How did we get here? Midyear Strategy Check-In

How Did We Get Here? Midyear Strategy Check-In

All right. Episode 486, I’ll be honest. I have tried recording this a couple of times now, and I keep feeling like it falls short in some weird way, and/or it gets real dark, which is not the intent of this episode. I want to talk about the first half of the year. I want to reflect. So June and July for me, generally speaking, are a lot about planning what’s ahead. And we talked a little bit about this in the last episode where we talked about the three things to know as you go into Q3, but what’s been really interesting for me is taking the time, not just to vision forward, but reflect, to look at where I am.

This is always when I check-in, and I think about things like, where are we as far as moving towards our financial goals, revenue-wise, and profit-wise? Where are we in terms of the systems and the structures inside of our business? Where are we with our growth metrics on social or email marketing or whatever? And also just like, how do I feel about what’s going on? Do I want more of this next year? Or do I need to start preparing changes ahead of next year? That’s kind of the point of that check-in.

And as I sat down to do that this year, I realized this is just too fun not to share. And so that’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to sort of share a few of my insights, but to do that, I got to put some of this in context. And so I want to start by doing a rewind, a flashback to December 2019. And the things that I decided then this year would be about. And, of course, that started this time last year, but December is always when I sort of sit down, and I’m like, “Okay, mindset wise. What’s my word for the year?” Things like that. And so we’ll sort of do this in two phases.

Let’s flashback to planning last summer for 2020. 

And that was very intentional about me slimming things down and focusing. So last year, if you listened to this podcast or knew me at all, really you knew I was kind of running two businesses. I had The Stacey Harris, which is what facilitated and ran things like Hit the Mic Backstage and Hit the Mic Backstage Live, which is a live full-day workshop we do. Hit the Mic Backstage was a training membership that I offered for four or five years. And then in addition to that, I had the agency, Uncommonly More. And about halfway through last year, I realized that that was not what I wanted in 2020.

And so as I planned this year, it was a lot about streamlining things. And as we moved into December, I streamlined further because my plan in July of last year was to continue to run Backstage Live events, public-facing, through the agency. And as we got into December and I looked at some of the mindset shifts and those kinds of things that I wanted to focus on and make a priority in 2020. In choosing my word of the year, I realized that I wanted to slim this down even further. So the only way to get on a Hit the Mic Backstage live event this year is to be a part of a mastermind or a group that I get hired into, to speak inside of their organization and structure.

And so, again, I went into this year with a real slim down of things. I wanted to really be clear and focused for myself because we had some incredible growth with the agency last year. I went above and beyond my expectations with what the team could do and what was possible for us. And it was incredible. And I thought, “Huh, if I did this while splitting my energy, what happens when I focus and pay attention?” And so, again, I decided to do that.

And so I chose my word for the year, which was and remains efficiency. 

And so the question I’m constantly asking myself is, is this the most efficient way to do this? Is this the most cost-effective? Is this most time effective? Is this the most efficient way that this operates, exists? Is this the most efficient solution for us? Is this the most efficient process for us? Everything gets run through that filter and that question and that word. And so it’s been interesting as we roll into this year, how rolling into March and the shutdown, there was a real need to make sure we were running efficiently because things were changing rapidly.

As we went into the start of people being… shelter in place orders being rolled out and people being home 24/7, we had clients who had events that had to get rescheduled, who had to get canceled, whatever it may be. So we were reinventing things left and right. We were completely redoing social. We were completely changing email campaigns. We were completely rearranging podcast calendars, all of it. And that didn’t slow down as we rolled into what I have been calling and will continue to call and hope it really is, a revolution in this country around inequality and the black community.

And so that meant more change and more creating space for more values-driven content, more featuring of the people who my clients are investing in and my team is investing in and I’m personally investing in and all of those things. And so it’s been really interesting to see how efficiency has almost been required because we’ve shifted from being at sort of our leisurely month-ahead kind of pace to, “Oh, well, we’ve got to change everything now.” And so there’s no time, there’s no space, there’s no option to be inefficient. And that’s been really interesting to see because it does really highlight, it does as almost a spotlight for anything that maybe felt like it was in the what’s working column and really it actually isn’t working.

It really is bringing to the front those things that we are tolerating. And I love that word for this differential between what works and what doesn’t work is that, that tolerating. Because it’s so easy to tolerate something and keep it in the yea-column when it needs to go in the nay-column. And sometimes we don’t realize how uncomfortable or sort of “off” a process is because we’re tolerating it. And it’s almost like we normalize that discomfort. We sit there and we’re like, “Oh, well, the rock in my shoe doesn’t bother me because I learned to walk with a rock in my shoe. And so I don’t realize that there’s an option to walk without a rock in my shoe.”

