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5 Places to Cut the BS in Your Service Business

As a business owner, sometimes you get a feeling. Like you’re missing something. Or like things can’t be this simple. I’m here to tell you that feeling may be lying to you.

In this episode, we’re looking at some places where BS sneaks into our business and very practically how to deal with it, as everyday actions are what makes all the difference in building a sustainable service business.

Over the last few episodes, we’ve been exploring how to make your service business more sustainable, including how small things can make a big difference.

As a reminder, when I talk about having a sustainable business, I mean one with a solid foundation that’s doing business in a way that meets your needs, without having a negative impact on the environment, community, or society as a whole.

From my point of view, having a sustainable business comes down to figuring out how to balance a lot of different things and learning how to cut the bullshit. For example, I see people defining their needs as having immense wealth and doing some serious mental gymnastics to justify that they’re different.

On the flip side, there are far too many business owners that ignore their needs as they want to be “good” and then end up running themselves into the ground.

Neither extreme is sustainable as something, or someone suffers along the way. The reality is that most business owners I know fall somewhere in the middle, and there’s this constant balancing act.

This brings me to what I really want to dig into today which is the BS that stands in the way of having a truly sustainable business. 

TRUTH: It’s the Everyday BS

Years ago I was hosting a mastermind retreat and I was sitting by the pool with one of my clients. She said to me, “Maggie, I always feel like I’m missing something.”.

I remember it so vividly as it hit me right in the gut because I think that’s what every business owner feels like most of the time. Especially if you work in the online business world where it’s so very easy to feel like you’re not doing enough or there’s some big secret you just need to learn. 

This is intensified by the fact that a service business, when compared with other business models, is relatively simple. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, and that simplicity can easily make us think there’s got to be more.

The reality is that as a service business owner, what leads to stability and sustainability is in dealing with the everyday BS. It’s the everyday things that make the difference between sustainability and a business that is a train wreck.

And the good news about that is that most of these things are cumulative so if you’re having a bad day, or struggling in a certain season, it’s unlikely to lead to complete ruin.

As the saying goes, it’s the small things like habits, actions, boundaries, and day-to-day decisions that lead to true sustainability.

How and what we do about the things that pop up day in, day out is what adds up to the type of business that we can run for years to come.

Friends, it’s the everyday BS of running a service business, and well, being a human living an imperfect life that we so easily overlook in favor of shiny secrets.

Everyday BS comes in many shapes and forms, but there are five places I see it show up in my business and with my clients. This is not an exhaustive list but should help you see some places where you’ve got some real BS happening and you can adjust.

#1. Productivity BS

I could write an entire book (or maybe a series of them) about the ways that productivity can cause some real BS for all of us.

First, there are the unrealistic expectations we’ve been taught about how much we can do, and how our worth is tied to how productive we’re being. For service business owners, this typically shows up in thinking we need to stack our days full of “tasks”, overbook ourselves with clients, overpromise, and generally set ourselves up to fail.

I’m someone who is generally very productive, and I’ve had to learn that I need to chill the hell out already and adjust my expectations. You are not a robot, and you need to do the work to learn how to be realistic about how productive you can be. And accept that maybe you’re not going to be perfectly productive every single day.

Maybe it’s your client load or your deadlines, or something else entirely, but this is the type of BS that can ultimately make or break your business. As when your expectations are unrealistic, you’re going to struggle to meet the promises you’ve made to your clients.  

The other part of the productivity BS is the things we do to ourselves that make it hard to get our work done. We’ve all got habits or ways of doing things that make it SO much harder for us than it needs to be.

This may show up as poor planning, ineffective time management, or even procrastination. This is where forming some habits around planning can go a long way. I’m not saying you need to have a perfectly color-coded calendar, but getting real with yourself about where you’re literally your own worst enemy and it’s impacting your business (and life) is key.

It’s really hard to build a sustainable business when you’re constantly feeling behind or like you can’t catch your breath. I want to fully acknowledge that dealing with your conditioning, expectations and your habits related to productivity will be easier for some of you than others, but even small tweaks can make a big difference. 

#2. Money BS

Money BS is something most of us have, and don’t worry this will not be a ridiculous discussion of your money mindset. For the purposes of this podcast, money BS is about the nuts and bolts of managing your money and having the right info you need to make decisions.

As a person, I had this idea for a really long time that I wasn’t good with money. It’s a complicated backstory but a lot of it stems from really struggling with math all through school. Naturally, that bled over into my business in the early years as I simply wanted to avoid dealing with anything money-related.

Honestly? I didn’t want anyone to really know how much math didn’t make sense to me and it turned into a whole thing.

Your money issues may be different, but I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d handled it sooner. Because guess what? Turns out money math is totally doable for me, and I’m actually pretty good at it!

The fact is, that money BS can mess with us in the worst ways, and for our business to be sustainable, we have to have it handled to some degree.

And if you’re someone with money BS, I don’t want you to feel shame. Not even an ounce of it, because most of us didn’t start a business because we had any great love of math. (Apologies to the accountants and finance people.)

Things like forecasts and budgets may seem like you don’t need them or that it’s way too complicated. Even as a team of one, you need to have an idea of what’s happening with your money so you can make sound financial decisions.

A common thing business owners do (especially online) is overinvest in their business. There are a lot of factors at play here, but a big one is that people don’t have a budget, and they don’t realize how much they’re spending. If you don’t look at your numbers, and you’re winging it, what’s another $3k?

