Client Management

How to Build a Community Around Your Business with Katie Hunt

Katie Hunt, founder of Proof to Product, helps product-based businesses create product lines, sell wholesale, and build stronger businesses. She has a podcast, courses, masterminds, coaching, conferences, and yes, a community.

Susan Boles
July 28, 2020
39
 MIN
Podcast

Right now, building a community around your business is more popular than ever.

You might even be considering adding one to your business—perhaps to save you time, to add another income stream, or to make you more accessible to your clients—or all of the above.

No matter why you might consider adding community to your business model, you might wonder—a business owner who does the same thing is already doing this. So how can I do it, too? Should I do it at all?

Seeing someone beat you to the punch might feel deflating but I’m here to tell you that there are infinite ways to shift your business model and make it all your own.

No two businesses are ever the same. Even if two business owners offer the same thing, they’re doing it in their own, unique way. That’s why if you hear an idea for a new revenue stream or a new way of operating—or if you implement the same thing—it’ll always look different in your business compared to another business. It’s your special sauce.

In the last few episodes, we’ve been talking about using new revenue streams to create strength and resiliency and minimize risk in your business. Specifically, we've been doing a deep dive on membership and community models.

I talked to Sophie Bujold in Episode 39 about where a community should live in your business (and whether or not you should have one in the first place). And in Episode 40, I talked to Margy Thomas about how her community was an evolution of the work she'd already been doing with clients.

My guest today is Katie Hunt, founder of Proof to Product, where she helps product-based businesses create product lines, sell wholesale, and build stronger businesses. She has a podcast, courses, masterminds, coaching, conferences, and yes, a community. Katie’s helped thousands of brands get their products on the shelves of retail stores like Target, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, and independent boutiques around the world.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • An alternative look at what launching a community/membership model with a team looks like
  • How having a membership improved resilience in Katie's business—financially AND with the rest of her product suite
  • What evaluation process Katie went through before adding community as part of her business model
  • How Katie’s boundaries have been impacted through the launch of her program and the pandemic—and how she’s proactively reinstating those boundaries now

Links

Episode Transcript

Katie Hunt (00:00):

I was also, for my business, looking for something that had a more recurring revenue style to it. And so a membership kind of fit what the business needed in terms of our cash flow and then what our customers were asking for in terms of the support they needed.

Susan Boles (00:18):

There are an infinite number of ways you can take a business model and make it your own. That's my favorite part of having a business. No two businesses are ever the same. 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.

(00:42):

Now, one of the reasons I love doing the show, is that I get to talk to business owners who are, at least theoretically, all doing the same thing. All my guests are business owners and almost all of them run a service business but everybody's doing it in their own unique way. One of my goals with Break the Ceiling is to expose you to new ideas, new business models, new ways of operating so that you could take these ideas, evaluate them and decide if they're right for your business and then go implement them.

(01:12):

But the beauty of business is that even if you hear an idea for a new revenue stream or a new way of operating and you decide to implement the same thing, it'll always look different when you apply it to your own business because you could take the concept and turn it into your own special sauce. We've been talking in the last few episodes about using new revenue streams to create resilience and minimize risk in your business. And specifically in the last two episodes, we've done a deep dive on membership and community models.

(01:44):

I talked to Sophie Bujold about where a community should live in your business and whether or not you should have one in the first place. And in the last episode, I talked to Margy Thomas about how her community was an evolution of the work she'd already been doing with clients. Today's guest, Katie Hunt, also created a community in her business, Proof to Product but it looks very different from Margy's community. Where Margy took her community and turned it into the primary focus of her business, for Katie, her community was one of a whole suite of services.

(02:18):

Katie created Proof to Product where she helps product based businesses create product lines, sell wholesale and build stronger businesses. She has a podcast, courses, mastermind, coaching, conferences, and yes, a community. Where Margy is consciously a one person business, Katie has a whole team of folks who support her. They both took the same idea, building a community around your business and turned it into two very different looking businesses. Katie and I talk about the evaluation process she went through, why adding a community was the right choice for her business and what kind of an impact it's had on her profitability, her resiliency and her team.

