As business owners, we are constantly challenged to balance getting clients with serving clients, and if you stop one to do the other, it keeps you on the revenue rollercoaster in business. Today we’re going to talk about three scenarios that help you navigate the peaks and dips, and get into consistent client flow.
Today, I’m going to be sharing with you some of the things that come up for my clients, that’s to do with that cycle of feast and famine we call the “revenue rollercoaster in business”.
You’ll have experienced the peaks and the dips of the business where you haven’t quite got that dependable, manageable, and consistent flow of customers, clients, or contracts to a point where you can feel confident in the business that you are running.
Or maybe you’ve done too well bringing new clients in and you are working flat out and struggling to cope with delivering the work to the quality you want for your clients.
This is what I mean by navigating the revenue rollercoaster, and it’s what I want to talk about and help you with today.
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The Revenue Rollercoaster is a Symptom of a Business Bottleneck
If you are on the rev-ro-co, as they say, the highs feel great, and if you go about it with a sense of adventure and you can mentally and physically cope using the lowest to balance and recover, then that’s great. You don’t mind the adrenaline rush or the bumpy ride.
But often we don’t like it, because we are unsure when the next high is coming. We hold on with a lot of tension for many of us, especially in the early years. This can create financial anxiety and stress, not in a good way. But also if you’ve got a lot of highs, it can also produce stress and anxiety to deliver on the brief agreed with all those clients.
It’s not the adrenaline ride you want as an entrepreneur. In fact, it’s bad for your health and the health of your business. Getting clients can be a double-edged sword. Get it wrong, and you are stuck hustling for every client and get it right and you are overwhelmed taking on too much. Or maybe you hurdle back and forth from peaks to dips.
Which boat are you in?
Working out what this pattern is for you is the first step to identifying your bottleneck. And it’s a lot to do with the stage of business you’re at, there’s a common trajectory. It’s what I focus my marketing messages on, finding the bottleneck for each client, identifying which boat they’re in.
If you’ve ever been to a theme park and gone on one of these rides, even if it’s not the big rollercoaster, maybe it’s just the teacups or the swings, something that’s both exciting and scary.
Well, most of you know how it goes. You wait in the queue, anticipation building. You climb into the seat and they pull down the heavy braces and you’re strapped in. There’s no going back. Your heart rate’s going up. You’re finally committed to doing this.
Then there’s that clunky slow ride. As you notch up to the top, this is like the journey towards getting your first client. It’s a mix of excitement and fear. You’ve signed them up and you’re fully committed. So off you go!
You hurdle along at a fast pace, holding on for dear life, looping the loop, and just when you think it’s all over, and you delivered the project or program, it all starts again. Along comes the next client. You hardly have time to take a breath before things speed up again, and you start another.
On and on it goes, the ups, the downs, the waiting….at one point, there’s such a long pause, you wonder has it broken down and you panic? Is that it? Will it get going again?
And this is where you’re going to need some mindset mentoring, a bit of heart math, that’s a system of simple and powerful self-regulation techniques that are designed to be used in the moment.
Whatever the situation, definitely worth exploring. These peaks and dips, they’re very typical for whichever stage of business you are at. It doesn’t mean you are struggling because you not working hard enough or stressed, or because you’re working too hard. The stress and strain is a function of where you are at and what isn’t currently working or in balance.
The peaks and dips are a sign you are maybe not focusing on the root cause of what’s needed for where you are at.
Don’t struggle on without giving this your attention. You can make it easier on yourself. It doesn’t have to be such a crazy ride – unless you’re into that adrenaline rush, of course, but probably not what you want in your business, right!
The Drivers and Dimensions of Business Growth
In this article, I want to use the success framework I use with my clients when we do a business diagnostic. It aligns with the stages of business and provides a way of looking at where the bottleneck lies as a driver for strategy and performance improvement.
If you’re like me, you are constantly thinking of ways to simplify your work to get ever better results for your clients. In my consulting and mentoring work, it’s all about helping businesses create leverage, earn more, work less, grow faster – but you can’t get to them all at once.
I geek out on learning professional and personal development. I’m always looking for ways to get more ease and flow into my business and the businesses of my clients. And that’s a combination of mindset, marketing and money: things like your business model, your pricing structure, how you position your offers, and once you’ve got client flow, how you organize delivery of your programs and services, how you get yourself organized and how you provide a great customer experience.