I speak from experience on this one. The more structured my business has become with budgeting, the fewer bad investments I’ve made. Sure, there’s an element of experience, but I also need to give props to my budget as it’s a tool that guides my decisions.

By clearing out my money BS I make decisions based on facts, not gut feeling or worse yet, emotions that are amped up by shady sales tactics.

If you’re avoiding your accounting or getting a budget in place or doing a revenue forecast, trust me when I say these things are worth the effort. Even if you don’t love what they say, having a firm grip on reality leads to better, more sustainable business decisions. 

#3. Mindset BS

Now I’m sure when we were talking about money, some of you totally got in your head about it. Or you wondered if I was going to touch on money mindset or mindset at all.

Like it or not, our thoughts do impact our business. (And I don’t mean in a “you’re blocking the flow of the money you’re manifesting” way.)

And when you’ve got a lot of mindset BS happening, this is where we can do things that sabotage our business.

For example, if you’re feeling like you suck and your work isn’t good, when it comes time to price a project, you’re likely going to undercharge. At the moment, that seems like a small thing, but then if you’re undercharging you’re going to feel resentful or overworked which then reinforces the “I suck” feeling.

Our mindset BS compounds, small things turn into big things. I’m not saying you need to feel amazing every day. That said, if you really want your business to be something that gives you what you need and can be sustained, you need to do the work on your mindset challenges.

I’m not going to say I have this one all figured out as there’s always something new, but having time and attention on whatever mindset BS may be happening for you in this season makes a difference.

I can’t even tell you how much being in therapy has helped me with this, and how having the right support is. I get derailed way less than I used to, and I can see a tangible difference as my daily actions are not coming from a place of fear or assuming the worst of people.

#4. Client BS

Clients are part of the deal when you run a service-based business, and that means we’re imperfect people in a business relationship with other imperfect people.

Those relationships can be incredible and rewarding, but they can also be FULL of bullshit. And this is the kind of BS that can really make you hate everyone and everything and want to set your business on fire.

Now, the urge to burn down your business and fire all your clients may happen periodically (totally normal) but it shouldn’t be an ongoing state of affairs. No one can exist in that state for a prolonged period of time.

It’s the total opposite of having a sustainable business as you’re one bad client call away from packing it all in for good.

Maybe your client BS is not that dramatic, but maybe you’ve got a client who’s always wanting things with a short turnaround time, or you’re absolutely sick of them asking to jump on Zoom.

I want you to answer this one question: What BS am I dealing with in my client relationships that I’m sick of?

No judgments. Write it down. Because there are likely a few things that you can immediately start working on.

I’m talking about things like setting and enforcing boundaries. Pushing back on unrealistic deadlines. Not doing work that’s out of scope.

They’re all small things when taken in isolation, but you add them up, and they start to take their toll. The good news is that because they’re small, you can take tiny daily actions to start to shift away from that BS and into working in a way with clients that is truly sustainable.

And if you have a client in mind that it’s just the worst fit and it’s all BS, all the time, it may be time for them to go. If you can’t just end it now, start looking for a new client NOW, not months from now when you’re completely fed up and really need one.

#5. Marketing BS

Finally, I want to talk about marketing BS, because this is one of the biggest BS areas that messes with service businesses.

First, there are the people that completely ignore marketing hoping a client will magically come to them. Marketing for a service business is about finding clients, so you don’t necessarily need to be all over social media, but you do need to do something.

For most service businesses, at a minimum, you need to be proactive about your referrals. Particularly if you need new clients.

It’s the lowest-effort way to get clients without many resources required, so it’s time to cut that BS out of waiting for people to come to you.

Next, there are people doing the wrong marketing. And if this is you, I’m sorry, but you’ve been lied to. You may not need to be doing all the things you’re doing, especially if you offer done-for-you services, and this is extra true if you work with B2B clients.

So many times people are taught to market their services the same way as a course or program-driven business. As a service business, you do not need that scale of clients, so you can do way less.

The other part of this is that you don’t actually know if your marketing is working. If you’re going to invest time and money into things like social media, blogging, SEO, and so on, please take the time to measure your efforts. (Shout out to my client Britney Gardner who builds amazing dashboards to do this.)

Before you feel attacked. I’m a marketer who has literally done all of these things, so you’re not alone.

It’s so easy to do. But it’s not sustainable, and it’s real BS because it’s wasting precious time and resources on busy work. It makes you feel like you’re doing something for your business when if it’s not leading to actual clients coming in the door, it’s likely a waste of time.

How much marketing you need to do will vary based on the market you serve, your type of services, and more. There’s a big difference if you work with corporate clients vs. entrepreneurs, or offer coaching vs. done-for-you services.

You need to consistently ask the question “is this helping me find clients?”.  And if the answer is no, I strongly encourage you to reassess because you may be in the marketing BS zone. 

Watch for Everyday BS

To wrap things up, when it comes to your business, you’re in the driver’s seat, which means it’s your job to pay attention to the little things that can turn into big things.

Because those little things, aka the everyday BS, are what can chip away at us day after day and lead to foundational problems in our business. Or those little things, when you’re committed to cutting the crap that turns into repeated, small daily actions which lay the foundation for a business that we can rely upon, that serves us, and most of all is truly sustainable.

Think about where the everyday BS may be showing up for you and then work on proactively getting it out of your business. The little things matter more than most of us realize and it’s a prime opportunity to make things simpler, more sustainable, and ultimately less stressful for you in the long run.

And if you want support on getting the BS out of your business, consider this your invite to the BS-Free Service Business Mastermind. We’re enrolling right now, so you can click here to get all the details.