[Note: I started doing an annual recap back in 2010. You can find previous years here: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2021 - 2020 got skipped for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the pandemic that shall not be named.]
Here's the TL;DR: last year was hard as hell, so this year, it's all about creating more ease in every possible way. I'm not accepting any more Incubator clients after June, limiting my coaching availability, raising rates on coaching & consulting, and offering more free training throughout the year inside our new community.
Last year's recap was a podcast episode. While it was expedient to do it that way, it left me feeling... well... like I didn't do it "right".
Shoulding all over myself. Not-enoughing it. Cranking it out and then feeling bad about it.
But it is what it is. And it's done. Over. Finished.
Just like 2022.
I almost wrote an apology for the length of this post, but I'm not going to apologize for being real. My best clients read long posts. They want the details because they know the details matter in business and might save them a world of hurt. As a business coach and consultant, I've never apologized for being my own guinea pig. It's how I learn what really works and how to translate that to my clients for their own success - without the painful learning curve.
So yeah, this will probably be long. #NotSorry
While we did okay income-wise, it was a roller coaster of a year.
Just before the year began, we returned to Nashville from Mississippi. Jim accepted a new teaching job, so we sold our house and moved. Rental rates being what they are in Nashville, we signed a 10 month lease, thinking we'd have plenty of time to find a home, put in an offer, and move again before we had to renew.
We thought wrong.
Jim's employment situation ended up being more precarious. Two jobs after we moved back to Nashville, Jim was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and by January of 2022, decided to take a 6 month sabbatical.
My eldest had also joined us from Michigan. It was his "Hail, Mary pass" - he certainly didn't want to leave Michigan, but he didn't have a place to stay. He found work doing foam insulation and settled in for a while. Having another person in our otherwise empty nest made for some growing pains, but we managed.
The physical and emotional demands of 2022 took their toll on me. It drove home the point that I'm not 20 anymore and my mental and physical health have been low-priority for too long. Having major surgery two years in a row also took a toll on my mental health. By the end of the year I wanted to take a break from EVERYTHING. Even after I took my year-end vacation, I came back to work with a sense of dread. Too much of what I didn't want and too little of what I did want... and I had painted myself into this corner in many ways.
I started 2022 by celebrating my birthday with COVID.
It was, hands down, the worst start to any year. Even the year my ex forgot my birthday I was at least able to go out and be with friends. This year, I was alone, sequestered in my office. Tortuous to an extrovert like me.
The physical demands of the year were steep: I got the final stent out from November's surgery. I had sciatica on and off for the first half of the year that led to back surgery in September. And we packed our home and moved again. This time to Indiana. We had to stay in a hotel room for three weeks before we could move into our home, so we really moved TWICE - once into a storage unit and then a second time into our Indiana residence.
My doctor said I need to be walking more throughout the day - meaning I have to change my work schedule to accommodate my new physical demands. AND I'm in physical therapy as part of my recovery from back surgery (I still have numbness in parts of my foot).
But the emotional demands were even greater.
The added financial and emotional stress of having a partner out of work left me feeling like I was carrying too much for too long. I'm thankful that I'm married to a swell guy who understands the importance of communication. We were able to keep talking throughout a very stressful time, which did help things. That and providing for my son - while he looked for a new job after our move to Indiana - increased my emotional load.
I've pretty much ignored my physical needs for most of my life - mostly putting other folks first to my own detriment. It's a hard habit to break. Now, basically being forced to put so much attention and time into caring for myself was as much of an emotional adjustment as it was a physical one.
The depression and anxiety around being able to work (or not being able to work), hit me hard when I spent 11 days laid up in my bed while I waited for my surgery date. Every movement was excruciating, and I've never cried as much as I did then. I lost 10 pounds because I only ate or drank what was absolutely necessary. By the end, I wasn't even going to the bathroom anymore because there was nothing in me.
To be clear: my family brought me food and drink. I just didn't consume much because everything hurt all the time and I didn't want to make things hurt MORE.
The cherry on top was that the earliest my surgery could be scheduled happened to fall right in the middle of my annual client retreat.
Laying in bed for 11 days gave me plenty of thinking time. About everything we were doing inside my company - and everything I wasn't doing that I wanted to be doing. About how things needed to be different when I got back to work. I remember sharing in one of my mastermind meetings that I was doing so much stuff, but so little of it was what I WANTED to do. It was more about keeping commitments and fulfilling obligations I'd made long ago.
Because the hotel was kind, we were able to re-schedule my client retreat. I'm grateful that people re-arranged their schedules and I LOVE doing this event every year. Still, it took a lot more out of me to ensure that folks who couldn't attend got what they paid for. I don't regret doing it, because I love my clients. It was just harder to make everything work.
Then, I got COVID again for Christmas. It was harder this time. I still have an infrequent cough that leaves me gasping for air every time it strikes.
