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SHANNON MILES: “This was a big mental shift that I had to make early on in the business. Like, the irony of us having a virtual–assistant company and it took me six months to have my own virtual assistant, like, I get it. It can be really hard to kind of jump over that hurdle and realize that in order to grow, you really can't do it all yourself. And so one mindset shift that I think is important, it was for me anyway, is really thinking about the revenue that I could have generated in the business if I wasn't burdened with all of the administrative tasks. So when you think about what we talked about earlier, assigning value to your time, imagine if you had more time to sell. Imagine if you had more time to network with a new channel partner that will bring you into a different segment of the market that you never would have been able to connect with before. Imagine if you had more time to talk to your customers and learn more about what's resonating with your product and what isn’t and then figuring out what tweaks could be made. Imagine what that would do to sales. So those are the kinds of things that are usually what a founder, what an entrepreneur, what an owner really can get to the heart of, that adds so much more value to their business than just answering every email.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-million-dollar business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, money, and time to focus on growing my small–but–mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step–by–step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and helps you create a life you love, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
AMY PORTERFIELD: Okay, before we get going, a quick word from our sponsor.
This episode is sponsored by Gravy. If you have a subscription–model business, like a membership site, or offer payment plans, like I do with my digital courses, you've got to listen up. One of my biggest frustrations in the past was lost money due to failed payment plans. In fact, it used to keep me up at night. I would worry about all the people that were on a payment plan, because if they stopped their payments, I'd be screwed.
That's when I started working with Gravy. Gravy sets up a system inside your business, where they contact your customers within hours of their failed payments, and they capture updated billing information and save the customer.
Now, as you know, failed payments can be a sensitive topic to navigate with your customers, and that's why Gravy acts as an extension of your team. So when they reach out to people, they communicate on your behalf, and they do it with compassion. On average, before Gravy, our failed–payment recovery rate was just 33 percent when we were trying to do it on our own. Now it's over 80 percent collection on failed payments. That's a whole lot of saved payments.
If your revenue is currently at $250,000 or more and you know you're losing money due to failed payment plans each month, I want to encourage you to check out Gravy. Here's the great news. Gravy is offering my listeners their first month free. So if you want to book a discovery call to find out if your business is a good fit for everything Gravy has to offer, go to amyporterfield.com/gravy.
Let's take a trip back to 2011. I was running myself ragged. I was committed to growing my business, and while it terrified me, I knew it was time to hire a VA, a virtual assistant. In fact, I should have hired a VA long before I actually did. But hiring out and asking for help was something that made me very scared. I actually had guilt about reinvesting in the business that early on when I wasn't making consistent revenue. But I'm so very glad I overcame that, because I realized the minute I had a VA, I could do more of what would make my business profitable. So my first VA, her name was Rebecca. Shout out if she still listens to this podcast, because way back when, she used to edit this podcast. When we were really scrappy, Rebecca basically did it all. And I hired her for five hours a week, and I think I paid her around eighteen dollars an hour. And she helped me take my business to the next level because her support allowed me to truly focus on the areas of my business that I excelled in.
Fast forward to being an entrepreneur for almost twelve years now. And looking back, hiring a VA to support me in my very early days when I didn't know what I was doing or how I was going to do it was one of the best decisions I ever made. But I get it. It's hard to know when you're really ready for a VA, how to go about hiring one, what tasks to have them do, and knowing when to up level your working relationship with them. That's something we've never talked about on this show before. We've talked about hiring a VA, but we've never talked about how do you up level your working relationship with a VA when you want them to take on more substantial responsibilities and projects and more hours.
So to help you get more clarity around all things VA, I've invited my very dear friend and expert when it comes to hiring and working with VAs, Shannon Miles. Shannon and her husband Bryan are the owners and creators of BELAY Solutions, a company that connects entrepreneurs with virtual specialists to help support their growth.