You can’t just think your way to a solution. Gut instinct is useful, but DATA is super useful. I do a fair bit of analysing data to make sure we’re working on the right things that bring calmness and balance back into the business revenue cycles.
One set of data for my own business has been about who comes to me for help and what’s going on for them when they do, and something one of my business associates said made me realize that the best fit clients for me, were in one of three boats.
So here, I want to help you to navigate some of the choppy seas for whichever boat you find yourself in. We’re going to look at three scenarios – three boats – that represent how inconsistent revenue might look and feel for you.
As I go through, it should be obvious to you which boat you see yourself in currently, then you can think through what needs to happen to change things in your situation. I’ll take you through some of the ways you can control the wind and the waves to reduce the stress and struggle and help you get into a, a bigger or better boat, a more “steady as she goes” kind of boat.
So let’s dive a little bit more into the symptoms, relate them to the stage of business building, and then look at key drivers or dimensions of success in terms of strategy for more effortless and consistent client flow.
You can explore these in more depth by going through my book or my business diagnostic self-assessment workbook The Leverage Test.
I’ll just add that these dimensions apply whether your business is B2B or B2C, because they still determine how the waves and the wind shows up in your business revenue cycles.
Stages of Business and How They Feel
There are so many metaphors we could use here. So humour me as I’m going to flip around from the rollercoaster ride to the boat in stormy seas analogy.
Let’s now imagine you are in a boat out on the high seas (the open waters of your marketplace, if you like). You’ll undoubtedly cross some choppy waters to get into calmer client flow.
Boat no. 1 is the paddle boat.
Here you’ve got either no clients or too few clients, no sails and at the start no engine, just your own effort. In other words, you pretty much have to paddle the boat yourself to get moving.
What it feels like is constant hard work without much traction. Flipping to the rollercoaster analogy: you’re at that slow ascent cranking up. Maybe you love the anticipation or maybe it creates anxiety for you, but in your business, you are the one powering it and committed to it.
To get clients, you have to hustle, and that takes a lot of time, emotional energy and a strong belief that what you do is of value. To deliver what you promise to your clients, that takes a lot of intellectual focus and possibly anxiety if you’re up to the challenge. I remember a few of the first gigs (aka contracts) I went for or said yes to, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to deliver, but I knew I’d find a way.
At the outset, when you’re just getting going, with each client, you learn so much, it feels like you’re not leveraging your expertise but having to build up your expertise. That’s just another way of saying you’re aligning what you know with what your clients need, make sense?
Entrepreneurial resilience is something we talk about a lot in my coaching circles and with the work I do with my clients.
When you’re in the paddle boat, and it feels like a hustle to get even close to signing up a client, what you need to focus on, primarily, is lead generation.
You need to go out and find people to talk to. This will at least give you a good set of paddles (rather than using your bare hands!) and eventually you’re discover what to lean into – and start building a sail!
Boat no. 2 is the sailboat.
With a sailboat, you’ve now got some power – wind power. And maybe there’s no wind for some well, and maybe there’s too much wind.
What it feels like is that rollercoaster ride inconsistency. You are being pulled and pushed and hurtled around from one moment to the next, and there’s not really a steady flow of clients. There’s no steady wind.
In both the paddle boat and sailboat situations, you need to really understand what’s resonating and once you are generating leads, start analysing your lead sources, engagement and conversion data, so you can see where things are connecting or disconnected.
This is how you catch the wind. And that means possible doing some further market research calls, analysing your numbers.
In the sailboat scenario, what you need to focus on is getting visible, and understanding where the wind is and which way it’s blowing.
Boat no. 3 is the yacht.
You’ve got big waves of clients and seem to have a good degree of success. Obviously, this isn’t as vulnerable as the little paddle or sail boats, and yachts can be all shapes and sizes. But the point is there’s some sense of stability in terms of revenue and you can weather some storms.
However, the bigger the boat, the bigger the problems to an extent.
On the outside. You look successful. Well, it’s a yacht, right? It feels very steady, but you are often overwhelmed with how to operate it, especially if you don’t have the deck hands and too much of it relies on you being there doing or overseeing everything.
This big thing your business has become consumes your life.
If you’ve got yourself a yacht, what you need to focus on is streamlining.
