Stop spinning your wheels and start getting ahead: What Works is all about the nuts & bolts of what it takes to build a stronger business. Tara McMullin talks to experienced small business owners & entrepreneurs about marketing, management, mindset, operations, product development, sales, customer service, and more--so you can learn what's really happening behind the scenes. No gimmicks or fads. Just an inside look at how coaches, educators, lawyers, digital product creators, agency owners, writers, consultants, and more make it work.
EP 355: Cash Flow Is A Feminist Issue
In This Episode:
* Tara explains how using a system-thinking approach to money makes it easier to invest in the growth of your business* Why cash flow is a 3-dimensional way to think about your business’s money* How the different components of a cash flow system work together to create a desired outcome* Why managing for cash flow creates the conditions to live out feminist values in your business
It’s easy to think 2-dimensionally about the money in your business: revenue and expenses. But 2-dimensional thinking makes it much harder to find the money to grow. If you can start to think 3-dimensionally (revenue + expenses + time), then you can expand your opportunities.
Managing for cash flow gives you a way to see the interconnected components of money in your business. Plus, it’s a way to powerful financial systems and live out feminist & anti-colonialist values.
Find this episode in article form by clicking here.
EP 354: Making Sales A System With Coach Pony Founder Christie Mims
In This Episode:
* Why Coach Pony founder Christie Mims uses 2 “competing” sales funnels to accommodate for different ways of buying* How she melds both sales automation and a human approach to produce 7+ figure sales* The nuts & bolts of what both sales funnels entail and how they actually work together* Plus, why Christie’s approach is inspiring but, ultimately, might not be the best approach for you
How reliable are your sales?
How steadily do new customers buy? How loyal are your retainer clients or repeat customers?
Every business owners wants to feel confident when it comes to sales. Not just how to close a sale, but really how the chance to make a sale presents itself, how the process evolves, and how that final decision gets made.
Can you engineer a more reliable sales system?
Yes, you sure can. But it’s not the “if this, then that” kind of process that many reductive sales courses try to sell you on.
It would be awesome if I knew that every time I did a particular task, I could count on a sale. It would be awesome if I knew that stringing together a series of specific actions would supercharge my sales.
But so many things impact the way people buy… that it’s impossible to reduce sales to a single process or procedure.
That said, we can still dance with our sales systems!
So let’s return to Donella Meadows’s article on dancing with systems. Meadows encourages us to “celebrate complexity.”
Now, you might be thinking…
“But Tara, what about building simple business models? What about creating simple marketing procedures?”
I’m glad you asked! The reason we actively build simple structures, models, and procedures for our businesses is because the world is a complex place. When we focus on simplicity in how we design our businesses, we really can celebrate complexity in the world and our customers’ lives.
There’s something within the human mind that is attracted to straight lines and not curves, to whole numbers and not fractions, to uniformity and not diversity, and to certainties and not mystery. But there is something else within us that has the opposite set of tendencies, since we ourselves evolved out of and are shaped by and structured as complex feedback systems.
When it comes to sales, I believe our goal is to create the simplest system that celebrates the reality of complexity in the environment.
So what makes the environment we’re selling in so complex? Timing, trends, current events, seasons, budgets, competition, competing messages, personal histories, family needs…
The list could go on and on.
Every customers brings their own complex set of influences to the table when they interact with your business—especially in the sales process.
This is one of the reasons that “sales funnels” so often fail. A sales funnel is usually built from the business’s perspective—a perfect scenario of “if this, then that” actions that assume a lot about the people who are going through that funnel.
But no matter how niche your target customer or client is,
EP 353: Dancing With Systems In Clickup With Lou Blaser & Sean McMullin from YellowHouse.Media
In This Episode:
* Why Sean McMullin & Lou Blaser, from YellowHouse.Media, switched their project management software from Notion to Clickup (and why it’s not the right move for everyone!)* How they’ve reduced their podcast management procedure from 75 sub-tasks to 11 umbrella tasks* Why streamlining the procedure has allowed them to bring a more customized approach to each podcast they produce* How focusing on the system behind podcast production has helped them create a lot more capacity for new clients
A couple of months back, I read a downright beautiful article about systems.
Yes, you heard that right: a beautiful, thoughtful, and useful article about… systems.
It was written by Donella Meadows, an influential environmental scientist and leading thinker on systems change in the 20th century.
