How We Kept Growing During a Pandemic (3 Lessons to Steal for Your Business)

business growth

Hey Coach Ponyling!

Every now and then I like to lift the veil and show you what’s happening behind the scenes in my business here at Team Pony.

I do it because I LOVE IT when I get to see what other coaches who have success are doing, and I made the promise to you when I started Coach Pony that’d we’d be keeping it real.

So let’s check in. What does a successful coaching business look like right now?

Note: As a reference it’s late September 2020, i.e., the year that I think we all wish would go away?

There have been many bad things happening, but one thing that is not bad is GROWTH.

For me (and for my clients in a variety of niches), there has been massive growth.

New clients. Profitable rates. Offerings that have been snapped up. GROWTH.

And to be clear, going into this year we here at Coach Pony already had plans to continue to scale our reach as the best business community for new coaches, but this year so far exceeded even my expectations.

And to say that I’ve learned a lot is an understatement.

Let’s dive in to what’s happening here at Coach Pony! There were many lessons!

Lesson 1: The times you feel the most scared are often the times that precede your biggest success.

I’ve had to learn this lesson every single year I’ve been in business, and this year really brought it home for me. As context, the team and I plan our year out ahead of time, so big events are locked into the calendar early. This year was no exception, and in early March we were all preparing for our first big free webinar of the year, happening in later that month.

You know what happened next.

Lockdown, panic, confusion, stress.

At the time, we were already deep into our advertising for the webinar, so word was out and money was spent, and people were signing up.

So, as we went into shutdown I had a choice: Pull all of the advertising and move the webinar to some future date (we had spent about $20,000 at that point), or go forward.

You can imagine how terrible my hair looked after I spent several days running my hands through it and pacing. I kept making the following points:

1) The pandemic was raging, we were in lock down, who was I to be even thinking about business?
2) But, I’d spent money on ads, we were close to the webinar date and testing an important strategy, and who was I to tell people that coaching wasn’t critical?
3) Then there was the “You suck” “You will fail” “This is terrible” and all of the other usual thoughts that proceed any webinar where you have thousands register, and so much of me wanted to NOT DO IT and was happy to have an excuse to back out.

What did I do?

I went ahead with the webinar. I decided that people needed coaching and access to coaching more than ever, and so I needed to at least follow through on my webinar and do what I could to help out and make sure more coaches succeed in business so that they can coach. I also draw a lot of comfort from my work and honestly, focusing on that allowed me to keep some normalcy in such an uncertain time.

Finally, I hate the idea of letting my fears and doubts get the best of me. That’s not a way to live, or a way to run a business, so the contrarian in me was all “Shove it.”

The results:

It went WELL. So many people showed up live (close to 900), and the energy from the coaches in attendance was extraordinary. It ended up being a gift to me to get a chance to hang out with such positive energy.

Personally, it was amazing. I love getting to help people (if you’ve ever been to a Coach Pony webinar, you’ll know they are NO FLUFF).  Business wise, it was also great, as that month kicked off a string of massive growth here at Coach Pony. And as we closed out March I kept thinking how close I had come to canceling the whole thing. It’s interesting how much growth happens when you stretch into the fear, no?

Question for you: What are you scared of doing right now? How is that serving you?

Lesson 2: Systems SAVE YOU

I preach the importance of building your 5 key business systems. If you are confused by the previous sentence, here’s a helpful blog for you that explains what I mean by “5 key business systems.”

So, we use a ton of strategic systems here at CP, and I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into building core systems that can withstand change.

So, flash forward to late May. We were preparing our second live webinar of the year when…George Floyd was killed in police custody. Note: We believe Black Lives Matter, and if you don’t believe that then you are on the wrong website.

We – oddly again – were in the middle of our big ad spend when the news broke. We had started the ad campaign earlier  than we had in March, so the webinar was still weeks off.

What did I do?

This time was a little different: We immediately shut down everything, pulled all the ads, and paused everything in the business to pay attention. With COVID it felt like the right thing to do was to continue and give myself and others a bit of normalcy via my business. With BLM I had to face up to the fact that what we’ve normalized as a society was costing Black people their lives.

So, I had pulled all ads, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do the webinar, and unlike in March, I stopped work completely. I put my focus on learning about BLM and systemic racism (Note: I’m still learning, and I know I have a long way to go).

So – what was I doing for income for me and the team I support?

Answer: My systems kicked in.

First, I have automated sales systems that were running quietly in the background. I wasn’t feeding them because we had turned off all marketing, but they were out there doing their thing for those who were interested in my help. So, new students continued to enroll in my programs.