You need to increase your capacity to deliver. Don’t work on increasing your marketing until you’ve got things steady again. Then you can deal with more clients until that point where you rinse, repeat, ideally with sight on another peak or big wave on the horizon. Is there one of these boats that describes you and how you feel the situation you are in?
The Solution to Inconsistent Revenue
Here’s a Scenarios Exercise – see which you most resonate with, how it feels and we’ll next go through understanding the strategies needed to improve the situation for you and your business.
I just ran this exercise with our ACES business acceleration clients [ask me about ACES] where they self-assigned to a particular ‘boat’, we went through each scenario in a little bit more detail. A lot of what the groups shared are symptoms of the deeper problem.
What you want is the turnaround – how to get a better or bigger boat. So let’s map out our three scenarios for what inconsistent revenue might look like and feel like to you and then turn to how to solve for what’s going on.
Looking at it in this way is very broad, of course, and there are certainly nuances to this. You’re best to discuss your particular context and perspective with a coach or masterminding group, wherever you go to get support for your business.
But at a high level, these are the ways you can control the wind and waves a little better, and when applied can drastically reduce the stress and struggle, basically it’s a roadmap for how to get a bigger, better. For now, this is just a way to frame what you are focusing on to study the ship based on where you are at.
In boat number one – the paddle boat – the ‘what’ you need to crack is how to attract more clients and know what to say when you reach out to your perfect people. The how is to find ways to get more clarity on what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for.
In boat number two – the sailboat – you’ve got to position yourself in the marketplace to catch the wind. How? You need to package what you deliver really well and understand your numbers for what’s working.
And boat number three – the yacht – you need to streamline your business processes, systems and get more hands-on-deck team. How? Focus on systems to support your delivery, marketing and sales process, and then work on team building to support it.
7 Dimensions for Business Performance Improvement
Next, I’d like to share with you a framework for unpacking this a little bit. We’ll start with the core operations of your business for getting and working with clients. There’s YOU – your expertise – at the centre, then there’s marketing, sales, and delivery as the outer rings that drive the flywheel for you to engage, educate and enrol your ideal clients.
The seven dimensions of success are the inner workings – that turn inside the flywheel. This is my iSuccess framework. I’ve talked about this before in previous episodes. It’s the diagram on the front of my book, here.
When you examine these drivers and dimensions yourself or with a business strategist or coach, you can figure out which you really need to focus on to readdress the imbalance in your client flow that leads to the revenue rollercoaster in business.
If you have my book, Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age, there’s a business diagnostic workbook that actually sets all of this out and enables you to do a kind of self-assessment. So, I’ll gift you that – free to download here – so you can dive in deeper if you need more insight.
Looking through the lens of the core areas of your business and customer journey, the drivers are also the key points of leverage. You are at the heart of everything, and then marketing, sales, and delivery.
I really recommend you take yourself through that so that you can make sure you are identifying the dimensions that are really critical levers for the growth of your business.
This framework can be used whether your business is B2B or B2C. Start with the key dimensions of your business operations, your end-to-end customer journey, and customer experience is essentially a pathway to engage, educate, and enrol.
Only put in a system or process if it simplifies, reduces errors or makes things more efficient. You need first to ensure your marketing works and your sales process work.
Bill Gates’ famously said if you amplify an inefficient system, you simply get more inefficiency. So it pays (literally) to be aware of your capacity constraints.
Inside the core functions of your business are seven drivers or dimensions of success for consistent client flow. This is how you solve for wherever your bottleneck is that causes the revenue rollercoaster in business.
If your system for delivering is overwhelming, you’re best to get that in order before you go looking for more clients because there’s a quality issue at stake. You build up speed and size in stages and iteratively.
As your marketing gets stronger, your sales get easier. As you build in systems to streamline, your automation gets slicker and your capacity to deliver increases.
Think of the whole thing like a spinning top. The access that’s you, the outer ring and the inner ring. They all are mutually enforcing and they spend independently, so you can make iterative changes as your business.
Building a Leveraged and Balanced Business
Running and growing the business, you have to keep it twirling to keep things spinning. The bigger the business, the more work you have to do to keep it all in balance, and it’s hard to do that on your own son. For consistent lead generation, you need to make sure your marketing is working and you have plenty of leads, inquiries, et cetera.
You need marketing to feed sales and sales to inform marketing, learning from every conversation, every yes, every no, and every. for marketing and lead generation. There’s a lot of leverage you can create by getting more clarity on your messaging, your target audience, and positioning how you communicate your offer.
