The Maintenance Mode Mindset: Stop Breaking Your Business with Racheal Cook

Racheal and I answer these questions: HOW do I get out of my own way? HOW do I stop getting distracted by every new idea that pops into my head? HOW do I keep myself from breaking it? WHAT am I supposed to DO all day if my business doesn’t need me to shop up and deliver?

Susan Boles
April 27, 2021
Why Racheal believes that redefining your role and identifying your jobs only you can do is an essential mindset shift.

Don't break it, stay the course, work the system. Don't break it, stay the course, work the system. That's the refrain that's in the back of my head all the time now.

One of the biggest challenges of getting your business into maintenance mode is your mindset.

It's not that it's so difficult to build systems or design your business model to be sustainable and resilient. It's that we, as entrepreneurs like breaking stuff and we LIKE shiny new things–shiny things are FUN!

Breaking your business over and over with new offers, new messaging, new technology tools, new business models is not the path to creating a lasting, sustainable business. In fact, it’s how too many business owners burn out.

The real answer might seem boring, but it's actually kind of freeing.

It’s consistency, working the system, staying the course.

Once you figure out what works for your business, the key is not to break it and not to get in your own way

But... HOW?

HOW do I get out of my own way? HOW do I stop getting distracted by every new idea that pops into my head? How do I keep myself from breaking it? What am I supposed to DO all day if my business doesn’t need me to shop up and deliver?

That's exactly what I'm talking about today with Rachael Cook. She's a business strategist, author, and the host of the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast. And she helps business owners figure out how NOT to break their businesses.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • Why redefining your role and asking yourself what are the jobs only YOU can do is an essential mindset shift
  • How treating your systems and your team as assets and not just your content can prevent launch burnout
  • Leaving hustle culture behind so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor
  • How getting to maintenance mode before a crisis or major life event hits safeguards your business against the unpredictable

Episode Transcript

Racheal Cook (00:00):

I think you have to choose where you want to explore your creativity and just have your creative outlet being one small part of your business, not all of your business. What I mean by this is when you're constantly saying, well, I'm bored with my business and I want to change directions, or I want to do this other thing, then you're constantly starting over. You never get out of startup mode because everything you're doing is recreating the wheel.

Susan Boles (00:30):

Don't break it, stay the course, work the system. Don't break it, stay the course, work the system. That's the refrain that's in the back of my head all the time. Now 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. One of the biggest challenges of getting your business into maintenance mode is your mindset.

Susan Boles (01:02):

It's not really that it's difficult to build up systems or design your business model to be sustainable and resilient. It's that we as entrepreneurs, well, we like breaking stuff and we like shiny new things. Shiny things are fun, but breaking your business over and over with new offers, new messaging, new technology tools, new business models is not the way to create lasting sustainable business.

Susan Boles (01:28):

The shiny new things aren't actually the way to success. The real answer might seem boring, but it's actually kind of freeing and that's just consistency, working the system, staying the course. Once you figure out what works for your business, the key is not to break it and not to get in your own way. Now, if you are anything like me, right now, you're thinking, sure, sure. Yeah, I get that. Don't break stuff. Great idea, but how? How do I get out of my own way? How do I stop getting distracted by every new idea that pops into my head? How do I keep myself from breaking it?

Susan Boles (02:06):

That's exactly what I'm talking about today with Racheal Cook. She's a business strategist author and the host of the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast and she helps business owners figure out how not to break their businesses. The term maintenance mode means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but what does that mean to you? What does that look like in your business or for you as a business owner?

Racheal Cook (02:31):

For me, I think maintenance mode is when your business is just running like clockwork, almost like it's on autopilot mode where it's going in the direction you want to go, but you don't have to do a ton of effort to get there. So if you have ever been on a boat, I'm in the river country here in Virginia, if you get in your boat and plugin autopilot, you tell it where you want to go and how fast do you want to go, it's almost like a self-driving car and once you plug it in, you set it up, the system runs itself and you don't have to be constantly doing all the things. That's what I think maintenance mode should look like in a business.

Susan Boles (03:18):

I think that's a beautiful description. So when you are working with clients or you yourself, when you're working on stepping into that CEO mindset and thinking about maintenance mode in your business, or thinking more strategically about the systems in your business, where do you see the folks that you work with getting tripped up the most? What hurdles do they run into as they start to move in that direction for their business?

