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Entrepreneurship

Lessons We Learned In Our Third Year In Business

FocusCopy Turns 3 Years Old (PLUS 7 Lessons We Learned In Our Third Year In Business)

3 years ago today, Stuart Broderick and I co-founded FocusCopy. We both realized that copy is the most critical part of all marketing and sales. However, it’s the one thing that most people either hate to do or don’t have time to do. 

After talking with dozens of entrepreneurs over the last couple of weeks (including many who celebrated their third business anniversary this year), we concluded something…Year 3 is by far the hardest year. 

Maybe it’s the turning point from chaotic start up to sustainable business…

Maybe it’s the fact that you’re no longer putting out fires and instead building on your foundation (requiring a different skillset)…

Whatever it is…Year 3 pushed me further than I thought it would.

In what’s becoming our annual tradition, here are some of the key lessons we learned this past year. Hopefully, this helps you avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made so you can go further, faster. 

If you haven’t read them before, here are our Year 1 and Year 2 lessons learned blogs.

The Year 3 Mindset

If you’ve talked to me recently, you know that over the last year I’ve struggled with burnout. It started last July when we had our biggest month ever in the business. All of the sudden, 3 months went by without me noticing how my time was spent. I woke up on October 1 and realized that I had not sold anything in 3 months. 

As an entrepreneur, that’s practically a death sentence.

Thankfully, we found the business and the support to make it through 2021 alive. 

2022 was a different story though…I realized that I was falling into the transactional mindset – closing business for the sake of growing revenue. When I realized how wrong that mindset was, I reset and focused on building the right relationships. 

We’re a different company than we were last year. We (or really I) have battle scars and some bruises. But we’re stronger and looking forward to what Year 4 has in store for us, our clients, and our strategic partners.

7 Lessons We Learned In Our Third Year In Business

While FocusCopy was never in a failing position, the term failing forward has never seemed so prevalent. Because if I hadn’t made the necessary pivots and learned hard lessons, I don’t think our business or team would be nearly as strong as it is today. But I also believe in learning from others’ mistakes to avoid repeating in your own life whenever possible. So I hope you take my third year lessons with more than a grain of salt, because there’s enough business for us to all succeed together.

Feel like commiserating or ready to perk up your copy? Reach out to me here and let’s give your brand messaging the extra espresso shot it’s craving.

1. It’s Okay To Pull Back

Entrepreneurship has this toxic hustle culture attached to it. It’s something I’ve known about for years, and frankly…I despise. But there are times when I fall into the trap and overcommit myself to networking, sales, clients, marketing, projects, and life in general. As we’ve seen over the last year, it resulted in burnout. 

Even if you set goals for yourself and your business, I’ve learned that it is okay and actually encouraged to pull back for the sake of your mental health and the health of your team. 

In the throws of burnout, I still kept up with the same pace (albeit with a little less energy and gumption). I wonder if I pulled back earlier that I would have nipped the burnout in the bud before it became a year long battle. 

2. A Fish Rots From The Head Down

One of my favorite mentors and people, the late Jim Wilkinson, used to say, “a fish rots from the head down.” While there are many other variations of this, including the tone starts at the top, this version gets to the point quicker. If you – the entrepreneur or business owner – do not take care of yourself, you will rot your life and your business. Guaranteed. 

Especially in the past couple of months, I kept asking myself…”Am I rotting or thriving right now?” 

If my answer was the former, I spent more time with affirmations, counseling, support, and prayer. In order for me to lead my team well, they needed me to be in the best shape of my life. 

It’s a heavy weight being an entrepreneur. With 2 full time employees (plus my and my co-founder’s family), I am responsible for putting food on their tables and keeping a roof over their head. To be truthful, it’s my greatest fear to let my team down. That’s one of the many reasons why I like my mentor’s Jimism the best – it paints the picture clearly and with disgusting imagery that’s hard to ignore.

3. Focus On Positive Self-Talk (& Build In Accountability Partners)

One of the ways I found myself “rotting” was with my self-talk. I was and am my own worst enemy. It would shock you the evil things I would say to myself. Thankfully, only a few trusted people (including my sweet husband) heard my negative self-talk and brought it to my attention. I hadn’t realized the toxicity I had let build in my head. 

But thanks to a few people (including my husband, my counselor, and my best friends), we redirected any negative self-talk into something positive. It could be as simple as reframing the sentence into something life-giving. 

But when I started actively speaking positively, the change was almost instantaneous. I didn’t battle the deep depression or anxiety like I had before. I was able to be more productive and supportive. I was a better person, wife, entrepreneur, and strategic partner. 

