I know we’re already a few weeks into 2018, but I don’t think it’s ever too late to wish you all a Happy New Year! We are so excited for everything 2018 has in store and to share more with you throughout this awesome adventure!
Most years, I feel like we have a lot of unfinished business when we are transitioning from December into January. But this year feels like a fresh start, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! We wrapped up 2017 really nicely and would love to share a little with you about our 2017 journey and goals before moving on to what 2018 has in store.
For the past few years, we’ve created a mantra where we highlight a few keywords that we want to use as our focus throughout the year. You can check out more about our 2016 and 2017 mantras and goals in previous blog posts.
Our mantra for 2017 was waste less, share more, and live our why. We knew that our mantra was absolutely perfect from the first moment we said it out loud. We ran with that mantra throughout all of 2017 and have a lot to show for our efforts. It wasn’t easy, but it definitely helped us focus on the bigger picture throughout the year and helped us to grow our business and ourselves.
Taking that mantra seriously meant taking a step back from the podcasts to really look at our business and our priorities. It meant taking time for self-reflection and briefly giving up one of the things we have loved doing in order to reassess our overall goals and figure out how to improve our business.
At the start of 2017, we were simply doing too much! We had our hands in everything, and it overwhelming. We were both feeling exhausted and torn in a million directions all of the time. We felt the need to reassess every part of our business. To give you a little more insight into the work that we did, let’s break down our mantra for 2017 and share with you a few of the ways that we changed our business.
Wasting less means so many things, but one of the biggest changes we made regarding waste was creating fewer physical products. We moved from creating CDs and binders every month for our classes to sharing MP3s and online downloads instead. We brought fewer physical products to our national conference and created a more cohesive product catalog.
On top of that, we did away with one of our websites and moved all of our products into one location. We also stopped making several products and moved toward creating resources that we felt better fit our business and helped move the needle forward. By making just a few changes, we have saved a lot of time, money, and energy.
One of the biggest changes that we made was being more transparent with both our team and the families to whom we provide services. We’ve worked to be more honest, up front, and real about everything that is and was happening within the business. When we returned to the podcast, we also got more real with all of our listeners by sharing personal stories and providing insight about the hardships we’ve experienced in our business. Even though we didn’t share more physical products, we shared more throughout our community both online and in person by engaging in conversations and presenting to groups.
Live our why.
Over the past few years of working together, Rachel and I have had the opportunity to learn about our strengths and our weaknesses and really hone in on the things that we like to do, and have definitely learned about the things that we don’t like to do. We’ve grown our company and continued to strive to each do what we love. Finding balance and focus has often been a struggle, though. In growing our business, it’s been easy to lose track of the why behind what were are doing.
Through “living our why”, we wanted to bring intention back to everything we are doing. We have been in hustle and go mode for so long that we made it a priority to step back and figure out what was really important to each of us. We took time to figure out our whys and our passions and share them with each other so that we could start making changes in our business that align with our values. We have started to question absolutely everything that we do now, even down to the most trivial tasks in order to determine if they are really necessary to help us move the needle forward.
We have been searching for the why behind everything that we’re doing, and really trying to focus in on the things that will help us be our best, live our best lives, and go home happy.
Throughout our “assessment” we found that we really needed to give up a little bit of control. So that we could start living more of our why, we delegated some of the administrative tasks in our business and some of the smaller things to other people on our team. We created new roles and gained perspective from other people. We started taking a step back from the direct service aspect of the company and instead focused on what we both really want for ourselves and our company.
One of the big things that Rachel did in 2017 was gave up teaching lessons. She felt like she was spending too much time away from her children and wanted to be more family focused. I also started taking a step back from direct service so that I can find more balance and spend time with the people that I love.
2017 was a HUGE year of accomplishments. If we took time to list them all, it would take hours. Here are just a few of the highlights from 2017 that were due in huge part to our goals.
- We received a steady paycheck every month of the year for the first time!