The article outlines 14 principles for *dancing* with systems. But today I want to focus on the first: get the beat.
When we talk about business systems, it’s easy to default to software, automation, or project management.
But a system is much more organic than that.
And if we don’t allow for a system’s inherently organic nature, we miss out on really understanding that system in order to work with it, dance with it.
Meadows explains that a mistake we so often make when we approach systems is that we see understanding the system as a way of predicting and controlling its output.
She writes, “The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable.”
I get that that might be frustrating—especially as we see data and the ability to instantly connect with customers as modes for the ultimate in business predictability.
It can also be a relief.
If the goal of understanding systems isn’t to control them or predict their output but to dance with them and learn from them, we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves!
And that brings me to Meadows first dance step—get the beat. The mistake I see business owners make with systems is that they try to impose systems on their businesses. They create or build systems for different areas of their businesses.
But that negates the systems already at work in a business. And inevitably, trying to create a system instead of investigating a system, leads to frustration.
Meadows writes, “Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves.”
So let’s say you want to work on your marketing system. If you start with a blank page and start building something from scratch, you’re missing out on all of the data & feedback that already exists in your marketing system as it is now (whether you know it’s a system or not).
If instead, you map out your existing marketing system, no matter how haphazard or messy, you can start to ask some really interesting questions about that system:
* How did we get here?* How else could this work?* What might happen if we don’t make a change?* What are the long-term ripple effects of allowing this system to continue to play out...
EP 352: Personal Strengths Make Strategy Stronger
Personal strengths are like a photo filter.
Imagine you’ve got a photo that’s… fine. You upload it to Instagram or VSCO or some fun photo editing app.
And then you scroll through the filters until you find one that brings the picture to life. With the tap of a button, you can make the photo go from washed out colors to… black & white, or soft shades of peach and pink, or punchy shades of blues and greens.
Your filter might up the contrast or even everything out a bit.
Personal strengths can do the same thing for your business strategy, marketing tactics, or the way you deliver your offer.
So what happens when we start to use personal strengths as a filter for business?
First, it becomes much easier to make decisions about what steps to take next. The strengths filter makes it easier to see whether one path or another is going to work better for you.
But second, your strengths filter can help you find creative ways to do some of those shoulds and supposed-tos that just feel so meh.
What if you approach email marketing through the filter of relationship-building?
That’s going to look pretty different than an email marketing strategy based on ideation or analysis.
What if you create an online course but filter it through of teamwork?
That’s going to look pretty different than an online course based on focus or competition.
What if you prioritize networking but filter it through humor?
That’s going to look different than networking based on discipline or strategy.
And when you apply your strengths filter to come up with creative ways of reimagining these actions and systems, not only will they feel more natural to you, they’ll be more effective too.
I’ve got four more stories of business owners leveraging their strengths for you today. And the thread that runs through each of them is how using personal strengths as a filter allowed them to make components of their businesses more natural and effective.
You’ll hear from Lysa Greer, Mary Knox Miller (Nonprofit Video Lab), Nayla Bahri, Mytili Jugunaathun, and Lisa Townsend on how they’ve leveraged their strengths.
EP 351: Thinking Differently With Writer Kris Windley
In This Episode:
* Why writer Kris Windley decided to learn how to illustrate her articles* How doodling has helped her work with her ADHD* How she finds the idea or image she wants to illustrate for each piece* The metaphor she uses to think about skill-building
I’ve become a bit obsessed with the concept of “sensemaking.”
Really, I’ve been obsessed with it my whole life, I just didn’t have a name for it.
Sensemaking is the process of taking sensory information and situational knowledge and creating a framework for meaning and decision-making.
Okay, I know, that sounds kind of heady. But really, we do it all the time.
Imagine you venture into the kitchen after a long day in your home office. The kitchen is torn apart. You see dishes stacked on the counter, cupboard doors open, and pantry items covering the table. You smell a slightly chemical citrus scent in the air. Your spouse isn’t there to ask what the heck is going on.
Quickly, you deduce that they got the idea to deep clean the kitchen and had to step away for a bit. The job is almost finished but there’s still a ways to go and you’re hungry for dinner. You take the initiative to order pizza.
You went from “what the heck is going on here?” To “dinner is on its way” in less than 60 seconds.