Racheal Cook (03:46):

Well, one is, I don't think a lot of people believe it's possible. I think they buy into the, you've got to work hard. You've got to be working all the time, the hustle and grind mentality and I really fight against that in my community because I don't think the point of having a business is just to create a ton of jobs for yourself. I don't think that's where most of us actually want to be.

Racheal Cook (04:10):

So I have to really deprogram a lot of that hustle mindset. A lot of people I find they are so entrenched in it. Even if they say, "I don't want to hustle, I don't want to grind," their calendar doesn't reflect that or the way that their operations are set up doesn’t reflect that. So we actually have to dig in and say, "What does it actually mean to build the systems in your business?

Racheal Cook (04:34):

What does it actually mean to put these processes in place and to get team on board?" There's a lot of almost rethinking how they think things should be because usually the only models they have are either from previous work experience or just from creating things as they go, and that means we've really got to start from scratch almost in building these systems in their business but once we get there, it's awesome.

Racheal Cook (05:03):

I literally just got off a call with our founders of The CEO Collective, who are celebrating their one year anniversary of joining us and the thing that at least half of them sat on our call was this year helped me realize I need to build the flywheel and once I have that flywheel in place, I don't have to do that much. I was like, yes, that's the point. That's where we want you to be. It's in place. The business is running. You don't have to hustle. You just have to stay consistent and help your team stay consistent so you can get where you want to go.

Susan Boles (05:34):

I think I personally have experienced that whole trying to, as you said, deprogram yourself and feel okay, like understand that it's okay. That it's, you're not working every second of every day and that it's okay if it feels easy. It's allowed to feel easy and you're allowed to make money and still have it feel easy. So I want to dig a little bit deeper into that and can you talk me through some of the work that you do, helping people disconnect those two? How do you help them deprogram?

Racheal Cook (06:19):

Well one thing is I just have a different language that I use around how I think about business. So for example, one of the things I talk about with a lot of my clients is that in your business, you need to be thinking of systems as assets. So what I often hear from people, especially if they're coaches, consultants, course creators, have online programs, they feel burned out because they're always in this launch cycle and it feels like they're constantly either prepping for a launch, in the middle of a launch or recovering from a launch.

Racheal Cook (06:53):

That launch burnout thing is very real, but what I started asking people is, "Well, why are you constantly launching and you're always either launching or you're in burnout from those launches?" What I realized is they weren't treating any of those components, any of the parts of that as an asset. They thought they had to recreate it from scratch each and every time.

Racheal Cook (07:17):

For me, this is not how I approach this at all. I'm like each thing we're creating in your business, once you create a launch process, whether it's a webinar or a challenge, or just an email sequence, once you create that, you shouldn't have to recreate it every single time you want to sell something. You might do little tweaks, like five to 10% changes.

Racheal Cook (07:38):

That's it, and this shift to looking at each of these components as an asset started to change a lot for my clients because they went from feeling like they're on this content creation hamster wheel, where they've always got to be churning out new stuff to saying, "Oh, let's look at all these assets I've created, all this content I've created. What can I share again? What can I just zhoosh up a little bit and re-share with my community," with their launches and their sales systems, instead of thinking they had to recreate it all from scratch each and every time they wanted to fill their next group program.

Racheal Cook (08:14):

It was like, okay, what are the assets we already have? How can we just tweak five to 10%? Or if it was already good, then you can layer on a little bit more just to see if you can get even better results instead of creating 100% from scratch. That's probably one of the biggest shifts that I see is just helping them realize that each thing you're creating in your business, especially your marketing and your sales processes, these are assets that you can recreate again.

Susan Boles (08:43):

I love the idea of thinking about systems as assets, because very similarly, a lot of the work that I do with clients is creating systems because that's how we help increase their capacity is basically making things easier to run behind the scenes. I love the idea that the system is the asset because people feel reluctant to spend the time and the energy to create a good system. The payoff is down the road. It's a pain in the butt to set up the system right now, but the pay off is of such a huge magnitude and I never really thought about presenting that as, here's an asset that you're creating that is ... The whole concept of it as an asset is interesting.

