Beryl Young (00:00):
I had never even thought that investment money was an option for my business. And ultimately, we did not take investor money, but it was just all these little puzzle pieces, let's figure out if this one fits and how does it fit? And do we need to pull it back? What do we need next?
Susan Boles (00:24):
Every time you choose to invest in your business, you give up the opportunity to invest in other initiatives. By choosing one path, you may lose the option to choose other potential paths. There's an opportunity cost to every investment of your time, your money, or your resources. So, if your decisions about what investments to pursue or maybe to leave behind are so important, how do you ever decide what to invest in?
Susan Boles (00:55):
I'm Susan Boles, and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit, and increase your operational capacity. When you're deciding what to invest in, examining the opportunity cost of your potential investments is an important part of the decision-making process. We are constantly trying to decide if I do this, then what happens? What happens down this path or this one, or even down the path of choosing to do nothing? They all have costs associated with them because each path requires an investment of time, money, or resources. And if we invest those time, money or resources in a particular initiative, they're not available for other opportunities.
Susan Boles (01:46):
We all have a process we go through when we're thinking through new investments in our business. Whether you're conscious of your process or not, it's there. In the last episode, you heard from Michelle Mazur about how she thinks about investments in her business. She has that three to six month minimum commitment.
Susan Boles (02:05):
Today, I'm talking to Beryl Young, who's the founder and CEO of Momtography and Teentography, and we are talking about how Beryl decides what to invest in for her business. We'll talk through how she makes the decision to invest or not, and how she looks at the opportunity costs of those investments.
Susan Boles (02:27):
Hey, Beryl, thanks for being here today.
Beryl Young (02:29):
Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Susan Boles (02:31):
So, you have invested a ton in your business over the last few years. Can you tell me a little bit more about some of those investments that you decided to take on or considered?
Beryl Young (02:45):
Yeah. I'm going to backtrack a little bit just to set some context for the why we started investing, because I kind of became an accidental entrepreneur and business owner in the B2C space, which I think is sometimes a little bit unique, scaling up a B2C brand, maybe not, I always feel like it's unique to go down that path.
Susan Boles (03:19):
We hang out with a lot of B2B folks.
Beryl Young (03:21):
Yeah. Well, that's what I thought on this show. I'm like, "Huh!" I'm a B2C business owner, and I'm a mom of a preteen daughter, and I started my business when she was really, really young. And my background was in education, so I was a public school teacher for 10 years before breaking from that industry to strike my own path. And so for a very long time, going into education, going into teaching, that was like safety, right? Like financial safety. I knew I was getting a paycheck at a specific time throughout the year, and I knew that I would have a job.
Beryl Young (04:09):
And so I was just super, super excited and scared when I quit teaching, but to be able to make the same revenue and income as an entrepreneur, that felt really, really good. So I hit that elusive six figure mark in gross revenue in my business, this is back in 2013, 2014, when I quit my teaching job. And so for a long time, I was investing as I went, like small educational investments that were going to just help me grow being a solopreneur and be able to allow me to continue paying the bills and not have to go back into a classroom.
Beryl Young (05:02):
And then it was around 2015, that I realized I created something that had the potential to scale. And I feel like that's where our episode begins with like, "Okay, this needs to scale. How do I do that?" And so I invested in lots of things that I believed I needed to scale the business. So a couple of those just to like rattle off the list and then we can figure out where you want the conversation to go, but higher investment, higher level coaching, advertising and marketing, mostly in Facebook ads, building a team. And those are the three main buckets of where my investing went.
Susan Boles (06:01):
Okay. Let's go one by one. Because I think these are three really common buckets of what folks think about when they think about really investing in their business. So when you decided to invest in coaching, how did you... talk me through the decision-making process you went through when you were deciding to invest in coaching or not.
Beryl Young (06:27):
Yeah. The coaching investments were actually really, really difficult, because I've always believed in coaching. I've done coaching. Coaching is part of our current business. And I had worked with a lot of coaches that were like me up until the scale point. So it was solopreneurs who were heart-centered, who used a lot of more like woo-woo intuitive wisdom and guidance to help them make decisions in their business. And I realized at that pivotal point when I had to scale, those are not the people that are going to be able to teach me how to scale.
