territory.
All the things we’ve talked about today can be found in greater detail in the content Marie shares in this free mini training series. Click here to access Marie's guidance through the three stages we talked about today, delivered with her signature flair.
EPISODE 45 Click Here to Check Out Marie's Free Training Videos LEARN MORE
And don't forget to listen to Episode 45 in full--there's a lot more that Marie and I discussed in this interview that you won't want to miss!