Episode 263

Simplifying Your Business Model with Tara McMullin

July 20, 2021

Running a business that generates revenue for years to come requires a strong yet simple business model. When a creative business has too many offers in place or cannot operate effectively, valuable time and resources get wasted. In this episode, businesses strategist Tara McMullin shares her expert process of how to simplify your business—and how doing so can make you more profitable. Tara and Emily discuss why your main offer matters most, the art of maintaining your vision, and how to streamline your business in ways that set you up for long-term success.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Creating a simple business model is not about playing small. It’s about exponentially increasing your revenue potential, not diminishing it."
- Tara

Discussed in this Episode

  • Defining your business model: the importance of keeping it simple
  • How to price and deliver your offers
  • When to define your business model— and how to come up with it
  • Reaching revenue goals by offering your primary expert service
  • How thinking about the future of your business can help you set a more stable and sustainable business model
  • The difference between vision and goals, and how to simplify your business for growth
  • Why simplifying your business model matters


More from Tara McMullin

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson: [00:00:00] For a lot of creatives, especially your business is your playground. You try out this tactic, that platform, that offering, until one day you look up and your business is an unwieldy beast that's costing you too much money and grief. And the unfortunate part is that you don't even realize that its complexity is the problem.

[00:00:31] You think you need more clients, a different marketing strategy, a new team member only to make your business bigger and more complex. More is not the answer. Welcome to Being Boss, a podcast for creatives, business owners and entrepreneurs who want to take control of their work and live life on their own terms.

[00:00:47] I'm your host, Emily Thompson. And the answer is less. It's simpler. Fewer offerings, fewer marketing tactics, fewer systems required to make it do. Which is a topic we've been leading up to as this is a follow-up to some recent episodes on getting narrow, including episode number two fifty, being a multi-passionate creative entrepreneurial with D'Ana Joi Spencer and Dana Kaye and episode number fifty-six.

[00:01:12] How to improve focused as a multi-passionate creative. But for your business, your business model, like everything, building a simple business as a process because as you start and grow and try things out and have ideas, your business will consistently get more complex, meaning your mint to consistently work to weed out the fluff to keep it simple.

[00:01:36] To discuss all of this today, I invited my longtime pal, a business bestie even and frequent being boss, guest, Tara McMullin, to come chat with me about simplifying your business model. Tara is a coach community builder, podcaster, and a writer. She's the founder of What Works, a digital platform for small business owners who are building strong, resilient, and sustainable companies.

[00:01:58] And she's also the co-founder of Yellow House Media, a podcast production agency that helps entrepreneurs create stand out podcasts that grow their businesses.

[00:02:11] As the podcast industry rapidly grows, you're likely looking to really lock in on the best podcast for you. Value pack shows and episodes that bill your brain with the must know tips and tactics for growing your business along with a big dose of motivation. If that's the case, check out the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals, seeking the best education and inspiration on how  to grow a business with a wide array of industry experts that act as on-demand mentors, to entrepreneurs, startups, and scallops through practical tips and inspirational stories.

[00:02:51] Listen, learn, and grow with the HubSpot podcast network at hubspot.com/podcastnetwork.

Tara McMullin: [00:03:02] Oh yeah. And by the way, if you need to shut me up while I'm talking about this topic. Well, let me move on. Tell me to move on. Like that is totally fine. I could talk about this particular subject for at least eight hours, so 

Emily Thompson: [00:03:17] Perfect. Perfect. 

Tara McMullin: [00:03:19] This is like my wheelhouse. 

Emily Thompson: [00:03:21] Okay. I love hearing that. I'm glad that I had this idea and I was like, Tara, obviously it's going to come talk to me about this.

[00:03:27] Because this is a thing. So actually, Corey, feel free to put all of that in there. And Tara, welcome back to Being Boss. I am so glad to have you here. 

Tara McMullin: [00:03:39] I am so glad to be talking with you, Emily. I'm really excited about this topic. 

Emily Thompson: [00:03:44] Apparently eight hours.

[00:03:48] Well, I wanted to talk about this topic. In general, but definitely with you, because now that we are coming out of, you know, pandemic necessity of like, just do what you gotta [00:04:00] do. But a lot of people like dove into some different things in their businesses. They wanted to try that course they had never done before they pivoted their offerings, whatever, and, you know, Whether it's post pandemic, you're listening to this five years later, in which case remember that time?

Tara McMullin: [00:04:17] Oh God, it might be worse out there. 

Emily Thompson: [00:04:19] Oh, that he might be looking back hardly. Remember the whole 

Tara McMullin: [00:04:25] time when all we had to worry about was COVID. Oh my God. Sorry. I know it was dark. I 

Emily Thompson: [00:04:31] want to paint that picture. 

Tara McMullin: [00:04:33] I know, cut that out.

Emily Thompson: [00:04:38] But regardless as creatives, especially or as just business people with lots of ideas, we have this tendency to create really convoluted businesses at some point, right? Like we just, we decided to add on this thing or do this thing or work with this kind of client or whatever it might be. But I am of the belief.

[00:04:59] And I think that you share this as well. That is simple businesses. A better business. 

