I started my “real” business (i.e. growing my team) two years ago, and at that point, it was almost entirely about growth.

My profit margins were great (like 80 percent!), and it honestly felt like things could only go up, up, up from there. 

What I didn’t realize (and what no one talks about, honestly) is that business has BOTH…  seasons of growth + seasons to recalibrate. 

Those “rough” seasons are way less fun, and if you’re not prepared they can take you down. 

But! 

If you keep going, if you push through, if you hang in there… your next season of growth will be on its way (even though it really doesn’t feel like it). 

Consider the harder seasons of business to be a GIFT.

That’s what propels you forward! That’s where you fix the holes in your business + prepare for what’s next. 

(And honestly, talk about it with someone who’s on the other side! When you want to quit, seek out reasons not to.)

In this episode I’m getting really personal and talking about our latest “rough” season in business (+my upcoming “slow down” season in life!). 

Tune in for more about… 

  • The moment I realized I was building an unprofitable business (+what I did about it)
  • Why I dipped into our business savings to make payroll this year…
  • And how I’ve been transparent with my team through it all

If you’ve ever been curious about the behind-the-scenes of a “real” million-dollar business (or you’re feeling completely alone in your own hard season), this episode is for you. 

Tune in, and then send me a message on Instagram (@emilyhirsh) if you have a major takeaway! 

And, if you’re ready to work with Team Hirsh, head to HelpMyStrategy.com for a complete breakdown of what we offer!

Key Points: 

[4:22] Sometimes I want to go back to BEFORE I had $1M+ in expenses every year… 

[6:44] I realized… I was building an unprofitable business

[8:55] But business is about seasons, and you have to go through each one to get to the next

[10:25] You have growth seasons + seasons to recalibrate (consider these a GIFT!)

[12:51] Honestly, I wanted to quit – but I realized, this rough season is part of the deal

[15:37] I’m going into another season in life right now, too… i.e. “life with a newborn”

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Episode Transcripts:

I’m Emily Hirsh, and this is The Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Attention innovators, influencers, creators and game changing entrepreneurs, your internet domination begins right here. We are the powerhouse marketers that you’ve been looking for. You’re already making waves in your industry and we’re here to help amplify those waves of change by creating a connection that cuts through the noise. We take everything you’ve built inside your zone of genius and find its audience. With killer strategy and laser eye for impact, we launch multimillion dollar campaigns and skyrocket your reach online. And now, we are doing the unheard of. We’re unveiling everything we’ve learned, taking you behind the scenes with the Hirsh Marketing team and giving away the secrets to our clients’ success. Stay tuned for top converting strategy, ROI reports and insider knowledge that you won’t find anywhere else. You’re changing the world and we’re the team to help.

Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast if you are a regular listener. Welcome if you are new. I am excited for this one. Having an amazing month. I’m just super excited for the next year and everything and I’ve just had so much time and space to be very strategic with my thinking and just like white space to brainstorm. It’s been really nice. Every day I take about a 25 minute walk, and I almost never miss it, even when it’s, I don’t know, like it’s been like 28 degrees out and I still go and I’m like the crazy pregnant lady in the neighborhood who’s going on her walk in the morning and can’t miss it. I’m very much routine.

And so I go on this walk and I don’t bring my phone, I don’t bring anything and I just think. My brain… I don’t really even have an agenda obviously and I just think and I come up with such good ideas. Sometimes I need my phone just to write them down, but it just helps me process before the day starts and think about do I need to tell any team members anything? And this is a concept that I was really thinking through on a couple of walks because I’ve reflected a lot on this last year, which has felt like actually a rougher season in business for me, and so I was reflecting on how business is really about the seasons. And I like to share this type of knowledge with you guys because one, I don’t think very many people talk about it and it makes it so that you feel really alone as an entrepreneur because you’re like, “Why am I going through this and nobody else is? And maybe it’s my business or maybe it’s me.” And it’s just because people don’t talk about it.

But I’m fortunate enough to spend a lot of time around very successful entrepreneurs who have been around a lot longer than I have and who teach me that it’s all usually normal. And going in, I started my company just over four years ago, and I really had no real business experience going into it at all. I was 20, but I’ve always had little businesses before that, but they were never real, and I think that I really didn’t have a real business until like two years ago when I started growing my team. And that’s when things got real and it became what I call a real business. I often joke that my coach, Alex Charfen, helped me create a real business because before it I was just this like puzzle piece together, like contractors, crazy mess and I didn’t know what I was doing and then I really started getting serious about my team and my processes and my systems and things just exploded and really got a real structure.

And I can’t imagine going back to where I was, but of course, I had to go through that to get there, but what happened and I’ve shared in podcast episodes the journey from one to 3 million for me and how it was. There was different things that… Margins were a huge one. I had a huge learning curve because I thought couple of years ago like, “Oh, well, I have 50%, 60%, actually I think I had like 80% crazy because I didn’t have a team. So it was like all me margins and so it’ll always be like that. I’ll always have this cash and I’ll always have this success. I’m like, “it’s only up from here,” is what I used to think and that’s just not the reality of business.