Susan Boles (07:09):
Beryl Young (07:10):
Susan Boles (07:11):
Although, they'll be able to teach you how to scale how they scaled.
Beryl Young (07:14):
Susan Boles (07:15):
And only that way.
Beryl Young (07:16):
Correct. And so I started to look for businesses that were out there that were doing something in alignment with how I visioned scaling, which brings me back to that B2B, B2C, that we were talking about or that I mentioned earlier, because it's really hard to find B2C companies that are doing coaching and support, but I found a couple of B2B models that I was like, "Oh yeah, they're very community-minded, they have a skill set or they're teaching a skill set that I feel like is missing from my business right now."
Beryl Young (08:02):
At the time, I had really built a lot of my business working with mom bloggers and doing some partnerships. I would provide them with guest blog content and I was able to build my email list very quickly that way, this was in the like golden days before Facebook advertising.
Beryl Young (08:26):
And 2014, 2015, a lot of that stopped working. A lot of the mom bloggers were going into their own product or service-based businesses, and I wasn't ready to make investments in Facebook advertising. And so I knew I needed to find new and different ways to really learn about my audience, figure out where to find new people to join me. So yeah, a lot of the coaching investments revolved around who can teach me how to bring new people into my business and who has a model that emulates or mimics what I may want to do in my niche, in my space.
Susan Boles (09:12):
And how did you... when you were evaluating coaching and that as a potential investment, a potential way that you are going to use money hopefully to move your business forward, why coaching? Why was that the thing that it was worth spending your money on? What was the key piece there that you were like, "Oh, yep, this is something I should spend money on"?
Beryl Young (09:44):
It's an interesting question. I think as a solopreneur, I saw coaching work. I do tend to have mindset pitfalls, confidence pitfalls, and I like to have a coach that can keep me even keeled or when it feels like the world is crumbling at any particular day. Someone's there to go, "Nope, dust yourself off, it's okay. It's just a bad day. Keep going." But I actually think being in education for so long, I was that kid that loved school. I love learning new things. So I was like, "Oh, what else can I learn?" So, filling that education bucket and keeping a pulse on what's going on in the online education industry has always been important to me as well. I don't know if that answers the question.
Susan Boles (10:46):
Beryl Young (10:46):
Susan Boles (10:47):
Let's shift to talking about advertising. So one of the investments that you made was in advertising and you mentioned specifically Facebook ads. Talk to me a little bit about how you decided that that was a thing that you should spend money on, that was worth it to test out. How did you decide that was the direction to go?
Beryl Young (11:11):
Yeah. I think I knew that I was ready to dip my toe into paid marketing or advertising that I run my course of time as far as continuing to write and write and write for other publications, and that wasn't working anymore. I mean, really for a long while, Facebook was king, right? For the online advertising aspect and space. And also my client is a mom primarily, and moms were on Facebook. So that was a no-brainer as far as, all right, I'm going to put my pool of money in here. But I also did it in the beginning, very small budget, just sort of dip my toe in, I really wanted to learn Facebook ads and Facebook marketing myself.
Beryl Young (12:19):
I've done it. I started by learning myself and then I realized I didn't need to be spending my time in the backend of Facebook advertising, because it takes a lot to sit there and analyze and look at everything and... you need to be in there every day figuring all that out. But then I tried to hire a Facebook consultant and it totally missed the mark, and that investment I was like, "I don't know." I took a hit from that investment both financially and emotionally, like mindset, mentally as well.
Beryl Young (12:58):
So, I feel like Facebook advertising has been this rollercoaster and there was not an immediate return on the investment either. I feel like there's a lot of coaches, consultants, like the goal is to really hit your target client and get them at least in my space to purchase something small, make a small, little, bite-sized investment, and that wasn't happening right away for us. It really wasn't until a year, even two years now that we've kind of been in the Facebook marketing space for a couple of years, that I started to see, "Oh, this person told me they saw me on Facebook and bought a class, a course, a program, a year and a half later." So, our audience is definitely a slower burn audience. So yeah, I knew that we needed the advertising and I knew our clients were there.
