In this article, I want to revisit the big picture for creating a leveraged business that helps you avoid entrepreneurial burnout and achieve work life balance. I’m all about helping you with mindset, marketing & money model breakthroughs and building up the leverage pillars you need to grow & scale your business.
And to achieve work life balance with strategies that don’t have you heading towards burnout while you achieving it! Because, there’s a bigger, even more fundamental question at the heart of all this leveraging talk – and achieving work life balance is what I’d like to get back to in this piece.
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We’ve covered a lot of different topics over the 24 episodes of the podcast so far, so I want us to take a breath and reflect back on the journey we’ve taken and circle back on what it’s all about.
And no, it’s not a cheat way to rehash old content. I’ve really loved putting these thoughts together. In fact, it’s been fairly easy to plan out topics because these are aspects of business building that I’m working on with clients every single week.
And producing each piece of content as both a written and audio version not only helps me to leverage my time or “use time twice” if you like, it also suits the different ways that people like to consume content.
At the outset of the podcast, I dived into the overall concept of a leveraged approach to building and growing your business and how it helps you achieve work life balance, whatever that looks like to you that doesn’t end up with you collapsing from physical and mental exhaustion.
More specifically, my view of the way to achieve work life balance is a mix of creating both the personal and financial freedom you need through leveraged approaches that help you build business resilience. It means you create a business that makes sure success is iterative and sustainable, so you don’t feel on the edge, stressed about whether you can keep all the plates spinning in the air!
So let me ask you something (and feel free to drop me a comment at the end of this article or if you’re on my Insights newsletter email list, just hit me a reply anytime)…
My question is this:
How does your business feel for you right now?
Are you happy? Are you fulfilled?
Are you in control of your business or is your business controlling you?
And a really important question I want to dive into here if you want to achieve work life balance is this:
How do we achieve balance and growth whilst avoiding entrepreneurial burnout?
Because burnout is a real and present danger for the high achiever’s way of working. If you haven’t experienced it, you might under estimate it. Trust, me I did, unless it hit me.
Burnout can happen to anyone, and it can happen at any stage of your entrepreneurial journey, whether you’re super successful or you’re stressed and struggling.
Over the course of the show, and these past few months’ blog content, we’ve looked at leveraged strategies, leveraging you, leveraging other people, leveraged content, and we’ve dived into practicalities of mindset shifts, marketing and sales processes, enrolment conversations.
And I’ve shared bits of my story, what I’ve learned from others, what I learn from my work with clients, and my lovely guests have shared their insights, experiences and stories too. I’m very proud of what we’ve done so far, and I really hope you’re getting value from the time you spend with me here.
So, here’s my thinking behind this week’s contemplation.
Where is all this leveraged business stuff taking us?
Every now again in business, as in life, it’s good to take a step back and reflect, take stock of things. It just feels timely, doesn’t it, for us to stand back a moment, revisit the big picture and remind ourselves why we’re doing this, and how each piece of the leveraged business puzzle takes us forward to what we want to achieve.
What are we solving for?
While we can talk about the leverage pillars for growing the business, and come up with topics each week, and I’ve been thrilled to have AMAZING guests on the show, willing to spend some time thinking about and talking about it from their zone of genius, the big fundamental question we need to ask is always this: What are we actually solving for?
It’s a weird yet clever little question I learned from my friend and associate I’m coaching for his company right now, Danny Iny CEO of Mirasee. What are we solving for is such a brilliant question because it focuses the mind on the real crux of the matter.
In the trailer episode of our podcast, WAAAAY back in October … here’s how I introduced the whole concept of a leveraged business:
To start and survive in business, you need clarity, clients and consistency. But to THRIVE – to grow and scale without stress and overwhelm, what’s needed is leverage.
Because once you’ve nailed the business of landing clients, a lack of leverage can wreck your work-life balance and put a stranglehold on growth.
You might not feel it at the time, but if you’re super busy, overwhelmed and working all hours, there’s a danger of burnout and suddenly you just crash – believe me I’m been there and suffered the consequences.
Being busy and fully booked is also GOOD NEWS BECAUSE IT MEANS your business is ready to grow!