(03:02):

Hey Katie, thanks so much for being here.

Katie Hunt (03:04):

Hi Susan, thank you so much for having me.

Susan Boles (03:07):

Tell me a little bit about what was going on in your business before you decided to add this new membership community option?

Katie Hunt (03:17):

I was feeling this push-pull of we are missing a step in our value ladder. We had a... Just a little bit of background about my business, we have a signature course, we have an in-person conference, I have a high end mastermind, we have a ton of free content that we produce through our podcast and our blog and our social media feed and everything like that, but I didn't have a lower priced offer really that people could take us for a test drive before they wanted to buy into something that was higher level.

(03:51):

We had tried, I've been in business for nine years, so we had tried different low priced offers but they always got pushed aside because we were marketing other things that were higher value to the business. And so I was struggling with this, how do we create an affordable and accessible avenue for people that need our professional development help but maybe can't come to California for a conference or they can't afford to take one of our higher level programs.

(04:20):

I had been kind of grappling with this for, honestly, probably a year or two, maybe even more but we were working on other things, rebranding my business and a bunch of other things. In the last, I would say it was in the fall of 2019, that I started to look at it in real earnest and say, "Okay, I think a membership would be a really great way to fill this void and help more people at a lower price point," and so that was kind of when the wheels got turning on that.

Susan Boles (04:46):

And so why membership kind of specifically? Why was that the right choice for your business right at that point in time?

Katie Hunt (04:55):

I did grapple with the format, like what's going to serve everyone best. I did a survey of our audience and I asked them, "What do you want from us? What would help you the most? What kind of format, what kind of education tools?" And the response was pretty overwhelmingly. More trainings, more office hour type sessions, more time with you. It was very much about high-touch that they wanted and so the only way I felt I could bring that to them in a methodical way, where I also wasn't stretching myself too thin or flexing my boundaries too much, seemed to be a membership. And I will also say too, with my conference and my course and all of those things, we would see spikes in revenue throughout the year based on those because they were launched model, right?

Susan Boles (05:45):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katie Hunt (05:48):

I was also, for my business, looking for something that had a more recurring revenue style to it and so a membership kind of fit with the business needed in terms of our cashflow and then what our customers were asking for in terms of the support they needed.

Susan Boles (06:03):

It ended up kind of just being the right choice at the right time for everybody?

Katie Hunt (06:08):

Yeah, exactly.

Susan Boles (06:10):

Talk to me a little bit about how you kind of developed the actual product itself. What was the decision process or evaluation process you used to get there and then how did you actually develop what was going to be in it?

Katie Hunt (06:24):

Sure. I will tell you... At the beginning, I wanted to throw everything in the kitchen sink in this membership. I wanted to just give, give, give and I realized very quickly that that was going to be cumbersome for my team and I to replicate every month and it was going to overwhelm people. And so I really went back to that survey to see what are they asking for and what do they need in terms of... It was a couple of things, right?

(06:49):

We were looking at format of what kind of content we were going to be giving them every month and what did that look like and what frequency, and then we're also looking at what topics do they need the most help with because my membership is not... It's a little bit different. My course is very specific as to what we teach and the big promise we have. The membership I want it to be more of a community where it's kind of free flowing. Where we're talking about general business operations and kind of addressing the things that are most important to people at that time.

(07:18):

We do have a theme for each month and then each month we have a master class where either myself or guest experts come and teach a class with very specific takeaways for everybody based upon their level of business. And then we also have an office hour session where I get on Zoom and for an hour where I'm answering questions from everybody. And it doesn't have to be tied to our monthly topic per se, but really just whatever they're struggling with right then in their business, we will give them answers.