Susan Boles (14:00):
And when you invested in a consultant and it didn't really pay off for you, why do you think that was? Was it not the right person? They didn't understand your business? They just [crosstalk 00:14:11] they did.
Beryl Young (14:13):
No. Now we've worked with multiple Facebook ad consultants, so I feel like I have a broader perspective. At the time I was like, "I don't know." Because the person that we hired was also a mom. She knew our audience. She had been part of some of our programs. I think that specific consultant, it was nothing about the consultant itself. I think the broader theme of this episode is there were structural foundational issues in our business. And so we had the Facebook ads running, but I don't believe we were taking them on a clear enough path or a journey to pull them into something that was like what they actually needed, or hit on the right pain point at the time. So, yeah.
Susan Boles (15:05):
I mean, and that is also often the case. Sometimes we decide to invest in things that maybe we're not ready for the payoff quite yet. You know, that's not the thing that we're... the timing has to be there as well.
Beryl Young (15:18):
Susan Boles (15:20):
Okay. So you mentioned a third thing, building out your team and hiring. So talk to me a little bit about what your team looked like when you decided to say, "Okay, the thing that I need to do is to invest in a team. Like it's time now for a team." And then talk to me a little bit about the evolution of what that team looked like then and now.
Beryl Young (15:44):
Yeah. Tara McMullin has been on your podcast, right?
Susan Boles (15:49):
Beryl Young (15:49):
Yeah. So, she was the first one that basically told me, "You need to hire someone."
Susan Boles (15:56):
You need people. Like you need some people.
Beryl Young (15:57):
Yes. You need some people. I thought she had been a past guest in your podcast.
Susan Boles (16:02):
Yeah. I think she's the episode after you too.
Beryl Young (16:05):
Susan Boles (16:06):
She's coming back. She was my first guest actually.
Beryl Young (16:08):
Awesome. She told me back in 2015, "You need to stop just doing you, and you need to hire." And that was the exact advice I needed then and I hired, like the timing was perfect, I hired a coaching client of mine who was cycling out of, "I thought I wanted to have a business, but I don't think I do. I actually want to work for someone else." And so I was able to basically go to her and say, "Well, you worked under me. I trust you. Come work for me."
Beryl Young (16:43):
And so she's grown within the business from five hours of week of just offering feedback and support to our photography students to now being 80 hours a month, so 20 hours a week, doing community directorship. So now she is planning out programming, she's doing our editorial calendar, she's supporting our students and clients. And it's been really, really amazing to watch her grow. And I lucked out in that, when I hired her, I just hired her because the timing was right and I trusted her, but she also had skill sets that I needed on my team. I am a visionary, like true visionary, creative, I have zero execution skills. Literally my StrengthsFinder says I have zero execution skills. And she does. So, it's been fun to have her grow.
Beryl Young (17:48):
The other, team members. We've had team members come and go. We've had some VA team members that are box checkers who schedule our content out. Now we have a team of five, five-ish, one is more like an intern, but the other team member that we've had fill a role is just a strategist. I talked about some of those structural problems in the business, it was because my strength is in curriculum development and programming, so I had just created program, after program, after program, after program, and didn't have a really good vehicle and structure around the business to make all of that programming work and make it simple.
Susan Boles (18:39):
That makes sense.
Beryl Young (18:40):
Susan Boles (18:43):
Now what? That's the question I hear from a lot of service-based business owners, maybe you've been asking yourself now what too. You've built your business from the ground up and your business works, but maybe it's not growing. You keep bumping into a ceiling on how many clients you can take on and maybe how much money you can make. And maybe now you're even wondering if your business has staying power. You might be keenly aware of how small challenges could easily balloon into big problems as the market and the economy change. I help entrepreneurs decide how to take action so they can build more resilient businesses that's primed for growth.
Susan Boles (19:24):
I combine strategic thinking with a background in business finance, data and operations, to see the patterns that have your business bumping against a growth ceiling. I'll show you exactly what you can do to break through and make more money all while making sure the foundation under your business is strong. I have a few new client openings for my quarterly or monthly advisory packages. When you work with me, I'll examine your financial reports to spot opportunities.