- We saw explosive growth of our early childhood classes
- We brought on one of our team members in an administrative role and expanded their position (She is a systems and spreadsheet goddess <3)
- We did a little remodel on our second waiting room
- We presented at both local and national events.
- We launched new courses
As we moved into 2018, we definitely wanted to have a new mantra. This year’s mantra is:
Expansion, Flow, and Joy
I won’t go into too much detail for now, but we are so excited about this year’s mantra. In 2017, We got a taste of what it means to be truly joyful as business owners. We are looking to find more joy throughout 2018 and in all of the little things that we do. We definitely know that we are striving for expansion and growth in 2018, but we want to make it a more natural process and find flow in all we are doing. Muscle-ing our way through 2018 is the last thing either of us wants. We want to let it flow naturally and joyously as we strive for expansion throughout the year.
(Post-recording update: During the episode, we talked about interviewing possible candidates for a new position with MTC. Laura Tam has officially accept the position and we are excited to have her join our music therapy team at the start of February! Welcome Laura!)
We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment, find us on Instagram, or even send us an email. Let us know what your goals are in 2018 so we can support you throughout the year. We want to cheer you on!
Until next time,
Katey & Rachel
Episode 26 is especially exciting because for the first time ever, we have a guest on the podcast! During our recording a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to chat with Jaime Lawrence of Harmony Garden Music Therapy Services!
We are so grateful we had the opportunity to talk with Jaime, and enjoyed getting to know her more. We feel like our businesses are kindred spirits in that they offer such a diverse set of services to a community of people, and our businesses have experienced similar journeys.
We definitely encourage you to take a listen to the whole episode, but here are some of the highlights.
Fun Facts About Harmony Garden
- Jaime opened Harmony Garden Music Therapy Services in 2006 and has been in business for herself for almost 12 years.
- Unlike MTC, Harmony Garden has always had a storefront, physical location for the business. They are currently in their fourth location and loving it!!
- One of the coolest things about their current location is that it is in the same plaza as other therapists. They gain visibility and foot traffic simply by being in the same location as those other businesses.
- Harmony Garden offers a variety of services and now has a team of three music therapists!
- The business offers a “cradle to grave” style set of services including everything from early childhood groups to older adult and hospice care.
Throughout the podcast, Jaime talked about her business goals and philosophy. She is always striving for growth and told us that she never wants to say “no”. She’s always been open to working with new populations and clientele and loves exploring the new opportunities that come her way.
We discussed how her business has been able to grow even through her two maternity leaves by bringing on team members to cover her absences and by growing contracts after her return. Though Jaime’s main focus is growth, she agreed with us that as a business owner, her goals are ever-changing and evolving.
I feel like we could have talked with Jaime forever! We have so many things in common, especially as business owners. One of the biggest points we agreed on is that owning a business (especially one where you are providing a service) is a delicate balancing act.
We always want to be involved in the clinical aspect of music therapy while also running the practice and juggling all of the administrative tasks at the same time. With all of those balls in the air, we asked Jaime how she’s finding balance and how she handles all of the craziness.
Jaime told us that she has taken a few things off of her plate by bringing in an additional team member to take on some of the administrative tasks and paperwork. We’ve been on the same journey at MTC and bonded over the fact that while it’s incredible to assign those tasks to someone else, it’s also struggle finding someone who knows your business the way that you do. It’s exciting to bring on additional people to take on administrative tasks, but navigating those waters can be tedious and sometimes expensive.
Unfortunately, there is no roadmap or how-to book to help us along the way. A lot of business owners struggle with the same things we do: wanting to do all of the things all of the time. What we have learned is that we have to reign ourselves in and make the big decisions based on what we know will move us forward and in the right direction. We know that, at the end of the day, making those really big decisions is hard but we have to do what’s right for ourselves, our families, and the future of our company.
We agreed that we all have to put extra focus on balancing the people-pleasing sides of ourselves with our personal needs and self-care. When we asked Jaime what she does for self-care and to find balance, she told us that her self-care includes going home and shutting everything off or engaging in the fun business tasks that help her celebrate her accomplishments.