That was transcribed from the trailer, my very first podcast recording. So funny how new and nervy it felt at that time – and now I’m in the flow, I love podcasting as much as I enjoy writing articles.
Leveraged business strategies are what helps you to work smarter not harder, to achieve growth without burnout. That’s surely what most of us want. No-one wants to work harder not smarter, right??!!!
So, what we’re solving for are the two big do’s and don’ts of entrepreneurship. And they can be at loggerheads as you work on your business as well as in your business.
If you want to create balance, work-life balance, you have to work to pay the bills, pay the things that give you back time. You’re working in the business. You’re also working ON the business, you’re doing strategy, building something not just doing a job.
That can feel like a lot of pressure, for sure. Doing the work, running the business, building the business and whatever else comes your way. Plus you’re doing ALL of this business work alongside other commitments, family, community, friends, clubs, whatever you have going on.
Burnout is increasingly common for high achievers and entrepreneurs. We push ourselves hard, we don’t take enough breaks or time out; we’re trying to be superhuman; we’re doing it all alone. You’re wearing many different hats inside and outside your business, and it feels like it’s all on you. As a high achiever, you may be very driven, but you’re also hard on yourself. You perhaps see achieving work life balance as the destination not the journey, the end goal not part of the process itself.
Is this sounding familiar?
“The term ‘burnout’ was coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in what he called the ‘helping’ professions.”
Interestingly the symptoms of burnout show up in lots of different ways. So don’t think it’s just one thing. It can be overwhelm, exhaustion, anxiety, even depression. It can also be loss of passion, drive, enthusiasm, even boredom with your business. Or it can be dropping balls, neglecting your own basic needs or social withdrawal. It can be physical collapse or mental collapse or both.
The High Achiever Syndrome
For me, and like many other entrepreneurs I’ve observed or worked with, I’ve always been extremely driven and my energy and enthusiasm for what I want to achieve has always been very much part of who I am. In many ways, I’m not great at relaxing. I love my work and I’m happy to work hard.
But I’m not always focused or focusing on the right things, and that’s been a source of frustration and stress. I’m fine when I have everything planned out, but when I don’t have a clear plan of action, when I’m spinning my wheels, I get anxious and it affects my sleep and it can be a downwards spiral into the worry pit. My gosh, we really can beat ourselves up, can’t we!
I often remind myself why this is so important to me, the work I do. And in fact, that’s a really great tip for avoiding burnout, to some extent, because reminding yourself of why you do what you do helps you put the effort you make into perspective. Remember, you can’t get there in one jump, it’s hopscotch, right?!!
The leveraged business theme didn’t just come to me, it took a long period of gestation, many years in fact. And ironically, many of us go round in circles spinning out wheels and never get clear on our calling.
We’re so busy applying logic to finding our purpose, our niche, our audience ecetera, we don’t see what’s right in front of us. I found the answer in my story, looking at the patterns of what I’ve done over my career, and what drives me, what fulfils me.
And it was that desire to be captain of my own ship, to be independent of an employer or even other people telling me what I should do – you know that loving, passive aggressive way people think they know what’s best for you …
Anyway, having got my clarity, and knowing how much that really helped me from that point onwards, I shifted my whole business from consulting for organisations to helping solo practitioners overcome some of the growth hurdles that I’ve had to tackle.
While some of the wonderful people I’ve had here on the show as guests work mostly with people just setting out on the entrepreneurial journey and are great at helping you get that clarity, people like Rebecca Tracey, Tara Chatzakis, Laura McDouall, my focus is on consultants, coaches and other expert practitioners who have had great success financially, yet are working long hours and feel like they’re exhausted and have little time and energy for anything non-work in their life.
How can I help people (a) get out of that intense 1-2-1 business model, (b) create leverage across different parts of their business to free up more time and energy.
That’s not to say high-end consulting or premium 1-2-1 coaching isn’t part of the leveraged business solution; those activities are extremely lucrative. And that’s why we still run consulting projects and individual coaching services. I enjoy doing that.
But there are solutions to providing only 1-to-1 services.