DAMN, I feel old!
Integrity and honoring commitments are important to me. Maybe a little TOO important!
The older I get, the more important ease becomes. You never know when a pinched nerve could take you out of commission for 11 days! Having a business that fully supports me, regardless of what's happening in my personal life, has to be more important than continuing to honor commitments that don't support my well-being.
I learned the hard way that my company can't yet handle more than that.
Thanks to the Federal EIDL, I made several investments in my business. Some turned out great, while others are still waiting to see a positive Return On Resources.
I expected my messaging work with Dr. Michelle Mazur to be a year-long adventure - because it takes time to roll out new messaging and get it to stick in the mind of your audience. As part of that roll out, we planned to redirect some of our marketing energy to Linked In, to build an audience there. My existing VA was training my new VA to handle the projects that weren't time sensitive. Between the two of them, it looked like we were finally going to get some momentum in our marketing.
Then... MAN DOWN!
My "old" VA found a full time job and transitioned out by the end of the month. The "new" VA I had just brought on to cover low-pressure projects was suddenly thrust into doing EVERYTHING.
So, um, LOTS of... um... pressure.
I should have slowed down, scaled back, and focused on one thing at a time. But I didn't.
I found a VA agency to work with and that sort of helped. My new new VA was learning from my old new VA, which was more like a game of telephone than making meaningful progress. I didn't have the spoons to take the work back onto my plate, and our income wasn't supporting having so many people on the team.
We were able to get the podcast up and running, but not much else. It was at this point when I almost shut everything down and walked away.
If it weren't for my clients, that is. Having those commitments kept us afloat. Even if I was stressed to the max on every other front, working with my clients gave me hope for a better tomorrow.
I made two other investments that still haven't panned out: I hired an agency that guaranteed placements on top podcasts. The original commitment was that they get results for most of their clients within 4 months. That seemed pretty ambitious to me, especially since this was being presented as a beta test offer. But hey, it was guaranteed placement, so I figured the ROI would be worth the investment.
A year later, I'm still waiting for half of those "guaranteed" bookings to materialize.
I also hired a company to direct and film my videos. This was part investment, part experiment. I wanted to get video editing off my plate, so I took a chance to see if someone else could handle it. This company promised to help script, direct, produce, and edit my videos.
I thought this would be a great way to bring video back to Season 7 of our show, but it didn't turn out that way. Sadly, their editor lived in Ukraine and, well, WAR broke out over there, so everything stalled.
I'm no tyrant, so of course I was willing to change our timelines. Besides, this was an experiment. I didn't put all my eggs in this basket. We went ahead with Season 7 as a podcast-only season. We managed to make it through the year, but our results were less than stellar.
By June, the agency director had shifted directions and was focused on short-form content for social (think: tiktok & reels). Short form content is NOT my jam, but I filmed a few pieces of content under his direction. He also promised me access to a course he was teaching to help me learn how to create better short form content.
It is February of 2023 as I write this and I am still waiting for access to the course that was promised last year.
Trying to keep too many balls in the air was a disaster - and resulted in a LOT of dropped balls! This year's focus on ease should help, but it's also an important reminder to me to focus on one thing at a time, since we're not a huge team of people that can tackle eleventy jillion things at once.
By the end of 2022, I was feeling apathetic and "meh" about so much. As I considered every aspect of my business, I recognized I had strayed from my own mantra of "define and achieve success on your own terms".
I was letting other people's terms dictate what was possible for me.
Over the past 7 years, I've focused a lot of resources into supporting our Incubator clients. It became our primary income source, which was never the goal. Combined, our handful of clients have created close to two million dollars in real revenue. Many of these folks started from zero, so that's a major accomplishment we can all be proud of!
I love seeing them make progress toward their dreams, but it's happening at the expense of my own.
As I said, the Incubator was never meant to be my company's primary income source. My original vision for was to be able to fund the program to the level where we had dedicated staff supporting clients on all the admin as well has having a spare coach to pick up some of the coaching hours.
We probably could have hit that goal, were it not for the pandemic of 2020. Too much team instability meant we couldn't get our systems locked in.
You can't grow if you aren't stable.
And we simply didn't have the level of stability, nor the cashflow to do things differently. So while I'm proud of our accomplishments, that old Marilyn Monroe quote keeps playing in my head:
Sometimes good things have to fall apart so that better things can fall together.
I wrestled with the question: Do I want to continue trying to work this model at the expense of the other dreams I want to pursue?
But then there's this: I have my own anxiety around not leaving anyone hanging. I don't want to let people down - especially not my clients! I can't just quit what I'm doing and leave them in the lurch!
I love my clients. I love helping them AND I want to see my own dreams take root and grow. Those things shouldn't be mutually exclusive.
I enjoy coaching and consulting, but I have to do it in ways that work for how I'm wired to work.