Second, as things settled down and the weeks passed we decided to move ahead with the webinar.  But, we hadn’t really done anything for it in weeks, and we were all a little off kilter. Fortunately, we have a system even for live events, so we just went to the system playbook and opened it.

We didn’t have to recreate the wheel because we had already built one that was rolling, even if we weren’t fully at the helm for a bit. Email campaigns were ready, checklists were built, and we had already thought through every step of the process.

The results:

It sort of boggled my mind given all that was going wrong in the world, but in my business world, the automated systems did their job, as did the live webinar systems, and things went even better than in March. We enrolled a bigger amount of students than predicted, the energy was still amazing, and the knowledge that I was helping coaches who were going to change peoples lives was something that kept me going.

My systems gave me the space to be able to pull my focus from the business. If you don’t have systems in your business, then for the LOVE OF CHOCOLATE read this immediately.

Question for you: What business systems have you created? And what ones still need work?

Lesson 3: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And you have to find a way to enjoy running.

Listen, I’m a human.

And this year has been a lot for all of us.

Here on the CP team we’ve had family members get sick and die. We’ve had key systems fail. We’ve had angry people decide to let out their frustration on life coaches. Many bad things have happened that have sapped our collective energy.

And at the same time we have new clients every day who we are honored to serve and who we must take care of so they can be as successful as they deserve.

What I come back to is always this: Business is a marathon, not a sprint. Today may be hard, but tomorrow could be amazing. And one day, or one week, isn’t going to make or break me in terms of my goals or where I’m going.

So I need to keep going, consistently building my business, creating my content, shaping my programs and most importantly: Helping my students.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get tired, or overwhelmed. I could feel it coming on in June, and I knew I needed to take action to keep myself going.

What did I do?

I slowed down. I took time off. I rethought how we did things.

What this means in practice is figuring out boundaries, focusing on progress, not perfection, and only doing ONE big project at a time.

For instance, we took a hard look at our business tools, and asked the question “What would make our lives easier?”  One of the answers was “a better customer service program to answer emails and support tickets.” So, we transitioned to Zendesk this summer and instead of my usual “let’s do it in a week!” we took the whole month of July to set it up and finally switch over 100% as a team.

And, we instituted “Summer Fridays” for July and August, where we didn’t work or respond to email on Friday. That meant the team, and me, got a long weekend and a chance to recharge after an extremely trying first 6 months of the year.

And as a rule personally, I’ve been saying no more far more than yes, and constantly finding ways to bring more joy into what I do.

I have started to ask myself this question a lot: “What would make today a rich day in my life?” and then I answer it.

Sometimes, like yesterday (Saturday), a rich day is watching Downton Abbey at 8 am and having tea and breakfast cake while wearing my bathrobe. Other times it’s taking my laptop outside to work, and sometimes it’s just creating something new for my students, like a new training or even simply a pep talk. At times I fail in finding the joy in the day-to-day, but I know I’m living a life I’ve purposely designed, so I have all of the freedom in the world to redesign it to make sure I can keep going. Burning out won’t serve me or my clients, and neither will taking the short view.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be here for the long haul, longer than the 8 years I’ve already been doing this, and I want Coach Pony to be the best in the biz at what we do! So, I need to manage my projects, team, and perspective so that we can do just that.

Our watchword = focus.

The results:

By constantly choosing only to do things I know will help our goals, and saying no to everything else, I’ve actually – weirdly – got less work on my plate (for now, I am a big ideas person and can’t be trusted not to have 100 ideas – most of them bad –  at any given time).

I’ve also been able to sneak away on some trips without anything changing or anyone even knowing (HELLO SUMMER FRIDAYS!). And when things get bad or something goes wrong and we have a bad week, I’ve been able to keep my perspective and mostly stay upbeat.

Finally, with every year that passes my projects and strategies get simpler. I’ve always got clear quarterly plans and while my goals sometimes get bigger, getting to them is easier because I’m better about not taking too much on and giving myself room to back off when needs be. This year has been a reminder of that. I personally want to do only a few things extremely well, versus doing many things badly.

The winner of the race is the one who ultimately gets to the end, not the one who burns out right away. So the result of doing less, but better, and conserving my energy for the long race is that each year my business grows faster – and not incrementally. Exponentially.

Question for you: Where are you constantly sprinting? What do you need to change to adapt to the marathon of building a business?

Need more help?

We are here for you!

I talk a lot about business systems in this free in-depth training on why people DO NOT pay for life coaching, so read it all the way through. No opt-in required, just click and go!




how to grow your coaching business during a pandemic