(07:45):

In terms of my decision making process, it was a culmination of, what does my business need in terms of what kind of format and process can we put into play here so that it's an easy system for us to replicate every month. And then for my customers, it was listening to what their needs are, what their struggles are, what their pain points are. That was kind of how we approached the format. It was kind of twofold of what will work for me, do I have the bandwidth to do? And then what's going to serve them best.

Susan Boles (08:14):

Okay. Once you made the decision, you decided it was going to be a membership, you kind of figured out what was going to be in it. How did you actually go about implementing it from the... You've had this idea, you're going to do it, how did you actually launch it and make it happen?

Katie Hunt (08:31):

For sure. Membership model was new to us, so I had to do a lot of homework. I had to kind of research, "Okay, do I want this on Facebook?" Which I did not, "Do I want this... What kind of tech pieces are we going to use here?" We knew what kind of educational pieces we wanted at that point. The next piece was tech and delivery and customer experience. How do we want to be delivering this stuff to everybody? We did some research.

(08:53):

I'm in a handful of communities, my team's in a handful of communities so we just kind of looked around at what we liked or what felt really seamless and a good experience from the customer side and then we chose a platform, we chose Mighty Networks for our platform. And then we got to building out the processes and systems, which may sound a little bit backwards, like most people want to build out the content I think in a membership first-

Susan Boles (09:18):

No. I love systems, build the systems.

Katie Hunt (09:21):

Right? Build the system and the rest will flow. We basically took a look at, okay, what needs to happen on a monthly basis, on a weekly basis, on a daily basis, even a quarterly basis for this to be systematic for our team. And I don't mean to make that sound cold but systems save your stress and so, anyhow we built those systems. It was really figuring out the tech, we wrote a lot of... We had to figure out the tech in terms of which systems we were using but then also with emails. We have onboarding sequences that we send people, we had sales sequence we were building out, we had pre-launched sequences we were building out.

(10:02):

There was like a lot of... There were a lot of pieces to this whole project. I did end up bringing in a previous staff member of mine to be the project manager for this whole launch because when we were working on everything on the back end, we were also running a lot of other programs that were in the works already before we decided to move forward with this, so that was a huge help in that we have this one person dedicated to making sure the project stayed on track and she had the support she need from all of us.

Susan Boles (10:33):

Did you work with her... Did you bring her on like as a team member or you worked with her more as like a consultant type project manager for this specific project? How did you-

Katie Hunt (10:44):

Good question. It was more like a... She was a contractor, so it was more of a consultant project based and we had her for about four or five months, I think and we did end up extending the contract a bit. At first, we thought it would be three months as we were ramping things up and launching but we've needed her help with onboarding a new community manager that we needed to hire and also just... As you start to move through a membership, there's little kinks that come, or any program really, there's some kinks that come up. She's been helping us figure those out too.

Susan Boles (11:13):

Okay. And then so on an ongoing basis, what does kind of the day to day look like for your team in terms of managing the community?

Katie Hunt (11:22):

We use a couple of different tools to manage our day to day. We use Asana for all of our project management and the individual tasks that need to get accomplished, we also meet once a week to talk through all the tasks that need to be accomplished that week. But really we're working one to two months ahead in this membership, so we're kind of managing both delivery of it as well as the creation of it for the next month.

Susan Boles (11:48):

Really bringing on or creating this other revenue stream for your business, is essentially like a whole other style of business.

Katie Hunt (11:57):

Yes.

Susan Boles (11:58):

What kinds of changes have you seen kind of behind the scene of now having this community. Did you end up having to change your team or expanded it or are you doing more work with the same amount of people? What does that look like for you behind the scenes?

Katie Hunt (12:14):

That's a great question. I think I went into it a little naive actually. We've been using the same team. We did add a community manager to the team but I think I underestimated how much of our hours from our existing team were going to need to be shifted towards this new project of Proof to Product Labs, our program. For example, our graphic designer, she's now doing monthly workbooks that go out for Labs and that takes up more of her time that she... We've had to expand contracts for some of our people that are on contract basis and just work within their schedule because there were some things that took longer than we expected or more time than we expected, so we have had to make some shifts. We've only brought on one new team member and that's worked out really great.

