540 Natasha Mitchell:
What does it take to run and grow a business … without it running you? Large…or small, would be unicorn or lifestyle business… scalable systems are your secret to success.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who now helps other business owners create efficient and scalable systems in place to support the business and life you want.
Natasha Mitchell is founder and CEO of Inspire & Drive, the Creator of the S.I.M.P.L.E Business Method ™ and a #1 International Best Selling Author. A business strategy and efficiency expert, Natasha helps entrepreneurs map out a custom-crafted map to success aligned with their ideal life. We’re going to dive deep into the topic of scaling, and how to keep your business growth strategy elegantly simple.
I can’t wait to introduce you to Natasha! First…
Natasha Mitchell is on a mission to make business easy and fun so that you can focus on sharing your gifts and talents with the world and make it a more interesting and colorful place without stressing about having to go big to succeed. Natasha has a slightly different take on scaling: For her, it’s not about fast sustaining growth for growth’s sake – but rather the systems that support a founder to create a business that sustains the lifestyle you want.
Founder of Inspire & Drive, Creator of the S.I.M.P.L.E Business Method ™ #1 International Best Selling Author and Host of Your Business Without Borders Podcast, Natasha started out as an international business consultant for over 20 years where she mastered the art of understanding client challenges, removing barriers and helping them to create the structure and plans they needed to help their business and teams run more effectively and efficiently.
She says her super power is being able to take a complex problem and make it simple so that small business owners get their products and services into the world, without stress and overwhelm or sacrificing all of their free time or their creativity.
Grab your phone and download the free Podopolo app so you can join the conversation with Natasha.
Today we talk about why scaling your business doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a big team, or building a multinational corporation. Instead Natasha shares what it takes to streamline your operations to be of best service to you, your team, and your clients for success that enhances your creativity and happiness – with her 5 Step process to creating a Simple Business.
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Natasha Mitchell.
Melinda Wittstock: Natasha, welcome to Wings.
Natasha Mitchell: Hi Melinda. Thanks so much for having me here today.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited about our conversation, because so many women struggle with scalability in their businesses. We launch these things, we’re the only person, and then suddenly, Oh man, it becomes impossible to grow without having the right systems and team and all of those things in place, and this is what you do. So what, in your mind, is the biggest thing that stands in the way of women getting to that scale ability position where their business is no longer running them?
Natasha Mitchell: So I think what… Maybe it’s even interesting to think about sort of the root cause of why people, even before they’re scaling, what is the problem that has led them to not being able to scale, if you will. I think what is common for a lot of solopreneurs and entrepreneurs in particular is that when we start our business, we don’t always think about that system and structure, we just sort of have an idea, and we jump in and run with that.
What usually happens, and I’m sure you’ve seen it, as well, with a lot of your clients, that works for a while, and you jump in, you test the waters, you see whether your idea is valid and if people want to work with you or buy your product or service, and then somewhere along the line, you start getting customers. And then you realize that there’s no system and structure in place. So I kind of feel like that’s the reason why a lot of people sort of hit that wall when suddenly they need to grow bigger or support more clients or produce more products or widgets or whatever they are doing there.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. So I often think, though, too, that women struggle to ask for help and tend to hire too late. So when you’re in that early stage, when you’re the solopreneur, but you find yourself becoming the bottleneck, like you’re tearing your hair out because you’re trying to do everything, and it’s impossible for one person to do everything, what’s the optimal time that you should be really hiring somebody, or at least bringing in interns or something, to help you and get that delegation muscle going?
Natasha Mitchell: It’s such a good point. I think we do struggle with that as women, and I think we’ve got two things going on. It’s like, I’m reluctant to ask for help, and I’m also a bit of a perfectionist or control freak. [inaudible 00:03:00]. So I really think that’s also part of the… And then when we have the whole money mindset going in, it’s like, I can’t afford this, or I’m not big enough yet, it’s not the right time to hire people. So I think a lot of that is going on in people’s mind when they’re thinking about hiring their first team member or an intern or whatever.
So I think fundamentally, this… I’ve had this conversation on a few different occasions. Sometimes it’s not actually hiring a person, sometimes there’s ways to… If you’re not quite ready to hire that person, what I would recommend is starting with a bit of simple automation. So looking at those things, as a first step, that can really just save you a lot of time. Things like having an automated calendar booking system can just save you hours of time, versus going back and forward. If there’s emails that you write regularly, onboarding a client, or you maybe have a podcast like this and there’s sort of a regular communication you send, just create some of those automated or repeatable emails really early on. So that’s the first thing I would say in terms of saving a bit of time.
