Michelle Mazur (00:00):
When I'm thinking about investing, some of the questions I'm asking is, where is my business going? What does my business need in order for me to get there? What am I not capable of doing on my own in order to get my business there?
Susan Boles (00:27):
When you're considering making an investment in your business, what's the first question you ask yourself? For me, it's always, will it be worth it? Will this investment pay off? Will I get a return on it? 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. Deciding whether or not to make an investment in your business, whether it's hiring a consultant, enrolling in a course, grabbing a new piece of software, it's always a bit of a gamble. You're trying to take a guess at what the future of your business will look like if you invest in this or maybe what it looks like if you decide not to make the investment. When you're making investment decisions, you're trying to manage your risk, manage your cashflow, predict the future, evaluate the opportunity cost and a million other parts and pieces.
Susan Boles (01:29):
All to try to answer the question, will it be worth it? Because when we're talking about return on investment, that's the question we're really trying to answer. Sure, there's the financial question of, will you make enough money from this investment to cover the expense? But that's just scratching the surface. The question of return on investment goes so much deeper than that. You have to factor in the time and effort you're going to put in, whether or not the investment is going to take your business in the direction you want it to go, how long you need to give the investment to pay off. It's also not always all that clear cut when it comes to answering the question of worth. For most investments in your business, there are going to be a lot of intangible benefits of your investment that go along with the tangible ones.
Susan Boles (02:18):
There are going to be benefits that happen that you didn't anticipate, and sometimes the return will come five or even 10 years down the road. Evaluating return on your investments is sometimes murky and almost always comes down to what your personal goals are for that investment. You have to determine the return and answer the question of whether or not that investment was worthy. Sure, there might be some data points you can pull in to help make the decision and you all know how much I love data, but the numbers are only going to show you one part of the picture. When it comes to all those intangible benefits, a lot of that is going to come down to your opinions, your goals, and your vision for the future of your business and whether or not this investment moves you closer to that future. Making investments in yourself and your business is how you move the needle forward though.
Susan Boles (03:12):
It's what keeps you from being stagnant and evaluating those returns is what gives you the data to learn how to make better investments the next time around. For the next month, we'll be talking about return on investment, how to think about it, how to evaluate it when it's kind of murky and ultimately how to use that information to make better decisions about investments in your business. To kick us off, today, I'm talking to Michelle Mazur, she's the founder of Communication Rebel. Michelle helps business owners who are shaking things up, but having trouble talking about it with their messaging. And she's made some really big investments in her business, that had a long payoff and the work she does with clients on their messaging is one of those investments in your business that's big and far reaching, but is also sometimes really hard to measure. Michelle and I talk about how she approaches evaluating investments in her business, especially those intangible long-term benefits. Hey, Michelle, thanks so much for being here today.
Michelle Mazur (04:19):
Thank you for having me, Susan. I'm so excited.
Susan Boles (04:21):
So, we are talking about investing in your business and specifically the return you get on investing in your business. But when you are thinking about investing or taking some big step in your business, what does that mean to you? What does investing in your business mean to you?
Michelle Mazur (04:43):
Yes. So, I'm going to give you the best piece of business advice that I ever got, and it came from my husband. So, my husband, Glen, owned video stores in the late '80's, early '90s, he got out before Netflix happened. And he always says to me, "Whatever you do in your business today pays off in three to six months from now." And so, when I think about investing in my business, for me, it's always thinking about the long-term. It's not thinking about, well, what do I want to have happen in a week or two weeks? I'm always thinking about three to six months. So, it's always that longer-term vision, that longer-term goal and some investments it's really a longer-term vision or goal, it's a couple of years, sometimes even five years. So, when I'm thinking about investing, some of the questions I'm asking is, where is my business going? What does my business need in order for me to get there? What am I not capable of doing on my own in order to get my business there? And how much is that going to cost me?
Michelle Mazur (06:10):
Yes, the investment, how much am I going to have to pay for somebody to do the thing I need them to do? But if I tried to do that thing on my own, how much is it going to cost me in term of my own time, my own energy and my own frustration. So, that's always been my ... That piece of advice my husband gave me is really my philosophy when it comes to investing in my business.
Susan Boles (06:37):
No, I love that because I think so often we invest in our business and we think we're going to have this quick payoff, because that's what we're sold when we buy a course or a coach or a ... We're sold this kind of immediate response of, "Do this thing, follow my framework and become a six figure business or become a seven figure business." And that might happen, but almost never is it going to happen immediately.
Michelle Mazur (07:05):
Yeah. The whole six figures in six seconds.