Susan Boles (13:03):

Cool. What kinds of positive changes have you seen from now adding this other revenue stream to your business? Did it work out like you thought it was going to?

Katie Hunt (13:15):

Yes it did.

Susan Boles (13:16):

What have you seen positively?

Katie Hunt (13:19):

There's a few things. I will say, the launch exceeded our expectations, by far and I should preface this by saying we launched this program in the middle of the pandemic at the beginning of COVID, well not the beginning. We launched this at the end of April into early May and so we had to do a lot of shifting before the launch to change our messaging and we actually changed our pricing, we lowered it a bit. We even changed our bonus structure to give them different types of bonuses that were applicable for how they were getting through COVID and I wasn't sure how it was going to go.

(13:56):

We did have a conversation about whether or not to postpone the launch but really the more I thought about it, I've kept thinking people need this right now. They need the support, they need the community, they need the help. They're not sure how to navigate what's going on in the world and frankly, most of us don't. We're kind of trial and erroring this. In my own mindset, in my own business, I thought we're going to keep moving forward with this, we've been planning for it for a long time and I know it's going to serve and help so many people. And so we continued with the launch.

(14:25):

Well, in my business, it has made a huge shift in that it was a six figure launch, in the middle of a pandemic on a $49 product. It created a lot of change in my business and that we had a strong recurring revenue stream that we were hoping to have but we weren't sure if we were going to have because of the launch timing and then two, the engagement with our community. I feel like we've built such strong relationships with everyone that's in this membership and now they're asking about our other programs.

(15:00):

I really do see this program benefiting the business financially, as well as taking our customers through a journey of our different products and services and how we can continue to help them as they expand and grow their business. From a personal standpoint, it's been very worthwhile, both financially, as well as the impact we're making but then from a customer experience, we're also being able to shepherd them along as they grow their business, if that makes sense.

(15:34):

I've seen a lot of great... And I'm loving it. I am loving the being in this community with them. It's different than our other communities that we've had on Facebook. I love doing the office hours and just seeing everybody and hearing their questions. The master classes have been really well received so I'm enjoying it and it's benefiting the business and the health of the business overall.

Susan Boles (15:56):

Awesome. "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.

(16:32):

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(17:07):

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(17:47):

Talk to me, you mentioned the master classes again. Talk to me a little bit about the master classes and how did you... You came up with that as your main kind of content creation inside of the community, are you doing different topics every month? Are you revisiting topics? Are you archiving them so people can go back? How are you approaching kind of the content creation, which is, I think the part that most people, when they think about creating a community, get really overwhelmed with you have to consistently be creating new content for people to absorb and consume and that sort of thing.

Katie Hunt (18:21):

I would say this was my biggest fear around creating a membership and why I didn't do it sooner. Yet I have a weekly podcast and we do all sorts of other content creation but yet, this was one of my biggest fears so here we are. A couple of things around this, we do a monthly topic that is a little bit broader base. For example, in May, and I will say too, we just launched this in May, so we're only three months or two months in, at this point. We may change this method based upon what our customers are feeling and what we're feeling.

(18:55):

As of now, we launched in May and we did a whole business assessment. We help people push pause and really take a look at what was working in their business and what wasn't working and that was a class that I taught. We had slides and we had a workbook and we had... It was a really robust training program. And then we had offshoots of that topic that we dripped out throughout the course of the month. And so other resources, other tools, podcast episodes, they should listen to that kind of stuff and then we had the office hour call.

(19:25):

In June, we're talking about business models and how, I work with product based business owners, so how they can make money through their art and selling their products. And so we kind of ran through like, "Here's all the different ways that you can make money selling your work," and then we had one guest come on, her name was Kristen Ley from Thimblepress and she talks specifically about licensing art because that's an area where a lot of my community is interested in learning more. I think the themes and the topics, you want to have a structure to how you're running your months but at the same time, you want to be fluid with some of it to make sure that you're meeting the needs of your people.

