Three years ago, my husband and I moved our family to Colorado. As we began the search for a new home, we were inundated with new construction. Everywhere we looked, a new subdivision was being built, and that trend has largely continued. As I’ve driven by all these new homes, I’ve started to think a lot about what goes into building a house.
Digging and pouring the foundation. Framing the walls to give it real structure. Adding in the systems that make life easier – plumbing, electricity, and sometimes fiber optics cables. Putting the trim and finishing touches on the inside. And finally, landscaping the outside to enhance the curb appeal. These five phases don’t happen overnight, and often the very ground the construction is occurring is messy, cluttered, and a little bit chaotic.
But there’s a method to the madness, and I think the same is true when you’re building a business. At least it has been for us with 2 Smart Girls. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about each of these phases. Think of it as the blueprint for designing, building, and growing the business you really want.
Phase 1: The Foundation
The foundation of a house serves one purpose – to hold the structure that will sit on top of it safely and allow it to stay upright. The same is true with your business. The foundation in this case is all that you bring to the table – your vision, your definition of success (and failure), your superpowers and strengths, capabilities and skills, and most importantly, your mindset. In order to truly build a structurally sound business, you’ve got to believe in it, and that starts with believing you’re the boss. We call this your CEO mindset, and the strength of your business lies in this foundation.
Phase 2: The Structure
Laying the foundation is totally a function of the vision you have for what your business will be. The structure is really about what it will ultimately look like. Who will you serve? Do they want what you’re offering? What do other “houses” on the market look like? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your structure? This is the bones of your business, and as you frame it out, you’ll see your vision take shape.
Phase 3: The Systems
Just like plumbing, electricity, wifi are critical to making a home livable and functional, so to are the systems you put in place to successfully run your business. What is your customer intake process? How do you pay your bills and keep track of what’s coming in and going out? What do your metrics tell you about the health of your business? How do you welcome, engage, nurture, and delight your clients? What kind of systems do you put in place to simplify your life? As my husband often says, “Systems, Save You Stress, Time, Energy, and Money, and as much as his emphasis on systems sometimes drives me crazy, I know he’s right.
Phase 4: The Trim and Finishes
This is the part of the home building process that makes it your own, and when you’re building and growing your business, what you have to offer is uniquely yours. This is the part where you really tap into your creative juices and allow yourself to fully shine through. How you set up your services, what makes your business a reflection of you and sets you apart from the redesign as the needs of you and your customer change.
Phase 5: The Curb Appeal
I don’t know about you, but I love a gorgeous front yard. What people see when they step into your “storefront” is important. How you show up when your networking in person or online, your brand identity, can be an immediate deciding factor in whether or not a person wants to engage with you. Once again, this is the place you get to be creative and uniquely you, and even better, you can adapt and change as needed.
Let’s dig (ha! see what I did there?) a little deeper into Phase 1: The Foundation.
Mindset is everything.
When most people start a business, they get excited about taking their brilliant idea and making money with it. They think about the website, the logo, and the business cards. And while that will be important down the road, it’s not where you start. No one ever tells you that mindset is everything, but it is.
Think about an architect who’s been contracted to design a skyscraper. She doesn’t spend her time doubting that she’s qualified. She’s knows she’s done the hard work to gain the know-how. She brings all the tools of her trade – her knowledge, her previous experiences, the successes and failures, her creativity – to the table. As she draws up the blueprint and looks at what she’s created, she doesn’t doubt that the skyscraper is going to stay standing. She KNOWS it will, because she is the architect. That is her identity, the root of who she is and how she shows up.
The same is true for you as the architect of your business. You are the designer. You have skills, knowledge, strengths and capabilities, all your subject matter expertise to build and grow a business. You just have to believe it. You have to fully embrace your role as the CEO – the dreamer, the strategist, the deliverer of goods and services, and believe that what you’re creating is unique and necessary to someone in the world.
The strength of your business lies in your deep-seated belief that you have what it takes. That you deserve to be in the arena. That your vision will work. That someone needs what you have to offer. That the successes you’ve had and the lessons you’ve learned set you apart and make you unique.
With this idea in mind, I want you to evaluate the health of your business’s foundation. As you read through the following statements, honestly rate each one, using the scale of your choosing.
- I have a clear vision for what I want my business to be.
- I have a written business plan.
- I have set short- and long-term goals for my business.
- My goals are SMART.
- I know the “why” behind my business.
- I am clear on my personal and business core values.
- I believe I have what it takes to make my vision a reality.
- I truly believe I’m the architect, the CEO of my business.
- When I have doubts and setbacks, I know how to reset and refocus.
- I believe in my skills and abilities.
- I know the gaps in my skills and knowledge and have a plan to address them.
- I know how to productively deal with overwhelm and frustration.
- I am open to feedback and support in my business.
- I have a coach, mentor, or other personal board of directors to challenge, support, and hold me accountable.
- I am accountable for the results I create.
- This business allows me to do things I enjoy and spend time with the people I love.
- I take care of myself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
- I love what I do.
As you reflect on your answers, I want to challenge you to do so with a critical eye. There’s no room for cracks in the foundation, as any homeowner will tell you. I also say that from personal experience. When I launched my first business, I did it without much thought. An opportunity was presented to me, and in order to take advantage of it, I needed to create a legal business entity. I did, but it would be years… nearly six… before I really addressed the fault lines – my own doubts about my role, that I had what it took, and the compete lack of vision and buy-in for what I’d allowed to take hold in my business. And that’s why my business was stagnant.
When we launched 2 Smart Girls, it was the exact opposite. Christy and I did it with the full, unwavering belief that we’d be successful, that we were and are the CEOs of this business. We know our vision, and we’re passionate about it. We’re clear on where we stand, who we serve, how we want to show up, what our gaps are, and how to address them. And every day, we are accountable for what we create, who we surround ourselves with, and the decisions we make. It’s taken time – longer than we expected – and it’s a bit chaotic and messy at times, but the foundation we’ve built is strong.
How does your foundation look? Is it smooth and solid? Is it looking a little shaky? Does it have a few cracks that need to be addressed? There’s no better time than now. It’s easier to address those weak spots sooner, rather than later, so that the structure you’re building can stand with your full confidence. It’s worth the time, energy, and investment… and a little dirt, sweat, and tears, to get it right.