Susan Boles (19:51):
We'll talk about where you're feeling friction and discover ways you can reclaim your time and attention. We'll dig into how to scale your operations without sacrificing quality, so you can increase your capacity and make more money. Each action you take will be informed by strategic financial insight and data-driven, operational planning. The result, you'll feel wildly capable and in control. And you'll finally break through that ceiling. Ready to learn more about working with me as your business advisor? Go to scalespark.co/advisor.
Susan Boles (20:32):
Every time that we decide to invest in something, we're also deciding not to invest in literally every other option that's out there, and you made some specific investments in specific areas, but how did you take into consideration or weigh that opportunity costs of all of those other choices that you could be making but maybe you don't have the resources to invest in both of those things? So how did you weigh Facebook ads versus something else, or coaching versus anything else you could be doing with that money? How did you weigh those balances?
Beryl Young (21:18):
This is a great question. And I think the first thing that comes to mind is, as we decided to invest more, I, you could say, I didn't do it in a very smart way. I guess I didn't do it in a very risk-averse way. One of the big questions I asked myself in the beginning, it was, "Do you trust yourself to go all in and to invest more than maybe the business is ready for? That opportunity cost?" And I think part of those investments, it was assessing my capacity for risk because I did take a lot of risk in the business. And so it was, "What am I doing to my family if we take this risk? What will be the outcome of the business if this pays off?" But I also... I tended to make bigger, higher ticket investments one at a time. We didn't go all in on all of them.
Beryl Young (22:32):
And I started with... I think I basically did those investments in the order that we just talked about them. So I started with the coaching and consulting to some degree because I knew that just my base level of business education and what a scaled company looked like, was lacking. So I found the coaching opportunities that I felt like would fill in those gaps and fill in those holes. But what I discovered as I was going through, that was the one big investment, okay, I'm going to invest in this coach, and just like every other coach it's going to have an immediate payoff. Well, no, it didn't, because it paid... Yeah. It made me realize, oh, the foundation is broken. What do we do to lay a different foundation?
Beryl Young (23:29):
And there was this like sinking pit in your stomach type feeling, because I felt like, well, I already made the big coaching investment, it's not paying off. Well, then I started to ask myself why. And that's when I started to invest in the advertising. Well, you're not going to bring new leads in or new people. Like would you rather spend money or take time doing these things? And I felt very time poor at that moment. So I was like, "Well, no. What you were doing isn't working, let's go this way instead." So, I started doing that, which actually started to build my pipeline again, fast, but things still weren't selling fast. I felt like I was constantly on the hamster wheel of launching, with the niche that we serve, it was lower ticket offers that weren't giving an immediate payout. And so that's when I started looking for the people that I could find to round out my team. Because I knew then that me and my one community director also didn't have the strategic skill set to help bring everything together that we had worked on for nine years.
Susan Boles (24:48):
So for you, it was really an evolution. Your investments were driven by a previous investment. And the understanding from that first investment was that you still had work to do basically. And so the first investment led to the second investment, which led to the third investment. Is that [crosstalk 00:25:10]-
Beryl Young (25:10):
Yeah, totally. And there was even a time, like a year ago, about a year ago, I left, not the business, but coaching-wise, I left the online entrepreneurial coaching space and did a very traditional accelerator program for business start-ups which was, comparatively speaking, a very small investment, but I laid it all out on the table. I saw the business, as I started investing, as a puzzle. Okay, this puzzle piece fit in here, but now there's still pieces missing over here. How am I filling in these puzzle pieces? And we laid it all out on the table. It was an accelerator for creative business owners specifically. And we had the opportunity to pitch and rework our business model and search for potential investors.
Beryl Young (26:11):
And I had never even thought that investment money was an option for my business. And ultimately, we did not take investor money, but it was just all these little puzzle pieces, let's figure out if this one fits and how does it fit? And do we need to pull it back? What do we need next to make this business that I still truly believe is designed to scale, work? And where am I the bottleneck? Because I also like to be controlling and I don't like letting go of things. So building a team is hard for me, it's becoming easier.
Susan Boles (26:57):
So we've talked about things that you did decide to invest in, but can you talk me through the evaluation process of something that you went through that you decided not to invest in?