Now, Shannon and I and Bryan and Hobie and actually Michael Hyatt and Gail, his wife, we all went to a place called Blackberry Farm. It must have been two years ago. Maybe it wasn't even that long, but right now everything feels like it's meshing together, so I can't get dates right. But we actually took a trip to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, and it was like a friend kind of thing. I had never met Bryan and Shannon, but Michael and Gail said, “Oh, you and Hobie will love them.” And so the six of us went on this trip. Probably one of the most fun trips I've ever been on. It was this great mix of talking business and entrepreneurship and then just talking life and friendship and love. And, you know, those trips that turn out to be even better than you thought? There was probably a little bit too much wine, especially between Shannon and I, and so many laughs. Like, I look back at it and think, that was one of the best trips ever, and I hope we repeat the whole thing. So I have a fondness for Shannon.
And so when I thought about who I wanted to come on this show to talk about this topic, it was, like, no brainer, Shannon's got to talk about this. And believe me, you're going to love this episode because she really gets into what it looks like in different stages of your business to actually hire and work with a virtual assistant. So today we're going to talk about how to know when you're ready to hire, getting over the guilt of asking for help, and the actual stages of hiring and working and increasing your VA's workload. Shannon is going to walk you through step by step how to determine when you're ready for each stage, what tasks they might support you with, what their hours might look like within that stage, and things to be aware of as you take on a VA, and so much more. I know you're going to walk away with clarity around hiring and working with a VA from the top to the bottom, and I can't wait to see what you do with this information. So let's get to it.
Hey, there, Shannon. Welcome to the show.
SHANNON: Hey, Amy. Thank you so much for having me on.
AMY: Oh, my goodness. I am so excited to have you on. And I talked all about you in the intro, so I won't get into those details again. But here's what I'd love to do. I think before we dive into the progression of working with a VA, you need to share your story because it plays an important part of how you understand the needs and frustrations and relief that comes with working with a VA. So will you tell us your story?
SHANNON: Yeah. I mean, the origin story is all about the VA, so it makes perfect sense to start there. Yeah. In 2010, I was working for a corporation that I thought I was going to retire from, and at the same time, my husband was working for a different company that for different reasons, both of us sort of ended up at this place where we needed to make a change in our careers. And it felt like the right time to become entrepreneurs and to stop working for somebody else. So in the spring of that year, we were really prompted to kind of figure out what that business opportunity could be. And we took the summer to kind of map out a strategy, and it was all around how to offer domestic virtual assistance in an industry that didn't otherwise have access to them. So at that time, it was in the ministry. And so in the summer of 2010, we got our corporate ducks in a row and gave notice to our employers. On October 1 of that year, we cashed in our 401(k)s, wrapped up our business obligations there, and started what is now BELAY.
AMY: Okay. So tell us a little bit about BELAY because I think that it's an important part of how far you've come from cashing out your 401(k)s and starting something new. So real quick, tell us about BELAY.
SHANNON: Yeah. So BELAY is all around supporting growing organizations and leaders who want to be able to focus on their business and not be caught up in all of the administrative minutiae that comes along with it. Like, as your listeners know, when you're launching a company, you're wearing all of the hats. And so BELAY’s intent is to come alongside business owners and leaders to help remove some of those hats to do the functions of the job that have to be done.
And this was born out of the idea that, you know, Bryan had worked with his virtual assistant, and they really became like work–alongside business partners, and she was a very integral part in how he was able to achieve success in his role. And so that's really the heart behind what we do at BELAY. Now, virtual assistants is one of the offerings that we have. Bookkeeping, website specialist, and social–media strategist are the other three, but I know we're here to talk about VAs today.
AMY: We are. And my VA, Christine, came from BELAY. Best VA in the world. Absolutely love her. Huge shout out. She literally is my lifesaver, so—
SHANNON: [unclear 11:18].
AMY: —I’m a huge fan of BELAY.
