Episode 3: Stop It with the Gym Membership Mentality

There is no one answer for your business problems. Just like signing up for a gym membership isn’t the single thing holding you back from getting into shape, you need to focus on what’s really important for your business and follow through. This includes knowing what’s working and what isn’t, and paring down if needed. Online chapter leader TeDi Jansen joins Isaac to talk about how her business is simplifying in the new year.

Raise your hand (or nod your head emphatically) if you’ve ever felt like you needed to do ALL THE THINGS because you feel like THIS is the year—this is the year I will kick butt, take names, and really take my business to the next level! Now keep your hand raised if you’ve ended up not kicking butt and taking names because it turns out you’re not a kickboxing robot with an endless supply of energy!

Ok, now raise your hand if you’ve ever signed up for the gym on January 1st because you’re sure that’s the one thing that’s preventing you from getting into shape. Now keep your hand raised if you’ve ended up cancelling that gym membership one, two, or three months into it because you just didn’t go to the gym enough and couldn’t afford to keep paying for something you aren’t using.

The struggle is real, friends!

Chasing “all the things” and putting all your eggs in the gym membership basket may seem like opposite ends of a spectrum, but the truth is that they are based in the same mentality and illusion—getting distracted by what seems at face value to be the answer instead of buckling down to focus on following through with what’s really important.

There is no one answer for your problem. The act of signing up with a gym to get in shape isn’t itself going to magically solve your fitness goals. It may seem shiny, motivating, and like it’s the missing link to making it happen, but if you don’t also change your routine to develop a habit, create a form of accountability (like a gym buddy), or set smaller goals to help you take actionable steps every day, you’ll end up making excuses for not going, floundering in shame for not sticking with your goals, and cancelling your membership, only to run the risk of doing the whole thing again next year.

By the same token, if you want to kick butt and take names, you need to have a very clear understanding of exactly what tasks need butt-kicking and whose names you’re going to take (and how best to approach said butt-kicking). If you cast a wide net across your desire for productivity, you’ll end up reeling in meager results—multitasking is counterproductive, and you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin to go any measurable distance with any one aspect of what you’re trying to do.

Progress and action are best fueled by exercising restraint—by focusing on what really matters and identifying clear steps for how to get there. This means that you need to separate the fluff from the meaty bits—the Buzzfeed clickbait from the in-depth reporting of The New York Times.

Alright, but what does that look like in a handmade business? Say your problem is that you don’t have enough customers. One of the first things that a lot of makers might jump to in a situation like this is the assumption that to get more customers, they need to advertise. So they plunk down $50 a month for Facebook ads, or they decide they should run a print advertisement in their trade publication. Individually, these might very well be effective tactics for achieving the goal of getting more customers, but they aren’t the be-all, end-all solution for anyone with this problem—that’s the gym membership mentality talking.

On the flip side of the coin, you might think that the solution to attracting more customers is going after every single social media platform out there. Suddenly you’re trying to gain followers, build a brand, and post regularly on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, and Tumblr. This is the “all the things” mentality at its finest. How can you expect to attract the right people if you’re spreading yourself out there across a half-dozen networks trying to be authentic and original and appealing to your market? How do you even know your customers are paying attention? I guarantee if you do this at least half of the networks will fall to the wayside and sit idle.

Instead of jumping to those conclusions, I have a better option. You know that classic phrase, “work smarter, not harder”? (I know, I know, I used to hate that when my dad used to say that to me.) Try evaluating your best course of action using these five steps:

  1. Refine your goal to be more specific and actionable. Instead of saying your goal is to get more customers, maybe your goal is to double last year’s sales over the course of this next year.

  2. Develop a deeper understanding of your problem. If the problem is that you don’t have enough customers, you should ask yourself why. Is it because you didn’t sell enough inventory and have a lot left over? Is it because you aren’t making enough money for your business to be profitable?

  3. Examine how you can pursue your goal smartly. (Is that a word?) If you need more customers, you need to know who your “best customer” is, where they’re located, and where they spend their time online.

  4. Research and review your options for action and pick the most likely to be successful. If your customers are career-driven, visually responsive, upper income women, they might be more likely to respond to ads on Instagram or a sponsorship on a career podcast than a sponsored post in their Facebook feed. If they’re 30-something moms, Facebook may be the way to go instead.

  5. Remember to evaluate your success and adapt your actions to respond to what works and what doesn’t. Everything in your business is an experiment—so be nimble when you see something isn’t working and move onto the next thing.

Following these steps will help you focus on what really matters, without getting distracted by the fluffy one-size-fits-all answers or the mania of trying to pursue it all, and ultimately coming up short and disappointed.

Episode Guest

TeDi Jansen is the chief shepherdess at Small Acre farm, just a few miles north of Fort Collins, CO. She lives with her family in a big barn with the house on top and the stalls below. She loves being close to our animals and her house/barn allows her to be near them if they’re sick, hurt, or giving birth. TeDi makes goat milk soap and lotion, hand-spins wool from her sheep, and is a fiber artist to boot.