If you are struggling with negative self-talk, ask the people close to you to bring it to your attention when they hear something negative. Then redirect the sentence immediately in a positive manner. Use these as an example…

“I suck as a business owner…” → “I’ve managed to never skip payroll ever and I’m working on creating something long-lasting.”

“I failed at x, y, z…” → “Now is not the right time for me to invest in x, y, and z; however, I am going to invest in a, b, and c. When the time comes, I’ll go back.”

“This person probably thinks I am the worst…” → “I know my worth and what I’m working on. I don’t need someone’s opinion to define who I am.”

Let me know what you think about this strategy or if you have any helpful strategies you’d be willing to share.

4. Not All Money Is Worth It

Like I said before, not all money is worth it. Business is not worth stealing your energy, joy, or sanity. Unfortunately, those shiny pennies are attractive. But for the sake of myself and my team, we made the decision that we need to be more attentive to the clients that we take on as well as the clients we don’t take on. 

This whole mentality also supports my belief that there is no competition. There will always be enough business to go around. 

For example, I’m working with several marketers in Houston as we collaborate and support each other. There is another content writer in the group, Lauren McDowell of Foreword. While that may seem like a clear conflict, we learned very quickly that we have the potential to be business besties. You see, she loves to work with institutions, franchises, and marketing teams; she also loathes working with entrepreneurs. Us on the other hand…We will work with entrepreneurs all day everyday. That’s what fuels us to be better writers and strategic partners to our clients. 

5. Document Everything (Including Your Job)

I’m a little morbid. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced life and joking about the hard stuff is what makes it easier to move forward. But ever since I experienced what happens to a company when the founder of the business died and didn’t have any documentation, I’m adamant that everything needs to be documented – even my own position as CEO. If something were to happen to me – get hit by a bus or win the $1.2B lottery (because we’re thinking positively) – I want to ensure the continuity of FocusCopy, my team, my clients, and the impact we’re making on women-owned businesses.

How do we do this?

  • If you’re doing a repetitive task at the moment, write out each step then and there. Have someone else test it so they can actually replicate it afterwards.
  • Record all team meetings and have someone on your team take notes while you’re educating. Continuing education is a big part of our culture at FocusCopy. At least twice a month, we host trainings on specific topics. Every single time, there is documentation that comes out of it – making it really easy to scale our processes.
  • Have someone follow you and take the notes for you. 
  • Ask…What else would a stranger need to know in order to run this business? Don’t assume anything. Even if it’s how you prefer to write your follow-up emails, schedule social media tasks, etc., document it.

6. Automate & Systemize Everything

For the first two years in business, we used the Hubspot Free CRM and Mailchimp. And while those softwares – the CRM and email service provider – were great and helped us build out our contact lists, my main focus over the last year was to simplify. Naturally, I overcomplicate everything. It’s how my brain is wired. If you give me a problem, I can think of 1,000 different ways to solve that problem. 

But burnout taught me that I needed to focus on simplification. 

P.S. It’s definitely a God thing that the word “focus” is in our company name. It’s constantly reminding me to focus on the things that move us forward and forget about the things that don’t bring value. 

Anyways, we ended up investing in Keap Pro to take our existing list, build email automations for every single process in our business, and get ready for us to build the education side of our business (by the way, that was one thing we had to pull back from in Year 3 – even though it killed me to do it). 

What are the results? We’ve built our database from about 300 active emails to almost 1,200 in about 8 months. We’ve also built automations for the following things:

  • Networking and following up with networking contacts
  • Long-term nurture campaigns
  • Contact information updates (tags, custom fields, etc.) to keep our data clean
  • Marketing and conversion funnels
  • Testimonials
  • Sales tasks
  • Sales pipeline management

And that’s just the start of it…

Again, ask yourself if something is repetitive, how can you automate or systematize it?

7. Build Your Email List

If you are relying solely on your social media for engaging your audience, you’re leaving BIG money on the table. Building your email list is more than increasing the number of contacts in your list. It’s also about increasing the value of the contacts in your list. 

Sustainable List Building

If you’re in a list-building sprint, here are some strategies that have helped us add 900 names in just 8 months. Keep in mind, these are contacts we want, not just emails for the sake of higher numbers.

Create lead magnets. If you want to check out some of the resources we’ve created, click here. Think of lead magnets like free resources that will leave your readers wanting more. Providing value free of charge helps build credibility and gives potential clients a glimpse into what it will be like working with you.

