In this episode, Tom Sylvester shares the importance of designing a lifestyle and not just a business to avoid burn out and overwhelm, and keeping you from torpedoing your home life, and the exact steps you need to know to do it.
3 Key Points
Before you can design systems, outsource and automate you need clarity on what you want your lifestyle and your business to look like
Eliminate unnecessary tasks before outsourcing and automating to avoid wasteful spending
Make incremental changes weekly instead of trying to make massive changes all at once so you don’t get overwhelmed
Tom is a co-founder of Lifestyle Builders™, a coaching and training company that helps entrepreneurs build their businesses to create more impact with their customers and more freedom in their lives.
Over the past 15 years, Tom has helped with thousands of business leaders and their teams create more success, from Fortune 500 companies to startups. During this time, Tom has honed and refined his philosophies, models, and strategies for growing entrepreneurial businesses.
Tom and his wife Ariana share their philosophies and guidance for entrepreneurs on their Lifestyle Builders™ podcast, their upcoming book Lifestyle Builders™: Build Your Business, Quit Your Job, & Create Your Ideal Life, as well as through their coaching and consulting programs.
Ellen has been working with Tom, so she’s very excited about this podcast.
[1:54] Ellen and Tom were going to talk about systems and Tom’s book to start: Ellen asked Tom what he does, how he helps people and why people need systems.
He and his wife have three businesses, and through them, they were able to leave their jobs when she was in her late 20’s and he was in his early 30’s. And they spend the majority of their time helping entrepreneurs build a business to have an impact with their customers but also one that supports their ideal lifestyle
[2:50] They got into this because they had trouble building their businesses. Trying to get on the same page as a husband and wife team. His wife wasn’t keen on any of the entrepreneur stuff.
It came to fruition when he helped an entrepreneur build a million-dollar business in eighteen months; he. moved to Barcelona, and everything, Tom thought, was good. Then a couple months later, the client reached out and was getting divorced. That’s when they had these discussions. They didn’t want to help entrepreneurs build businesses that took them away from their life. Part of that is having good systems so you’re not tied to your business.
[3:37] Ellen shared that when she started her business she did something really stupid. She created a workshop and learned how to do product launches. And she kept doing them and she wasn’t building out systems because she was making good money, and she kept putting it off and she got really burned out because of that. Tom added that that is very common.
[4:32] Ellen suggested that maybe his client was burning the candle at both ends; Tom said that this client was. And when your entire drive is to build a business and it doesn’t tie back to your personal life, that’s when it can be challenging because as entrepreneurs and high performers, we just go onto the next challenge or level that we want to get to, so you have to know how the business fits into your life. And it’s really important to be on the same page with your spouse or significant other and your family. So, you’re all in on your business and letting the other areas of your life fall apart
[5:28] Ellen shared how she and her husband share quality time every day.
[5:50]. Tom traveled four to five days a week for several years in his business- a lot consulting with Fortune 500 companies, so he was away more than he was home. They had to make a shift so they could have more quality time.
[6:14] What is the first thing people should do when they don’t have a system?
Tom shared that before they ever get to systems, they should do an audit.
-What are their personal goals in. life?
-What are some of their business goals?
– Where are you at today?
-What is the gap and what is the roadmap that will get you to both of those?
Then you can see where you should be putting your resources, which are time, money, energy and focus. Then prioritize. what will take you closer to your goal and what will pull you away from your genius and getting those things off of your plate.
[7:19] First eliminate stuff they don’t need to do. Then combine things that can go together for optimization. Then automating using tools and technology. Then delegating, outsourcing and having other team members take them off your plate, so they can focus on the highest value tasks that give the biggest return.
[7:49] Ellen shared that she had massive anxiety after getting off the phone with Tom because to serve more people she had to raise her rates, which sounds counterintuitive, but that way she could work with less people one-on-one and more people overall because she could afford to spend more advertising dollars. And she didn’t have clarity about what that was going to look like.
[8:32] Tom shared that clarity is so important because the business you built has to be built on what that business is going to do for you, the types of clients you’re working with and the type of transformation you want to provide, and what the value is of that.
[9:01] Ellen pointed out that you have to be willing to grow at every level too. Tom added that that is one of the biggest challenges, because “What got you here won’t get you there”. And letting go of those that got us there to get to the next level is so scary.
[9:54] As leaders of business, where you focus your time is really going to change about every ninety days because as you are growing you’re constantly taking things off your plate and trying to simplify, so you’re spending more time on where you provide that most value.
[10:13] So, once you’ve got your clarity, you do your audit, you look at personal goals
Then look at eliminating and automating.
[10:22] What’s the cost to make that transition? If you’re going to outsource and automate-you have to pay people.
One of Tom’s quotes to live by is: “There’s nothing so worthless as doing something efficiently that shouldn’t be done at all.” So, the first step is looking at everything you’re doing and seeing what you can eliminate. Everything is value add or waste. So, we want to look at everything and say, “If we got rid of this would it negatively impact the customer?” If the answer is no, get rid of it and simplify the business before we add any additional cost. And this often frees up more of your resources and makes it less complex so it takes less of your brain power.