And then really, to answer the main question is, when should you hire someone? I think the answer is, it depends. I think it’s how quickly you’re growing. But inevitably, if you’re starting to feel a bit of a stretch, if you’re starting to find yourself working till 10 o’clock at night every night, you’re working every weekend, that’s usually a good clue that you need some help and need it fast. So the sooner you can kind of reconcile that in your mind, that there are some tasks that other people can do for you, or things that you just don’t know how to do, and getting into that mindset of budgeting for that and bringing people onboard, the better.
Because it really does… It takes a bit of time to upskill people and get them doing things exactly the way you want to. So if you wait until the 11th hour, when there’s a big emergency, and suddenly you say, “I need a couple more people to help me,” once you’re in that emergency stage, that can create even more chaos.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, the terrible find is when you into sales mode and you get a bunch of clients, but then you’re so busy serving your clients, you can’t be developing your pipeline and all your marketing and all of that for the next group of clients. This is where I see a lot of women getting really stuck in this place. Some people are really great with clients, other people are really great with sales, and nobody, nobody is good at everything. So there are certain things that we try and…
I think our school system has persuaded us that we have to double down on things that we’re not good at and learn the things we’re not good at. I’m a contrarian, and I believe that actually what you do as you double down on what you’re really, really good at, and you hire the things that you’re not good at, or that you don’t enjoy doing. You mentioned mindset; this is really, really important. Because if you go into it thinking, “I have to learn everything, I have to do everything,” that is a recipe for staying a small business and an unscalable business.
Natasha Mitchell: Yeah, exactly. You bring up so many interesting points there. Fundamentally, our society actually has created that mindset for us. So like yourself, I’m a bit of a contrarian as well, and I don’t believe that you do have to do everything yourself. The other thing that society has kind of instilled in us, and particularly as women, is that we’re not allowed to say no to anything. So if we say no, or we can’t do everything, we’re deemed as a bit of a failure. So, a big part, and it kind of ties into the first discussion we’ve had, is that you want to build a business that supports your lifestyle, and your life runs your business, not your business running your life, the other way around.
So I think the really important thing about scaling… There’s so many important things about scaling, but one of the important things about scaling is when you’re starting to grow, just step back a little bit and really have a tough conversation with yourself as to, are you creating a business that you really love? Is it supporting your life and your lifestyle and your goals? And to your point about the things that you’re not good at, outsource them or hire someone in, really looking at… I work with people, I have a dream sheet, and I literally work with them and I say, “What are things that you love doing and a great at doing? What are the things you hate doing and are not good at?”
That’s really simple step that we often don’t even take time to think about. I think when you start mapping that all out on paper and say, “Well, you know what? I am great at sales, I love doing sales, I love delivering, I’m great at writing copy, but I’m awful at graphic design, I struggle a little bit with tech and website development,” and whatever else that you don’t do, then you can start looking at the task and your business, like, “Okay, well, what are the things that are more salesy, client-facing, all of those things. I’ll do those tasks.”
One of the things that had graphic design, maybe writing a social media post, perhaps it’s adding a pop up box on your website, that you don’t know how to do, just say, “Those are the things that I need to get help for.” Building the business, a bit reverse-engineering the business, thinking about really what you like doing and what you’re good at and ultimately, what you want in life, and then creating a business that supports that.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely right. I think that’s so, so important. Sorry, I’m just going to pick up there. One of the interesting things though, too, is that I think when we think of hiring, we think of an expense, rather than an investment or an asset. When you hire people, you’re investing in growing your business, it’s not an expense. There’s a way to do it though, in a way that… with vendors, with interns, with part-time people. But I always like to think if you’re hiring people, it’s not just, “Hey, I want to hire you to go do something,” you’re hiring someone to enable a result. What is the result that you want that person to deliver? And what are the metrics and what are the systems, what are the things that are going to allow them to succeed?
Because when you shift at anything, no, I’m not just hiring someone to do something, or it’s not just an expense, but it’s actually to deliver a result, that’s where a business grows in revenue, because you’re tying people to specific results and specific metrics that allow you to grow your business. And it’s a vital shift in mindset, really, to get to that place. It’s interesting, one of my mentors once took me through… Sorry. One of my mentors once took me through an exercise, looking at my strengths and looking at weaknesses, looking at all things that I did in any given day.