Create a subscribe list to send your email newsletters to (see below). P.S. If you want to subscribe to our list, click here. And remember that not all email newsletters are the same. When you add bits of useful information readers can implement into their own brand messaging, it’s amazing to see the click-through analytics afterward.

Link your calendar to your email list. Every single strategic partner I have a networking meeting with gets put into the email list. They then can opt-in to our email list. But I also send them into automations for specific events – following up for networking meetings, etc.

Strategic List Nurturing

If you’re in a list-nurturing sprint, here’s what we’ve done…

Launch a 52-week long term nurture campaign. Before you say that I’m crazy, listen. In sales, there’s going to be points where someone isn’t ready to buy. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to stay top of mind. I have several people that disengaged with our sales process in December 2021. While I would probably attest that because of my very transactional mindset at that time, they weren’t at the place where they were ready to invest in copywriting. And that’s okay. But I really wanted to work with them…Eventually. 

So with my team, we created 52 emails (we batched each quarter’s emails ahead of time so it wasn’t too overwhelming). After I created the campaign, I identified ~160 people that went cold or we’ve had a conversation before without any sales prospect. I didn’t see any results the first couple of weeks. Then someone I had last connected with in February 2020 (2 years prior) responded and wanted to create a massive marketing plan. A couple of weeks later, two people that had disengaged in December reengaged. 

These emails were high-value, educational emails. Often, I wouldn’t even include a sales call to action in them. Because if my recipients weren’t ready to work with us, I didn’t want to work with them.

Send regular newsletters. Whether you send weekly, bimonthly, or monthly newsletters, that regular engagement is a powerful tool to stay top of mind. In addition to the long term nurture campaigns, I would often receive follow-up emails from prospects, inactive clients, and strategic partners. 

Year 4, Here We Come!

From acknowledging my vulnerabilities to dialing in on my strategies, I know that I’ve put in the work for a successful fourth year of FocusCopy. We’re going to continue to do the leg work to be the go-to copywriting firm for the clients we want to work with. Because, like I mentioned above, working with the wrong clients or those that aren’t ready isn’t helpful to anyone.

Today, however, my team and I are going to clink glasses and celebrate how far we’ve come. Because in the midst of the chaos of being an entrepreneurial business owner, what’s the point if we’re not celebrating our milestones?

So here’s to your company and mine.

Together we can do great things, hold each other accountable, lift each other up, and be strategic partners who thrive knowing there’s always a shoulder to lean on.

Cheers to Year 4!

Want to talk copy shop? Get in touch with me here.

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Lessons We Learned In Our Second Year In Business

FocusCopy Turns 2 Years Old

FocusCopy turned 2 years old over the weekend (August 15, 2021)! 

I am immensely proud of what my team has accomplished, how our clients have grown their businesses, and that we’re still growing.. 

How We Got Here

When I think back to when we first started, it was a completely different story. 

At the time, I was 24 years old, stubborn to a fault, and relentless to make this company work. Businesses needed better copy. And I was the woman to do it! Back then, I was doing all the marketing, writing, documentation, sales, networking, operations, bookkeeping, and working out every little detail that would arise… But it didn’t matter at that point. I loved starting my own business!  

Of course, the pandemic struck only 6 months later. 

Thankfully, resilience and fresh eyes pushed through. 

Remarkably, we grew and hit our 1 year anniversary

Starting year 2 was a different beast. 

When we began our second year, the team included my co-founder Stuart Broderick, a part-time copywriter, and myself. But within a couple short months, we added 2 full-time copywriters to the team. We started working with 30-year-old, multigenerational companies. The most incredible people were coming out of the woodwork and trusting us with their copy. It was an exhilarating ride!

In the first 6 months of 2021, we quadrupled our revenue. 

And while this is a nice story to tell, I now know why one of my favorite mentors often said: 

“Let me teach you why you should never be an entrepreneur.”

6 Lessons We Learned In Our Second Year In Business

If year 1 was exhilarating, year 2 is exhausting. However, we expect year 3 to be electrifying. 

1. Entrepreneurship Is Exhausting.

As I write this blog, I feel this in my bones. 

Entrepreneurship is exhausting. 

There’s no sugar-coating it… It’s not for the faint of heart at all. 

Don’t misinterpret that though… 

Entrepreneurship is absolutely worth it because it has provided so much purpose in my life. 

So if you’re choosing to go down this path, anticipate the exhaustion and create space in your schedule so that you are not overwhelming yourself. Breaks are critical to the success of an entrepreneur. You need more of them than you think!

To give you an example, towards the beginning of year 2, I was working 7 days a week. 