[12:22] You want to hold off on tools and automation as long as you can because there is usually a simpler approach. Instead, Tom starts by putting out client’s first offer using free stuff. They are focused on validating that offer. He wants to make sure he’s getting the results. Once he knows it works, then it’s time to start looking at being efficient-eliminating some of the steps and getting into automation.
[13:10] Is it different for authors?
There are probably some nuances but 80% is the same.
[13:49] Ellen asked about Tom’s book, Lifestyle Builders, Build your Business, Quit your Job and Live Your Ideal Lifestyle. It’s the culmination of Tom and his wife working together for thirteen years and all the businesses they have worked with. They wrote it because they see so many people who want to start a business and don’t know how to go about it.
[14:21] The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is they have an idea and assume it’s a great idea and they jump into building the business. First, they should get clear on what they want their life to look like and build a personal roadmap to get to their vision and do it with their spouse or family to make sure everyone is on the same page, because when you jump into business it is going to impact your family. Then get your personal finances in order, and then, ultimately, start the business. Otherwise, your habits etc. are going to spill over into your business and cause more issues.
[15:08]} They wrote the book to show the process validating a business, how to leave your business and transition into full-time entrepreneurship. The unique thing they did was-Ariana, his wife, never wanted to be an entrepreneur, – so they wrote the book from both perspectives-Tom’s from the entrepreneur perspective and his journey, Ariana, from the non-entrepreneur perspective and her journey. At different points on the same journey, they each viewed it very differently. Ellen was intrigued and said that was good-that it made it unique.
[16:02] Ellen shared her journey with her husband-they did something no one should do-they started two businesses at the same time. Ellen’s took off right away and her husband’s didn’t; he eventually shut his down and they focused on hers. But they never thought about the lifestyle, and the business model they chose was a TON of work. Then she went through what she called her “dark years” where she struggled with how to change it.
She knew what she wanted but she wasn’t finding a way to do it. She spent a lot of money on consultants and nothing was working. Eventually, she found her way out of it by persevering-going on calls, listening to people and started doing more things that worked, then started looking again for mentors for things she knew she wanted to do, and that’s how she connected with Tom
[17:39] To her point, Tom added that getting that clarity is so important, and sometimes you can get it on your own, but, sometimes, it takes somebody asking you the right questions to have you really understand and get clear on what it is you want. Once you have that clarity, you can make intentional decisions about how to get there. Without it, they make decisions, and then are surprised when they end up where they don’t want to be.
[18:13]. Ellen added, you think you want to do something and you try it, and then you just don’t like it. She had that happen many times, and she just continued to take action until it finally got clear all the things she didn’t want to do.
[18:29] So, if someone says they want a Lamborghini, before you buy it, let’s go confirm it. So, try it out and one of two things will happen, you want it, and now you have the drive to get it or you’ll say it sounded really cool but it’s not something that you need, and maybe you actually want something else. But too many don’t validate and end up with a life or business that isn’t what they wanted.
[19:55] Ellen agreed- at some point after driving sports cars for years, her and her husband’s needs had changed and that’s what happened in business too. She didn’t want to work eighteen hours a day seven days a week anymore. It was time to have a life.
[20:14] One trend, especially on Twitter, with a whole Alpha-male group, was promoting “grinding”, and Ellen is totally against this. It’s okay to grind on a project for a short amount of time, but don’t have your life be about grinding. That’s why she wanted Tom on this call. She really wants people to understand that and start thinking about systems as soon as possible.
[20:52] Tom added that there’s this whole subculture now where they use grinding like a badge of honor. When you start a business it is going to take time and effort, but the question he always asks is, “What would have to happen for your business to run without you?” So, instead of starting a business that you are trapped in, you think about what would have to be in place. What tasks would have to get done? And that is what they did for their first two businesses. Tom still had a nine- to-five job, so he couldn’t be at his second job and had to put processes in place early on so the business could run without him.
[21:54] Ellen wanted to know about that because she couldn’t imagine her business running without her. What does a business that runs without you look like?
[22:02]} Tom said to think about if you were to step away. Let’s say you go on vacation for two weeks. What would fall apart? What wouldn’t get done? Those are the things you need a process in place for or you need to hire someone to take care of.
[22:41] Closing thoughts
A lot of people get overwhelmed when it comes to systems and automation and feel they don’t have time to implement them. So, every week you should have a reflection and planning meeting.
The first half of the meeting is reflecting on the prior week. Look at what went well and acknowledge the wins and what challenges came up? Take that biggest challenge, and that’s the thing you want to put a process or system in place for that upcoming week. If you do it every week, every week your business is getting a little bit better, so over the course of a year, that is fifty-two improvements that you’ve made without spending a ton of time-just a couple of hours a week. And that’s how you want to approach business.
There are three things to focus on:
-Strategy-visioning, goal setting, understanding where you want to go.
-Execution-breaking your goals down into projects to achieve the goals
-Optimization- What can I stop doing? What do I need to start doing? And how do I constantly make this better?
It will help you have clarity and the tasks you have to do to get there, and you’re always optimizing your business and making it run more efficiently.
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