Because now, in the digital age, we can leverage virtual meeting spaces and drop a good proportion of the face-to-face activities for marketing, sales and service delivery. Now you can reach people globally, you can influence and impact more people in less time. Now you can free up time for yourself to enjoy your desired lifestyle and to do the things that make you happy and fulfilled.
Because there are tangible, practical things you can implement to achieve this. And this is why I’m so passionate about helping people create leverage in business and putting yourself as an individual into the success equation.
The Dangers of Playing the SuperHero
I’d spent a decade building a successful consulting practice and raising a family. Juggling my roles as wife, mother, entrepreneur felt crazy stressful. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I had a work-life tug-of-war and it was killing me. And it can feel like you’re the victim of your own success!
I woke up one day to a sudden moment of clarity. It was 8th March 2012, I remember the exact day. I heard the birds were chirping and the sun shining after a miserable winter and yet I felt no sense of joy. I realised that in all my endeavour, I’d lost myself and was suffering quite severely from burnout.
It was a pivotal point and I knew something had to change and that’s when I decided I was going to figure out how to work smarter not harder so I could feel truly successful.
That’s why I now focus on helping high-achieving independent professionals to earn more, work less and grow faster with a leveraged business so they can get a healthy work-life balance and feel truly successful in all aspects of their life.
So here’s the skinny on my entrepreneurial journey. I was in a high-profile job in the university sector, earning good money, good benefits whilst building a business on the side, due to situation with my daughter’s disabilities, I wanted a plan B.
When I started that in 2004, I had a plan to leave my job and start my own consulting business maybe by 2009 when my son left his school.
And knowing I had this side business – which was a network marketing company in the wellness industry, and by the way, my family and I still use those products to this day – plus once the idea of having my own business was seeded, thinking of consultancy, I actually finished in that job in 2007 and handed my old bosses my business card on my way out.
Given my last year in that place had been a totally wretched experience, I have to say that … felt … so so good!!!
And it was exciting and I did really well in that consulting business. I build a team and we took on lots of interesting projects, we delivered and got more work, we expanded and did different work and I started to bring in my expertise and experience from running my side business, which by now was all online – teaching, coaching, products.
And in fact, what I was finding is that the world of education and business were colliding. Educational institutions, not just universities, but colleges and schools too, were having to become more business-like, more entrepreneurial indeed, and businesses were moving into being more education-focused in their marketing and services.
Fantastic – with my e-learning, evaluation and education background, I felt good.
The work continues, we did more work, I did sub-contracted work for other organisations, like national agencies, regional business programmes, big 4 companies, multi-million dollar companies.
However, here’s the downside I was your typical business consultant… doing everything for everyone. Although I did manage to achieve work life balance. For years I worked 2-3 days a week with a client base of around half a dozen organisations in any given year. Something I learned from one of my associates I’d worked with, also a freelancer Terry, she said to mix ‘short and fat’ with ‘long and thin’, so you spread the risk if you lose a client or two.
So that’s what I did. I had some projects that lasted just a week or two, or that I did once or twice a year, and I had other contracts that were renewed every year or were days spread over 2-3 years.
My income was great – but I was spread thin, working on too many different things, and even though I wasn’t working 24/7 or anything like that, my brain was frazzled for much of the time. So even when I wasn’t working, I wasn’t much good for anything, for anyone.
In terms of “success”, my work life balance wasn’t where I wanted it to be!
That Moment When You Realise Work Isn’t Everything
I don’t know if it’s a British thing or a professional pride thing more generally, but it feels like we’re in this mindset of if we’re not working, we’re not living.
Do you ever feel that way?
Because sometimes I have to step back and wonder what’s it all for, why am I doing all this, why do I work so hard and let everything else get squeezed? That’s why it’s so important to me to achieve work life balance – I want to live my life!
And when you reach a certain age too, and you’re successful and doing well, why is it we’re still in that same game, how come we still keep pushing ourselves to more, to do better, to climb higher? When is it enough, when can we say we’re successful?
At one point I was able to semi-retire myself, but then I kicked around, I missed the intellectual challenge, I missed working in a team.
For me, success is when I have balance, enjoying the work in my business without the stress, anxiety and definitely without feeling burnout. Prevention is definitely easier than cure, right?