It actually wasn’t until November 2020 (15 months into business) that I took my first weekend off. My husband and I actually ended up submitting and getting an offer accepted on our first home that very same weekend. 

My next break was in May 2021 where I took 2 business days and the weekend off. But guess what? The company didn’t crash and burn to the ground. Clients still got their deliverables and were more than satisfied with them. 

Breaks provide so much clarity and much needed rest. 

Preaching to the choir here… You need time to not think about your business. 

One of the counselors that we write for recommends taking a 1-2 day “vacation” each month. It doesn’t have to be grand or extravagant. But it has to be time well spent away from the business and unplugged from the world. This is one the most important lessons I’m taking with me into year 3. 

2. Surround Yourself With Supporters.

This lesson still applies from last year. As an entrepreneur, you need to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and people who want to see you succeed. Never before have I had so many people reach out to me… When I didn’t show up in July because we were so deep in client work… When I kept quieter than usual in virtual networking meetings… When they just had a feeling…

2021 has been rough for just about every person I’ve talked with this year. There have been multiple deaths, numerous hospitalizations, burnout beyond anything I’ve ever seen before, and of course, exhaustion – both emotionally, and physically. As a natural empath, my heart has been burdened. While it’s an honor to be that safe place people turn to for support, it’s been especially taxing lately. 

I’ve had to rely on my support system as I rely on the air in my lungs. 

So, more than ever, find people (whether they are entrepreneurs or not) that text and call you with messages of encouragement…

“God’s been placing you on my heart for some reason so I just wanted to say you’re in my prayers and I’m rooting for you sista!”

“Hey friend! Wanted to check in and see if everything is okay! You’ve seemed kinda quiet lately.”

“It’s okay to not to grow month over month. Sometimes, you need to stay the same as the previous month to catch your breath”. 

“I read this book and I think you’d find this really helpful with your growth.”

Find people that will lift you up when you need it, laugh with you about your mishaps, hold you when all you want to do is cry, and remind you that you, too, are human and have limits. 

You need support, friend. 

Emotional, physical, and spiritual support. 

3. If It Feels Off, Don’t Do It.

This. Trust your instinct! This goes with hiring, networking, clients, sales… Everything! 

It doesn’t have to make sense from an outside perspective, but it has to feel good. 

One thing we ask ourselves before engaging with anyone is “would we actually want to grab a cup of coffee and hang out with them?” 

So to my clients that are reading this… I absolutely want to hang out with you! I want to learn from you, hear your story, cheer you on, and be a shoulder when you need it. 

We use that question listed above because in our business, we see all angles of the business. It is not uncommon for clients or partners to find emotional support in our meetings because we believe in building meaningful relationships and creating a safe place for them. 

Can you imagine if we didn’t like who we were meeting with? Our response would feel awkward and inauthentic.

So lead with your gut in front. It won’t steer you wrong! 

4. Document, Document, Document.

This has become a huge part of our business this year. Documentation is HUGE in downloading the expert’s brain and replicating steps. This step is how you really scale a business. 

Plus a business is typically worth more if there is documentation compared to a company without any documentation. 

Start by looking at the most obvious tasks and goals in your business. For us, that included producing website copy and blog copy. Document each step. What do you need to do before you start working on that assignment? How do you complete the task? What happens after the task is completed? 

5. Trust Your Team & Let Go Of Control.

If you followed lesson #3 and lesson #4, then you have no excuse but to trust your team. You’ve done 90% of the hard work. Now, you have to sit back and see them flourish. 

This was a fun lesson for me to learn. It wasn’t until one of my team members told me, “Lauren, I can take this off your plate” that I remembered I hired them for a reason. They are more than capable. They are the people I trust to make it happen. 

Systems, processes, and quality checks make it so much easier to loosen your grip on the day to day operation. That also makes it so much easier to replicate your successes over and over again.  

6. Hire a Business Coach.

This was one of the riskiest but worthwhile decisions I’ve made so far. Truth was, I couldn’t rely on my memory of what my mentor told me before he died in 2017. I felt lonely. I wasn’t holding myself accountable. And my business was growing faster than I could keep up with it. 

So we set goals and I had my marching orders. 

And goals were not only met, but exceeded. 

If you need recommendations for business coaches, reach out to me. I’ve networked and worked with dozens and dozens of business coaches across the US. Here are some of my favorite people:

Year 3, Here We Come!

In my mentor’s words, let me show you why you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur so that you see the true value in entrepreneurship. It’s the most difficult job in the world, but it’s also the most rewarding job. At the end of year 2, FocusCopy is now supporting 5 families and has written for over 50 brands across the US and Canada. 