The red to orange side of the wheel in terms of sales and signing up clients, there’s a lot you can do around how you present or package your products, programs, or services. Your positioning, again, your offer structure, your branding, and your pricing. The amber to yellow dimensions.
And then there’s the dimensions around streamlining the systems and scaling strategies for each function of your business, which build capacity and support sustainable growth.
The green, upper left dimensions. This has many similarities to Danny Iny’s Effortless model title for the marketing and sales part of the process. This is essential reading for anyone in the paddle boat or sailboat situ. Danny talks about creating obvious offer, building resonant identity, and mapping out an intuitive path for your customers or clients.
When you have two of these, you can really improve things, but you really need all three to be working optimally in order to get really effortless business growth, to figure out which drivers are working for you and where your gaps are. You want to look into each of these dimensions and do a self-assessment.
So the seven dimensions of success are aligning and targeting. This is what helps you clarify. That’s your resident identity. Then this positioning and branding and a little bit of pricing. This is how you package the obvious offer and then systematizing and scaling. And that’s the intuitive path to get more people coming through your end-to-end customer process.
Even though these groups look disparate, they all have something in common, and that’s the basic fundamentals, and this causes gaps in the business. Essentially these are the big holes in the boat.
Over the years, I’ve identified that these seven dimensions of success are what drives business performance improvement and get you off the revenue rollercoaster in business, out of the choppy sea and into calmer steady waters.
These are where the solutions lie for each of our boat scenarios, which when applied will help get the flywheel back into balance and flow.
Usually there’s one key dimension that’s the weak link in each case.
Working on the Weakest Link in the Flywheel
For example, those in the paddle boat who are struggling to get traction should focus most on aligning and targeting in this boat. You have likely not yet found product market fit and reliable ways to attract clients to you.
Although it’s the positioning activity (getting visible) that makes the magic happen in terms of attraction marketing (wind in your sails), you can’t work on that until you’ve got clear on the what you are all about, what you are great at, who you really want to serve and are able to help, and why that’s important to you.
So you need to go back to aligning and targeting and get clarity. Once you’ve got this, you have a cell for your boat, you’re able to clearly articulate what you do, why you do it, and whom you do it.
Now to get clients coming to you, you need to focus on getting visible. That’s what gets the wind into your sails. If you’re not yet clear and you go out to your audience, it’s called market research. At this stage, you’re not selling yourself, rather you’re gathering information about your ideal people. You are getting problem language to weave into your marketing.
When you work on the resonant identity of what you do with what your audience care about, you make sure you’re setting your sail in the right direction.
Getting visible is not easy, especially if you’re unsure or haven’t put yourself or your ideas out in the world yet. But it’s not a one off when you suddenly have to go out all guns blazing. This is super important. You can start small just in the spirit of market research, putting out feelers, and piloting.
Later down the line, you’re going to need a plan for staying on the radar of your perfect clients, so you’re constantly able to catch the wind or turn about when needed. But at the outset, you only need a little bit of paddling or wind in your sails to get traction and build momentum.
Referrals and word of mouth are great ways to do this in the short term, but you have to cultivate the relationships for that to happen. Those stuck in the sailboat, stuck on the rare new rollercoaster, stuck in a continuous game of snakes and ladders. You have too many one-offs, too much stop-start in your lead flow and client flow.
The dimension of success in play here is the intersection of positioning and branding. A packaged offer that you can run regularly, that you channel your marketing into, even if you start out with a one-to-one package, not a group program until you have the lead flow. Enrolling people into a premium package is the best way I know to achieve steady client flow in revenue.
You can turn your marketing up until you have clients on demand, which totally reduces your financial anxiety. And the constant stop-start of contracting work. Plus, when you are delivering and getting brilliant results for your clients, it feeds your mindset and your marketing.
Having a structured process with some tailoring, rather than creating a fully bespoke proposal or program of work for every client gives you plain sailing, an expert process.
And lastly, if you’ve got yourself a big yacht and you’re drowning in client work, it’s both the best and the worst of times. Here you sometimes need to say no for a bit, so you can free up some time to look into the systematizing and scaling dimensions where you build organizational structure and a team around you.