Tara McMullin: [00:05:03] Oh yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes.  We did a whole month on simplifying and specifically simplifying business models,  back in April and, it is, it was, you know, I knew that the topic was an important one. It's one that I really enjoy, but I was kind of floored by how much it resonated with people and how much they could, you know, really see themselves in those convoluted complicated.

[00:05:33] Overwhelming business models. And I think it's important to realize, or to, to kind of call out and acknowledge that the reason we end up in these convoluted business models, it's not because we're bad business people. It's not because we don't know what we're doing. It is simply because we live in a world where more is better.

[00:05:54] And we tend to believe that the more offers we make, the more money we make, the more customers we have, the more money we make, the more team members we have, the more money we make, the more social media platforms we're on, the more money we make. But over and over and over again, I see with our members, with people I talk to on what works in my own business.

[00:06:18] I'm annoying own life, that less leads to more money. So fewer offers fewer social media platforms,  fewer messages. Often fewer customers believe it or not.  And you know, fewer lines of business, all of those things add up to a business that is actually easier to run and more profitable. And it's because I want to also make the point that simplifying a business model or creating a simple business.

[00:06:53] It's not about playing small. If you want a very small business, that's totally [00:07:00] fine. But simplifying a business model is actually about exponentially increasing your revenue potential, not diminishing it. 

Emily Thompson: [00:07:11] And done. That's the end of this episode, everybody.

[00:07:18] That's all you need to know right there. You need to know. No, that is great. And you are totally spot on in all the ways. Let's go back to, let's go back to like those early phases of creating a business model then. And so business model being what it is that you offer, who it is that you serve, the operations that make it all work.

[00:07:38] Um, the team that's going to help, you know, make this happen. I think the people who are listening to this, right, a lot of us just kind of fumble into stumble into entrepreneurship and having a business. But I believe there comes a point when you needed to start defining your business model when you need to get very clear and [00:08:00] become very aware of the thing that you're building.

[00:08:03] And I'm wondering from you at what point in your business journey do you think that needs to happen first? 

Tara McMullin: [00:08:12] This is a great question. And it's one of, I think the answer to this question is sort of that old cliche of like the best time to do it was when you first started, but the second best time to do it is right now.

Emily Thompson: [00:08:29] Yeah. 

Tara McMullin: [00:08:31] Simply put the sort of technical definition of a business model is how you create value, deliver value and exchange value. So in other words, that's the products or offers or services that you create, how you deliver them to your customers, how. And offers then create results for your customers and then how you get paid for that.

[00:08:54] The, the exchange value can be a tricky one, but basically when we're creating value and delivering it, we are, that is our side of the exchange. And then the other side of the exchange of course, is getting paid for it.  And that sounds really convoluted itself. I think it's really easy to get caught up in.

[00:09:12] Well, how do I define this system? Right? And I don't think that just starting out or even if you're just starting to think about like, what is my business model? I don't think it's helpful to think about the system of it all. What I think is most helpful is clearly defining, like you said, who you serve, how you serve them, the container in which you serve them.

[00:09:40] So that's, whatever the offer is, however you're delivering results. And, what the price tag is on that, using that as sort of the foundation for thinking about everything else that's happening in your business?  I was listening to a conversation between as recline and the fantasy author and [00:10:00] Kay Jamison this morning, and they were talking about world building.

[00:10:03] And so like world building in sort of like the Tolken CS Lewis,  star wars, star Trek kind of way where you're seeing this world that looks very much like our world, you know, the laws of physics operated largely the same way. And there are some key differences that make it a little bit different than our own.

[00:10:26] And I think that when we are talking about figuring out what our business model is, It's less like figuring out that system of creating, delivering, and exchanging value and more like world building. It's figuring out this setting and time and culture and structure that we want to inhabit as the main characters or the guides in, depending on how you want to think about it in our sort of business stories, right?

[00:10:57] If we're the antogonist, or not the antagonist, the protagonist in our business story. Like this is the world in which we're inhabiting, that's the business.  And so, you know, understanding how you are serving your client or customer is sort of the foundation of that world. Everything hinges on the customer that you've chosen, what they need and how you can meet that need from there.

[00:11:28] Then we can start to say, all right, how do I want to structure? The way I deliver this, how do I want to price that? What kind of operations needs to run on top of that? And this is where we start to see why simple ends up being better. Because if you have 10 different worlds that you're trying to build, things get real complicated, real fast, or if, or even if you have three, let's say you have three.

[00:12:00] [00:12:00] Quote unquote, streams of revenue or lines of business, even managing those three streams of revenue. Those three worlds that you're building is an immense challenge.  I know I'm, I'm totally, totally getting off track here, but I was fascinated by this conversation this morning and the metaphor behind it.

[00:12:22] And so to get back to your question of like, when do we need to start to define this thing to me, defining your business model is defining the business. And so we can't really separate it from starting the business or growing the business. It is that process where I think we go wrong is that we start to kind of piece together, all these different things in order to either make a little more money or hit a particular revenue targets.