Racheal Cook (09:37):

This is something I started thinking about a while ago because I started thinking about my own business differently. I started thinking about, well, what if I ever wanted to build this business as if I was going to exit the business, as if I was going to sell it and what would I need to do? As you start looking at your business and that way, even if I never sell it, which I probably never will, let's be honest, but it's very sellable. The reason it's sellable is because of all the systems we have in place.

Racheal Cook (10:05):

The intellectual property is in not just my content that I sell to my clients. So the clients that work with me, they come in, we have trainings, recordings, PDFs, all those things that we're all very proud of when we're talking about the stuff we have for them, that is one part of the asset is the offer itself, but the other part of the asset is the marketing system, is the sales system.

Racheal Cook (10:30):

Another part of the asset is my team. Like my team is such a massive asset and now that we've continued to scale the business and my team is taken over, they do 80% of the delivery of the offer that we have. I only show up once or twice a week to do anything directly with clients. They're delivering the thing. That's an asset. So each time we're putting those pieces in place, it means that our business is going to continue to generate revenue without our direct involvement, because now we've taken it out of our brain and made it work without us.

Racheal Cook (11:10):

That's a huge shift. When you start firing yourself from being the only marketing department person or being the sales department or being the customer delivery, and you really scale back your personal involvement because you've downloaded your thoughts and your processes and all of that into these systems, that is the asset.

Susan Boles (11:29):

So let's talk shiny object syndrome because I think that is another aspect that can really derail folks who are starting to systematize things. Because I certainly do this where I want to turn it into a system, but when I'm building the system, I'm like, I could improve it or maybe I should be doing something different or let let me question everything about thing that I'm doing and maybe I should be doing something different and we end up not building one thing before we move on to the next. So how do you see that shiny object syndrome play out?

Racheal Cook (12:05):

Often I see shiny object syndrome coming into play when people are having trouble with either scarcity mindset or worthiness mindset, and they're looking outward for the answers to their business problems instead of looking inward to their business problems or the challenges coming up in their business. What I mean by that is if you're constantly being pulled in a million directions because you're watching what other people are doing, it's going to be impossible to ever have a business that is, like you said, in maintenance mode, because you're always going to be feel pulled to the next shiny things.

Racheal Cook (12:43):

So like over the last year, I see this all the time. Clubhouse came on the scene, everybody started migrating to TikTok. This is only going to continue to happen. It used to be Periscope. It used to be Blab. All of these things are going to continue to pop up. There are going to be more social media channels that continue to pop up, but if you're constantly searching for what's out there instead of thinking about what is the actual value I have to offer, how do I deliver my best work? Then think about your ideal clients, who are they? What do they actually need? How do they need to receive the work that I have and making sure that you've hit that sweet spot there between what you have to offer and what they actually need and want, then you're always going to be pulled in a million directions.

Racheal Cook (13:30):

So when I started, one of the first books that ever really hit me was Good to Great by Jim Collins. It's like a classic business book, and he talks about the hedgehog concept, which is according to Jim Collins, the research he did into all of these amazing companies. He asked why are there these companies that are standing the test of time, that are continuing to do well and continuing to dominate in their space. What he realized is they had such clarity on what value they were able to deliver.

Racheal Cook (14:09):

So like what they did best on what their clients actually wanted, and then what drove their economic engine? What actually gets sales, what is the primary thing that gets revenue coming in the door and having that clarity is really, really powerful because it's not about looking outwards anymore. It's about staying focused on that again and again and again.

Susan Boles (14:34):

I love that. So the idea of that consistency and being really consistent, I think is a critical component of being able to get your business into maintenance mode is having a very clear idea of these are the things that I do. This is what needs to happen. I'm just going to go do that, and on the other side of the spectrum, is this reluctance or resistance to consistency as a founder. That it feels boring, and I want to be flexible. I want to shift easily. I don't want to get bored. So how do you get past the idea that the consistency is boring and really fall in love with it and value it?

Racheal Cook (15:20):

I think you have to choose where you want to explore your creativity and just have your creative outlet being one small part of your business, not all of your business. What I mean by this is when you're constantly saying, well, I'm bored with my business and I want to change directions, or I want to do this other thing, then you're constantly starting over. You never get out of startup mode because everything you're doing is recreating the wheel.