So what’s the value of me spending my time getting a strategic client that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars to my business, versus checking the broken links or fixing broken links on my website? I could pay someone 10 bucks to fix some broken links, literally, but… I could spend that hour doing that, or I could spend that hour on the high leverage tasks that are going to significantly grow my business and enable me to hire people.
So what’s the value of my hour, if I’m doing a deal that’s going to be worth a quarter of a million dollars to the business? Is it a hundred bucks? Is it a thousand bucks an hour, is it $10,000 an hour? Is it more, versus my time fixing links on a broken website or doing some sort of task that really almost 99% of the rest of the population could do? It’s actually stealing from my business.
Natasha Mitchell: Yeah, exactly. It’s that opportunity cost. Everything we’re talking about here is sort of that scaling mindset. All of those kind of… I feel like everything we do in business is a choice. We make a choice between doing task A or task B, and then you add on the result and outcome. What is the benefit of doing task A or task B to the business? That’s what I see missing a lot for particularly my clients that are usually just reaching the six figure mark and sort of moving up from there.
The growth for them is also… they’re going from that solopreneur or kind of employee in their business to a CEO of the business, and that’s some of the transformational work. I work a lot with business strategy, but that’s sort of the transformational work that I see really people have to get on board with, and really starting now to look at your business with a very different lens. So all of those things that you’ve touched on there, Melinda.
Why am I doing anything in my business? What is that outcome or result that I’m looking for? Great. What’s the revenue, what’s the benefit for me or my business for doing that? And then it becomes easier to… It becomes more obvious, perhaps, to make those decisions that we’ve just talked about. It’s like, should I spend three hours Googling to fix a broken link on my website, or should I pay someone… It could be anything from $10 to a hundred dollars an hour. It really doesn’t matter, to some extent.
I think we just think differently and make different decisions when we step into that new role, and I call it stepping into the leader of your business versus the employee of your business. As entrepreneurs, many, many people know about the classic book, E Myth. E Myth is exactly that, it’s like, you’re not an employee anymore, you are a leader in your business, and you need to think about this as a business and not a job. That distinction really does change the way you start to operate in your business.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. So Natasha, you began as a consultant, and you were working on multimillion dollar technology projects. What was it, what was the spark that, that made you take a turn in that and help others and other smaller solopreneurs and creative entrepreneurs get to this kind of scaling piece, so they could literally build a business that wasn’t a running them?
Natasha Mitchell: Great question. I did. I worked in that big tech world out there, multimillion dollar projects. There are a couple of decision points for me. It goes back to what I sort of first talked about, is I think fundamentally, for me, just my own values, I really value time freedom and creativity, and my job in the corporate world was not allowing me to do that. So that’s initially why I stepped out of that world and more into an entrepreneurial kind of space.
What I began to see, as I transitioned out there… I’d been a consultant, so it’s exactly the story that I said. It’s like, “Oh, well, I’m a consultant. I’ve got a great skill set and I can use this to help other people in their business.” That was how it started out. As I started to work with clients and just started to help them with some of the foundations of business, I quickly realized where the gaps were for them. So I realized that whole piece that I do so well, which is about the strategies, the processes, the project plans, taking that idea and turning it into reality, that’s what people were really missing, and being able to look at their business as a business, not a job.
I knew what a… not a struggle, but I knew how working in a job that I wasn’t really enjoying anymore, that had become a bit stagnant, it was causing me a lot of stress and I just wasn’t happy. I just wanted other people to… to help other people to do what they love doing. It sounds a bit cliche, but I really believe that if people are doing what they love doing, they’re harnessing their talents and bringing them out into the world, I feel like our world can be a better place. There’s a sort of deeper why. The world can be a better place, the world can be more fun, the world can be more colorful and creative, the world can be more innovative. I just want people to be happy and enjoy what they’re doing and enjoy their life, because life is pretty short, and I think we need to… I think we just need to enjoy the time that we have here.
Melinda Wittstock: So Natasha, your signature business formula is called S.I.M.P.L.E, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if business was simple? As a five times serial entrepreneur, I know it’s anything but that. But how do you get the complex into a level of simplicity?
Natasha Mitchell: So what I found for a lot of particularly earlier stage entrepreneurs is that they go into it thinking that business is complex. Now, we all know that it’s not super easy, but when you go in with a mindset of, this is complicated, it’s hard, you suddenly start thinking, maybe I can’t do this. So I think the term simple just gives people an easier starting point. The crux of my business model is this: that I feel like everything in business can fall into just three main categories. It’s either something to do with self, it’s either something to do with your business, or it’s something to do with team.