Susan Boles (07:08):
Yeah, I love the frame ... Yes, and we're like, it's not going to take six seconds, it might not ever happen following this framework, let's be real. So, being able to go into an investment and know that really no matter what you're investing in, it's going to take time. Time is an important element of evaluating that investment. So, I love that perspective.
Michelle Mazur (07:31):
Yeah. And it's always been so helpful for me and even when I'm thinking about my own marketing and even things like, oh, I'm going to create a podcast. Well ... Or change up my podcast, which I just did. It's like, okay, well changing my podcast, I'm not going to really see results from that probably for another three to six months, and hey, that's okay, because I'm changing up the marketing, I'm changing up the positioning. So, it's like, I'm not expecting to see these immediate results ever. And if immediate results happen, it's this pleasant surprise, you're like, oh yeah, that's cool that that happened. But it just gives you a different perspective, you're not expecting immediate gratification. And I really think that's how we should be approaching our business investments. It's not like when we invest in our retirement and we expect to see our 401ks or our IRA's to go up by 1,000% overnight. We don't go into investments that way when we're thinking about retirement.
Susan Boles (08:39):
Michelle Mazur (08:39):
It's about the time, it's compound interest over time, and so that's the way we should think about our business investments too.
Susan Boles (08:46):
Yeah. I love that. So, what does your process for evaluating investments in your business look like? Do you have a process you follow or a ... How do you go about evaluating those investments?
Michelle Mazur (09:00):
Yeah. It's probably a little woo sounding, but I have a conversation with my business. I think about where I want the business to go. And that's thinking about my long-term goals, but also what's coming up for me. So, for instance, in 2019, I launched a book and I knew that book launch was coming up. And one of the things I knew I wanted to do was get on some podcasts and talk to people about the 3 Word Rebellion book, because I knew if I could get on some great podcasts, people would hear about the book and they would go buy the book. Now, podcasts, when you invest in somebody pitching you for podcasts, it's a little bit like gambling, right?
Susan Boles (10:01):
Michelle Mazur (10:02):
They're pitching to a lot of different podcasts. You don't know what the payoff is going to be, but I knew, okay, if for every 10 podcasts they pitch, if they can get me on two or three good, solid podcasts, I knew that I would probably sell some books. And so, that was an investment in my publicity and in the book. So, that was just this process of thinking about, okay, I have this book launch coming up ... And this is probably, I don't know, six, seven months in advance of ... I think I was still very much writing the book when I was thinking about this. And it was like, I'm going to have to launch this thing. I need to get in front of other people's audiences in order to launch this book successfully and sell copies of this book. So, I don't want to ... I mean, yes, I could pitch myself for podcasts. I know how to do that. I know how to research. I know how to pitch. I could do all of that, but that's a lot of time and energy.
Michelle Mazur (11:07):
I don't want to invest that time and energy and I really don't have the time to do that because I have to work with clients. I have to write this book. I have to proofread the layout and all of that when it comes back. So, I'm going to hire someone to do this because it's a better use of my time to outsource this. So, it's a little bit of thinking through what the business needs. Should I be doing this? Can I do this? Yes, but should I be doing this? Oh, heck no. And then, does this make sense for me to invest in, is there going to be a payoff or do I think there's going to be a payoff? And then, yeah, I do, so I'm going to do this.
Susan Boles (11:57):
Okay. So, sometimes we need to invest things in our business that we know there's no immediate payoff, the payoff might be a few years down the road, and I know that you invested in a rebrand a few years ago and that that is one of those things in business that is hard to see the direct pay off, it's hard to measure and it really might take a long time to totally be, "Worth it."
Michelle Mazur (12:23):
Susan Boles (12:23):
So, can you talk to me a little bit about what deciding to invest in that rebrand looked like for you?
Michelle Mazur (12:29):
Oh my gosh, yeah. Because I think people have this idea that when they rebrand, when they decide that they're going to go all in and get their visual brand identity sorted, they're going to get a new website, that it's going to totally change everything for them overnight. And let me tell you people, that is absolutely not true, so get any notion out of your head on that. The reason I decided to rebrand was number one, I really wanted something that was professional, that represented me, my experience and that when you landed on my website, you were like, "Oh, this person looks legit." Because the website I had at the time and the branding I had at the time, it was all fine. It looked good enough. It was all done by me. I studied enough about graphic design to make it look nice, but it still felt pretty amateur and it made me feel amateur, like I wasn't a professional.