[00:12:58] And what I really encourage people to do instead, as they get intentional about when their, what their business model is, whether that's at the beginning or it's three years down the line, five years down the line, 10 or 15 years down the line is to say, okay, this is what I offer. This is the container for it.

[00:13:18] This is who's going to buy it. This is what the price tag is. How many of these do I need to sell to make my revenue goal. Forget multiple streams of revenue, at least for a moment. And focus on that one thing that your business does best in the container that you are creating for it and figure out how you hit your goal with just that one thing. Instead of piecing things together, instead of making it more complicated, instead of figuring out how you're going to offer all these different things, manage these different things.

[00:13:54] Can you build a world in which you only offer one clear thing, a product, a service, a program, an event, whatever it might be. Now that might not be where your business stops. There's nothing wrong with having multiple streams of revenue, but I think more business owners than not need to make sure their business works with just one

[00:14:22] offer. And when you force yourself into figuring out that world, in which you only offer one thing, it changes how you approach every other component of your business. So if you only have one offer and you only have a capacity for a certain number of people, That changes the price tag, right? You can only,  you can only hit that revenue goal.

[00:14:45] If you're able to charge a certain amount for that offer, that's going to change who your customer is. It's going to change how you approach operations. If on the other hand, you're like, no, I want to serve as many people as possible. And that means I'm going to charge this [00:15:00] to hit this number. Then that's going to affect how you build your team.

[00:15:03] It's going to affect,  the technology that you use. Right? And so those sort of fundamental decisions of what is this one thing that I'm going to offer? How am I going to structure it and what am I going to charge for it ripple out throughout the whole rest of the business. And that, I mean, it's really, like I said, it's the foundation of business building period.

Emily Thompson: [00:15:29] Yes. 

[00:15:32] I, it was like 18 points that I want to go back to as you were, because yes to all of those things. Yes to every single, I feel like you also just answered every other question that I have for this episode. This is really might be it. We will definitely expand on many, many more parts of that. I want to go back to a couple of things.

[00:15:51] One of which being the sort of act of taking the pause to define and yes, completely, right? Yeah. You should have done that when you started now at the latest, but I think really it comes at the point. I think it, it naturally comes up in your mind as something you should be doing. Usually at one of two places, they're usually the same.

[00:16:19] Are they usually happen at the same time. And that is when you start making money, like when the thing starts working. Right.  And, or, but usually, and you're overwhelmed, right? Like the thing has grown into such a thing that you almost don't have the capacity to deal with all the things that are happening.

[00:16:39] Like those two moments are the moments when you need to get really narrow, like what is making you money? What is the thing that you have done in your business? That has legs, right? That is like moving you forward in terms of revenue. And how do you make that the focus, which I want to get to in a second, get back to in a second.

[00:16:57] And then also if you're overwhelmed, it's because your business isn't, or one of the reasons, one of the many reasons is because your business isn't simple enough, there are too many things, too many balls in the air for you to, for you to be able to handle it. And if you can't handle it, handing it off, isn't going to be, isn't going to really ease the overwhelm either.

[00:17:23] So those two points are like very practical points. If you're making money time to simplify the time to at least define the business model and keep it simple and two, if your overwhelmed, know what's making you overwhelmed. Defining your business model gives you some awareness around what is happening in your business.

[00:17:41] So you can see where the overwhelm is coming from and remedying it so that you can move forward. Yeah, 

Tara McMullin: [00:17:46] I call that point the squeeze. And it's the point where,  a business owner is like, all right, I'm doing these things. I'm making a certain amount of money. Maybe it's the amount of money I want to be making.

[00:17:59] Maybe it's almost the amount of money I want to be making. Maybe it's a little bit more and I'm really excited about it. And now I want to make more than that. And what happens is that we take whatever those set of things are that's working or that we're doing. And we try to essentially rearrange them to all fit into the same capacity that we had before.

[00:18:23] And so we, that's why it feels squeezed. Right. Cause we're working with the same amount of stuff, the same systems, the same amount of time, the same kinds of customers, the same kinds of offers, but we've rearranged it to try and squeeze out a little bit more revenue instead of looking at it and saying, okay, how do I do this?

[00:18:47] How do I actually create capacity? How do I create space in this? I don't want, just want to squeeze more into it. I don't want to squeeze myself. I don't want to squeeze our business [00:19:00] operations. I don't want to squeeze my customers. How do I create spaciousness? And the only way to create spaciousness is instead of moving around those puzzle pieces.

[00:19:09] It's to take puzzle pieces away and get down to that one puzzle piece or one building block or one, you know what, choose your metaphor. That's going to create the capacity you need in order to hit the revenue goal that you want to hit in a way that allows you to do it without burning out. 

Emily Thompson: [00:19:32] Yeah. You what is sounds like? Being the boss of your business.

Tara McMullin: [00:19:37] Yes. 

Emily Thompson: [00:19:39] Right. There comes a point when you are building a thing, when you're starting and, or building a thing where the thing, your business, it becomes a life force of its own. Right. And can become very unwieldy. It can totally get out of hand all of these things, but these moments of defining or simplifying or whatever.