So there came a point when I took stock. I remember the exact day, it was 8th March 2012. And I thought this is, is this all that it is, all that I am. And it took a few years to get myself back to what I really wanted to do, and that’s teach, inspire, support, help others with their success plan.
And interestingly enough, with my wellness business, I was a success coach – yet I’ve never called myself a business coach until recently for the work I’m currently doing with a Canadian company, Mirasee which is awesome work and a great team.
But the big part of that story is that the burnout came a year AFTER this realisation, and it was incredibly frustrating. And that was my next aha moment, and where the whole concept of leveraged business, leveraged consulting in the digital age, came from.
I decided to merge what were two separate professional identities, the education, e-learning and staff development side with the internet marketing, business development and coaching side.
From a positioning and messaging point of view, you don’t need to know all those different sides, the details. My point here is that thinking about the big cohering idea across what you’ve done, your fields of expertise, and looking at the intersection of things, can give you a good sense of your genius zone and where you’re most likely to do your best work.
I still wanted to earn what I was worth and create financial independence… but I knew that taking on more 1-2-1 clients was not going to be how I achieved it.
5 Things You Can Start Doing to Avoid Entrepreneurial Burnout
As a driven, ambitious entrepreneur, this isn’t about changing what you do, it’s about doing the important things. And all five follow the general rule of thumb of working smarter not harder.
#1 – Increase your fees
So first, you can increase your fees. I did increase my fees – two-fold in fact, because higher fees actually means you need fewer clients – which means you immediately leverage your time and expertise. And for me that meant, compared to my JOB, I was actually earning twice the money working half the hours, – that was the first revelation!
And because I was already suffering from burnout doing back-to-back projects or travelling up and down the breadth of the country visiting clients on-site, I eventually crashed. So I knew that was not sustainable, not dependable (you don’t get paid when you’re sick) and was certainly not desirable. I mean I love my work, but I love my health and energy more!
#2 – Change your delivery
Second thing you can do, and my second revelation is you can change your business model. What do I mean by that?
Well, how you work with clients is a huge point of leverage. And of course Covid has pushed a lot more businesses into going digital, remote working, virtual meetings and events.
For me, it happened around 2018 when I set up the iSuccess Business Academy as an umbrella for the online education side of my business. And Belanda Consulting LLP became Belanda Consulting and Education Services.
#3 – Narrow your field
A lot of consultants and coaches have a wide range of experience and expertise. Many of us can turn our hand to anything, we’re jacks of all trades, masters of many, we’re problem solvers. Those of you who are expert practitioners are much more likely to have a specialism than your average consultant or coach.
Narrowing the field serves two purposes. It helps you focus on doing one or two things really well, and it helps you attract and work with more of the people you want to work with, rather than saying yes to everything.
Specialists fair way better in the marketplace than generalists, because it’s clear what you’re all about, who you help, what you help people with, specifically. And I talk about this a lot because it’s one of the most difficult concepts for those without a background in marketing to appreciate and take on board.
#4 – Increase your efficiency
The fourth way to work smarter not harder is more obvious, it’s about increasing your efficiency. Having clear, structured workflows, using systems to automate key business processes. Knowing your key performance metrics and tracking what’s working best, so you can do more of that and less of stuff that isn’t making a difference.
#5 – Increase your productivity
And the fifth way to work smarter not harder is to increase your productivity. It’s very much linked to tracking what’s working too. Higher productivity isn’t about you doing more, it’s about using leveraged approaches to do more.
For instance, last week we had a masterclass on outsourcing and how to hire the right virtual assistant with my expert guest on this Selina Johnson. And coming up at the end of this month, my next guest on the Leveraged Business Podcast is Laura McDouall, and she’ll be sharing leveraged content strategies and how to get double leverage from what you’re doing with content and copywriting.
What Exactly Leverage Is A Solution For
So… now I circle back to the big question: in creating a leveraged business, what are we solving for? Hopefully now, the answer has become more crystalised.
What we’re solving for getting our life back!
Because each pillar you put in place, helps you work smarter not harder, helps you use the power of leverage and digital tools, spaces, connections to achieve more with less.