Anyhow, I’ve always got my eye out for a new way to make sense of the world. A framework, a script, a visualization, a map, a diagram… I love these tools. And I make good use of them in my own head.
But my sensemaking tools don’t always make it out of my head.
In the last year or so, I’ve really started to recognize that I have a unique strength for explaining how I make sense of things and that my frameworks are helpful for others, too.
Score another for neurodivergence!
That said, it’s taken some practice find my public sensemaking rhythm. The way I write and speak has evolved quite a bit in a short time—at least from my perspective.
But the other thing that’s shifted for me is the ability to turn ideas into a visualizations and graphic representations. I’ve never thought of myself as very good at visual art or graphic design—even though I wished I was.
Then, I had a conversation with writer, developmental editor, and communications consultant Kris Windley. Kris told me all about how she’d been learning how to draw to support her writing—and that helped manage her attention & focus as she navigates ADHD.
I don’t think I can overstate how much this got my wheels turning. It wasn’t until January that I really got to work on the project finding ways to illustrate my ideas. But once I got started, I couldn’t stop!
Here 8 months later and almost a year after that conversation, I feel like I have a really powerful tool in my toolkit. And that that tool leverages a strength I had only been using at half-power.
This episode is a rebroadcast but, if you follow my non-podcast work, I think it will have new meaning for you now—as it does for me. And regardless, I think it’s really encouraging to hear about how Kris has intentionally and methodically introduced this new skill into the way she works!
EP 350: Slowing Down For Success With Coach Reva Patwardhan
In This Episode:
* Why coach Reva Patwardhan counts her intrinsic sense of belonging as one of her top strengths* How “deep processing” allows her to work with high-achieving women in unexpected ways* How she’s learned to work with her ADHD instead of against it* What she’s discovered at the intersection of neurodivergence and being a woman of color
I think a lot about belonging.
In fact, “belonging” is an ongoing conversation between our community advocate, Shannon, and I.
We talk about belonging because one of the biggest concerns that prospective Network members and new members have is whether they will belong. They ask if there are people like them in the community: people with a similar business model, people from the same industry, people who come from the same background they have.
On one hand, these questions are easy to answer. Typically we can say, “Yes! There are people like you here.” But on the other hand, a sense of belonging isn’t just a factor of who you’re in proximity with.
A sense of belonging isn’t situational. It’s intrinsic.
And if through trauma, oppression, toxic relationships, injustice, or cruelty you’ve lost your sense of belonging, it doesn’t matter how much the people around you are like you. You can still feel separate and other.
Belonging isn’t a switch you can turn on and off. At least not in my experience.
One of the threads of that ongoing conversation that Shannon and I have about belonging is indeed about my experience—and about how her experience is pretty different.
A couple of years ago, we reached the joint revelation that we have different default settings when it comes to belonging. When she walks in a room, she assumes she belongs. And in a uncommonly positive result of confirmation bias, she typically starts to confirm her belonging in all sorts of social and situational ways.
When I walk in a room of people—which I try to avoid at all costs—I assume I don’t belong. I assume I’m missing the memo on something everyone else has known for all time. I feel cut off and I shut down. My own confirmation bias starts to pick out all the reasons why I do not belong in that room with those people.
While that probably sounds pretty awful, and it is, I believe that it’s also caused me to build a strength in leadership.
As a leader, I interact with a group in a different way. It’s understood that I am on the outside, not belonging in the same way to the group as others. And similarly, being on the outside, gives me a better perspective on the group and their challenges. So it works out pretty well.
Sebene Selassie writes about a similar phenomenon in her extremely excellent book, You Belong. Sebene examines the benefits of living in the margins of society. She writes, “If we imagine each circle is made up of people who are facing inwards, the closer you are to the center, the less you see. Conversely, if you are in the outermost circles, you have the greatest perspective.”
Are there real issues with being in the margins of society? Absolutely: lack of access to resources and lack of participation in decision-making chief among them.
But operating on the outside gives us perspective we can use to do real good in the world.
Love the witty interviews and commitment to values. Looking forward to listening to more
@schulmanArt host of The Inspiration Place podcast
Game changer in any part of business!
Tara’s podcast really highlights all aspects of business, self improvement and even more in this can’t miss podcast!The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
Tara, host of the What Works podcast, highlights all aspects of entrepreneurship, growth and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!