[00:19:59] Cause I feel like we're sort of bringing the two together in one thing now is you re wrangling what is happening and defining for yourself and your customers and your team and your operations, all of those things. Like here's what we've been doing, but here's how we're going to transition sort of weed out, whatever, and get into the thing that we are going to be doing.

[00:20:23] And I, I do want to point out here that neither of us are saying that that messy part of the journey is a bad thing by any means it's natural. It happens, it happens every single one of us, but your role as the business owner, Is to consistently re wrangle, right? What your business becomes into the thing that you want it to be.

[00:20:45] Although often I see bosses or business owners or whatever, you know, get to this place where like, I, I can see the look on their face. Like there's this look that a business owner gets when their business gets to a place where it's gotten out of hand. And the only solution is be the boss of it. Like, sit it down.

[00:21:05] Tell it what's going to happen, ask it what's wrong. Like find out what's working, what's working great for you, what's not. And then, and then get in there with what it is that you most want to be doing, where you can make the most impact and focus on those things. I also love what you said earlier. Well, this whole thing about doing one thing.

[00:21:26] I also see this and again, many stages of business owner from, you know, very early bosses. I know bosses who are a decade plus into their business. We all fall into this at some point where we want to try the new thing. There's a new tactic, new social media platform, a new hire that looks interesting.

[00:21:43] Like whatever it may be. But oftentimes you forget that the core has to be perfect and not really perfect because it's never really going to be perfect, but you really have to do what you do great. As great as you possibly can before you begin expanding out. A lot of times people think that trying a new marketing tactic,  making that new hire, creating that new course new offering is going to fix what is broken in the business, but what's broken in the business

[00:22:17] is that core offering and no course, no marketing tactic, no new hire is going to fix the thing that is broken. Fix what is broken in your business? If your process is messed up, if yet that team member is not operating optimally, whatever, fix that before you try anything else, because nothing else is going to fix something that's broken. 

Tara McMullin: [00:22:40] Yeah. The other sort of, yes to all of that. And I think the other sort of mistake or misstep that I see at this point in time where people are squeezed, they know they need to recalibrate, they need to re-investigate what their business model actually [00:23:00] is, is that we don't look far out in the future.

[00:23:03] Enough. And that completely ties into, you know, the like, hold, this is the hot new product type that everybody is trying to sell, or this is the hot new marketing platform that everybody is on or whatever it might be.  We don't like to look too far out into the future cause we're like, oh, the market's changing all the time or they're so, you know, new options are coming out every day.

[00:23:24] Who cares, who cares? There are businesses that are operating in virtually the same way today that they were 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago. You don't need the new stuff. If you create a plan that is stable for the longterm. So, so often people are like, okay, you know, you said about constantly recalibrate and constantly reigning in,  that complication.

[00:23:55] And I completely agree. It's where I. Everyone start always when I'm working with them, it's like, tell me, how do you make money? What does this business model look like? When was the last time you actually looked at it? And the answer is 9 times out of 10, never, but I digress. What happens is that then when they think about all right, this is what I want my business model to be.

[00:24:18] They're like, this is what I want my business model to be this year, or this is the business model I'm working toward for next year. And I'm like, cool. What is your business model going to look like five years from now or 10 years from now? And then what is the work that you're going to do to put in, put what you need in place to make that happen?

[00:24:41] We need to stop building our businesses three months at a time, six months at a time, 12 months at a time and start building our businesses like they're going to be around for a while. To me, that's like, the heart and soul of what actually getting intentional about having a business model and specifically a simple business model is all about it's about assuming that your business is going to be around for awhile and doing the work that it needs to support that longevity. 

Emily Thompson: [00:25:10] I feel like you just touched on one of the biggest blocks for creatives, especially creating a sustainable long-term business model. Is this lack, not even lack of the ability, cause I think you can do it. It's like there's this block of viewing yourself in this business in five years.

[00:25:33] And like, I struggled with this very much so for the first couple of years in my business, but whenever I started to see. I can do this. Right? I am doing this. People care, the things that I'm doing, like have legs, they have one, can I just name this episode? How to give your business legs? Sure. It is not very good for SEO.

[00:25:56] I have like some more long-term some longevity out of this one. Once you start proving to yourself that you have the ability to do this. You have to start thinking about your business in this longer term, in these longer term windows of time, because your mindset absolutely changes when you're thinking even three years from now, but especially 10 years from now.

[00:26:25] And it can be difficult, but it is a practice. So if you're one of those people who's listening to this thinking, I'd never think 10 years from now, then try to try three, see if you can make it up to five and try it over and over again, because over the next months years you'll find yourself much more easily able to tap into what that vision is and tap into the mindset shift that happens when you start thinking about your business with that kind of longevity,  it is a magical shift in how it is that you do business and absolutely imperative if you plan on doing this thing for more than the next three months. 

Tara McMullin: [00:27:04] Yeah. And I like to think about this too, is not necessarily putting your flag in the ground and saying, that's what I'm going to have in 10 years, but instead orienting yourself and your business in that direction. 

Emily Thompson: [00:27:19] Yeah. 

[00:27:19] And so what's great about that is that let's say you are looking 10 years out and you're literally asking the question, what could this business grow into in 10 years?