Sometimes actually, the real culprit is a hidden dimension, your mindset. You are at the heart of all seven dimensions. You need to find a way to let go control, to let go of the belief that if you don’t do it yourself, it won’t get done properly. Focus on hiring great people. It’s not always good to penny pinch and try and hire somebody really cheap.
You want to look to hire people that you can really work well with, even if you have to spend some time training them, doing some shadowing and mentor. Rarely does someone hit the ground running and be your perfect hire. Plan for it.
Work on documenting your workflows, your standards, your processes and templates, and the role description, the qualities that you want, the attributes and the culture that you’re looking to build in the organization so you can get as close to plain sailing when they start, or have that be part of the handover.
Sometimes hiring a great ops VA or tech VA, they improve the process for you and then they run the process. And you wonder why you’ve been making things hard for yourself all these years to figure out which dimensions are solid for you and which are causing your boat to stall or roll.
If you’re struggling to get more clients…
Here’s a checklist of things that you can focus on or figure out when you’re struggling to get more clients. It’s typically down to a poor marketing offer. A lack of self-belief can be a real factor here. Unclear or untargeted messaging, weak positioning or low visibility. , unattractive branding or packaging. Nothing to sell but your time.
When you crack some of those things, you increase your power of attraction.
If you’re struggling to convert leads to signups …
The other area is your sales process. No system for lead generational tracking that might be a cause. Weak prospecting or sales skills, weak pricing that undersells your value. Lack of follow up. This is a big one for moving prospects forward. No targets for enrolling new clients.
When you crack these things, you increase your power of conversion.
Sometimes there’s a resistance to do the work. So first, start by reviewing your numbers. Get really clear. Do the reality check. Think about how much revenue you want each month, and how many clients and calls and leads. That actually equates to how far from those numbers are, how are you currently talking with people in any consistent way and in terms of revenue?
What’s a fast offer you could make to people?
If you’re struggling to handle the clients you have …
In the yacht scenario? When we stress to deliver to more clients, it’s often down to weak systems or weak structure. As far as weak systems are concerned, the lack of workflows and templates can be a real headache, both for your own efficiency and also for handing over to someone.
Who you might hire. Tech is overly dependent on you and maybe you don’t have the skills. Poor client management just makes you feel like you are, you are overwhelmed and that your clients actually don’t really know where they are in the process. You’re maybe making too little investment in infrastructure and tools and perhaps have low visibility on financials, so you’re not really seeing the true picture.
When you crack some of those things, you really improve your streamlining and your ability to grow.
On the structure side, it’s probably weak If your client work is overly dependent on you and you don’t have anyone else who can deliver what you do, you maybe haven’t been investing in team and support.
So no skills investment either in terms of training or hiring. If you have a team, then maybe they’re not functioning well across the. And there’s possibly low research and development investment and maybe not attention to the change culture for growth because the organization is going to shift somewhat.
I covered some of this in a previous blog article and podcast [episode 77] on creating leverage for next level revenue growth and scalability in your business.
Start from what’s already working
So let’s summarise where we’ve got. What do you think needs to happen? What are you focusing on in your business to navigate the stormy weather and make more progress?
Start from what’s already working.
# 1, how do most clients find you?
# 2, is your offer resonating with the right fit people?
# 3 is your sales conversation leading to signups where some work to do.
# 4, how can you shorten the timeline from lead to sale? Are you following up properly?
# 5, how are you tracking and improving your end-to-end process? You can tighten all of the above up.
# 6, how are you enabling referrals and repeat business? Or are you just letting them happen and being reactive rather than proactive?
And # 7, how are you increasing operational capacity?
What’s coming up for you when we’ve gone through this? I’d really love to hear back from you, so please do get in contact or you can ask me any question via the form here.
There’s a lot you can do to identify where the weaknesses lie in achieving consistent client flow your business, and where you can create leverage to handle the revenue rollercoaster in business. So you make sure to lean into fixing the right part of your flywheel.
If the answer isn’t obvious to you yet, then feel free to book a strategy discovery call with me. It’s a 30-minute call. We’ll do this little bit of an assessment on what’s coming up for you in your business, and I can give you some sense of where you might want to focus your efforts on.
Book a Discovery Session with Jay
This 30-minute consult is complimentary and completely without obligation – we’ll talk through your current situation & setup, then identify some elements for improving your brand positioning & profitability – that leads to strategic marketing for business growth!
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