Jaime also listed a few ways she likes to stay inspired in her work and practice, including:
- Listening to podcasts (ex. Being Boss)
- Having fun with her team and socializing
- Connecting with people both in person and on social media
- Participating in gatherings locally and online.
Before we ended our interview, we asked Jaime to share a piece of advice for other music therapy business owners. I summed up her amazing thoughts/tips with the following:
Don’t ever assume that you can’t do something. Always push and try for what you want. You will always surprise yourself! Be open to and strive for growth, whatever that looks like!
Be sure to follow Jaime and Harmony Garden Music Therapy Services across social media using the handle @hgmusictherapy. You can also check out her website or find her on YouTube.
Wowzers! I feel like the month of November came and went in the blink of an eye! Rachel and I were talking before recording the podcast the other day and honestly think this may have been our busiest month since moving into our new building. We have had all of the pots simmering at the same time! We’ve been so busy, but with the most incredible projects!
One of the big things we were focused on in November was attending our national Music Therapy conference in St. Louis.
We were so grateful that this year, the conference was only a quick 90 minute drive instead of the 9.5 hours it was last year. (You can hear all about our conference experience last year in CBB Episode 6).
We had a lot of new experiences at our conference in 2016 (including selling products for the first time!) and wanted to avoid some of the mistakes we made last year so we could make the most out of this year’s conference.
For those of you who have never sold products in person before, there is a lot that goes into it! Last year, we put so many things off until the last minute and ended up scrambling to get it all done and get everything loaded in the car so we could actually hit the road on time.
Selling products in person is so different from doing it online or even just handing out information. We learned that lesson the hard way and didn’t want to be up until midnight the night before leaving putting together final products and sale catalogs.
When we finally got to conference last year, we were super prepared and ready to sell absolutely everything we had created but we didn’t leave our booth and came out of the conference experience feeling exhausted.
To set ourselves up for an awesome conference this year, we started our planning months in advance! We knew we wanted to step up our game this year and actually take in the whole conference. While we still wanted to exhibit and sell products, we also feel like that’s not what the conference experience is about for us.
It’s about everything outside our products. Our conference is about the connections we make, sharing our passion, and, at the heart of everything, sharing our “why”. It’s about learning new things, exploring new ideas, and opening ourselves up to a new world of opportunities.
We knew we had huge goals to achieve so we started planning at the very beginning of 2017. We started forming our game plan for our booth last winter when Alisabeth shared her idea for a Sign Language CMTE course. We knew it would be a huge amount of work so we determined our November conference as the launch date!
Because we sell so many products and wanted to share more about them or develop more tools, Rachel and I decided we also wanted to present this year. We knew that it would be an interesting challenge trying to determine our focus 6 months ahead of time, so we stuck with a topic we are incredibly familiar with and knew we could talk about for hours: working with kids. Not only did we talk about working with children but we shared a free tool we developed just for the occasion: The Essential Toolkit for Working With Children.
Holy cow!!! We could not have anticipated the reaction we got when we presented. By sharing more of who we are and the “why” behind what we do, we created a cohesive message that brought together all of the different pieces of our conference experience.
I think it was so validating for people to hear that music therapy is so much more than just the songs we sing. We shared a list of the tools that people forget they are using in therapy, like their personality, life experience, and presence. I think everyone was able to walk out of our presentation with something even beyond the toolkit we provided.
Creating that cohesion and presence was our primary goal for the conference, but that’s not to say we didn’t have other things we wanted to take away. We wanted to make connections and have fun!!!!
The first day of our conference was exhausting and overwhelming. Between the prepping for conference, travel, setup of our booth, seeing everyone for the first time, hauling everything to our room, etc., we were done! Rachel and I decided to take some much needed time away to just unwind and grab a nice dinner together.
A lot of people think that since we are business partners that we must hang out all the time. Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish we could just hang out more because we always have an amazing time, but the truth of the matter is that we generally only see each other once or twice a week and in meetings.