Tara McMullin: [00:27:33] What, what could that possibly look like? And then backing up and saying, okay, well, what are some of the things that I would need to adjust now, operationally, financially,  team-wise offer wise, customer wise to start moving in that general direction. And even if you say five years from now, or three years from now, you know what I've learned, some new things, and I actually want to go in

[00:28:00] this direction now I'm moving my body in different directions. I know this is a podcast and no one can see it, but that's just, that's how I am.  What if I move my business in this direction you have, are you have built more, for a foundation and a more stable foundation because you took that long-term view, but hold it loosely used it as an, as a spot to orient to, as opposed to a destination.

[00:28:26] Then you would have, if you adjust look 12 months out and be like, oh, I guess I'll try this this year.

Emily Thompson: [00:28:32] Yeah. And I think a key component of this too, is doing that with the, through the lens of the one thing. Right. I think it can be very easy. I definitely talk to many bosses who are like, you know, in 10 years I want to have a TV show and written 18 books.

[00:28:48] And I want to, you know, be on the speaking circuit, like doing all these things and that's wonderful, but you just did the exact opposite of what we're doing then is like keeping it simple, right? Like first do it through the lens of okay. If I want to be, if I want to be a painter and make art and sure,

[00:29:08] you may end up speaking. You may end up, you know, during shows, like whatever else for sure. But through the lens of your art, what does this look like in 10 years and orient yourself that way. And leave yourself open to the opportunities. Cause I think that's like, that's one of the reasons why business owners or entrepreneurs especially really struggle with this.

[00:29:30] Like claiming that 10 year vision is like, I don't know what's going to come up. I don't know what opportunities are going to come to me. Like how could I even know where I'm going to be in, you know, six months, let alone four years, whatever it may be. And I totally get it. Totally get it. But what Tara just said, totally like curious that for you.

[00:29:48] Is that it's not, you're not carving this in a rock, right. Is simply giving you the direction to go in and will keep you focused on making the thing that you're doing really great. So that the foundation is so solid. If and when opportunities arrive or arise or, you know, pivots become available or whatever it may be, you were that much more prepared for it.

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Tara McMullin: [00:31:37] Yeah. A vision is a filter. It's not a goal. So the vision gives you. The sort of criteria that you use to identify whether that shiny new thing is actually a shiny new thing you want to have or make use of, or if that shiny new thing, it's just a shiny thing that you need to like, ignore. And that doesn't mean too that sometimes we don't say no, actually that shiny new thing made me realize something new about what I want.

[00:32:09] And that means that it's time to throw out this filter and make a new one. That's totally fine too. But I think thinking about what you are building five years or 10 years down the line is an excellent filter to have for so many of the things that cause us decision anxiety, right. And analysis paralysis.

[00:32:29] Right. If you know what your vision is, if you know where you're headed, you can filter those things out or in and take what you need and leave the rest behind. 

Emily Thompson: [00:32:40] Yes. As you were saying that, I think that, I think that this vision is perfect for filtering things out. Like take any idea you have in your business.

[00:32:48] Right. So let's say you do want to create a course. Everyone always wants to create a course. Let's say that that course is the thing that you are going to agree that 10-year vision around. Do you want to be managing a course for the next 10 years? Do you want to iterate a course every six months for the next 10 years and manage thousands of students who all lost their passwords all on the same day.

[00:33:15] Right? When you think about that, or like, let's say you want to be great at clubhouse. Like I totally get, and I'm not talking about the being boss clubhouse. That's a whole thing we get, not that well, how's the app, the clubhouse, the app, let's say you want to be critical, like in 10 years, do you want to be the person that's still left on clubhouse when there are 14 people on the platform still cause, or it's just dead and you put all of your time and money and energy into being great at clubhouse, like is that your 10 year vision is to be a clubhouse star.

[00:33:47] And if not, let's get back to the core of what it is that you are doing and be great at it. I think that using your vision as, as a way to filter out all of the shiny objects is a great little tactic as well. 

Tara McMullin: [00:34:01] Yeah. Can we talk about the greatness piece for a second? Because I think this is a stumbling block for people as well, because when we simplify our business models, we are essentially saying I'm going to be great at this thing.

Emily Thompson: [00:34:17] I don't like to do that. 

Tara McMullin: [00:34:19] We don't like to do that. We. I shouldn't say all of us, there are some people who that really is what they love and I can straddle that group for sure.  But spreading out your risks and your opportunity. Feels, or has that perception of being more stable, being mediocre across a wide variety of things has a perception of being more stable.

[00:34:50] And there is some truth to that. Right? However, the. The real long lasting stability comes from being willing to be great at something to be remarkable at something to go all in on something. And that's scary for a lot of us. I think, you know, it sounds good. And we can say, yeah, yeah. That's, that's what I was.

[00:35:20] And then when it comes to actually what that looks like in a business model, in a marketing strategy,  in positioning, we get cold feet or a lot of us get cold feet and I get it. Like I totally get it, but we have to be willing to, or we have to do the work to find the willingness to step up to that and say, yeah, this, this offer is great.

[00:35:50] I am great at delivering it. Or this company is going to be great at delivering it. And this, this is where we're putting our, our line in the sand. 