That's why we're phasing out the Incubator and introducing some new ways to work with me. I'm not accepting new Incubator clients after June (if you want in, you better get moving!). Anyone currently in the program can stay until they graduate. We'll phase out the program through attrition.
In order to grow our audience and continue to support our existing folks, I'm rolling out a new workshop each month during the first half of the year. We hosted the Customer Journey Workshop in January and our Build Your Promo Plan Workshop series is next week! March will have our content creation sprint, and quarterly planning. April will see the return of our Cashflow Creator workshop. We'll cycle through these workshops throughout the year and unveil an all-new three day event in fall: Creative Freedom LIVE! It's nothing like our client retreat, which used to fly under this banner, so if you've been around for a while, know that this is an entirely new event, built around the content in my book.
As a Fusion creative, I need to do more than one thing, otherwise I feel stifled. I enjoy teaching business building concepts and I especially enjoy working hands-on with folks to help them get results and clarity NOW. But I have a growing need for the flexibility of short-term commitments, which are also better for how I'm wired to work. That means I'll be offering more short-term coaching and consulting, including one-day/half-day intensives and single sessions.
Giving people a way to work one-on-one with me in a more concentrated way works better for how I'm wired. Plus, my best clients often prefer to work in this way - a 2-hour sprint or a day-long intensive to hammer out a plan and start seeing results before we're even done. They don't have months to consume a course and learn as they go. They need clarity now.
I enjoy being on podcasts, but hosting my own podcast isn't as fun or profitable as I'd hoped. According to our numbers, the "shelf life" of an audio episode doesn't begin to compare to our video show. So, we're bringing it back.
I tabled the video show half way through 2021 because of our move. I wanted to resurrect it in 2022, but our experiment failed and then we were moving AGAIN! Housing uncertainty is NOT a good situation for shooting video!
That said, the numbers don't lie. Video is better for me for a variety of reasons:
Since it looks like we're going to stay in Indiana for a while, I'll have a base of operations to make video production easier. It may mean editing content in-house, but it's worth it to reach more people, have a bigger impact and see our audience growing again.
The plan for our show this year is to split the difference: videos with deeper, richer content, but not as long as the podcast episodes. Instead of going 10-15 minutes, our show will likely run 15-20 minutes and live on both our podcast and video feed. We'll re-assess at the end of the season to see how the numbers shake out.
It seemed like the only thing that was easy last year was my relationship with Jim. Despite the ups and downs of the year, Jim was a steady, loving presence through it all. Where my previous partner would shut down and not communicate, Jim stayed in the room. He was willing to have hard conversations and make tough decisions with me, instead of leaving it all up to me to figure out.
He raised me up and kept believing in me... in us... through all the hard stuff of the past couple of years. Even on his sabbatical, he was consistently showing up in our relationship. THAT is the greatest blessing I've ever experienced.
In fact, one of the hardest things I've been able to do is lean into his love and support. Trusting that he really DOES love me, that he really DOES think the world of me. That he means it when he says "I love you forever. No take backs!" I haven't been able to trust that in the past, and his steady, loving presence is a strength I get to learn to trust.
And I want more.
More supportive, trusting relationships that lift me up, see my potential, and want to see me shine. I'm being more proactive in my outreach - despite how scary it feels sometimes. Last year, I invested in a mastermind group that helped open that door. Our facilitator really gave a damn about us... about me. I could feel that in our conversations. I learned more about what being "coffee worthy" really meant.
This year, I'm amping that up. I'm part of an international networking group for women. I'm actively connecting with more of them on a more consistent basis. Not necessarily to drive more business (although, that's nice), but more so to develop a solid, supportive community around me.
If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it's that I don't "do alone" very well. I get in my head and sometimes get stuck there. But I also don't "do community" the way other people do (hello, neurodivergence!). It takes a lot of effort and energy for me to feel connected or feel like I belong in a group. That's my growing edge.
I'm also curating a community space of my own. For years, we've hosted our Accountability Club on Facebook and our Rising Tide learning library on my website. Neither was fully optimized and both languished a bit because of it. It took time to explore some different options that made sense. For a while, no one wanted to leave Facebook. Now, you can't stop them from jumping ship. After a bit of research, we made the decision to migrate everything to a new platform this year. Migrating and integrating everything takes time, though. Our goal is to have the new Rising Tide/Accountability Club space ready for visitors in Q2.
I recorded this mashup almost 10 years ago...long before I left Michigan (or my first husband). But it's pretty appropriate for this year's focus. I was sick that day. But I showed up anyway. And I kept it easy.
Easy, like Sunday morning.
That's my theme for the year, so this song makes perfect sense - and it's a silly video that reminds me of how much fun it was to do this work then. I'm bringing that fun and ease back in every possible way.
Hope to see you on the ride!