(20:02):

Kristen did that in June. And then in July, we're talking about copywriting and I have somebody coming in to talk about writing strong product descriptions and my copywriter wrote some abandoned cart emails for their eCommerce shop that they can use. Again, the topic might be broader like copywriting but then we're going to hone in on key areas that they need, so that's how we've structured it. Over the course of a month we have at least two live things that we do and then we have additional podcast episodes or trainings on video, on demand type stuff that we drip out through the rest of the weeks.

Susan Boles (20:37):

How have you kind of integrated, or maybe you haven't, the themes that you're tackling in the community with the rest of the service offerings or content that you're putting out? Are you matching it up with your podcast or it's just kind of lives in the community and it's community specific.

Katie Hunt (20:56):

That's a great question. This is something that is still evolving for us but we are trying to make sure that, guests we have coming to teach master classes, if we can get them on the podcast and have them on the show maybe a month or a few weeks before that month's content comes up in the membership, then we are trying to find ways to tease what's coming up in the membership through our marketing. I will say we're doing an okay job of that but we could be doing a stronger job of that. I think we need to do a better job of repurposing different pieces of content that point to the membership specifically.

(21:32):

But we will have ads on our podcast, for example, that push people to Labs or tell them what's upcoming for our Proof to Product Labs. And then we will use our weekly email to talk about what's upcoming or to highlight different community members and what they're doing. We are trying to make it interwoven into our marketing plan and our general communication but at the same time, I think, we still have some work to do there to strengthen it.

Susan Boles (21:59):

It's still early days.

Katie Hunt (22:01):

Thank you.

Susan Boles (22:03):

You mentioned kind of being afraid of launching this community.

Katie Hunt (22:10):

Yeah.

Susan Boles (22:10):

And that that kind of held you back a little bit from this. Can you talk more about that?

Katie Hunt (22:16):

Sure. I mean, honestly it was the content grind that made me most nervous for this because I kept thinking, "In my personal life, I have four children at home that are under 10 years old, that are 10 and under at this point," I know. "And I run a conference twice a year, although this year we're not doing it twice," and I just already had multiple layers of my business and my thought behind it was, if I add this new piece with all of this content creation, something's going to have to give, right? Like there's only so much time in the day.

(22:52):

That was a hurdle for me of, "Okay, well, what would I give up?" Because there was nothing that really, truly made sense. However, what I realized was if I could just strengthen the systems and the processes around all the different things in my business, that would carve out enough time for me to focus on this membership. And if we were leveraging the different content that we had, like our podcast, or our blogs, or our emails, and really using the content we've spent nine years building and working that in so that it was fresh and new for this audience, that made me feel like it was doable too.

(23:30):

And to me lowering my expectations around, "Okay, I'm going to do one masterclass a month and I'm going to do one group coaching call a month," and the rest is like extra fun but if we don't end up doing a lot of extra fun that month, that's okay too because we're on what we promised and it's those two things. And so I kind of reset my expectations. I also just acknowledged like, "I can get these two things done," and that made me feel like it was more manageable.

Susan Boles (23:56):

I love that you ended up leaning on systems and really leaning into that because I think that can be so powerful in terms of being able to scale your business, if you can kind of productize parts of it and then just lean on iterating on that one thing.

Katie Hunt (24:13):

And I will say-

Susan Boles (24:14):

It's so hard to actually do in practice though, I think.

Katie Hunt (24:16):

It is and I was going to circle back to your question about team because this is where I firmly believe in bringing in people for the team, whether it's project basis or an ongoing basis who are experts in what they do. And so me bringing back Angelica, our previous operations manager, who I knew was strong in systems and processes and giving her like, I don't want to say free rein, but kind of free rein to build the system, I knew it would get done well and I knew we would then have the foundation to work off of to make changes as we needed. So really getting out of the way when other people can do the job better than I could, was a thing I also learned with this.