Emily Thompson: [00:36:03] I think he just spoke to a piece of my soul Tara and mostly it was like, I see that. I've definitely seen that in myself in the past, but I also see that in so many bosses, like in the community and our audience, the people, the people that I know, I think, I think you've totally hit on something very real there.

[00:36:21] I think there is a fear of greatness and this fear of commitment, because it's also saying I willing to commit 10 years to being great at this thing. Like there's like a double way be there. It's not easy. It's not fun, but it's entrepreneurship guys. It's neither of those things, easy or hard. I mean, it is in all, in all the ways that it is are in, just as many ways as it is not.

[00:36:49] But I think, I think you're spot on there for sure.  I do have,  I want to talk about simplifying it cause we talked very much about defining your business model when that needs to happen. We talked about how there are many points when you need to come back to your business and simplify it.  I'm wondering, can you pinpoint any times when that should be happening either regularly or when things pop up?

Tara McMullin: [00:37:22] Yeah. So it is something that I look at on an annual basis.  It's part of my annual planning.  And you know, my business model hasn't really changed in five years and it hadn't changed before that for five years, you know, I guess I kind of work in five-year chunks, which is not to say that my business model is changing, although who knows anyhow, Yeah, so I do it on an annual basis and I look at where

[00:37:58] have I allowed [00:38:00] bloat to happen? Where have I allowed complication to occur? What am I doing on a regular basis that I have no objective proof for whether it's quote unquote working or not? What am I doing that's not creating results. What am I doing? That's draining me. What am I doing that's draining my team.

[00:38:21] What am I doing that's creating friction. All of those things are the symptoms of complication. They may not be complication of the offers,  in particular, right? W we have an extremely simple business model when it comes to our offers, but it could be a complications of marketing strategy. It could be cop,  complications of,  operational procedures and, and how we run things.

[00:38:51] It could be complications of our team. I, I know that I need to look at that on a regular basis to [00:39:00] ask myself what's working. What's not working. What can I get rid of?  I'm an ideas person. I know you're an ideas person, probably 90% of people who are listening would consider themselves ideas people it's wonderful to be an ideas person.

[00:39:17] That is always going to lead to that kind of complication and bloat. And so we have to make,  We have to make that part of our regular process. I think the other point where we need to have a real come to Jesus moment with our business models is any time where there is more than say two or three months of just feeling like there's not enough time.

[00:39:46] You can't keep it all together. Maybe you notice you're dropping balls. Maybe you starting to feel burnt out.  Maybe some weird stuff is happening with your team. If you have one of those, maybe some weird things are happening with your customers or clients. You're just like, what is going on here?

[00:40:04] That's also an indication that something significant is not working. It may not be the offers. It may not be the customers. It may not be your team members. It may not be you. There is, but there is something in that business model,  the very structure of how you are doing business that is causing that distress and that friction.

[00:40:27] And until you fix it or until you address it, there's no way to move beyond it. I had talked about the squeeze earlier, and I like to contrast that with just. There's a difference between being squeezed in and the way you run your business and just being busy often when we're making a shift in our business models, or we're making a shift in any component of how we do business, there's a period of busy-ness.

[00:40:58] But it has an endpoint. And you know you're working toward that particular goal. You're willing to put in a couple of extra hours are willing to do maybe things you wouldn't normally do. That's fine. Like busyness is not what causes us distress on a more existential level. If you felt the squeeze is what causes that distress.

[00:41:18] So if you are feeling overwhelmed by how busy you are to the point where you don't know when it's going to stop. It's time to stop and take a look at what's really going on. If you're just feeling busy because you're working toward a goal. That's cool. That's going to happen. Make sure you take a break when you're done.

Emily Thompson: [00:41:37] Yeah. Okay. Yes, all of that. And I'm going to say I do this twice a year. So I do it at the beginning of the year and I do it at the six-month mark every single year. And because I'm that person, CEO Day Kit guys, we would have, if you're listening to this, when it comes out, we just did a big marketing push at the beginning or at the mid-year point of 2020.

[00:42:00] The CEO day kit is something we created years ago for the purpose of sitting down for one day every year, or for me twice a year, to look at your business and its entirety, to figure out what's working. What's kind of working, not working. I actually have just an exercise on that. If you want to head into the show notes and download that, but I do this twice a year because whenever you are, especially online businesses, especially if.

[00:42:24] Are surrounded by lots of people who are doing cool things. I find that can be really easy to fluff up fast. And so right. Getting in there for me twice a year and just looking at everything. Peeling away anything that's not working or adjusting the things that are just kind of working, whatever it may be is really important for me.

[00:42:45] I also do this whenever I'm making a hire. Part of my hiring process is to first sit down, look at the entirety of my business. What's working kind of working, not working and make sure that before I make that investment in a person and like a person's goals of the future because that's really what a hire is too.