Racheal Cook (15:48):

So pick where you want to be creative and find one little outlet for that. I think that's what helps me the most. I tend to do that on social media. Especially on Instagram is my favorite channel. I will test ideas. I will test concepts. I will test language. I will test messaging. I will test things I think I want to talk about just on my Instagram feed and see what happens there before I start messing with the rest of my business.

Susan Boles (16:18):

My friend, Michelle Warner has a fantastic framework for not allowing experimentation and creativity to derail or distract you. So this idea of 80 20. So 80% of your time should be spent on your core thing, making sure it's running and that you're putting consistent effort into it. Then 20% of your time can be spent experimenting or playing around with new ideas. We did a whole interview about it, episode seven and we'll link to it in the show notes if you want to check it out.

Racheal Cook (16:48):

That's one thing about maintenance mode. It's easy to believe maintenance mode is staying exactly where you are, but what I find is when you're in that maintenance mode and everything's kind of humming right along, it's actually creating momentum for you because it allows for these economies of scale in your business and allows for things to work even better. So I try to just keep the creativity to one little area that I can play with and don't mess with too much until I've really made sure that that's the new direction I want to go.

Susan Boles (17:21):

I think that's critical. For me, in my head, as I'm building things, I have to constantly be reminding myself like, don't break this. You're building this thing, don't break it. Your goal is to build this one thing. You can go break other things. Don't break this one core thing.

Racheal Cook (17:36):

Yeah, exactly. I'm very cognizant of that. I'm the sole breadwinner for my family, so it there's a lot at stake here. If I decided to just burn it all down and start over again, I really need to make sure that it's all continuing. So when I'm testing new ideas, for example, three years ago, I had the idea to host a one day event and I was running a completely online course business.

Racheal Cook (18:03):

So it didn't fit in anywhere, but I had this idea, I was sitting with it. I started asking a few people if they would be interested and I opened the doors to it and had 55 people sign up for this one day thing. I thought it was a test. I thought it was just like an experiment. I wasn't really going to do anything with it, but once those 55 people signed up and I had confirmation that this was something they were interested in, then I knew I could continue playing with that idea.

Racheal Cook (18:33):

Three years, later that turned into what is now The CEO Collective, but I experimented in a small way that didn't disrupt the other things going on in my business. So me launching that one event didn't disrupt the sales coming in for my other offers. It didn't derail all of my marketing and sales processes that were already in place and working really, really well. It didn't take a ton of resources away from my team in order to implement.

Racheal Cook (19:00):

We did kind of a quick and dirty launch, a quick and dirty promotion where we had very little resources going into it. We were just trying to see what would happen and for me, those are the types of things that keep my creativity going. I test things, but I know that when I'm testing something, it could be six months to a year before I really know what I'm going to do with it and I'm okay with that. I'm not trying to rush anything.

Susan Boles (19:26):

I think the idea of having at least parts of your business and maintenance mode frees up your capacity, both creatively and just your time to be able to experiment. If you are always reinventing the wheel, you're always changing what your core pieces are, you don't actually have the time or the capacity to experiment.

Racheal Cook (19:50):

Yeah, exactly. Especially if you depend on your business for your living. I think a lot of us go through these stages of life where we need our businesses to run as smoothly as possible because our life is really in the forefront. I'm going through that right now. I have a mom who has full-time nursing care and suddenly I have to go in and hire new nurses and manage her schedule and handle all these things for longterm care for my mother. That is pulling me away from my business, but my business doesn't really need me at this point.

Racheal Cook (20:24):

We've got content recorded for the podcast three months out, my clients are all taken care of. If I can work five hours a week, my business will continue and I can put my focus on my mom and that's really important to me. Because I think for a lot of us, there's going to be times where our kids need our attention, our elderly parents need our attention. You just want to break. If it wasn't for her, April is usually my month where I kind of take off a lot of time and do the bare minimum just so I can have some time for me to recover and take care of myself, but we could never do that if the business wasn't running this way.