Okay. So let’s talk about knowing when to let go of tasks that aren't serving you and that might be holding you back. So talk to me about that.
SHANNON: Yeah. It can be really hard in the beginning to know which tasks are mission critical and you need to hold on to, and which tasks could be delegated to somebody else. And so in order to kind of arrive at that conclusion, I want to take one step back and talk about what we call owner’s intent. What I mean by that is when you started your business or started your side hustle and became the owner, what was your intention behind that? Was it just to live out a passion? Was it to experiment and see if the market would buy something? Or was it an idea that you really wanted to bring to market and create a company around? So you're building an asset then at that point, and it's not really a hobby turned into a business. So if you kind of wrestle through what your owner's intent is, that will help you inform when to bring somebody on the team and what to turn over to them.
AMY: Got it. Now, you have a progression of knowing when to hire a VA and when to grow with them. So in other words, when to hire them and then when to hire them for more hours. So let’s start with your first phase, the hustler stage, and I want you to talk about this, and just know that when my students ask me about hiring a VA, the first thing they say is, “I don't know exactly what to give them. I know I'm drowning. I know I have so much going on. I know I need help, but I'm not exactly sure what to give them and what not to give them.” So hopefully that can be kind of part of the conversation as well. But you’ve got these stages. Let's talk about the hustler stage.
SHANNON: Yeah. So when we talk about the hustler stage, think early days of getting an idea started. You're working on the business at all hours of the night, trying to figure out if it's something that the market will buy. You really haven't established systems and processes yet, but you know that there's this volume of work that has to happen every day, every week in order to build this business.
And inevitably, when you're in this stage as the hustler, you have a mountain of work that has to be done, that probably about 75 percent of it is in your wheelhouse, and it's something that only you can do. It's probably things like selling, creating the vision for what the product will be, maybe product testing in terms of getting feedback loop from your customers. But then there's the other 25 percent, that is responding to every email message, scheduling every appointment, booking every interview, responding to every social–media post, that are very important things to the job but could conceivably be done by somebody else.
So I would say that there are three steps when you're in this hustler stage to help you determine when you're ready to make your first hire.
AMY: Okay. Talk to me about those.
SHANNON: Okay. So the first step is really determining if there are aspects of the business that need to be done, that you don't have to be the one to do, like some of those things that I mentioned. But I'm sure for the listener, you're probably thinking of some of those things right now. It's usually those things that drain your energy, that are repetitive in nature, and that you absolutely dread doing.
So for me, I’m thinking back ten years ago, early days of BELAY. The first things that we hired around were creating sales proposals and contracts and outsourcing our bookkeeping. So those things were just draining time–consuming wise and energy wise. So that's the first step. Determine if there are aspects of the business that can be done by somebody else.
AMY: And for everybody, there are, right? Like, spoiler alert: there definitely are things that you don't need to be doing. They can be done by somebody else. I'm just thinking for my students, answering your emails, customer support, monitoring your communities, monitoring the comments on social media, bookkeeping, like you said. These are just, if you, like, right out of the gate. Okay, keep going.
SHANNON: And then the second step would be to take a look at your budget and really get a good handle on what your six– to twelve-month financials are going to look like. So projecting out how much revenue you're anticipating, what your cost of goods sold will be, what your expenses are that are part of running a business, and then if you're able to have any net profit—hopefully so. And then really kind of wrestle that to the ground and figure out if you have enough of a track record in your business to do a six–, even twelve-month projection. That will help you get a good handle on your financials and know what resources the business can bear without putting you in debt.
AMY: Got it.
Now, a lot of my students, when they're just starting out, they're not exactly sure where the revenue’s going to come in for a good twelve months, but you all know you can look at the next six months, and you can even be conservative and say, “Okay, if I have this many clients,” or if you're at the stage, “I'm going to sell this many courses.” So reinvesting back into the business in terms of hiring a VA is one of the very first things I encourage you to do. All my Momentum members, part of my Momentum membership experience, you know that one of your big milestones is to hire somebody so that you can start to scale the business and not do it on your own. So this one's important to kind of look at the revenue and the cost of goods and the expenses and the net profit. So very important. Okay, keep going.
