300 episodes

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.

What Works Tara McMullin

    • Business
    • 4.8 • 192 Ratings

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 335: Finding The Right Strategy To Market Your Business with Savvy Social Podcast Host Andréa Jones

    EP 335: Finding The Right Strategy To Market Your Business with Savvy Social Podcast Host Andréa Jones

    In This Episode:

    * How social media marketing expert Andréa Jones balances two different marketing strategies for her agency and for her membership community* Why she prioritizes feelings when it comes to positioning and messaging* How she incorporates social media marketing into the larger context of a sales campaign* Why promotional content isn’t all that useful for building an audience or finding customers—and what’s working instead

    Some of the most successful business owners I know spend absolutely no time on marketing.

    They have social media accounts but they’re for posting images about vacations or family or hobbies.

    They have blogs but they largely sit dormant.

    They have email lists but never send any email.

    They don’t have massive advertising budgets or a marketing team that takes care of it for them. Their businesses are simply designed to work—to thrive—without the playing the games we’ve come to associate with marketing in the 2020s.

    The topic we’re covering this month is always a crowd-pleaser.

    We’re talking about building an audience.

    Except that… we aren’t really going to be talking about building an audience at all.

    Truth be told, I chose this topic about halfway through 2020 knowing that people love to hear about all the ways people work on attracting followers and building their email lists.

    But the more I thought about what I wanted to cover this month, the more I realized this month needed to be about shedding light on some of the most pernicious shoulds & supposed-tos that exist in the small business world online.

    So we are going to talk about building your audience, but we’re going to juxtapose that with the reality of how marketing—or more specifically, finding customers & clients—work in businesses that are booming.

    And that’s exactly where I’d like to start.

    There’s a difference between building an audience and finding customers or clients.

    At one point in the recent history of the social web, these 2 actions might have been one and the same. But today, the conversation about building an audience has become detached from finding customers or clients.

    Building an audience typically looks like working the algorithms by figuring out when to post to maximize likes, what types of media receive the most engagement, and which hashtags to use to broaden your reach.

    Building an audience has mostly been removed from the context of finding customers.

    Sure, the conversation might start with identifying your ideal customer… but it quickly devolves into chatter about Reels, and Stories, and stickers, and the best ways to promote your business.

    The prevailing narrative assumes that every purchase is the result of a long and drawn-out journey from haphazardly discovering something you post, to hitting the “follow” button, to signing up for your email list, to attending a webinar, to finally considering buying from you.

    Here’s the thing: I can’t say that I’ve ever bought an information product or contracted a service that way.

    I don’t want to speak for you here—but my guess is that the majority of your purchases don’t follow that pattern, either. Instead, you buy because a friend recommended something or because you h...

    • 56 min
    EP 334: Creating Mental Space With Simple Changes

    EP 334: Creating Mental Space With Simple Changes

    What’s the ROI on mental space?

    What would it be worth to you to get some peace of mind?

    What would you be willing to do to alleviate a bit of uncertainty from your life or business?

    All this month, we’ve been talking about simplifying and the immense benefits you can experience by building a simple business.

    We’re going to close things out here by taking a look at how operational improvements can create a profound sense of relief—and open up mental space that you didn’t even know was cluttered!

    I can easily remember what it was like to run my business before we built solid systems.

    Cluttered is exactly how I would describe it.

    It wasn’t just the operational clutter–files all over the place, to-do lists scattered all over my desk, and priorities that could change on a whim.

    It was also the mental clutter.

    Where did all that mental clutter come from? Well, it was a result of a whole bunch of unhelpful habits and patterns.

    It was people-pleasing and scarcity thinking and entrepreneurial optimism. I had mental clutter from my habit of trying to remember all of the things instead of documneting stuff. I had mental clutter from avoiding conflict and never setting firm boundaries.

    In order to clear up my operational clutter, I also had to clean up those patterns.

    Because a simple system was never going to stick if my habits were just going to lead to me cluttering things up again.

    And I think that’s where we so often go wrong when it comes to simplifying and cleaning things up.

    We put smart systems on top of unconscious mental patterns. We try to apply countermeasures without addressing the inner game of business at the same time.

    If we’re building awareness of how and why things get messy or complicated in the first place, then we can design a cleaner system AND maintain it.

    Which is great.

    AND… it gets better. As I mentioned, one of the best benefits of cleaning things up and simplifying is mental space.

    Once I was less exhausted and emotionally drained from navigating my own cluttered systems, I had way more space for actually helping people!

    I had more space for learning more. I had space for thinking more. And I had more space for getting create.

    You heard Sophy Dale echo this sentiment in Episodes 330 and 331, too.

    So, I’ll ask again: what is it worth to you to get that mental space?

    I ask this not because it requires some financial investment.

    What it likely requires is the discomfort that comes from doing things a new way.