And one thing that I learned this year is that there is the seasons and sometimes a season could be a whole year. For me it was really the second half of 2019 where I’m still reflecting on it all, and I guess starting in October, it really started. So maybe it was the first, the middle two quarters of the year, where it just felt tough. It was like one fire after another, it was like we just had so much happening and we had team member issues, we had margin issue, just things that felt really hard, and days that I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” And it gets… I have massive expense because I have a big team and so I never would have thought four years ago that I would be sitting here today with the liability of $1 million plus a year of expenses.

And sometimes there are moments where that is scary or I don’t want that anymore and I just want to go back to not having that. And I learned this, that there are seasons in business. So there’s… And if you don’t, every business has this. You could argue with me and I will bet you if you get into the thick of it and the deep of it, every business has this. So if you are going through this, if you do go through this, my goal in this episode right now is to be transparent and we’re thankfully on the other side of a rough season, but it was rough and I felt alone at times of like, “Man,” because who doesn’t want to be either growing or in momentum or just going up and you have to shift?

And so every business has either a season where they are in massive growth, things are exploding and growing and then that cannot last forever 100% of the time because it would be impossible. You have to shift and so you have seasons of that growth and then you have seasons where you have to pull back and look at things like your margins and your expenses and tighten things up so you can grow again. And that’s basically what we went through and it was actually a really positive thing because I had to adjust a few things. I had to adjust. Like at the beginning of the year, I realized I had built so much service around our clients that I was building basically an unprofitable business because I had so much expense on in a client account and I didn’t raise my rates that whole year.

So in early 2019, we raised our rates and that helped that issue, and then we had a whole thing that happened from that because it was like we changed the clients that we were working with and then we had to fix all our processes and our systems and catch up with that. And it just felt like a year of low margins and I had to look at all expenses, but here’s the thing. When things are going really well and you’re so busy with the growth, you kind of ignore all the expenses. You don’t really look at like I have so many softwares and automatic charges and just even team that they don’t report to me. So I don’t know what they do every day, and so you ignore that. And then when you get into that season where you’re like, “We got to tighten up some things and look at everything,” then you do.

And then if you didn’t do that and you just kept growing, you would have so much waste, if that makes sense. And so I’ve been reflecting on the fact that your business and honestly, life, it’s like constant seasons and you’re just like in different seasons. Like you have a baby and you’re in this season of life where you have to take care of that baby and your life is different and then you will get your routine back. And same with business. So you’re either in this fast growth phase or you’re probably in the tighten up, buckle up, get the foundation fixed so we can keep growing. And I know very successful, very successful, more than me, million, million dollar businesses, who go through this at the next level and they have even more liability and they have even more expense and just, it’s more scary, but they’ve built themselves to that level to where they can handle it.

So I believe that you have to go through those seasons that are rougher and that really test you and make you question, should I do this? Do I want to keep on doing this? Or I wish I could go back. And you’d never would. That’s just a fantasy for me to say that I would quit because I can’t. I don’t know any other way but to do this. But you go through that to build up your tolerance to then get to the next level. That is what I have discovered and I believe a lot of 2019 for me was like I had insane growth. In 2017, 2018, everything was fun, not fun, I was overwhelmed at times when I didn’t have a team, but everything felt like growing was easy.

It was like blowing up. I didn’t ever have an issue with income or expenses. I had amazing margins. Then I had to create a real business and just adjust from doing that the year before and then I could keep growing. And so two and a half years ago, if you would’ve asked me like, did I think I would go through that? I would’ve said no. I don’t know why, but in my head, it was like, “Well, once you’ve made it and you had a successful business and something you’re selling that people wanted and a brand, you’re just going to go up forever.” And that’s not true. There is the seasons and the ups and the downs in business for every single company successful or not, and it’s super important that when you’re in one of those rough seasons, you actually look at it as a gift.

And so what I did during this time, I had to have tough meetings with our team where it was like, either the numbers don’t look good or we have to make this really hard decision. And every time I went into those meetings, I would never go in and be like, “This is terrible and I want to quit,” to my team ever because that is not how I lead, but I would go in and say, “This is actually good. This is okay you guys because here’s what we’re going to do.” And this is forcing us to look at this. It’s forcing us to make these decisions that we would have had to make at some point, allowing us to prepare for the next phase of massive growth, the next season of business. And it’s easier for me to talk about this now because we are in that phase.