SHANNON: And it can be really tempting in that step, too, to not consider the value of your own time.
AMY: Mm. Talk to me a little bit about that.
SHANNON: You’ve probably heard it before, and I've said it before myself, so this is me talking to me ten years ago. “It doesn't take that much time. I can just do it myself .”
AMY: All the time, right? All the time.
SHANNON: “I‘ve got a good system down. It’ll just take me ten minutes.” Well, those ten minutes, if you look at the true value of your time, those are expensive minutes when there are so many aspects of the business that are required to launch that only you can do. And so you really have to consider the value of your own time when you're looking at your budget. That time matters too.
AMY: So very true. I love that you brought that up.
SHANNON: Okay, good. So our third step in the hustler stage is once you've had a chance to review your financials and get a sense of what you project, even if it's just a swag at that point, then you can determine how much you can afford to allocate to hiring. And this can be so subjective. As you know, virtual assistants can range from five dollars an hour to fifty dollars an hour. And I like to say some of it is you get what you pay for, but some of it is the value that you assign to that role and to those tasks that you would be delegating.
I think of the illustration of a handbag. You know, some people place huge value on expensive handbags, and that's part of their persona, and it's part of what makes them feel confident and what they want to project into the world, which is awesome. And some people are cool with Old Navy handbags, and they use them for a season, and then they're done. They're ready to move on to the next one. There's not one wrong way to do it, but either way, you need a handbag.
AMY: Right. Good point. Either way, you need a handbag.
SHANNON: So figure out what you can allocate toward hiring. And maybe this isn't a forever budget. Maybe this is, “Okay, I know I'm drowning. This business is keeping me up at night. I can't get to all the things that have to happen. And this is what I know I can afford today. But someday I can imagine budgeting for a different level of support or a different type of role that may be more costly.” These are steps to get you ultimately to where you want to be in the growth of your business.
AMY: Okay, perfect. I remember you talking about before about predicting what revenue could be generated in the business. Talk to me about that.
SHANNON: Yeah. And this was a big mental shift that I had to make early on in the business. Like, the irony of us having a virtual–assistant company and it took me six months to have my own virtual assistant, like, I get it. It can be really hard to kind of jump over that hurdle and realize that in order to grow, you really can't do it all yourself. And so one mindset shift that I think is important, it was for me anyway, is really thinking about the revenue that I could have generated in the business if I wasn't burdened with all of the administrative tasks. So when you think about what we talked about earlier, assigning value to your time, imagine if you had more time to sell. Imagine if you had more time to network with a new channel partner that will bring you into a different segment of the market that you never would have been able to connect with before. Imagine if you had more time to talk to your customers and learn more about what's resonating with your product and what isn’t and then figuring out what tweaks could be made. Imagine what that would do to sales. So those are the kinds of things that are usually what a founder, what an entrepreneur, what an owner really can get to the heart of, that adds so much more value to their business than just answering every email.
AMY: Yes. I’m so glad you brought this up about really, truly imagining what you could contribute if you weren't always in the weeds, what you could do if you weren't working on these things that would totally drain your energy. So I'm very glad you brought that up.
Okay. So you start out with the hustler stage, and you went through these three steps to really evaluate where you're at and ultimately determine how much you are willing to pay for your VA. So once you’re in the hustler stage and you start working with your VA, you can then move into the next stage, which you call the entrepreneurial stage. Talk to me about that stage.
