Break your business to build a stronger business

This past year I broke my business. On purpose. And I’m happy with the result…

BrokenBusinessRubbleAbout a year ago I was contacted by a previous client — an insurance company — to do some writing for them. It was a huge year-long writing/consulting gig.

I almost said no.

Unlike most of my clients, this one required me to commute every day (because of the sheer amount of meetings and on-site proprietary software access. It was a full-day commitment, every weekday for a year. And, the project was a type of writing that I enjoy but don’t do very often (it was a technical writing project in the insurance space instead of copywriting for real estate investors, which is what I normally do).

In short, it was basically a job (in that it was an 8-hours-a-day, Monday-to-Friday) kind of gig. And in saying “yes” to this contract, it would blow up different parts of my business — including clients I was used to working with on topics I love to write about.

But I said yes anyway. And for the past year, I packed my lunch, hopped a bus, and commuted like a working chump. :) I purposely detonated a bomb in my business to shatter what I had built. And here I am, one year later, and the contract has ended. I’m back at home and rolling up my sleeves, ready to get back to the way I worked before I took on the contract.

So why did I do it? Here are the reasons:

  • The client is a marquee client — someone I’m proud to say I worked with. And the project (actually the one project led to 3 more this past year) provided some great experience to add to my portfolio.
  • It was an exercise in writing in a style and on a topic that I don’t get to do very often. Although my preference is to write sales copy for real estate investors, technical writing for insurance is a “muscle” I like to keep active lest it atrophy.

These were good reasons to take the contract a year ago, even if the contract didn’t break my business. But since taking this contract did break my business, here are the other reasons I said yes…

  • On the subject of atrophy: Working at home is fun and easy… and you can sometimes end up atrophying in general. After a while, I start to get pretty focused on my business and I forget that the larger world out there has different problems and opportunities. This pushes me out there. Kind of like when you complain about how your phone has a crappy signal and then you realize that it’s a first world problem. That was me this past year, realizing that my home-based biz problems are ONLY home-based biz problems. It’s a new perspective.
  • Not only do I gain a new perspective but I’m also pushed outside of my comfort zone. This was huge. I no longer had the luxury to take client calls whenever I wanted; I no longer had the luxury to write at any time of day. I had to become VERY disciplined to work at this big client while at the same time work with my other (smaller) clients. I had to get creative to serve both my big insurance client and my many small investing clients, and to continue providing a high level of service to both. (Because even though I broke my business, I still had clients to deliver content to!)
  • And the biggest reason: When you’re running your biz, you rely on the income to pay the bills. And it’s hard to make changes and improvements and take risks in your business if you rely on that income. So by taking a year long contracting gig, I had the freedom to take big swings at my business. I mean: OF COURSE I continued to serve clients but I didn’t need to be marketing and selling every day; instead I was able to market my business in new ways, try new selling techniques, and create new types of contracts and agreements with clients, and deliver new services… all with very little risk because I wasn’t dependent on the income… plus I had the time to manage these changes. End result? In March I closed up one of my biggest clients ever. In June I went to a conference and made some amazing connections and that resulted in new business plus a few tweaks to how I run my business. In July I established really creative new deals with two clients that will result in some great ongoing income. In September I closed my two largest clients ever.

This past year was NOT easy. Frankly, I hate commuting and although I loved working with this insurance client, I definitely prefer working with smaller real estate investing clients. But there are so many good things that came out of this contract that it made the effort worthwhile.

It’s been said that when a bone breaks, it heals stronger than it was originally. I’m not sure if that’s true (and the two fingers I broke when I was a kid don’t seem any stronger than the rest of my fingers) but it sounds right and, from the perspective of my business, it seems to be true.

I’m now sitting in my home office again. I have a huge list of great real estate investing clients to write direct marketing copy for. And my business is stronger than ever because I took the time to shatter it and put the pieces back together.

[Image source: Colin Broug]

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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