Susan Boles (21:05):

I think that's something I noticed that ends up being the trigger that pushes business owners to start thinking more seriously about maintenance mode is they bump up against some sort of capacity or life crisis or something that's going on that makes them realize, hey, if I had to take a step back and perhaps virtual school my children for a year...

Racheal Cook (21:33):

Exactly. We didn't plan that, but it tested our capacity.

Susan Boles (21:37):

Like it just happens. You go home for the weekend and all of a sudden there's no more school. How do you handle that? It is really a challenge to ... If your business is not already prepared to go into maintenance mode, you don't have the option.

Racheal Cook (21:53):

This is where I feel like it's important to think this way now, because like you said, we didn't realize a year ago when we were told we're all going into the lockdown, that it was going to be a year. We didn't realize it was going to derail school. We thought our kids are going to be home with us for two weeks, not for, now a year. That's usually what happens is the crisis happens. The challenge happens and then we are scrambling to try to keep things going.

Racheal Cook (22:24):

That's why we saw so many businesses close over this last year, and the statistics about women leaving work in record numbers, those play out for small business owners as well. Most women-owned small businesses were impacted over the last year because their businesses weren't set up to run in maintenance mode. Now some of them, their industries were hit especially hard, but for a lot, it was because they didn't have the systems or the infrastructure or support behind the scenes to keep things running if they needed to pull back on their own personal involvement in it. That's really scary if you think about it. It tested our resilience as business owners a lot.

Susan Boles (23:10):

Hey, there, it's Susan. If you've been listening to this interview and it's making you think about some of these issues and ideas, and you wish you could talk to some other real live business owners about it, I wanted to invite you to my free monthly roundtable, Dollars and Decisions. Once a month, I get together live with a group of amazing business owners, just like you to geek out on money and operations and workflow and software, all that stuff that you hear me talk about here. The roundtable is kind of like a live interactive version of the podcast.

Susan Boles (23:44):

So I would to have you join me. To join the next roundtable, head to scalespark.co/dollarsanddecisions. No spaces, no hyphens, or you can just click the link in the show notes. Hope to see you there. So we've talked about shiny object. We've talked about the boredom. What are some of the mindset shifts that you think are the most important to be able to move into more of a CEO mindset, more of a maintenance mindset as a business owner?

Racheal Cook (24:19):

There's so many mindset shifts that come with this. The biggest one is you don't have to work all hours of the day, be available all hours of the day, be productive all the time. I think as a society, we have very much equated how hard we work with how successful we are and that might be true up until a point, but there is a point where there are diminishing returns and we're seeing that because there is just a wave of people burning out.

Racheal Cook (24:55):

They cannot keep up with the pace of what they have created. It's almost like they create this cash eating monster called a business that just requires them to feed more resources into it all the time. More of their time, more of their money, just to keep it going much less growing. So we have to make sure that we are setting our business up to continue to run without depending a hundred percent on just us to show up and push all the buttons and keep it going.

Racheal Cook (25:24):

I think that's something that it's almost like people don't believe that that can happen until they get inside of a business where that's what happens. It's hard to really let that sink in unless you start seeing other people doing it. For some people, this means really starting to set hard boundaries around their time. I know for a lot of my clients, I'm constantly challenging them to take the weekend off, to not work all hours of the evening. I'll tell them, "Your assignment for this week is to take a day off in the middle of the week. go on a hike and text me a picture so I know you're not in front of your computer screen."

Racheal Cook (26:05):

It's a test to see if they can allow themselves to get away from it, but so often they feel like their business is in constant emergency mode. I have clients who will say ... I asked them to share their screen tracking on their phone or something and they'll say, "Oh my gosh, I realized I opened my email at least four or five times an hour." Yes. That is a problem. We'll never get to maintenance mode if we're the ones constantly checking all of these little things. It's distracting you from the bigger picture.

Racheal Cook (26:36):

So that's probably one of the biggest things honestly, is giving ourselves more boundaries around our time. More boundaries around our energy, making sure that we're not doing the things that deplete us. We're doing less of the things that deplete us, asking for help, asking for other people to take those tasks on, hiring people, whether it's in the business or at home. Those are really big mindset shifts for a lot of people.

Susan Boles (27:04):

I think there ones that are particularly difficult because they run so contrary to what we're taught as a society about how to be successful.