    Maybe you decide that to clean things up, you need to start documenting everything you do. Or track you time. Or wait 3 days before you act on a new idea.

    Maybe you realize that you need to actually check items off in your project management software instead of just “checking in” to see what’s overdue.

    Maybe you commit to organizing your inbox in another way or following a checklist for tasks that often suffer from overlooked details.

    I’m not making light of any of these choices. These seemingly small operational shifts require a lot of effort in terms of addressing those mental habi...

    • 26 min
    EP 333: Simplifying Social Media Content Creation With Andréa Jones and Tara McMullin

    EP 333: Simplifying Social Media Content Creation With Andréa Jones and Tara McMullin

    What Works is all about exploring what’s really working for small business owners.

    Because there are a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about what it takes to build a stronger business.

    This week, I’m bringing you something a little different. It’s an interview that I did for Andréa Jones’s podcast, The Savvy Social Podcast.

    Andréa and I are both on a mission to bust some of the assumptions that people have about what’s good for business when it comes to social media marketing.

    For me, it’s a small part of what I do. But for Andréa, this is her whole business. Andréa runs a thriving social media marketing agency called OnlineDrea as well as a training community for small business owners called Savvy Social School.

    I’ve featured Andréa here on the pod before and we talked about how she approaches social media pretty differently when it comes to her own business versus how she manages social media for her clients with very different business models.

    Good news: next week’s episode is a follow up to that conversation.

    I respect the heck out of the way Andréa approaches social media and the way she trains other small business owners to manage their own marketing. And so when she asked if she could interview me about the unconventional approach I’ve taken to social media this year, I was honored.

    What follows is that conversation. If you like this conversation, you’re going to love Andréa’s podcast, the Savvy Social Podcast—so check that out wherever you listen to What Works. And tell her I sent you, okay?

    I asked Andréa if I could rebroadcast this conversation here at What Works because I think it gives a glimpse into how simplifying can help you focus on quality over quantity.

    So without further ado, let’s get into. Listen up for the most concise explanation I’ve ever given for the philosophy behind What Works, why I’m focused on remarkable content this year, and how that focus has simplified the way I produce content for social media.

    I also talk about how I view my primary job at What Works as a content creator—which is a job I love but isn’t right for everyone.

    • 54 min
    Q&A: How Do You Make A Big Change To Your Business Model?

    Q&A: How Do You Make A Big Change To Your Business Model?

    How do you make a big change to your business model without making it harder than it has to be?

    How do you navigate sunsetting an old offer (or a few), raising your prices, or shifting your target client?

    After spending a whole month talking about simplifying on What Works, I’ve had more than a few people wonder what it was actually going to take to make some big changes to the way they do business.

    This question happened to come up during this month’s Insider Hour—a Q&A session I host each month for What Works Network members. And I wanted to share my answer in case it’s helpful to you and the changes you’re considering for your business, too.

    You might also find it helpful to check out these resources:

    * Free Workbook: How To Create A Plan To Grow Your Business* 7 Simple Business Models For Small Business Owners* Why Reactivity Leads To Complexity* Embracing Simplicity with Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale* What I Wish Every Small Business Owner Knew About Making More Money

    • 11 min
    EP 332: Maybe Simplicity Is Just A Dream…

    EP 332: Maybe Simplicity Is Just A Dream…

    I’m convinced that every entrepreneur has a fantasy business that they daydream about.

    It’s free from all of the baggage and assumptions that we’ve built up around our existing businesses.

    And I’m also convinced that that fantasy business—as pie-in-the-sky as it may be—has something to teach us about our existing businesses.

    They can show us how we’d market differently, set policies differently, and protect our time differently. They show us the kinds of relationships we’d prefer to have with clients or the type of work we’d rather be doing.

    And, maybe more than anything, they show us just how simple a business can be.

    With a few exceptions, I don’t think most of us daydream about convoluted, complicated businesses. We dream up simple businesses—ones that thrive with minimal BS.

    Today, I’m sharing 3 ways that I built my fantasy business—the one I’d been dreaming about for years—and how it’s different from What Works.

    In this episode, you’ll hear:

    * Why making changes to an existing business is less like steering a big ship and more like dragging the anchor behind you* How focusing on process & systems helped us create a simple business model* What we did to create an offer that was an obvious “yes” for the right people and an obvious “no” for the wrong people* And how we’ve gotten away with almost zero marketing since we got started almost 2 years ago

    Read the full transcript below:

    If you were to start a new business—something that has nothing to do with what you’re doing now…

    …what would it be?

    Maybe you daydream about starting a copywriting business specializing in beekeepers, or you fantasize about becoming a tarot reader for financial professionals. Perhaps you’ve thought about how you’d do web design differently or create a curated subscription box in a whole new way.

    I’m convinced that we all have a business—or several—that we daydream about.