And the spotlight of the last six months has made that impossible. It has amplified anything that was sort of sitting out of that left of center. And what was interesting to me to watch as I really went through this, thanks in large part to the support system I have in place with my family and my coach and my mastermind and some of the communities I’m in and the network of people around me and my team, more than anything. I can’t say that enough. As we saw all of these messaging pieces and Instagram ads, and podcast episodes around really just getting out the matchbook and burning this mother lover to the ground. Pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot.

Tara Newman, over at The Bold Leadership Revolution, we did a podcast or I did a podcast with her over on her show, where we talked about pivoting and changing, and she described it as the panic pivot. And she, thank goodness for me, really resisted the, “Oh my God, everything’s changing. We have to change everything too.” Because watching her and being a part of that and having, again, I’m in her mastermind, she is my coach. Having her be like, “Stacey put down the lighter,” really helped keep me from panic pivoting.

Because what happened is we didn’t panic and change everything. 

We made changes as necessary so that we weren’t tone-deaf. It wasn’t business as usual. Like I said, we were changing out podcast episodes and tweaking email campaigns and delaying the launches of things and shifting things on social. We were doing all of that, but it wasn’t because our offerings changed. It wasn’t because of the core of our business changed. It was because we were sharing a lot of the same lessons we were going to share anyway, but now we were doing it in a tone and in a context that spoke more to the moment.

And I think that that is a wildly underutilized thing. Context is incredibly valuable, and it’s something we forget about and we discard too readily in our world in my opinion. But what’s interesting is we didn’t pivot. We didn’t burn anything down. We didn’t change anything. But what did evolve from that was further looking at my efficiency and further looking at my focus because although we didn’t burn anything down, we didn’t change anything, it amplified the most effective way we serve clients. It highlighted where we can have a really incredible impact, be a really incredible support to our clients, do Uncommonly More for them without overtaxing me, overtaxing the team, where it was the most efficient way to increase our profit. And so that really is something I’m looking at as we shift through the second half of this year. And it’s where I’m putting almost all our emphasis, even as we move into 2021.

And as I started to do my planning in the last few weeks and sort of pull out what was working, that focus, that highlighting of, what are we tolerating? That answer to, what is the most efficient way to serve our clients, gave me the answer to what is my focus for the second half of this year? What is the fastest way to increase our revenue? What is the most efficient way to increase our profit? Which is, in my opinion, more important, certainly more valuable than just raising revenue. I could double my revenue right now, but if it costs me as much to deliver as I bring in, all I’ve done is create more work. I’ve just created a larger expense for myself, not actually more money.

And so that is where instead of pivoting, we’re doubling down. I’m going right against the pivot and being like, “Oh, hey, this actually works really well. Let’s do more of this.” And it’s funny because it’s something that we offered very quietly last year and sort of brought to the table a little more this year. We really opened up this month’s forward-facing, and it’s really now one of the very few ways we’re welcoming clients in. And that’s our podcast production services, and supporting our clients through podcast launch, and then their ongoing production. Really focusing my one-hour sessions and my half-day opportunities to people who want to strategize their podcasts. Because the reality is, is our ongoing marketing services are really booked for right now so that we are able to maintain the level of service that we have to those clients and maintain the level of service we have to our podcast production clients.

And so, again, it was less for me about pivoting and more for me doubling down on like, “Oh, hey, actually this does work.” And I think we hear a lot of stories and we’re seeing a lot of messaging around, “Okay, here’s why your business is broken. Here’s why you’re not making any money.” There’s a global pandemic. There is a racial revolution happening. There are so many unknowns. There is an economic crisis happening. I mean, depending on who you ask, but unemployment numbers, whatever. We’re doing well, we’re not going dark again. We have a lot of doom and gloom messaging coming at us. A lot of here’s how to make more for less. Make sure you have your $27 offer. Is anyone else’s Facebook feed and Instagram feed inundated with these ads for $25, $35, $45 and I’ll give you two years of email content and social media content. And here’s how you launch your podcast for $12 and whatever else it is.

That’s not actually the only way to make money. It’s really funny to sort of sit back and be like, “We welcomed new clients.” I have clients and friends who have had consistently their best months to date in the course of this turmoil, in the course of this uncertainty. And so don’t fall prey to the messaging of the second half of 2020 means changing everything. In fact, what I encourage you to do is the same thing I do, the same thing I did. Oh, hey, this works. How can we do 10 times as much of this? This is our fastest path to cash. Because that’s what profit is, it’s cash. Not revenue, that’s not cash. That’s just numbers. Profit is cash. And so for me, that was sort of my anti-pivot, and I encourage you to look for what yours is.