Racheal Cook (27:17):

I find that especially ... I work with only women and women really struggle with boundaries. We really struggle saying, no. We really struggle to say, "This is a time I'm available, and that's it." There is this innate conditioning we've had for 30, 40, 50 years of our lives, however old you are, where we've been told our role is to be accommodating and to be helpful and to bend over backwards because the customer's always right. Well, the challenge is when you're running a business, if you're constantly bending over backwards and you're always available, you never get the most important things done and then you never move forward.

Racheal Cook (28:05):

You're never able to build these systems because your clients or community feel like they deserve to have access to you on demand, and that's not how it works. That's just not how it works. That's how you burn out because you don't have any boundaries between your business and your life.

Susan Boles (28:24):

I love that, and that definitely something that was a challenge for me personally as well. Just being able to say, I'm not working this weekend, or I'm only going to answer emails during this block. I was constantly fighting myself going, no, no, no, no, you have to be available but what if somebody needs me?

Racheal Cook (28:45):

I have a bunch of clients who push back on this and one time I ended up with a OB in my program in my group. I said, "Unless you're her, you're not allowed to tell me it's an emergency, and the only reason she's going to say it's an emergency is because she's actually being paid to be on call right now in case she has a woman in labor. The rest of y'all aren't catching babies tonight. So just close it down. Close the laptop, put your phone in airplane mode and enjoy an evening off."

Racheal Cook (29:17):

I think this is something that we really have to practice. It does take practice, especially if you're so used to checking the inbox, checking the socials, checking every possible way that people can contact you. We need to almost go back to the old school way of thinking that these are our business hours, and even if you actually are doing work outside of their business hours, you're telling this is the window in which I will be available for things and here's my boundaries around how to communicate with me.

Susan Boles (29:50):

I think for me, it got a lot easier when I could say those things. Here are the hours that I'm available. Here's how I will contact you. Here's how you can contact me. Being able to set those ahead of time and be clear about it both for me and for them was hugely helpful at helping me enforce those boundaries because I had already ... I said what they were. That's the expectation. So being able to explicitly state those, both for the client and for me, it was just really helpful in helping me enforce those with myself.

Racheal Cook (30:28):

Absolutely. What I find is if we're not clearly explicitly outlining those boundaries, those expectations, those things that we need to put in place, then they don't know. So we get frustrated thinking, well, why would they be constantly messaging me in the weekend, or why are they doing this? Well, you never told them not to. So it's really hard to establish a boundary where there was none.

Racheal Cook (30:54):

It's a lot easier if you set the expectations upfront, if you put it in your onboarding process of new clients. I literally have ... The first email they get outlined when I'm available, how they could reach out to me. I let them know my assistant is the first person to see my inbox and she lets me know if there's something in there I need to respond to. I let them know how long I generally take to respond.

Racheal Cook (31:17):

They know all those things. The first onboarding email, they know their agreement restates it. They have another onboarding email that tells them how to expect to have communication with me and because I put all of those things right up front, it nips a lot of these problems in the bud. Then if they email me on the weekends, they've already been told, and I do not feel guilty at all leaving that email sit until Monday or Tuesday morning because I told them, "I don't work on the weekends and if you email me on the weekends, I'm still going to give it the same 24 business hour response time."

Susan Boles (31:53):

I'm curious. Have you gotten any pushback since you did that? Has anybody pushed back on that?

Racheal Cook (32:01):

You know what I found over the years, I've been a huge stickler for how I manage my calendar for so long and I also talk about it. I have a program, Fired Up and Focused challenge that teaches productivity. I talk about my model calendar approach, how I use time blocking to schedule my week. Because I talk about it so much, people are not surprised when I put these boundaries out there.

Racheal Cook (32:25):

In fact, a lot of times, by the time they becoming a client, they're like, "Hey, I know that Tuesday's your client day. What time do I get to have?" They know very clearly that there are very specific slots. We have a very specific process. Previous to me doing that, previous to me really getting that and especially around that being accessible all the time, I did have some people who pushed back against it.