Beryl Young (27:10):
That is a good question. I went on this spree of investing in a lot, very quickly. There were several programs or educational opportunities that I felt like, "Ooh, I could do this guru marketer's program, or I could do that guru marketer's program." You know, I'm in all the funnels, I see them all, and I also don't tend to get shiny object syndrome. So I really had to put the hat on of this program or educational opportunity is likely not going to fix my business.
Beryl Young (28:03):
And over the last six months or so, I have started to realize like we're starting to get traction in what we're building and I'm consciously not investing in coaching or education anymore. I think they've started to realize like, oh, you know what you need to know. You can get off of the coaching education train for now, because you need consultants and people who are in your business, that are on your team, that are seeing it alongside you and can make strategic decisions based on the data that's within our company.
Susan Boles (28:46):
That makes sense. So how do you think your perspective or your position on deciding what's "worth it" to invest in has changed over the last few years, if it has? Throughout this evolution of you decided to make some big investments in your business, a few years down the road here, how has your perspective on investing in your business changed?
Beryl Young (29:11):
I don't know. Sometimes I question like, would I have done this differently if I was doing it all over again? You know, in hindsight I'm like, "Oh, I like very poorly and stupidly did this," because the business is still in quite a bit of debt. Like I've been very, very upfront and honest with my team, with my family, I'm an open book. And that was actually, I think because the business started as this solo thing that I was growing my own, like a personal sense of worthiness, it was like, oh, this is all failing. And because the business is "failing" I must be a failure too.
Beryl Young (30:01):
And so I had to wrestle with a lot of those feelings and that ability to go, "Yep, I'm going to take a risk. I'm going to bet on myself. I'm going to go all in." And I feel like a lot of what has happened is I've come full circle going, I was going out there seeking education and to like band-aid fix so that I could then scale up, but really where I was three or four years ago with my business is what a strategist in the last four months has directed us back to, and has given me the exact blueprint of, this is what you're building and this is how you're going to do it. And I mean, essentially nothing new got created in the process.
Beryl Young (30:56):
So, it's been that light bulb aha moment of, yeah, I think I had to learn all those lessons along the way over the last three or four years, but like I said a few minutes ago, I think if I had just gotten some really solid strategy in my business and a consultant that laid it out all on the table with me and showed me that clear path forward, it may have happened in a different way if that person had come in to the business earlier.
Beryl Young (31:34):
So moving forward, I likely will not be investing in a lot of like one-off coaches or educational programs. I'm going to be staying focused on who's on your team, how can we get really lean with who's on the team, and also putting small little pockets of marketing money. We're still investing in the Facebook ad engine, but it is more about, huh, I need to get out of my own way and allow other people into the business to help it grow.
Susan Boles (32:12):
Let's talk a little bit about that. So there's this kind of do you hire to grow or do you grow to hire dynamic that I think is an interesting question. How did you approach answering that? How are you approaching answering that? Did you hire to grow or did you grow to the point where you had to hire and you had no other choice?
Beryl Young (32:37):
Oh, I've done it all. Last year I was really in the mindset of, okay, you're going to get out of your own way, you're going to hire to grow. And so I hired a Facebook ad strategist who also was a marketing expert and I hired two VAs and I still had our community director. And I think that was it. We had built our team up to about six or seven. The strategist came on as well. And again, me, no execution skills, does not like looking at spreadsheets. I'm good at looking at the bank account and going, "Oh, okay, you need money. How are you going to make some money this month?" And I would get the advice like I was okay with hiring to grow. I really loved the people in the community we were cultivating, and they all got it. Like we would get into a team meeting and it would be great. We'd have a really productive conversation. And I pride myself on somebody that does love to build relationships and build community and can delegate.
Beryl Young (33:57):
So that was all feeling really well and good, but the money wasn't coming in fast enough. And I would have business experts who would be like, "Okay, well, you got to cut someone, look at your numbers. Who do you need to cut based on numbers?" And I'm like, "I don't know. Everybody's helping with all the things." Actually like dividing out whose time is going where, felt very like ugh. Like I don't know. I'm a people relationship person, I don't want to just... Like letting somebody go is probably the hardest and best thing I've had to do in the last several months, because I realized like, okay, I hired to grow and then the growth didn't happen fast enough. And something had to change.