And the last thing I want to talk about is really what we’re doing from a marketing perspective differently in the second half of this year in response to all that has changed. 

And the reality is it’s the same things we planned to do for the second half of this year. Now I will say, I’m fortunate because we work with our clients remotely. Most of our clients work with their clients remotely. And so, yes, my messaging would need to change if I was running a restaurant or a brick and mortar antique store, then I would have to be looking at deeper changes. But the fact of the matter is, is most of the people who listen to this show are running online businesses, are running businesses that they run and work and deliver services or information remotely to their clients and to their customers. And I’m guessing you’re one of those people.

And so I want to be really clear that when I’m saying we’re doing mostly the same thing, it’s because not as much has changed as people think. We’re still answering those same questions. Who are we talking to? What are we selling? How are we selling it to them? And that clarity will always give you the information you need around whether you need to make changes or not. If I had been running in-person backstage live workshops this year, I would go, “Cool, so what I’m selling is a live workshop. Okay, that’s not an option anymore. So who are we selling it to? Okay, it’s these people, and we’re selling it this way. Cool. So what do we need to change? We need to change in-person to virtual.”

And from there, let’s adjust the messaging around building this marketing strategy to speak to any changes they might need to be making. Or speak to the power of reconnecting with the plan they built at the beginning of the year, or the end of last year, to speak to what’s happening now. Running it through the filter that we now have, that we simply just didn’t have yet then. Just so that they’re reconnected with it as they really dig a little deeper in for the quarter. Cool. And so nothing really changed there.

When we talk about building a quarterly strategy, we frequently talk about at the quarterly level is when we get more detailed, when we get more specific. It’s often about sort of reconnecting with what we wanted for the year, especially when I sell a Q2 or a Q3 workshop. And so, again, notice not a lot actually changed there. I just ran it through the context of what’s around us. And so I want you to take a step back as you close out your first half of January, sit down with yourself for a few minutes, have your halftime pep talk and say, “I’m ready. I’m psyched for the second half of this year. This is what we’re going to do. This is what’s going to need to shift. Here are all the things that actually stay the same. Here’s the context we needed to add so that these things stay the same, make sense why.”

I’m willing to bet, dollars to donuts, you, my friend, are gonna change less than you think. And the things that you’re changing, I want you to acknowledge what of those things probably needed to change before January? Because I will tell you in full uncomfortable honesty, full disclosure, the things that I decided to double down and focus on as I built out and as I evaluated my midyear, were the things that I… I’m hesitant to say should’ve, but is the place I wish I had gotten to as we rolled into this year. It was the focus I wished that we were launching with in January.

Not because it would have changed anything with what we’re doing, but it would have saved me some frustration in trying to push a rock that I didn’t actually want to be pushing and that wasn’t actually going to generate the increase in profit that I want to see this year, which was again for me, as I went into this year, a big focus was on the profit side. Because although we scaled really fast last year, we grew really quickly. We weren’t doing it in the most efficient way possible, and that was costing us. And that was eating up profit in a hurry.

So part of that word efficiency was really how do we more efficiently generate actual cash, actual profit? 

So where I got to was where I needed to get to, and I’m willing to bet if you look at what you come up with if you look where you want to see shifts, it’s probably some things you wanted to change before anyways and either didn’t have the line of sight to notice, didn’t have the filter to notice, or didn’t have, I’m going to say, courage to notice. Because I know that’s a lot of what it was for me was this the courage to look at things differently, which takes courage. All right? All right.

That is my soapbox for the day. I wanted to let you know, if you head over to, you will find the way to sit down and spend some time with me. So if doing this midyear check-in feels really overwhelming or really scary, a really nice thing to have is do it with a buddy. And there are two options. There is the single-hour session, so it’s 60 minutes, or there’s the three-hour session, which is sort of our half-day intensive, slightly modified because the world is virtual now.

I really like the three-hour option. If you are somebody who wants to both evaluate the first half of your year and really build a plan for the second half of the year, that is a much more robust conversation, and so it takes more time. I would recommend the three-hour for that. But if you’re somebody who just kind of needs somebody to sit with them as they do this work and ask what else and ask questions that maybe your filters and your line of sight are not allowing for, the one-hour call is great for that.

So, again, Head over to the services area, and you will find all of that. All right. Thanks for listening. Next week, we shift into more podcast content, more strategy content, but thank you for allowing me last week and this week to just kind of talk about the crazy, be a little bit like, “Wow, guys, how did we get here?” Because your girl needs it. All right? We all need it. All right. I will see you next week.

Scroll to Top