SHANNON: Yeah. So really the big transition from being a hustler to an entrepreneur is that you have market validation. People are buying your product or your service, and you're figuring out now how to scale that offering. And it moves from being a side hustle to being your primary focus, and you're starting to have some predictability in your financials, like we talked about, that’s hard to do in the hustler stage. And you're able to modify your product in a way where you're refining it instead of sometimes in the early stages where you're kind of like throwing spaghetti against the wall and see if it's going to stick. So this is the time in business development when you really have to start to develop systems, and hiring is such a key part of that.
So I have three phases in this stage that I think will help the listener think through when it's time to hire or increase hiring at this point.
AMY: Okay. Let me have it.
SHANNON: Okay. So the first one is identify the areas of the business that are important but are being neglected.
SHANNON: And what happens when you grow, maybe you've heard, a business that grows too fast is almost as risky as one that doesn't grow fast enough, because if you are too fast, the wheels can start coming off, and the service that contributed to your growth ends up becoming diluted because you're just unable to sustain that pace of growth when you're one person. So look at the areas of the business at this stage that are still mission critical, but they're the ones you always run out of time to focus on at the end of the day. They're the ones that you're starting to feel friction around or getting complaints about or, “Guys, you used to be so responsive. And now it's taking me days to hear back from you,” that sort of thing, those areas that are probably contributing factors to your growth, but now they're being neglected.
AMY: Okay. That makes sense. Now, they could be, like, admin or marketing, bookkeeping, customer service. Would you agree?
SHANNON: Yeah. And I'm glad you said customer service. To me, that's the biggest one, because I think if as a business owner, we lose sight of our customer and what adds value to them, that's when the wheels start to come off because your reputation matters so much. And so when you think about delegating email and it's just email, no, it's often your conduit for your customer service. It's often the way that you're communicating to your market that you still care. So whether that's an inbox on Instagram or your email, the premise is the same. Customer service is one of those things that can get so neglected when you’re building a business because you’re focused on getting the next customer and not servicing the ones that you already have.
AMY: Ah, so true. I'm so glad you bring this up, because I bet two, maybe three or four years into my business, I started to look at customer support and think, “Wait a second. We need to overhaul this. We need systems in place. We need canned responses. We need to make sure that our response time is better.” Like, it took a long time for me to move into the next stage of customer support, but we did a full overhaul. So for those of you listening, we have an upcoming podcast episode all about what our customer support looks like and how to implement some strategies into your customer support. So if you're in that entrepreneurial stage, like Shannon says, this might be one area you want to look into and also start looking to your VA to help you in a bigger way. So I'm so glad you brought that up.
Okay. So the first thing when you're in this entrepreneurial stage is to identify the areas of the business that are important but being neglected. What's the second step?
SHANNON: Determine what existing resources can be expanded. So I'm making an assumption now in this phase that you've at least had some level of help to get you from being a hustler to an entrepreneur, whether that was somebody on a part–time contract basis, whether that was somebody supporting you twenty hours a week. So my first recommendation in this step would be to look at what you already have in place that's working that needs to be expanded. And this is often where you're starting to see a shift from your virtual assistant wearing a lot of different hats themselves to narrowing in on a particular area of the business that they've been able to excel in. Customer service may be one of those things. And so look at how many hours of support you have right now and what can be increased. Maybe look at additional administrative work that you've held on to because you haven't been able to afford it, at least on paper, and figure out, okay, now that I've got a viable business and I'm starting to grow, what's the next area of administration that needs to be outsourced and turned over to somebody else? Or maybe you have a bookkeeper and you need to expand the work that they're doing for you. Maybe it needs to move past just paying invoices and keeping track of expenses to producing your monthly financials or helping you manage your cash flow or collecting on receivables .
AMY: For sure. Okay. And I like that you said before, when you and I were talking, you were saying, like, can your VA increase their hours, or can your bookkeeper help with cash–flow projections, or can your social–media assistant own your content calendar? So it’s like looking at what’s already happening and then taking that up a level. Would you agree?