So using this model, what I find is people can take more of an [inaudible 00:21:23] approach to building a roadmap that suits them. One of the real challenges that I saw when I started working with clients and I started looking at other business models that were out there is that they really focused on this. There’s one way to drive this ship forward, and you have to do everything in a step-by-step… in these exact steps. And if you miss anything, there’s a problem. That was one of the big flaws that I saw in corporate, is that it’s so structured and there’s not enough flexibility that it suddenly starts creating inefficiency and complexity when you don’t need it.
So my S.I.M.P.L.E business method is literally that, it’s like, everything is under self, business or team, then we look at the sub tasks under each of those, and we can really take an individual look at where they are in their business right now, what their strengths and weaknesses are, where they want to be, what their lifestyle goals are, and then we can really start to cherry-pick the things that are important for them. The plan just becomes so much more exciting, so much more tailored, so much more enjoyable. That’s sort of what adds the simplicity.
If your business only requires two steps to do a task, then only do two. You don’t necessarily need 10, because… Melinda, your business or my business requires 10 steps in a process to get things done. Not everyone needs 10 steps. So that’s really the base of it. There’s really only three areas. One size doesn’t fit all in all cases, and the more you can customize your plan and align it to your strengths and skills and goals, the easier it’s going to be and the more fun it’s going to be to implement that plan.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely, and you want to avoid getting trapped in the busy work. All those admin tasks, they need to be done, but gosh, you’re right, automate as much of that as possible, so you can really focus on where you’re adding value to the business. I think one of the mistakes that women forget though, is that we can easily fall into being human doings instead of human beings.
Natasha Mitchell: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: Create these endlessly long task lists, those tasks are never done, so we go to bed at night feeling like failures, rather than that we’re pushing the needle along. So it comes back again to this concept of leverage. What is the single… If I did one thing today, what is that one thing that’s going to have a multiplicity effects and it’s going to move the needle on my business more than all these small little tasks, when we scratch them off the list, we get some sort of dopamine hit, but we don’t actually advance our business?
Natasha Mitchell: Yeah, exactly. The leverage is key in scale, but I completely agree. I had a client recently, she was at the most fundamental early, early stages of her business, and she was already creating this kind of structure that we’ve discussed, which is like, I need to have a million tasks on my list. When you’re just starting out and you don’t have a lot of clients and a lot of delivery, you might not need to work eight hours a day, or most of your time might be spent on just making phone calls to people.
So she was basically looking to me and saying, “Well, I’ve got eight hours in the day and I’m sitting at my desk from nine to five, because that’s how we’ve all been brought up in our structure of going to school or going to work. I’m sitting here from nine to five, and I don’t have enough to fill my day.” So she was just making up arbitrary tasks to fill in her day. We often do that, and then that behavior follows us along through the rest of our business careers.
So, completely agree with you, really identifying the big pieces of the pie that are really going to move you forward and really prioritizing… I’m all about prioritizing. I’m a project manager, so I’m all about prioritizing and simplifying. So it’s like, what is the number one priority thing I need to do? Okay. It’s create an email, and so I’m doing that, and that email can be then turned into an article, it can be turned into a social media post, it can be turned into a video. So I’ve got tons of leverage out of that.
And then how do I make it the most simple? So for example, a lot of my clients do online launches. They want to go into a very complex technology solution, versus just sending out an email and doing one video and asking people to email them or direct message them. So, prioritizing and then saying, how can I make this activity? Or, how can I deliver this activity in its simplest, simplest, most basic form, and how can I strip out the things that really don’t make a difference to this task or this project?
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely right. Sorry, hold on a second. So you work with a lot of women at that early stage, the solopreneur stage; how important is it for you to really have a North Star or a vision going into this about what you actually want your business to be? I see a lot of people going into it, just thinking, “Hey, I’m going to start this and people are going to come and it’s going to succeed,” but they haven’t really thought through, what is their lifestyle, and what is the relationship of the business to their lifestyle? How much money do they really want to be earning? What are they going to do with that money? How much of that are they going to reinvest in their business? In other words, they haven’t really thought much of that out. So do you work with people at the early stages to get them clear on their vision?
Natasha Mitchell: Yeah, I absolutely do. So you asked me how important it is? I think it’s critical. It changes over time, but… You can adjust your business model over time. So one of the things I do or a tool that I really like to use in my business is called the Business Model Canvas, it’s by Alexander Osterwalder [inaudible 00:28:41]. It’s just a [crosstalk 00:28:43] very, very, again, simple tool. That’s why I love it. But it’s got so much power in it.