Racheal Cook (32:53):

I remember probably a year or two into my business. So this was probably 2010 or 2011. I had up an autoresponder for my inbox. This was before I really had a team and it just said, "Hey, I want to let you know, I'm got your message and currently I'm only checking my email once a day. So I will respond in the next few days. Meanwhile, here's the top questions I get asked and I put some links in there," and somebody actually replied back to me, all uppity about the fact that I had this autoresponder.

Racheal Cook (33:28):

I was just like, you're not a fit. You're not a fit because it's very clear, at that point I had newborn twins and I was like, I don't have time for anybody who's not going to be respectful of the boundaries I have or the values that I have.

Racheal Cook (33:42):

I didn't start this business to work for the rest of my life. I started this business so that I could have my life and do work I liked. Some people don't get that. They feel very much like they have the right to run your life and I don't share that viewpoint. So to me, that was a great pressure test. It let me know like, nope, you're not worth working with, because if you're willing to violate this boundary with an email autoresponder and get upset about it, that to me was a red flag that working with them was going to be a real pain.

Racheal Cook (34:13):

So I have had a little bit over the years, but for the most part, because I talk about it, because I'm so upfront about it, most people respect it and I don't have that much of a problem anymore.

Susan Boles (34:25):

I haven't had very many people push back with any time or availability boundaries I've set and like you, the ones that did push back, I'm like, "Oh, hey, great, thanks for letting me know that we're not a good fit to work together longterm." That was great.

Racheal Cook (34:42):

Absolutely. It also helps you figure things out. Because of the way that I work, I've had clients all over the world and I will be reasonably accommodating. If somebody is in Australia and I'm here in Richmond, Virginia, when we start working together, I'll find a time that fits and say, "This is the time I have available. Because of the time difference, this is what I can do in order for us to work together," but if they're not willing to have that, meet at that level with this relationship, then I'm just like, "Nope, that's not going to work. I'm not staying up until eight o'clock at night and not put my kids to bed because you don't want to adjust your schedule too." So I think that's one of the things we just have to come to grips with is we don't have to make our business work for everybody else at the expense of it working for us. Our business needs to work for us first.

Susan Boles (35:41):

I love that. So other than some of these mindset boundary issues, what do you think are the biggest hurdles to actually implementing maintenance mode?

Racheal Cook (35:53):

One of the biggest things I see is once people start putting systems in place, they start getting some support in their business. They have some virtual assistant or team members or whoever's helping them kind of manage the day to day type of things. They tend to not know what to do with themselves. So they start hunting around for something to do, and when you start hunting around for something to do, then you start screwing with the system.

Racheal Cook (36:19):

Don't screw with the system. Find some other place to play. The worst thing you can do is when you have your team working on something, and then you decide to put your little paws all over something your team is working on. That'll make them bananas, and I've done this myself where I'm like, "Hey guys. I have this email sequence that you can take the last one we ran and tweak it and send it up."

Racheal Cook (36:44):

Then I'll be in their document playing with it and tweaking it, and they're like, "Hey, you gave that to me. Stop." So I think one thing you can do is give your team permission to slap your hand a little bit, if you are overstepping, because they will never take ownership of the role of you are constantly getting in the middle of it. So I give my team permission to kick me out of the inbox if I am in the inbox.

Racheal Cook (37:10):

They have permission to kick me out of social media if they see me on social media. If they see me in my Google drive, tweaking all these things, if they see me in Canva, those are my favorite things to do is tweak on documents and emails and graphics. They'll be like, "No, get out of there. We have this." So I give them full permission to kick me out of that because they are really good at what they do and I need to just let them do it.

Racheal Cook (37:34):

So I have to find other things to do that are going to move the business forward, and I think this is something that's really hard as your business gets more established is you start bringing on all these other people, but we don't always redefine our own role as the CEO of the business. What's happened is we end up getting in everybody's way because we haven't clearly sat down and said, "I've hired for this. I've hired for that. That means my role has changed. I no longer have to do those things. What is the most important thing I need to do right now," and then stay in your lane.

Racheal Cook (38:09):

So I often give my clients the assignment of, hey, rewrite your job description right now. Stop adding more that you're pulling away from your team because you don't know what to do with yourself. Rewrite your job description. What is the thing that only you can do right now? What are your top three most important tasks for you? Once you get that clarity, you realize, oh, I don't need to be tweaking the emails for this thing we've run several times already.