    And I believe that there’s a lot we could learn from these fantasy businesses.

    This month, we’ve been talking about simplifying.

    I don’t think any of us dreams up overly complicated businesses. These businesses strike an elegant balance between your needs and wants as a founder and the market’s needs and wants.

    None of my fantasy business ideas are complicated.

    A few years ago, I wanted to launch a brand of bralettes for bigger busts. Just one or two styles sized appropriately for people with a D-cup larger. And mind you, this was before everyone started selling bralettes for bigger busts.

    I’ve dreamed up a personal training business for high-performing women—part coaching, part fitness, all monthly retainer.

    I’ve talked about how I’d love to open a simple, high-quality coffee shop in my town. And I’ve dreamed of opening a yoga studio on Main Street, too. While coffee shops & yoga studios might not be high-margin businesses, they’re undoubtedly simple models.

    I’ve also joked that one of these days, I’m just going to quit everything and set myself up as a professional Canva designer. I also imagine this business to be pretty straightforward.

    Our fantasy businesses can teach us what we’d do differently if we were starting from...

    • 21 min
    EP 331: Embracing Simplicity With Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale

    EP 331: Embracing Simplicity With Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale

    In This Episode:

    * How Sophy Dale decided to let go of 2 of her 3 businesses and just focus on one and why figuring out a novel distribution strategy was a key part of the decision* Why Brigitte Lyons paid attention to what would break if her business grew to figure out how things needed to become simpler* Why Brigitte chose to focus on long-term client engagements* How Sophy is actually able to get more support now that her business is simpler* The tools and software that they use to run their streamlined businesses* And, of course, the incredible results of all of this simplification!

    So… things have gotten complicated.

    Your business is a mess of competing priorities. Mismatched marketing messages. Dusty old brand positioning. Stale offers. And the clutter from all the times you’ve tried to solve problems by doing more.

    It’s easy to think that all of this unproductive complexity is a sign that you screwed up—that you’re not very good at this whole building a business thing.

    But that ignores the fact that all of us have been programmed from birth to equate more work with good work, checking more things off the list with checking the right things off the list.

    Today, I’ve got part 2 of my conversation with Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale about simplifying their businesses. But first, I want to explore a key aspect of how we let things get so complicated in the first place.

    Last month, I read a book that I just can’t stop quoting or recommending—and I’m not gonna start today.

    The book is Can’t Even: How Millennials Because The Burnout Generation. Yes, I’m a millennial—an elder millennial to be specific. And I deeply and profoundly relate to everything in this book. But as the author, Anne Helen Petersen, points out the systemic causes of our burnout culture are felt by every generation—just with slightly different results.

    Petersen writes:

    Barring a significant, psychology-altering intervention, once someone equates “good” work with overwork, that conception will stay with them—and anyone under their power—for the rest of their lives.

    She goes on to say:

    We’ve conditioned ourselves to ignore every signal from the body saying This is too much, and we call that conditioning “grit” or “hustle.”

    If that’s feeling a little too real to you right now, you’re certainly not alone.

    I’m quite certain that there are many listeners out there releasing a collective OOF.

    Here’s the thing, we can say we started our own businesses to gain more flexibility in our lives, more control over our schedules, more time to spend with family or on our art or in our communities…

    …but we haven’t had the psychology-altering intervention that would allow us to actually make that happen.

    We’ve been taught that unless we pay our dues through overworking and overproducing and overdelivering, we can’t be successful.

    And the way that plays out in our businesses? Complexity.

    More offers. More clients. More emails. More marketing tactics. More social media posts. More lead magnets. More Zoom calls. More deliverables.

    When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, right?

    Doing more and inevitably making things more complex is the main tool we’ve been trained to use.

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
192 Ratings

192 Ratings

Ashley N Cox ,

Disruptive Wisdom + Advice

If you’re tired of the same old cookie-cutter advice and played out strategies that leave you feeling burnt out, frustrated, and chasing your tail, then tune into What Works! Tara, along with her guests, consistently deliver fresh ideas, unique perspectives, and simpler more strategic ways to think about and do business. I’ve learned so much from listening to this podcast that has helped me look at my business more critically and objectively, assessing what isn't working so I can find what works. Highly recommend!!

Mark Colgan ,

Awesome show!

The perspectives Tara and her guests offer on this podcast are incredible. If you’re looking for key insights and actionable advice for your business, this show is a must-listen! I particularly enjoyed the interview with Sarah Avenir on the importance of leadership for a business to navigate times of uncertainty like the ones we’re living. Highly recommended! Thank you, Tara!

Dpippen ,


Tara is the expert in eliminating the noise when it comes to building a business. I love having the permission to stop listening to all the "gurus" so I can focus on being more fully present as a mom and wife and growing the parts of my business I'm actually passionate about.

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