Really like October, but November especially, we made a huge comeback with everything in just our team and the foundation and everything, and it feels really exciting. And I definitely would rather be here than the other seasons, but that’s not reality. You’re not going to be always in a fun, good place, and so the goal is that you can handle it, that it doesn’t impact your entire health and your family and everything when that happens, and also having savings and backup. Being transparent, there was a couple of times in payroll I took out from our savings, from my business savings. If I didn’t have that business savings earlier this year, I would have been in trouble. And so it’s like now rebuilding that foundation, rebuilding that up and people who’ve have that are the ones who have the sustainable businesses that make it through recessions or the economy crashing, or like just their business going down into a rougher season.

And that is all what you do. You prepare for that and you build that solid foundation so that when you’re in a rougher season, you can handle it and you have that sustainable business. And so I wanted to do this episode, not because it’s fun for me to say like, “Oh, 2019 wasn’t the best year.” I’m used to the one being like, “We’re blowing up, we’re growing.” We’re at 3 million and my goal was to be at a 5 million run rate this year, and we didn’t hit that because we didn’t have the foundation and the processes set up to be able to do it, to be honest with you. Now we do and I’m pretty confident we’ll be at 5 million plus in 2020. I could have quit during this. There’s times where I was like, “I don’t want to even have an agency anymore.” There was days.

We all have those days in business and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’re going to have those days. But if you’re the person who can push through that and accept that it’s just a tougher season, then you’ll be able to get to the next level and have those celebrations. And we signed up for this as entrepreneurs, but what I want you to realize is that it’s normal if you’re going through this. And instead of just being like, “Man, everything sucks,” or, “I suck,” or, “This is not great,” instead, what I recommend is you look at it as that gift, is like this is part of the path, this is part of the journey. I’m in this and so I’m going to do everything I can to not only get out of it, but to get myself into a better place so that when we’re in the new season, in the new stage of growth, we’ve tightened up, we’ve looked at everything, we’ve fixed our foundation, our processes, our team, all of it, so that we can actually grow.

And if you don’t do that, then you get stuck in a season. And so I just kept on telling my team this is a gift. We get to look at these things. Yes, we have to make hard decisions. This is the reality of business. And I was always very transparent with the team. We share gross in net profit with our team every month and so they can see the good months and the bad months. And I think that’s crucial because I want them to see both. I want them to see that as the CEO, I have a very successful company and there are months when the net profit is insane and it’s how much I used to make in a year, but then I have months where I’m taking the liability of having to pull from savings to be able to pay payroll, and that’s what I signed up for.

And I want the team to see that because you will get a different level of respect as the CEO if they do, but also they will feel that transparency, they will actually feel safer in the company because if you try to hide it and you’re like, “Everything’s fine, everything’s fine.” And they’re like, “No, we know it’s not,” then they won’t trust it. And I learned that from Alex Charfen honestly. He actually teaches sharing the gross and the net profit, and I’ll never go back to… We did that for years, but it was actually especially important in the months that weren’t amazing and the numbers weren’t amazing for them to actually see it and have their respect of like, “Oh, wow.” This is actually the reality of business because there’s just so many people out there who don’t talk about that.

And so I wanted you guys to understand or I want to just bring this up because I was thinking about it on my walk. I was thinking about how everything in life and business is a season. I’m about to go into a very different season when you have a newborn. It’s a very hard, hard season. I’m not really looking forward to it if I’m being transparent because I know what’s coming because I have two kids, but you go through that for the long game. You go through that because you’re bringing a child into the world and as a mom and breastfeeding, you have to do it in a way that maybe isn’t the most fun way ever, to put it lightly, but it’s a season.

And you just have to remind yourself like, “I’m in a season, this will not last forever. This is actually short term compared to the entire span of my life and I will be out of this.” And same with business. If things feel hard or stressful or scary, you’re in a season. You can get out of this. You just have to be able to see it and have the perspective of like, “I may not be able to get out of this by tomorrow or even next month. It’s a long game. Like everything that’s worth it, it’s a long game, but I will get out of this and I will improve this.”

So I hope this inspired you guys a little bit. Send me a message on Instagram, @emilyhirsh, if it did. Share this episode. I always feel like everyone… I really try to share the behind the scenes with you guys because I just don’t think enough people are talking about it and I’m learning as I go to. I’m only, I turned 25 in October and I haven’t built a business as big before. So it’s lots of new experiences that I think are not talked about publicly enough, and so my goal is to, of course, share marketing strategies and behind the scenes tips with you guys, but also share about business building because we’re all in this together. We all go through similar struggles, but for some reason, don’t share them with each other. So let me know, send me a message or tag me or even comment on the actual episode page if you like this and I will see you all next time.

Thanks for listening to the Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Go behind the scenes of multimillion dollar ad campaigns and strategies, dive deep into the Hirsh process and listen to our most popular episodes over at hirshmarketingunderground.com. If you loved this episode of the podcast, do me a favor and head over to iTunes to subscribe and leave a review so we can reach more people and change more lives with this content. That’s all for now, and I’ll catch you next time.