[00:43:08] I know that my business, that this is the higher that my business needs in this moment for what I have planned coming next. So those two things, so twice a year for me, and then also whenever I'm making a hire and then in general, I also, yes, to all of the things that you were saying around when you are, you know, feeling

[00:43:30] squeezed. All the things. Also, if you're missing goal after goal, after goal in your business, when your business is not rising to meet whatever it is that you are trying to create for yourself with that, I think that's another great time to sit down and get real real with what is happening in your business and simplify it because, and we'll get into this next because when a business is not simple, It is, it takes more effort for you to achieve whatever it is you're trying to achieve.

[00:44:05] So mystical after mystical time to sit down, look at your business model and simplify it. 

Tara McMullin: [00:44:13] Yeah. And if you don't mind me timing on just, I'll be quick.  I like to tell people that their business works the way it's designed to work. Every business works the way it's designed to work. So if your business is missing goal after goal, that's because of the way it's designed, because it is functioning to the design you have given it.

[00:44:38] And so your job then is to figure out how. Did I design this business? Cause you probably don't know because you're an accidental entrepreneur like me, I get it. Like, that's fine. Um, but how, how did I design this business that I didn't know. I designed. And then what is bout that design is causing problems.

[00:44:59] What is it about this design that's reigning me in from being able to hit those goals and that starts to get you into the point then. All right. What am I going to change to move forward with a business that is designed to hit those goals? 

Emily Thompson: [00:45:16] Yes. Okay. Next, how do you decide what stays and what goes? 

Tara McMullin: [00:45:25] Yeah.

[00:45:26] So I think for me, the way I decide this is I think about the kind of business that I actually want to be running, because it's really easy to think that a business is defined by the offers that we make. But I think that our businesses are actually defined by our core competencies. In other words, the things that we do ridiculously well, they may be things that are directly related to our offer, or they might be things that aren't directly related to our offer, but whatever it is that you do really, really well.

[00:46:11] How do you build your business around that, that system, that process, that procedure, that skill, and how do you define your business as being that kind of business? Right. So like,  at Yellow House Media, which is our podcast production agency, that business is the result of a core competency that we spun off of what works.

[00:46:39] So our core competency was, or one of, one of these, one of our, our sort of systems of pride was being able to have this in-house method of producing our podcast week in and week out where people told us. Your podcast  [00:47:00] sounds the most amazing. I love your content, blah, blah, blah. And we did it all in house.

[00:47:05] It's like, okay, well, if we do this all in house,  we could probably do this out of house for other people. And so that got spun off. And so sure you can say we have a podcast production agency because we do, but what we're really in is the business of project management and production management.  We're a process business.

[00:47:29] That's what we're really, really good at. So when it comes to content strategy, when it comes to actually putting episodes out, when it comes to working with our team, We are in the business of process, procedure and systems and managing that so that it all works. That's what we're really, really good at.

[00:47:49] That's what the whole business is built around. And it just so happens that we've decided to offer that in the form of podcast production at what works, our core competency is around community building and facilitating conversations and sort of bringing people together to learn in all sorts of different ways that are more experiential and less didactic.

[00:48:15] And everything we do is built around that core competency in that case. You know, our offer is a little bit more directly related to that, but the way I spend my time is different. Right. It's spending time on the podcast, spending time on our newsletter, spending time  doing basically all of the content and media things that I do.

[00:48:42] But the purpose of that is to build it community, create conversations, bring people together, to learn in interesting ways. It's not me teaching them. I don't have an education business. It's not me creating media. I don't have a media business. I have a community business. And we have built an offer around that.

[00:49:05] So now I think I've lost track of the question, but the way you decide what stays is by what kind of business you want to be in and the way you figure out, what kind of business do you want to be in is what do you like to do? I mean, it really can be that simple, but so often I find that people are building businesses based on things that they don't like to do, because they think that's what they're supposed to

[00:49:35] to do right. They're supposed to build that online course. It does not matter that they do not like teaching or that they do not like working with customers. Right. Or you're no speaking to large groups or they don't like building an audience. Well then guess what? I would not be in the education business.

[00:49:55] If you don't like building an audience, you don't like teaching and you don't like speaking to large groups, that's your, you are not going to enjoy that business. A lot of people, I know, really love working one-on-one with people to create results, either themselves or with their clients. And there's a perception that that's not okay.

[00:50:17] Or that's not going to lead to success. And that is ridiculous. All of the business owners I know that are making the most money are operating in that kind of business model because they know that's the kind of business that they want to build. And so they have found the offer then that allows them to work in that way.

[00:50:36] So how do you want to spend your time on a daily basis? What kind of business do you really want to be in? And then find the offer that you are either already making or that you can turn one of the offers that you're making into to support that structure and that way of being in business. 

Emily Thompson: [00:50:57] Yes.

[00:51:00] Can we just say yes to each other every time either of us answers. Yes to this, one of the things, one of the ways I asked this question is as part of CEO to get it's part of one of the exercises, but I also just, at some point during any conversation with a boss, who's struggling with their business or that I'm coaching, or just having drinks with whatever.

[00:51:22] Everyone take a deep breath. If you could do just one thing, what would it be?

[00:51:32] That's it. I mean, that's not, it there's a lot that goes into that, but like that will help you get into that night. If you could do just one thing and like, in your business, you can't just say sleep all day or binge on Netflix or eat chocolate, like yes, to those. But like during work hours you could do.