SHANNON: Exactly. And that's something that we've done over and over again in our experience at BELAY, even with our corporate team. Like, one of our big mantras is to replace yourself. And that's true for us as owners, and it's true for every leader that we've ever groomed up. Always look for ways to replace yourself in your business. And oftentimes the virtual assistant is a great way to do that because they've gotten integrated into a lot of different aspects of the business. They have a good sense of your vision and your why, and they can kind of pick up and run with certain segments of the business over time as they justify one dedicated person. And so we've used that mantra of replacing yourself to say, “All right, awesome VA. You've proven yourself across the board. What's the one aspect of the business that you've been working on where there's a need for more resources in this area and it matches your skill set and your passion about what you want to do?” And so then we form a role around that. And maybe it's still two hats at that point in the earlier stage, but the point is looking for those opportunities to take what you've already learned about the amazing support your virtual assistant can provide and then figuring out where the next role could be for them in the organization.
AMY: Oh, that's fantastic. I love that advice. So good.
All right. And then, what’s the third step?
SHANNON: Okay. So we’re back to financials again because if you can’t pay for it, it doesn’t really matter, right?
AMY: Fun, fun, fun. Sexy stuff.
SHANNON: I know. But everybody’s in this, I’m assuming, to make some money, so let’s talk about the money.
AMY: Let’s do it.
SHANNON: So, yeah. Take a look at your financials again and figure out what you can afford. And so this may be the time where you're bringing on a full–time team members and converting them from being 1099s to W-2s within your organization, because I'm assuming if you've made the leap from being a hustler to an entrepreneur, you're wanting to grow your company. And in order to do that, you need people around you to help you grow your company. And oftentimes for us, that translated converting 1099 part–time roles into full time and really hiring those specialists. And so when you think about how much you can financially afford, you need to think about things like, do they become a W-2 or do they stay 1099? What additional perks can I give them to incent them to join the team? Are there benefits out there that are easily attainable for me to offer as part of this growing organization? That's what I mean about financials.
And I want to make sure that you're planning for the future growth, too, not just looking at today's date and thinking, “Oh, gosh, can I get through this month?” because once you start involving people in your business, you almost have an obligation to think through the impact of your decisions on your growing team, because a part of that is knowing your financials and knowing ultimately what you can afford as you project your growth.
AMY: I think it's so funny—not so funny. It's so relevant—I literally followed these stages. So I was for sure in that hustler stage for a while. Once I moved into the entrepreneurial stage, something we did just a few years back was to move a lot of contractor positions into full time. And so now where the business is, we offer benefits and health insurance and bonuses and all of that good stuff. And I just want to put out there that that was very scary for me. Moving into this stage, reviewing the financials, determining what we could afford in terms of bringing employees on full time, it was very, very scary. But also there's something really magical about having an employee that is 100 percent dedicated to your work and your business and in the movement that you're creating versus having to share them with a lot of other people, and so they've got just one foot in and one foot out, by just design of how you've hired them. So this idea of full time is really, really valuable to at least start thinking about once you get into this stage.
SHANNON: That is so important. And you're right. It is scary because you're not only responsible for yourself and putting all of your cards on the table to make this work for you, you're also now employing people. And that's not something to be taken lightly. It's not to say that business can't change and flex, and certainly this year has proved that more than anything. But like, it just makes you think about your business differently.
And it takes me back to where we started this conversation around owner’s intent. You knew this was not a hobby for you. This was not something that you were going to try and see if it works. You knew that you had something that was viable in the market and that you had reached an audience that you needed to continue to service and grow. And so that for you, you're building an asset for your family. And that makes it easier, I think, to get over some of that fear about hiring. It's like you can't grow something of size just by yourself.