Beryl Young (34:48):
And for as scary as I made it in my brain, like, "Oh, who am I going to let go? Who am I affecting?" We did. And so now, I've let go of one of our contractors, I've cut back someone else's hours, and we've kind of flipped our... how we were selling on its head as well. We're going to be selling our higher ticket offer instead of our lower ticket offers. And now I can see like, okay, now you're going to let this slowly grow for several months with the team that you have and wait to hire again until it's absolutely necessary. But I don't think I would have known that without taking the risk to hire a bunch of people and really test my chops of being a CEO and being a leader.
Susan Boles (35:40):
So we've talked about a lot of stuff today. Is there anything you think we should talk about that we haven't touched on yet?
Beryl Young (35:49):
I mean, not really. I think the biggest takeaway for me has been really leaning into my ability to take on risk and realizing like, yeah, you took a risk, it didn't pay out off right away, you didn't die, you figured it out, and you still truly believe that this is something that is going to scale. And that just because we don't have that overnight success story right now, doesn't mean that there's not going to be the like, oh, you did it, and you figured it out down the road. I've just taken a very winding path to figure it all out along the way.
Susan Boles (36:39):
I think that's the nature of having a business. Because even if somebody is like, "Hey, here's this giant blinking red sign in front of you, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this," there's some part of us that all is like, "Well, but maybe if I do it, it'll be fine."
Beryl Young (36:59):
Susan Boles (37:00):
Actually, I think there's like... some of the things you have to learn painfully, because you don't learn them otherwise.
Beryl Young (37:07):
Totally. And I've had those investments that I was like, "Oh, yep. Follow that red blinky sign. No, should have trusted myself in the beginning," but, right? Like I have an almost 10 year old daughter who... it's like parenting, right?
Susan Boles (37:25):
Beryl Young (37:26):
I'm like, well, she needs to learn this lesson on her own. We can see the blinky signs for our kids, right?
Susan Boles (37:31):
Beryl Young (37:31):
Like, nope, don't do that.
Susan Boles (37:33):
Don't do that, that's going to be bad. That's going to hurt.
Beryl Young (37:36):
Yep. And they do it anyway, but they have to learn the lesson. One of my big values as a parent, as a business owner, is resilience. And so I feel like the universe has just gone, "Okay, you're going to learn resilience in a really big way right now." So, that's-
Susan Boles (37:56):
I think there's also a natural evolution in your business if there are periods of investment and then there are periods where it doesn't make sense. You need to put your head down and work on the stuff that you invested in and give it time to pay off. And so I think your journey of big investment, take a break, maybe you have other big investments down the line the next time that you want to take a big jump in your business, but that there are periods where it's totally okay, where you're not investing in anything and you're just heads down doing the thing that you're supposed to do. I think that's how it's supposed to work.
Beryl Young (38:37):
Susan Boles (38:37):
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about what you do?
Beryl Young (38:44):
Totally. We are Momtography. Our website is momtography.club. So, if any of your listeners want to learn photography, or if they have kids and teens that want to learn photography, we've transitioned into also teaching kids and teens, thanks to COVID. So, that's where we are. It's a lot of fun what we do.
Susan Boles (39:10):
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. This was great.
Beryl Young (39:13):
Susan Boles (39:15):
The decision of what to invest in is ultimately pretty personal. That decision is based on your own process, your own goals for your business, and just generally how you view making investments in your business. While that process and decision might be very personal, there are a few things that you should pay attention to when you're considering a potential new investment. Questions like the money, do you have it to spend? What's the time or amount of resources required for this? Do you have that? Will this investment accomplish the goal you're seeking? How long will it take to see the payoff? And what other opportunities will you be unable to invest in if you choose this investment? And really it's all to try and answer the real question, will it be worth it?
Susan Boles (40:05):
Once you've made a decision to invest and you're getting ready to start, the next step is to get yourself set up to be able to measure and evaluate your investment, so that later on, you can decide whether or not it paid off. And that's what we'll talk about next week, what data points should you measure? And how do you evaluate your investment to see was it worth it? So hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it.
Susan Boles (40:29):
Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode is edited by Marty Seefeldt with production assistance by Kristin Runvik.