With our third year in front of us, I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead, helping even more businesses grow, and connecting with others who are on the same crazy path of entrepreneurship.

Lessons We Learned In Our First Year in Business

FocusCopy Turns 1 Years Old (6 Lessons We Learned In Our First Year in Business)

Over the weekend, FocusCopy celebrated its 1 year in business (August 15, 2020). 

And it’s been one heck of a year! 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 20% of entrepreneurs fail in their first year of business. If it’s a first-time entrepreneur or a woman-owned business, then the success rate dwindles even further. Additionally, COVID-19 has put many companies out of business (over 60,000).

Theoretically, it should have put us out too.

But with the odds stacked against us and with our incredible clients and partners, we’re standing here today – stronger than when we started and looking to grow further. 

If you’re a first-time business owner or a serial entrepreneur, don’t be bound by those statistics.

6 Lessons We Learned In Our First Year in Business

Here are a few lessons that we learned in our first year of business that are too good not to share with you. 

1. Surround Yourself With Other Entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial loneliness is a real thing, and I’m so thankful that I learned that lesson during my time in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. Very quickly after launching FocusCopy, I surrounded myself with clients and partners that were truly invested in my and FocusCopy’s success. It made all the difference in the world. 

When I had a question about anything, they had answers. 

They found opportunities for us that we didn’t know existed. 

When I needed emotional support, they encouraged me. 

They wanted to see me and FocusCopy grow and succeed. 

2. Celebrate Every Win.

At every milestone (even the most seemingly insignificant ones), we celebrated. Because I acknowledged and celebrated every “win”, I woke up more energized to surpass my client’s expectations. It made working 12-16 hour days a walk in the park. Celebrating every win allowed me to be grateful and sustain ourselves in this marathon that is being an entrepreneur. 

What were some of our wins? 

  • Signing the first client
  • Seeing that first check hit the bank account (even if it was only $50)
  • Closing our first out-of-state client
  • Having to order more business cards because I ran out of the first 1,000
  • Seeing one of clients have their 2 best months ever in business after their worst month ever due to COVID
  • Hiring our first employee

Find it. Mark it. Celebrate it. 

3. Say “Yes” Then Figure It Out Later.

From the very foundation, this was one of our company values, and it still rings true today. When a client asks for something, always always say “yes”. You never know what it’s going to lead to – a bigger deal, a lesson learned, a new business partnership. 

Create a willingness to just say “yes”. Yes, it will be scary. Yes, you may be in uncharted waters. 

But if you never say “yes”, then you’ll never know what could have been. 

4. Hire a Bookkeeper.

Thanks to one of my favorite “bosses” and mentors Jim Wilkinson, I learned the importance of accounting early on in my career. Our bookkeeper has been the biggest blessing to FocusCopy’s growth (and to my sanity). Find a bookkeeper – no matter what your size – they can help you keep your books clean, help you celebrate your growth, and find your opportunities to optimize your financials. 

If you aren’t an expert in a particular area, outsource it. Just like a bookkeeper isn’t an expert in copywriting, a copywriter doesn’t need to be an expert in or do their own bookkeeping. In the same way, a copywriter doesn’t need to be a graphic artist or vice versa.

5. Work With Clients Who Want To See You Succeed.

We have the best clients! I say it all the time. One thing that I didn’t expect starting my own business is that my clients would be as invested in my business as I was in theirs. 

Every meeting, my clients would ask (and want to know) how business was going. 

They would even refer business to us because they knew the value we bring and they wanted both their colleagues and us to succeed. 

To my clients, thank you for your unending support and love! It means the world to me and my team! 

6. Listen Closely.

Keep your ear to the ground and listen for what’s happening – in the world, with your clients, and with your client’s clients. 

A mentor once told me to look in the most unlikely places to find what you need to be a great entrepreneur. 

This advice is what I attribute our ability to pivot so quickly after the quarantine to hit. As a result, we were able to not only grow ourselves, but help clients come back from their worst month ever in business or come back from what should have looked like bankruptcy. Every single one of our clients are not only surviving, but truly thriving! 

It’s been an absolute blessing to be part of that. 

Year 2

We’re so excited for what the next year holds for FocusCopy. Plans are in place; now we need to execute them!


Be In The Know.

Starting August 24, 2020, FocusCopy will be sending out a bimonthly newsletter with what we’ve learned, what we’re seeing in the marketplace, and copywriting tips that will be a game changer for your sales growth.