Susan Boles (24:57):

I think that's something that a lot of founders struggle with is, especially if we've built this thing from the ground up and a lot of it was on our own ingenuity and creativity especially at the beginning, it can be really hard to transition from that to, well, somebody else actually is going to be better at this and as long as I get out of their way and let them do the thing that they are absolutely amazing at doing it, it can be really powerful in terms of being able to scale what you're doing and build better systems.

Katie Hunt (25:28):

I agree with you a hundred percent on that.

Susan Boles (25:32):

Is there anything that we haven't talked about with this whole process and what it looked like for you, that we haven't talked about that you think we should?

Katie Hunt (25:42):

Well, some people have asked about our marketing strategy around it or our launch strategy around it, I don't know if your audience would have an interest in that. But I will say because of the timing of when we launched this, we really did have to shift our messaging, which I mentioned earlier. But I think one of the key things I just want to reiterate is, anytime you're adding a new offer to your existing business model, you really want to make sure you're listening to your customers and asking them questions about what they need and want and then trying to implement that.

(26:14):

I think one of the things I've experienced in the past and something I see some of my clients do is, they get really excited about something that they want to roll out but they don't ask anyone if it's something that they want. They build the thing, they sell the thing and then it's crickets and it's because they didn't really check in with people before they built it. I guess just, one listening to your audience and then being very strategic about how you roll it out and how you communicate the value, especially right now, as we're navigating COVID still. I think those are a couple of things that your audience might benefit from hearing.

Susan Boles (26:48):

I love that. One other question, so you have four kids at home.

Katie Hunt (26:54):

I do. I apologize [crosstalk 00:00:26:55].

Susan Boles (26:55):

You have a business with a whole bunch of different areas that you're... Different kinds of services and products that you're offering. When you added this other suite, was there anything that you personally needed to add in, either boundaries that you started? I know, for me, when I start launching something new, I'll let boundaries slide for a little bit because sometimes when you're launching something, it needs a little extra time but I always have a hard time once it's finished, kind of pulling that back again. Was there anything that you personally had to kind of take into account?

Katie Hunt (27:33):

I feel like my boundaries have been very challenged over the last few months and I think it has more to do with just the time we're living in right now than the project that we're adding. I used to have a dedicated work time where I had no interruptions and now I'm constantly-

Susan Boles (27:52):

That's not a thing anymore.

Katie Hunt (27:53):

[crosstalk 00:27:53] I mean, my husband's here working from home and he's kind of taken over my office a little bit. I was homeschooling our four kids during the school year and thankfully that's taking a break right now but I mean, I feel like I was pretty good with boundaries before this and they just flew out the window a little bit and I'm trying to, very proactively right now, reinstate those boundaries. I think when... Well, for me, like I said, I used to have a set number of hours during the day, regular business hours that I could work.

(28:29):

And then I found myself slipping into this like nights and weekends situation just because that was the only time I could get a few hours alone to focus. I am having to reinstate both boundaries with my family and boundaries with my team and boundaries with my coaching clients that are in my higher end mastermind group and then now, boundaries within our Labs program too. I will say the way we structured our membership though, I have a community manager in there now and so she's always the first point of contact with anybody in the group when they have questions and things and she's excellent.

(29:04):

She's brand new to our team but she's so proactive and amazing. And I'm there in the background if she needs anything or other team members are there in the background but I think that that was kind of the catalyst for me saying, "Okay, I need more of this in my life. I need more boundaries put back into place so that I can think clearly and I can focus and I can continue to do my best work and also do my best work at home." The boundaries have been super challenging for me over the last few months.

Susan Boles (29:37):

I've experienced the same with the kids at home and everybody being here all the time. It was very easy for me to start slipping and working on weekends-

Katie Hunt (29:46):

Yes.