AMY: Yes. It’s so true. You cannot grow something of size just by yourself. And what I often tell my students, especially as they get into the entrepreneurial stage, is that it's not a badge of honor to do it all your own. When people brag that “I'm a one–woman show or one–man show,” and they’re two, three years into it, I always think, “Imagine what you could be doing if you weren't doing it all yourself. Imagine how much happier you would be, how much more efficient you'd be, and how much more people you could reach.” So just be careful with that badge of honor, thinking, “I'm scrappy. I'm doing it all myself.” In the very beginning stages, that's, of course, what's happening. But as you get into these other stages or move into hustler stage, move out of hustler stage into entrepreneurial stage, you definitely want to realize how valuable your time is and what the mark you could make in this world if you weren't doing it on your own.
Okay. So, for most of my listeners, they're going to be in the hustler stage or entrepreneurial stage. But there are a few people listening right now that are more advanced. And also my students in my community, they like to future pace. They like to look forward to, “Okay, what am I striving for? Where's the ultimate stage I want to get to?” So could you give us a brief description of what would come next after these two stages?
SHANNON: Yeah. So the next phase is the CEO/president of your company. And so at this point, you've established your systems and processes. You’re not having to put out every single fire. You’ve become the fire chief and not the firefighter. That one was for Hobie. I hope he appreciates that.
AMY: I’m going to tell him you said so.
SHANNON: You're really focusing on building brand equity at this point. And you have an established leadership team that has very clearly defined objectives. They know what winning looks like for their different disciplines, and you're really focusing on gaining market share at this point. So that's the CEO/president phase.
And then just to round out these phases, the fourth and final one is the owner. And that's really where you‘ve become sort of like that Jim Collins, level–five leader, where you have effectively delegated the day–in and day–out functions of the company to other capable leaders, and the flywheel is really spinning at this point. You have become sort of the chief visionary and storyteller, that you're really sitting in that owner/chairman–of–the–board box, which candidly, Amy, is the seat that Bryan and I are sitting in right now for BELAY. Just at the beginning of this year, we appointed a CEO over the business and have now moved into the owner role, which has allowed us to create this new company called Own Not Run, which is where this framework came from.
AMY: Okay. So you've been able to create something fantastic, like, so incredibly valuable off of BELAY, outside of BELAY, because you were able to move into this next stage. And what did this next stage do for you? So once you moved into the CEO role and you were able to look at things differently, why do you think you then had the opportunity to create something new?
SHANNON: Mind space, the ability to dream again, to not be so bogged down in the day to day of the business that you can't lift your head up and see different opportunity. And I’m sure you’ve experienced this, but the larger your business grows, the more opportunity you as an individual have to talk about that business. How’d you do it? How’d you grow your business? When did you know how to hire? Like, all those things that we’re talking about.
And it's when you're not so down in the weeds of your business that you can actually start talking about and teaching on these more high–level things. And mentoring has always been something that's important to Bryan and I, so the ability to invest in other business owners around the concept of being able to own not run their business and experience that freedom has been hugely rewarding, and it feels like it is us living in our genius at this season in time.
Now, if you had told me ten years ago, when we got started, that we would be here, I'd be like, “You're crazy. That's a different girl. I'm doing BELAY ‘til I die,” right?
There was a catalyst for us in the business, and there’s a story that goes along with it, that Bryan was climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming with the business mentor that was pivotal to give us courage to start this company. And he was talking to Jeff about the idea of owning the business, blah, blah, blah. And Jeff said, “You don't own anything.” And granted, this is summer of 2011, so not even a full year of being in business.
SHANNON: But we were all in the business. And Jeff’s like, “You don't own anything.” Bryan’s like, “Oh, boy. Here comes a lesson. Do I not own anything?”. And he said, “The business needs you right now, day to day. The moment that you are not needed by the business day to day is the day that you own a business. Until then, you're running a business.”
AMY: Uh, I mean it hits you, for sure.