And the benefits you reap are super valuable: keeping your health, keeping your sanity, time to have better connections with family, friendships, communities, creating the opening for time out in your leisure pursuits, whether that’s sports, exploration, charities, or just chilling out and doing hobbies, all the things that make us happy and fulfil us outside of work.
Leveraged business strategies are for those of you who want to increase your income without increasing your client load, for those looking to achieve more with less in your marketing activities, for those who want to get more signups into your programmes with fewer sales conversations.
These are the reasons for creating leverage and understanding where in your business architecture those leverage points are.
Right, now let me give you a heads up that in next week’s episode, I’m going to go through you some specific examples from clients I’m working with, people whose business success so far has been mostly dependent on them as a solo entrepreneur, and is mostly based around consulting or coaching services as the sole offer.
To set this up, let me give you some foundations for thinking about how to make changes, how to transition out of those business models that bind you to time, space and revenue.
Because we’re going to discover how to make time, space and revenue limitless, pretty much.
So, in my book Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age – I talk about five pillars for a leveraged business. And, look, I know I mention my book quite often, I’m aware of that, but it’s not just self-promotion. It’s because that book is a really thorough rendition of the different pieces of this leverage puzzle I talk about, AND it helps you create a super practical roadmap for transforming your business.
A book can be a powerful leverage tool, and that’s a big part of why I wrote it. A book can be a small thing – just 100 pages or so – that you produce in a few weeks and you use as a campaign piece for a launch, or it can be your curriculum. For me, it was the latter.
That book was a massive project that took several years to complete. It’s the culmination of much of my business experience, mentoring and support work. And so of course, I’m going to reference it a lot, because it’s leveraging my own content and because it’s my go-to resource for people to get from me.
Content-wise, it’s packed with leveraged business strategy, practical guidance and the cohering theme is very much about putting you, and all that you are and want, into the business equation. Make sense? I hope so …
Right, so in the book …I’m allowed to say that now, hopefully you get why – and if you have the book, go to chapter 2 p102 in the print edition and the diagram Key Points of Leverage I’ve put in the show notes too. …
OK, in the book and the model I give you, there are five leverage points or pillars – leveraged strategy, leveraging you, leveraged marketing, leveraged sales and leveraged delivery.
But what is it solving for, what’s the underlying purpose running through what those five pillars mean?
Well, that’s whatever it means to you in terms of freedom, impact and revenue.
What Does Success Look Like For You?
What you’re solving for, and how you decide what needs doing in your business, must be based around your individual idea of what success looks like.
I ask this question of my clients, and prospective clients, a LOT – what does success look like, what’s important to you – and in my coaching, I’m always coming back to vision and values as the direction of travel. I always want to come back to that long game, because otherwise what’s it all for?
We’re often so busy solving the micro, we overlook the macro. We get in our way, we become the bottleneck, or we major in the minors. We spin our wheels. When you’re not clear what’s the best things to do, we do lots of things. That means, you’re probably doing ten times the work you need to do.
Dangerous approach to entrepreneurship in my experience. If you even feel a tiny bit like you’re heading for burnout rather than moving towards better work-life balance, that’s not a good place to sit: for you, your family, your potential clients and your bank balance.
So that’s what all this leveraging, and all these various topics we tackle on the show, and that my guests share with you, that’s what we’re solving for: avoiding entrepreneurial burnout and enabling work-life balance.
There’s always got to be an eye on the human side, finding ways of lifting the limits on the growth of our business. Others may focus on making more money or getting more clients or increasing your following – and those are all important metrics for business growth – but what’s the point of hitting those goals if you’re burnt out and resenting the effort it took to get there.
Achieving balance is about doing the things you love inside and outside your business. You can totally grow your income, influence, impact and still have a life – that’s true freedom working smarter not harder.
It’s what I call “leveraged living” – and just a shout out that’s what my free FB group is called, the Leveraged Living Club, so if that’s your ultimate goal, come join the conversation, details in the show notes.
Next week, I’m going to take you through a few examples of leveraged strategies that help you transition from one-to-one consulting or coaching type services to one-to-many.
Ciao ciao for now.