Michelle Mazur (13:43):
And I was getting to a point where it was just, I shouldn't be doing that ... Spending my time doing graphic design on my own and making branding decisions on my own, when I knew enough about branding to be dangerous. Yeah. It just didn't feel very professional to me. And for me, it was this like, okay, I want to feel professional. I also knew it would save me time in the long run because now when I have to go just design or even when my virtual assistant has to go and design graphics for the podcast, for instance, or for a blog post, we know what colors to use. We know what the brand aesthetic is. We know what fonts we're going to use for those. So, we don't have to overthink any of these things. So, it just became so much easier, when you know what your visual identity is, it saves you so much time in the long run.
Michelle Mazur (14:53):
So, for me, it was just this point where I was just like, I want to look professional, I want to feel professional. I want, when somebody lands on my website, I want them to feel powerful and like they're dealing with a professional. And so, it just was like, okay, this is the next step for me to feel like I'm a grown up business owner. And I was at a level of revenue where it made sense to invest in that, at that stage of my business.
Susan Boles (15:29):
So, as you decided to invest in the brand, going into it did you have any ideas about how you were going to evaluate whether or not that rebrand was worth it? When you started, did you have any set indicators of this means it was success for me, this means that it wasn't? Did you have any of that going in or have ...
Michelle Mazur (16:06):
I wish I did, but I didn't.
Susan Boles (16:07):
Did that come later? I mean, I'm just curious.
Michelle Mazur (16:11):
Looking back, I wish I would've had some of those. I mean, yeah, I wish I would have had some of those. I know getting on the phone and having people comment about the professional level of the website, was amazing. That always is like, "Oh, I landed on your website and I was so impressed by the website and the quality of your work." And I was like, oh, okay, cool. That was an indicator for me that it was successful, that I wasn't just a fly by night. At this point I was a public speaking coach, I hadn't transitioned to the messaging work yet. So, it said to me, oh, I was standing out from my competition. They knew that this just wasn't a template kind of brand, that I had actually put some intention and some thought into it. So, I wish I would have set some of those things out but at that point I was just like, no, I want to feel professional.
Susan Boles (17:24):
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 business that's primed for growth. 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.
Susan Boles (18:15):
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. 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. And 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 (19:12):
All right. So, now a few years down the road, it sounds like the rebrand was a success, but what made you decide that it was worth it? What indicators did you see that this was a positive investment for you?
Michelle Mazur (19:31):
What's been remarkable is that I've really been able to grow into the rebrand. And even though I've pivoted the business from public speaking to working in messaging and brand messaging and customer journey, the website still works. It was so well done and really captured me and really captured who my clients were becoming and what they wanted to become, that I was able to pivot, even though I think going from helping people write keynote speeches and figure out what their message is to helping people figure out what their business message is, it's not a huge pivot, but it's still a pivot.
Michelle Mazur (20:21):
That it was a flexible enough that I was able to grow into that brand and change what the core message was about, without having to do a whole other rebrand. So, to me, I was like, that was successful, that I was able just to still grow with the rebrand and still feel like, oh, this is still very much me even, I think, I'm four years out from it now. And it still feels very modern. It still feels very fresh. I don't feel like I need to go out and change everything immediately. So, all of that, the staying power of it feels very successful to me.
Susan Boles (21:11):
Yeah. Totally. So, what other kinds of benefits or returns have you seen over the last few years, in terms of the rest of your business? What kinds of impacts?
Michelle Mazur (21:24):
Yeah. It definitely helps me get clients because there is a level of professionalism there. People come to the website and they're like, "Oh, this woman is for me." They like the look and the feel of the website, and the imagery and the fonts, and the colors. They feel like, oh, I belong here. So, I know it's helped me get clients. It's definitely helped me get podcast interviews because people come to the website and they might not know me, and then they see the website and they're like, oh wow, okay, she's legit. So, it's really funny how a very well-branded, well-designed website just gives you a whole other level of legitimacy. And so, they're like, "Oh yeah, she's somebody we want to talk to."
Michelle Mazur (22:17):
It's also helped me get big podcast guests for my podcast. I've talked to people like Susan Hyatt and Natalie Sisson. And because they were looking for podcasts to be on and they saw my website and they're like, "Oh, I really want to talk to this woman." Based on the first impression. And I'm like, that's so fascinating to me, who would have thought that branding and imagery would ... Well, probably every branding person and web designer everywhere is like, "We would have thought this, Michelle." Would attract the right people, who would want to be on your podcast. So yeah, it's definitely helped me win clients. It's definitely helped me get on podcasts, get speaking engagements as well, and attract podcast guests to my podcast, which helps me then elevate my podcast as well. So, it's helped in a lot of very tangible, but also intangible ways.