SHANNON: You need somebody with that perspective to speak through the dual eyes sometimes. So, you know, we're still in the infant stages of the business at this point, but he comes down, off that mountain, and we have this conversation that changed the whole trajectory of what we were building. Like, we need to build this business in a way that eventually we can own it and not run it. And that has informed mantras like “replace yourself” or “promote from within” or “delegate,” “lead with trust, not suspicion.” All of these things that we talk about at BELAY were kind of born out of that concept of really striving to own the business and not run it, knowing that there are other capable people who are just as passionate about the business as you are that can do those day–to–day tasks.
AMY: Yes. I mean, I love this concept. I love this new business you're building. And tell people where could they go to learn more about—is it—it’s Own Not Run, right? That's the name of the new business?
SHANNON: Yeah, exactly. And so to find out more about it’s just ownnotrun.com.
AMY: I was hoping it was that easy, but I thought, “Oh no, what if that's not the URL, and I'm sending them to somebody else's business?” Okay. So ownnotrun.com. You guys should check it out. It's something to aspire to. So many great lessons there. The concept is exactly what we all need to be striving for. I know it's something that when I got to spend some time with Shannon and Bryan and they explained this concept, I thought, “Okay. So I am definitely running my business still. I wouldn't say that I am at that own stage,” but I love this idea of, okay, so what would it take to get there? So I'm kind of exploring it just alongside all of you.
Okay. So before we wrap up, I know a lot of people that are listening, there's things that come up with hiring your first VA or adding more hours to your VA or maybe going for that first project manager, the first bookkeeper, social–media manager, all the other roles that are really important as well. What comes up is fear; fear of not knowing what to give them; not ever managing someone before; fear of not being able to afford them; even if you've run the numbers, you're still scared of that part of it. And then also just this guilt, like, maybe I should do it alone longer; maybe I'm not ready. All this stuff that comes up. So what would you say to all of that? Like, what are your parting words when my audience genuinely needs more help? They’re at that area or at that part in their business that they really shouldn't be continuing on their own. What would you say to them?
SHANNON: Two things. First is I understand that, and I think any business owner who’s being honest about how they're feeling would understand where you're coming from. So the first thing is know that you're not alone. And the second thing is get over it. I promise you [unclear 40:56]. I mean that with the most sincerity. Like, it's better on the other side. It always feels scary to hire in the beginning. But it's one of those things that once you do it and you start to figure out how to find the right people and what makes them stick long term, the reward far outweighs the risk. And if you're going to grow your organization and make it something bigger than a hobby, you have to hire a team member or two or three. So just rip the Band-Aid off and know that you're not going to get it right out of the gate. It‘s trial and error sometimes. But it's worth the risk. And it's the only way that you're going to be able to grow your business.
AMY: Yes. Get over it, in that loving—that is said in the most loving way possible. But it is so very true. This is not a hobby, my friend. You are building a business.
Shannon, thank you so very much for coming on the show. I love you dearly. I love our friendship. And thank you for adding so much value.
SHANNON: You’re the best. I love you too. Thanks for having me on.
AMY: Talk about a value–packed episode. I wish I had this knowledge when I was just starting out. I love to learn through stages. I like to identify what stage I'm in, what I need to do in that stage to excel, and then what it takes to get to the next stage so that I'm always growing. And that's probably why I love this episode so much.
So here's what I want you to do with this information. Sit down and get clear on where you are in your business. Are you in the hustler stage? the entrepreneurial stage? Are you beyond that? And then remember this: no matter where you are, no matter which stage that you are in, I just want you to be honest with yourself. What are you struggling with? Where are you spending your time, where you know you don't want to be spending your time? What would you love to get support on? Just get really honest with yourself and kind of dream a little bit as well. Like, what would be the optimal situation for the stage you're in now? If you're serious about growing your business, and I know you are, then using a virtual assistant is a big part of getting you to where you want to go. And I really do hope that you consider hiring a virtual assistant in the near future, maybe make that your next ninety-day goal. And if you've already hired one, making sure that you're working smart with that virtual assistant.
All right, my friend. I hope you love this interview as much as I did. A huge thanks to Shannon. And I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now.