Susan Boles (29:46):

...which have been a hard boundary for me or working first thing in the morning because you're not going to get interrupted and so I am in the same boat trying to kind of claw it back a little bit.

Katie Hunt (29:56):

I will say to, I'm seeing a backlash actually from many of my coaching clients who have been in business for over 10 years and they've created these teams, they've created these boundaries, they've delegated all these tasks and now because of COVID and everything else, they've had to take on a lot of those tasks back onto themselves again and so they're struggling with this boundary piece and there's a lot of... It's almost like grief because they've built these systems and people and plans and everything and now they feel like they're back to square one a bit and so I just keep reminding them and myself that this is not permanent, that we can get back to the things we once had and the team members we once had but for right now we've got to work with what we got.

Susan Boles (30:41):

Well and I think a lot of the... At least, for me and with the folks that I am talking to especially if you have kids, like a lot of the systems and structure and support that we built, that we've relied on don't exist anymore.

Katie Hunt (30:55):

Right.

Susan Boles (30:55):

At least temporarily and for who knows how long and that was really critical piece. There's a lot of parents out there that have not had a break since March.

Katie Hunt (31:05):

Yeah. I'm one of them. I mean-

Susan Boles (31:06):

Me too.

Katie Hunt (31:08):

... my husband and I are juggling, we haven't had... I mean, to your point, we haven't had our daycare, we haven't had our school, we haven't had our babysitters, we haven't had any of that and so it's a very difficult balance for sure and I'm just grateful that people like you and others are... We're all in the same boat so we are empathetic to that when we do have situations that pop up unexpectedly.

Susan Boles (31:30):

I think, that's the cool part about all being business owners is we actually have the flexibility to, especially online business owners, have the flexibility to be able to make accommodations and move stuff around.

Katie Hunt (31:42):

Totally.

Susan Boles (31:43):

And be a little bit more understanding and empathetic and flexible about how we interact with everybody. And I actually think that's one of the best things that's come out of this that I hope we don't lose when we all go back to having schools and childcare and-

Katie Hunt (31:58):

Yes.

Susan Boles (31:58):

... relatively normal interactions where we're seeing people in person and whatnot.

Katie Hunt (32:03):

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think that if anything, this whole situation has taught me agility, flexibility, rolling with the punches, reducing my desire for perfection. My perfection tendencies, done is better than perfect and we need to make do with what we can right now. Adding this membership was a nice delight because I didn't have strong expectation. I mean, that sounds weird to say I did have... I have very high expectations of myself and my team in general but when it came to this thing in the middle of a pandemic, I'm like, "I don't know what to expect."

(32:44):

Therefore I'm not going to freak out if we don't hit the numbers I was initially planning for, I'm not going to freak out if we end up having this... Let's see how this goes, it was my attitude and thankfully it all worked out really well and everyone's happy but I think it's shifting that mindset too. I will say another, and this is slightly off topic, but in those early days we were all kind of in crisis mode of how do we get through this next three to six months in our business, right? Are we pivoting? Are we adding different revenue streams? Are we just going to stay the path with what's already working?

(33:18):

We had a lot of decisions to make for how to sustain that short term period. But now where we're at, in June, I really am encouraging people to look further ahead of... The economy is suffering, we don't know when COVID is going to kind of get squashed here. So what are we doing to sustain our business for the next one to two years? And what does that look like now, amidst these loose boundaries and difficult transitions we're having to face. Anyhow, that's something that has been on my mind a lot lately of, okay, let's look a little longer term now rather than the immediate crisis mode of what are we getting through this next three to six months on.

Susan Boles (33:56):

I've seen that a lot with clients and folks coming in and even just guests on the podcast that it feels like right after everything hit, there was like this pause of about two months where nobody was doing anything. Most of the people I talked to, nobody was buying anything, nobody was moving. And then it felt like kind of the end of April, beginning of May, everybody started to be like just, okay, let's start thinking, let's start being a little bit more strategic. We've all kind of processed our grief and our just crisis reaction to everything and can start to be a little bit more strategic and proactive and think about how to create a business and build a business that can weather storms.