Susan Boles (23:36):
Yeah, totally. And I know that a lot of your work also falls into this bucket of investments that are hard to see the direct ROI on immediately. So, when you're working with clients, how do you talk to them about this investment that they're making weighed against what the potential payoff will be or what you've seen be the payoffs?
Michelle Mazur (23:59):
Yeah. Because since I do messaging work and I'm helping people find their message that they can be known for and helping them define their client journey, so how do I get people to become aware of me and my business? And then how do I move them through this journey where they want to buy in and work with me? That's a process, right? Because we're talking about audience building and then basically capturing these people and then converting these people into clients. And of course, I have these wild stories of ... Like one of my clients who is an online business manager, she has this 3 Word Rebellion, calm by choice. And after our first session, she used it on two discovery calls and both clients booked with her because of her 3 Word Rebellion and that was amazing, and it was this huge ROI because they ended up being clients. I think they're still clients of hers two years later, right? Like, woo, that's an incredible win, but most of the time it's not like that, right?
Michelle Mazur (25:10):
That's like a big asterisk, results may not be typical. Because with messaging, it's about showing up day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, with the same message and delivering that message and being consistent with that message, so people catch on. Because we're so overwhelmed with all of this information that you might be feeling like, oh my gosh, I'm talking about the same thing over and over again, after a couple of months, but most of the people who are currently following you, or even on your email list, haven't yet caught on. Only your super fans really know what you're about, which is a very, very, very, very, very tiny slice of the people who actually need you.
Michelle Mazur (26:09):
So, it's this radical consistency over time and that can take years. And I always think about someone like Mel Robbins and the 5 Second Rule, that book has been out for, I don't know, like seven or eight years and she's still talking about it, still, weekly she talks about the five second rule. That's her thing. She's still talking about it because not everybody knows about it yet. Yeah. And so, for me, I'm like, this is a long-term thing and you are probably going to get really bored with this message. But in order for it to pay off, you're going to have to talk about it for a year or two years or three or even five. And sometimes you might get this incredible influx of people who want to work with you right away or sometimes it's going to take you a while to get momentum behind your message.
Michelle Mazur (27:13):
And that's okay because you have to be consistent and on message, like a politician. You know how a politician has a stump speech? Your business needs a stump speech and that's what I'm providing.
Susan Boles (27:33):
I love that.
Michelle Mazur (27:33):
And so, once they're clear on that, and in some ways it's like this should make you feel better about your business. It should be, it's going to be easier, you're going to spend less time because now you know what you're going to say all the time. So, you should feel relieved, but then there's part of them, they're like, "Well, what if I get bored?" I'm like, "It's not about you. You want to get bored." So, it's always that reminding them that this is just going to take time to pay off and really the goal of our work is to make your job easier in the long run. And to save you a lot of time thinking about, "Oh, what am I going to talk about?" Now you know, you have a document that tells you what you're going to talk about. It's the standard for your business, this is what you talk about. Sorry. That was a rant.
Susan Boles (28:20):
I like that. No, I love that. I wrote down this concept of radical consistency because I absolutely freaking love that. And I think it's a piece, not just in your messaging, but in your whole business, that most of the successful businesses, it comes down to this concept of they are radically consistent. They are doing the same things. They're selling the same things and they're talking about it in the same way, long enough for people to know who they are and get it, and for their systems. If we're talking about radical consistency when it comes to their systems, that it just works, and it's not the most interesting thing, but the point of systems is to not be interesting. The point of systems is to make it fade into the background because it's so easy to execute.
Michelle Mazur (29:11):
Yeah. You want a message that just works. And one of my ... Since my background is in communication, there is this communication theory by this man who's now deceased named Ev Rogers and it's called diffusion of innovation. And he talks about basically how technology spreads, but I think it also pertains to our ideas, our offers, our services and it looks like a bell curve, but in this bell curve there is this ... When we first launch a new idea, a new product, we'll have the early adopters who are basically like our super fans who will buy anything that we do. They're like, "Woo. Yes." But most of our things never move past that because if we have one bad launch, we're like, ugh, this doesn't work anymore.
Michelle Mazur (30:04):
So, we give up and we create something else. Instead of thinking, okay, how come I'm not bridging the gap to the middle where there are more people? We're just like, oh, it just doesn't work. And it's like, no, it's not that it doesn't work, it's just you haven't figured out how to get out of the early adopters, you've exhausted your pool of early adopters and now you need to move to the more mainstream of your audience.
Susan Boles (30:35):
Yes. I love that concept. So, we have talked about a lot today, but is there anything you think we should talk about that we haven't yet?