[00:51:47] And not to say that that's what you're going to be doing all day. By any means, but that is the thing that you are building your business around. And then you're going to find that there are core competencies, like, yes, you, what you want to do all day as podcast while you're really great at is crafting a story, right?

[00:52:02] Like these core competencies go into defining what the business is, but it's all there to support the thing that you want to be doing. And if it's not managing a course, if it's not dealing with clients, if it's not like all of those things, then that's all helpful, helpful information for you to begin to find.

[00:52:20] Because he asked to all of that. And before we wrap up, I want to get into why this matters. Why build a simple business? What is the, what is the perks of building a symbol bins of going through all of this awareness and defining, and visioning and all these things, which sounds awful, but it's very important.

[00:52:38] Why bother focusing on building a simple business? 

Tara McMullin: [00:52:44] One is the absolute best way to make money. Two. It is the easiest way to ensure the longevity of your company. Yep. Three most stable way to do business. And four, I'm sure I could come up with more, but for it is the sanest way to do business. If you don't want to burn out, if you don't want to feel stress and anxiety all the time.

[00:53:15] A simple business model is how you're going to get there. 

Emily Thompson: [00:53:17] Yeah. And it's also just easy, just easy. It's easier, plain and  simple. It's easier to all those other things, but like it's easier to manage one offering the managed five. It's easier to market one offering than it is to market five. It is easier to manage.

[00:53:31] Five team members than it is to manage 45. Right? Like, and not to say that you can't grow that you can't scale it, but it is easier to make one thing great than it is to make eight things great. And that's both the product or the offering or all the systems and processes and everything that goes into supporting those things as well.

[00:53:53] So, yeah, basically just that I will also say. Part of the being boss community. We have a small peer mastermind group called the C-Suite and all of those bosses are mid to high six figures and they all have incredibly simple businesses. No one has a convoluted business with 18 different revenue, streams and marketing on all platforms.

[00:54:17] Most of them aren't even really on social media at all, which I will put out there. Right.  

Tara McMullin: [00:54:24] That's what I've been writing about for the last month. 

Emily Thompson: [00:54:26] Yeah. The best businesses. Not really the best. There are plenty of great businesses on social media, but most of the great ones are not thinking about Instagram strategies.

[00:54:37] They're thinking about how to make the thing they offer. Great. So I just want to paint that picture to like the bosses who are doing. Have committed themselves to a long-term vision and a simple business model that is easy for them to show up for and make great. 

Tara McMullin: [00:54:58] Amen. And say, welcome to my Ted talk or thank you for coming to my Ted talk, but that's literally what my Ted talk is about in a week and a half.

[00:55:06] Are you serious?

[00:55:11] Literally? It's about that. 

Emily Thompson: [00:55:12] Tara, I think you and I have created some sort of like psychic connection. We have, yes, we'll then will your TED talk be available by the time this goes out in August? 

Tara McMullin: [00:55:23] Yeah. Eventually, I don't know if it'll be up on the TED site in August, but it'll, it will eventually be up in public and out there.

Emily Thompson: [00:55:32] Well then forever, if you just want to listen to Tara's TED talk on this. 

[00:55:36] Head in to the show notes, as soon as it's available, we will make sure it's there.

[00:55:45] I love that. Well, Tara, I'm so glad to give you a chance to practice your TED talk. 

Tara McMullin: [00:55:50] Yes. Thank you. 

Emily Thompson: [00:55:52] Thank you so much for coming to chat with me about this. Where can people find more about you? 

Tara McMullin: [00:55:57] Yeah.  The best place to find me is at explorewhatworks.com or you can. Just open up your podcast app that you're listening to being boss on and search up What Works,  and take a listen to that.

[00:56:11] If you love Being Boss, you're going to love What Works too.  And then you can also find me on Instagram. I'm at @tara_mcmillan. 

[00:56:21] Emily Thompson: [00:56:21] Love it. And we'll say guys, I don't listen to podcasts, but I listen to Tara sometimes just, just sort of paint that picture I can say is the only podcast that I listened to.

[00:56:29] How about that? 

[00:56:32] Perfect. Well Tara,

Tara McMullin: [00:56:33] and that's going on the website? 

Emily Thompson: [00:56:37] That kind of endorsement, huh? I love it. Thank you so much for coming and chat with me about this. I hope that we have inspired everyone to take a look at their business model and do themselves a favor and simplify it. 

Tara McMullin: [00:56:50] Amen. Thank you, Emily.

Emily Thompson: [00:56:55] Well, now that you know, that keeping things simple as half the job, it's time to do the work to make it happen. And why not start with how you manage money in your business? Luckily there's FreshBooks. The all-in-one accounting solution that's built for business owners. Like you, fresh books takes all of the, not so fun

[00:57:12] parts of running a business from building and tracking invoices and managing online payments to organizing expenses and automates and simplifies them, saving you up to 11 hours a week in the process. Try FreshBooks free for 30 days, no credit card required by going to freshbooks.com/beingboss and enter being boss in the how do you hear about us section. Now, until next time, do the work, be boss.