Just as a really simple kind of response to the question, when you know what your North Star is, how much money you want to make, where you want to be working from, what kind of things you like to do in your business, it actually defines your business model. So if you say, “Oh, I really… I’m a complete digital nomad, I want to be working from anywhere, any time, and I want to work four hours a day or three hours a day or one hour a day,” whatever it is, then how you structure your business is going to look very different.
So if you’re a digital nomad, what you don’t need in your business, for example, is a brick and mortar shop that you need to be in every day. That’s a piece of business you wouldn’t have. If you’re a digital nomad, probably the way you’re going to deliver your products and services is in some kind of online format. Additionally, then, you might say, I only want to work with… I want to make $100,000 a year, but I only want to work with 10 clients in a year. Great. Then the product or service that you develop is going to be a $10,000 product or service. If you only want to work with 10 people and make $100,000, you’re going to have a $10,000 product. Right?
Melinda Wittstock: Hmm.
Natasha Mitchell: Versus, you know what? I want to make $100,000, but I’m happy to work in groups, or I’m happy to have some kind of online product or service, then the price point for that product or service is going to look different and you’re going to deliver it in a different way. So you can start to see how the pieces fit together. That by deciding what your North Star is, what’s important for you, where you want to be, how much time you want to spend in your business, how much money you want to make in your business, what kind of relationship you want to have with people you’re working with, what kind of products and services you deliver, all then start to inform the kind of business you actually create and how you… exactly, how you operate in your business and what kind of tools or team you need to actually support you in that delivery.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely right. If you were to really distill it down to three pieces of advice, and this is really aimed at women who are further along. They’ve hit the six figures, they’re stuck somewhere there, and literally, they’re stuck and they are the bottleneck. They’re not at the early stages yet, they’re established, they’ve got customers, they’ve got… but they’re stuck there. Because only 3% of women get to a million dollars or more, which is crazy. So it’s kind of a mission of mine to get people beyond a million. So what would those be?
Natasha Mitchell: So I think if you’ve kind of reached that point, a couple of things. I think it’s worthwhile to take a little breath and a little step back and really write down, if you need to, a vision board, however it is you do that, and really think about what your end game for this business and more importantly, what’s your end game for your life? What are your priorities, and what do you really love doing? Get that written down, and then do a compare and contrast to say, how is your business really tying into that? So that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, it’s okay to say no, and it’s okay not to be perfect, and so it’s okay to take some things off your plate. Now once you know what you love doing, and you want to do more of that and spend more time on that, I think it’s important to look at the things that you don’t need to be doing anymore in your business. It’s okay to get them completely out of your business and stop doing them. It’s okay to stop doing something, so I give you permission to do that.
Finally, I encourage people to really create their own rules and their own custom plan. If you’re trying to follow someone else’s methodology, it feels really hard, it feels… We often hear people talking about sales and say, “Oh, it feels a bit sleazy for me to sell this way.” You don’t have to sell that way. My advice is, create your own rules, mix and match the pieces of… a variety of different solutions that really are aligned with your skillset, because it will feel much more… We hear this inflow, but you will feel more inflow, you’ll feel more relaxed, you’ll feel more comfortable. It will be easier to deliver that. All that saved energy, because you’re in the flow of things, you can use to have fun outside of work, or really do some of that strategic thinking that’s going to take you to the next level.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely right. So Natasha, how can people find you and work with you?
Natasha Mitchell: You can find it to me on Instagram, that’s where I spend a lot of time. My clients are a lot of creative entrepreneurs, so a lot of them are hanging out there. I’m on Instagram at Inspire and Drive. Also, you can find me on my website, which is inspireanddrive. I’m on all other good social media channels, but they’re where you’ll mainly find me. There’s two ways you can get to know more about me out or speak with me directly. So you can download my S.I.M.P.L.E business blueprint. If you’ve liked some of the things I’ve talked about today, a lot of that is covered in my free S.I.M.P.L.E business blueprint. You can download that. Or if you’re ready to chat with me and take things a bit further, I offer a free discovery call, and you can book a discovery call right on my website, and we can chat about what’s happening in your business right now and what your goals and dreams are and how we can start creating your business to fit and be more aligned with that.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Natasha Mitchell: Thank you for having me, Melinda. It’s been a wonderful conversation.
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