Katie Hunt (34:40):

Exactly.

Susan Boles (34:40):

So focusing on building systems and process and cutting unnecessary expenses. I'm going back in and really looking at the foundations of our businesses and making decisions that maybe we should've made a year ago.

Katie Hunt (34:57):

Right.

Susan Boles (34:57):

And it was so easy not to when you're really good at making money, it is very easy to ignore the actual operation because the money is always coming in. And so-

Katie Hunt (35:09):

You don't notice the licking bucket, so to speak.

Susan Boles (35:10):

And it's easy to ignore it for a while. I think it's silver lining of all of this is that, we're going to have much stronger, more resilient businesses after coming through this than we all did before.

Katie Hunt (35:27):

I agree with you. I also think, as to your point, it gave us a time to pause, it's given us a time to work on the backend of our business and think through how can we strengthen the things we're already to our customers, right? What types of services are we offering? The other thing is it's been interesting for me to watch who has been comfortable selling during this time and who has not been.

Susan Boles (35:50):

Yes.

Katie Hunt (35:51):

And there're... I don't know if you've seen it in your communities and your sphere but there was a little bit of shaming happening around people that were actively selling in the midst of COVID and my thoughts on it were we need to keep selling our products and services. We need to keep telling people how we can help them through this because if all of us just stop what we're doing, that's detrimental to our business, it's detrimental to our customers, it's detrimental to the economy as a whole and so-

Susan Boles (36:18):

I mean, we're the people that can move right now.

Katie Hunt (36:20):

Exactly.

Susan Boles (36:21):

We are the economy at this moment in time.

Katie Hunt (36:23):

Exactly. And so that was something I kept encouraging my clients to have like, yes, let's work on the backend things but at the same time, I want you to keep proactively selling right now and do it in a way that feels good to you, change your messaging, change your outreach approach and all of that but keep going. We need to keep going.

Susan Boles (36:43):

I completely agree. I think that's a great place to wrap it up on. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect with you or learn more about what you do?

Katie Hunt (36:52):

Sure. I'm at prooftoproduct.com, I hang out on Instagram at Proof to Product and then I have a weekly podcast called Proof to Product, so you can find us on iTunes or Stitcher, Pandora, anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Susan Boles (37:05):

Thanks so much for being here, Katie. I think this was a fabulous look inside the shifts you've made in your business.

Katie Hunt (37:12):

Thank you, Susan. I really appreciate your time today and your patience with my recording as well, so thank you so much.

Susan Boles (37:20):

Katie and Margy took the same idea, adding a community to their business services but it looked really different when they executed it. Margy made it the focus of her business and made a conscious choice to operate the community alone. For Katie, her community was another way that she could deliver value and interact with her clients and it gives her clients choices about how to engage and the level of support they're looking for and it's scalable even while continuing to offer the rest of her suite of services.

(37:51):

But for both Margie and Katie, adding a community, built more resilience into their business. They're just that much more insulated against risk now. They can serve more people which means losing one or two clients isn't catastrophic like it might be if they were only working with a few clients at a time. Now, having a community might not be the right choice for your business. I'm certainly not advocating that everyone add one but our dive here into looking at adding the community model is just one example of diversifying your revenue streams.

(38:24):

The options for diversification are pretty much limitless. If you can think it up, you can make it a part of your business. The point is to start looking for opportunities to build that resilience and to reduce your risk either by eliminating unnecessary costs, building new ways to work with you or using your intellectual property to diversify the different ways that money comes into your business. Every step you take towards creating stronger foundations, building profit or reducing risk will ultimately make your business more resilient.

(38:57):

And they don't have to be huge steps. Taking small, consistent steps over time gets the same and often better results. What small step can you take in your business today to build just a little bit more resilience? Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode is edited by Marty Seefeldtwith production assistance by Kristin Runvik.


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