Michelle Mazur (30:46):
As far as investments and return on investments, I would say if I had one piece of advice for investment is A) Listen to what my husband says, but always ask yourself ... Thinking about the time and your energy, does it make sense for me to do something by myself? If I know I'm going to have to do this work by myself, does that make sense? Is it a good use of my time or should I invest in somebody else doing it? Because I always think that's the trade-off, it's not just a money trade-off, it's the time and the energy you would have to put in to do the work yourself.
Susan Boles (31:32):
Yeah, absolutely. And I always come back to, at least for me, when I'm thinking about investing specifically in services or a person or something like that, even if I do it myself, is this person going to do it better? I mean, if you're hiring consultants and experts and people who do this thing that you're hiring them for all day, every day, it's going to take you so long to get that good at it. Is it worth paying somebody who is the best at the thing that you need them to do and taking advantage of all of their expertise and their knowledge. And even if it might be worth your time or something you could learn, how long is it going to take you to get to that level of expertise at that specific thing, and how much time and energy and money are you going to waste? Because you don't know what you don't know when it comes to it.
Michelle Mazur (32:33):
Susan Boles (32:34):
And it's so interesting, because I've been on the receiving end of that as a consultant of, "Hey, we didn't really think about this and we messed it up and can you come help?"
Michelle Mazur (32:44):
Oh my God. I can't tell you how many times I've been invited in businesses where they're like, "Yeah, we spent $10,000 on this sales funnel and it doesn't work. Can you look at the message and tell us where we've gone wrong?" And I'm in there for five minutes and I'm like-
Susan Boles (32:58):
And you're like, "Yeah, right there."
Michelle Mazur (32:59):
... "Yeah, right here."
Susan Boles (32:59):
That thing, up in the ... Yeah, right there. That was the thing. And that's what I'm saying is, when you are an expert at the thing that you do, it is so easy to just look at it and be like, "Yeah, it's right there. That's your problem right there. That's why it's not working." But when you aren't the expert, when you haven't been doing this or seeing it across a range of businesses, you can't see that. You just don't have the data points.
Susan Boles (33:24):
Where with you do messaging forever, I do operations and finance, I can look at operations or I can look at a P&L and be like, "Oh yeah, your problem's right there." And it doesn't take me very long because I have so many data points. You have so many data points that you're using to create that interpretation based off of your experience. And so, it always comes back ... I always have to factor that into my decisions. When I'm thinking about investing is, yep, I could totally learn how to do this. Is it worth my time? Probably not. But what extra benefit am I going to get from hiring somebody who 100% this is what they do?
Michelle Mazur (34:03):
Oh yeah. And plus we have so many blind spots, especially with messaging, people are so close to their message they're like, "Michelle, my audience isn't growing, why is that?" And I'm like, "Well, you're not talking to people who don't know you, that's why your audience isn't growing." And they're like, "Oh."
Susan Boles (34:25):
"Yeah, thanks for that."
Michelle Mazur (34:26):
"What do you mean by that?" And I'm like, "This is why you hire me."
Susan Boles (34:31):
Michelle Mazur (34:33):
"Because I will help you create a message that talks to people that don't know you."
Susan Boles (34:38):
Yes. Love that. All right. So, where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about what you do?
Michelle Mazur (34:47):
Yeah. So, these days, my main social media squeeze is Instagram. So, if you want to hang out with me and say, hello, I'm @drmichellemazur. If you want to check out my beautiful rebranded website, that's drmichellemazur.com. And if you want to check out the 3 Word Rebellion book, that's over at 3wrbook.com.
Susan Boles (35:11):
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here.
Michelle Mazur (35:14):
Ah, thank you for having me. This was such a fun conversation.
Susan Boles (35:18):
As you heard us discuss, when it comes to making a decision about an investment in your business, there are so many things to consider. First, is this an investment I should make? Is this the thing that will solve my problem? And if I commit to this investment, what am I giving up being able to invest in? Should I do the work associated with this investment myself? Or is this something I should even be doing? Or is it something I should hire somebody to do for me? How long do I need to commit to this before I'll start to see a return? What actions do I need to take to make sure that I've done everything within my control to make sure I recognize the full ROI here.
Susan Boles (36:02):
Money, time, effort, workload impact, and opportunity cost, all play a role when we're evaluating investments and they should factor into your decision. Next week, we're going to talk more about how to decide what to invest in and how you weigh that against all the other opportunities you could be investing in. So, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast player, so you don't miss it. Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode was edited by Marty Seifeld with production assistance by Kristin [inaudible 00:36:39].