Being in business can feel unpredictable at times, but there is *one* thing that’s certain: You will make mistakes.
Even multi-seven-figure entrepreneurs like Circuit Sales System founder Nicki slip up every now and then—that is all part and parcel of being a human!
But the lessons entrepreneurs learn from mistakes can shape the future success of their business. So today, we’re going to look at some of Nicki’s biggest business mishaps—including one that came with a hefty $40K price tag—and most importantly, what she’s learned from them.
Lesson #1: Hire for the Role, Not the Person
Nicki knew that she needed someone to handle the systems and processes in the business. Having a more creative mind, she knew she was not the best person to set them up and so she began looking for an operations manager to come in and make sure that the business was running efficiently and effectively.
Often you will hear people say, ‘You don’t have to hire for the role, hire the person.’ Because when you get the right person, they can do just about any job, right? Wrong.
Nicki found out the hard way that not being specific enough in what she was looking for in this role was a big mistake. She had not carefully thought through exactly what traits this person needed to have and so when it came to the interviewing process, her questions were just not specific enough. (‘So…can you implement systems?’ ‘Sure, why not!’)
You have to make sure that you truly understand the traits the person should have before bringing them onto your team (ideally before you start them with their probation period). Creating tests before hiring someone (or even within the first probationary period) can help to ensure your new team member has the traits you are looking for.
It’s also worth considering whether the person you’re hiring will be a good fit for a remote team. Some people need the motivation of an office environment when working, otherwise they can get easily distracted at home (Netflix binge, anyone?).
Because Nicki didn’t nail down *exactly* what she was looking for, she then had to go through the process of letting her employee go, which is never easy or pleasant.
The sooner you can identify who is right for a role and who is not right for a role, the better.
Now that the team has solidified the pre-hiring process, they have developed a new system which is effective in understanding how someone’s mind works before hiring them and ensuring that they are going to be the right fit for the role.
And while you certainly don’t want to micromanage someone, you do need to ensure there is a system in place to check in and make sure that the work that you need and want to get done is getting done.
When things are moving very quickly in business, it’s easy to focus on your individual projects and lose sight of the work a new employee should be doing. Taking time to regularly check in with them means you can step in and course correct if needed, or even come to the realization sooner that they may not be the best fit for the role.
As the boss of the company, it’s also worth remembering that you only get one perspective on someone; checking in with other employees to see how they’re getting on with a new team member empowers them to speak up if something is not quite right, or could be improved.
Lesson #2: Unicorns don’t exist (sorry!)
Nicki’s team felt like they needed additional support in marketing and started looking to hire a marketing assistant. But both times they hired for this role, it was not a good fit. They soon realized it wasn’t the person they hired per se, but that they were trying to fit too many tasks under the umbrella of “marketing assistant”.
What the team really needed were experts in several different areas like copywriting, design, and social media. They were simply trying to fit too much into one role and inevitably, the attention to detail was lacking.
Could they have found a unicorn? Yes, certainly. But it was much smarter when they took a step back and decided to split the full-time hours for that role across different experts. Overall, it meant they saved a lot of time, especially as they weren’t having to review as much or give as much feedback.
The rigid idea that this role had to be filled by an employee was also a mistake. Some business owners will say that you have to have on staff employees because freelancers are never as dedicated. But you can absolutely find dedicated freelancers who care about your company, who are passionate about the mission, and who want to help your customers and company succeed.
All of Nicki’s freelancers are members of the team. They join company meetings and show genuine care for the business, for the students, and for each other. If you try to do this without freelancers and insist on having employees, you are going to be limiting yourself from a whole pool of really fantastic people.
By looking at the problems they needed to solve, and bringing a number of experts in to support them, Nicki and Kate now have a team of people who bring so much more to the table than one person possibly could.
Lesson #3: Don’t Over-Rely on Agencies
It’s very common for business owners to think ‘I can’t do this myself anymore. I’m going to give it to an agency.’ And—sometimes naively—we then believe that because the agency is an expert, they’re going to look at our goals, our assets, our numbers and know exactly the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. You can certainly still hire agencies, but you need to partner with them very carefully. And when getting advice from agencies, remember that you still know your business and your target audience best.
As our Circuit Sales System students know, messaging is the lifeblood of your business and it’s not something you can afford to completely hand over to an agency (more on that here).
At the end of one month, after seeing that some of the numbers were not as expected, Nicki made the wrong assumption that her agency would figure it out and fix it. But in reality, agencies are not always as focused on your numbers as you are and may not be making the same connections as you are.
For example, if the agency sees that they’re getting more eyeballs on your ad, they might be thinking that’s a positive, whereas you might be more worried about getting your ad in front of the right eyeballs so that they click through.
That is why having a deep understanding of what metrics you actually care about and being able to communicate that to your agency is so important. Communicate your expectations with them upfront at the start of your relationship to see if their strategy aligns with your goals. And if not, can they adjust it?
Although you’re hiring an agency to take work off your plate, it’s worth bearing in mind that the workload might not be as hands off as you anticipated. You still need to provide the right guidance to ensure the strategy is correct, and to make sure they’re looking at the right numbers.
If you don’t understand how to do something and spend money giving it to somebody else, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to hit a home run. Team members also change frequently at agencies, which can affect results. You cannot just blindly trust that your agency is going to be doing the best work for your business or be as focused on your business as you are. You have to be the advocate for your business and for your needs, even with agencies that you are paying.
Lesson #4: Look at Metrics Regularly
Nicki used to look at her numbers on a monthly basis. Across her bands, there are sales every day and it tends to be pretty consistent. One month, she was talking to her ad agency who said the cost per lead was amazing and so Nicki told them to scale it up and keep going. But when she got to the end of the month, she realized she’d overspent $40,000 and there were NO sales she could attribute to that money!
By saying ‘Sure, scale it up!’ and then not checking in on the results, she essentially took $40K of the business’ money and lit it on fire. That was definitely one of the more painful lessons to learn, especially at a time when the business was seeing excellent growth.
Now, Nicki makes sure to check the numbers each week and her operations manager tends to go in on a daily basis to see if anything looks off, so they can quickly identify any problems with ads or landing pages.
If Nicki had been checking her numbers weekly at that time, she would have been able to dial it back down sooner after seeing poor results. Or she might have dug in and realized that they were scaling up the wrong campaigns or getting it in front of the wrong audience. That is why you have to be looking at all of your metrics and you have to be looking at them regularly.
But all of the mistakes that Nicki has made (and that we all make as business owners) are opportunities to course correct and to make sure that we don’t do this in the future or on a larger scale. Did it hurt to lose $40K that month? Absolutely. But it allowed Nicki to change the process to monitoring numbers every week instead of at the end of the month, and inevitably catch issues sooner.
Mistakes are an annoying but inevitable part of running a business. *Sigh*. But the lessons from them can always be used as a valuable opportunity for growth.
In this Energize Your Online Business podcast episode, Nicki shares some of her biggest business mistakes—including a casual $40K that went down the drain—and most importantly, what she’s learned from them. Listen in to find out why, instead of fearing our slip-ups, we should actually embrace it when things go wrong!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from starting your own business? Let us know in the comments below!