Racheal Cook (38:36):

I need to be on an interview. I need to be public speaking. I need to be connecting with other people. I need to be making partnerships. I need to be doing these much higher-level tasks that will move the business forward, and that's something that sometimes we don't want to do for a myriad of reasons. I often find that once we're at that level, we start to have to come up against our own visibility gremlins, because now we realize, okay, we've outsourced to the team all of these tasks. Now your job is to be more visible so that the business can support all these team members, and that can bring up a lot of stuff as well.

Susan Boles (39:19):

It's easy to hide behind, I got to do all these tasks. I have all this stuff that I have to do and I can't go be more visible. I feel that

Racheal Cook (39:31):

It totally is a thing. I think the other thing is just feeling okay with enjoying the fruits of your labor. I think this is something a lot of people have a hard time with. We look at our team, they're all working 20 hours a week or 40 hours a week for us, and we feel guilty if we're not putting in the same number of hours, but that's not how it has to work. They want the job, they wanted this job. My team all tells me how many hours they want to work. I don't really care how many they work, but if I feel guilty because they're working on stuff for me and then I force myself to do things when really maybe I should be hanging out with my kids. Maybe I should be reading a book.

Racheal Cook (40:16):

Maybe I should get a hobby. If I'm not allowing myself to enjoy that, then I'll just end up on this burnout cycle that can be really dangerous. I think maintenance mode is such a beautiful thing. If you have a full and beautiful life and you want to have the flexibility to prioritize whatever matters most to you in the season of life that you're in, I think it is incredible. It is incredible to have a business where I can decide, going into this particular season I'm in, hey, I really only have five or 10 hours a week to check in on things and I can let the team really manage most of it.

Racheal Cook (40:59):

Then there are seasons before this whole pandemic where I was like, yes, let's be visible. Let's go after all of these things. It was really fun and exciting, but I don't have to be constantly putting my foot on the gas. I can enjoy what I've created, and I think that's something more of us should experience. More of us should actually experience what it's like to have a business that's paying you while you're taking a break or while you're taking care of your family or while you're enjoying something in your life that's not related to work.

Susan Boles (41:32):

I love that. Think that's the perfect place to wrap it up on. So where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about you and what you do?

Racheal Cook (41:40):

Well, the best place to connect with me is over on Instagram. That's my favorite channel. So if you're listening, take a quick screenshot of your podcast player and then share it on your Instagram stories. Tag me @racheal.cook. Tag Susan, and let us know what your biggest takeaway was from our conversation. I'd love to connect with you there, and of course you can always find me at rachealcook.com, where you can listen into my podcast, Promote Yourself to CEO every week.

Susan Boles (42:09):

As your business evolves, and as you put more systems in place, as you move towards having a business that could run in maintenance mode, it's important to also realize that your role in the business is going to evolve as well. As Racheal mentioned, how can you not be a bottleneck? How can you get more comfortable with the idea that maybe your business won't need you every second of every day? What is your role as the founder or business owner look like if your business can operate smoothly without you?

Susan Boles (42:40):

What are you supposed to do all day if your business doesn't need you to show up and deliver? Figuring out the answers to those questions is key to not breaking your business along the way. Being able to examine and reshape your views around work, productivity and what your role in your business should be, can be really challenging, but it's also essential.

Susan Boles (43:01):

You'll never be able to step back from your business or take time away or work on something new if you're always making the same decisions over and over, or you're reinventing the wheel every three months. There is freedom and calm and sustainable resiliency down the path of consistency as long as we don't break it on our way there, and if you need to, feel free to borrow my mantra. Don't break it, stay the course, work the system.

Susan Boles (43:33):

So what tactics are you using to keep yourself from breaking your business? I'd love to hear about them and my next Dollars and Decisions roundtable. It's a finance and operation strategy session for business owners like you, and it's a great way to talk through what's working for you when it comes to consistency or to get some ideas from other business owners about what's working for them. You can register at scalespark.co/dollarsanddecisions, or just click the link in the show notes. See you there.

Susan Boles (44:06):

Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin. Production coordinator is Lou Blaser. And this episode was edited by Nick Firchau.