Because we don’t get that time together, it made our first night dinner so much more wonderful. We actually got to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine and an amazing dinner and just chat for a couple hours. It was great getting to catch up on so many of the things that get lost in the daily grind.
I could go on and on about all of the other amazing parts of our conference experience but instead I’ll just briefly touch on a few of the other incredible highlights: They include:
- The first night exhibit spectacular where we got to show off our brand new course and see everyone!
- My reunion dinner with 20+ other Western Illinois students/alumni and professors.
- Getting to meet and re-connect with several people I’ve either met online or only met at conference.
- Going to sessions and learning new methods or getting new ideas that I can apply in my session
- Debuting our NEW CMTE course!!!!! Alisabeth was like the shining star of our booth!! It was so cool to watch everything come together and see her in a different role. It was like a proud parent moment!
- Our MTC Dinner – We got together with 6 people who have been a part of our team in some way and got to reconnect during a family dinner! It was so splendid getting to just sit down and chat with everyone!!! We <3 our MTC family!
- Talking to podcast listeners!!! We love you all so much!!! Thank you for your love and understanding! Thank you for listening and your support! You have no idea how much meeting you mean to us!
We love going to our conference every year and think that it is an experience that everyone should have. Even if you can’t make it to a national conference or if you aren’t a music therapist, we encourage you find opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with other people. Even small seminars or meet-up groups can be incredibly beneficial.
Those experiences not only help you connect with other professionals and network but also help you get out of your routine, and shake things up. Learning experience and conferences are what you make of them. Seek out those opportunities and have goals for them that will help you grow.
We know that the conference would not be possible without all of the people who worked behind the scenes to make it all possible so THANK YOU!!
Thank you to everyone who severed on a committee!
Thank you to all of the conference organizers!
Thank you to everyone who volunteered!
Thank you to everyone who presented!
Thank you to all of the exhibitors!
Thank you to all of the conference coordinators!
Thank you to everyone who attended and everyone we saw at conference!
Thank you, everyone. We love you.
Be sure to keep in touch!
Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel
We love meetings! As gross as that may sound to most, our meeting time is actually one of the highlights of my week! In fact, we spent most of our day in meetings before recording this podcast episode. We came out of our meeting time feeling excited, motivated, and ready to take on the world!
Because we know that not everyone appreciates meetings in the same way we do, we decided to record this episode where we share a few of our tips and tricks on how you can make the most of your meetings and ideas for how you can make them fun as well! We want you to enjoy the behind the scenes part of your business (including meetings) as much as we do.
Here are a few of the tips that we shared during this episode that make our meeting time for enjoyable and more productive:
- Procrastination Can Be Productive. I know how ridiculous and counterintuitive that sounds, but sometimes putting off conversations about big topics is for the best. We take our time to make sure we are in the right headspace before covering the BIG topics. Instead of spending weeks debating the little details of a large project we often put our conversations off until we are closer to our deadline. That way we have a better idea of what we actually want to do instead of changing our minds several times. We take time on our own to think about what we really want. We also have so much going on that we sometimes need to just take those big topics with distant deadlines off the table so we can focus on the here and now. Rachel and I both know that we work very well under pressure. Having a limited timeframe in which to work helps us to put our ideas out on paper with less hesitation than we normally would and stick to a plan that we know will work instead of testing for multiple ideas and wasting our very precious and limited time.
- Let It Breathe. If your ideas don’t feel right in the moment or you’re struggling to come up with a solution (or the right solution), give your thoughts and ideas space to breathe. Table the discussion and come back to it when you have a fresh perspective and can tackle things effectively. Sometimes taking time to “sleep on it” really is the best solution.
- Communication. Keep open lines of communication throughout your week, not just during meeting times, so that you can address smaller issues as they come up through a different means of communication. Rachel and I love using Slack and Google Drive to keep track of all of our business related issues. Slack is like text messaging on steroids. It is an awesome tool that we use to communicate not only with each other but with our entire team. Rachel and I are almost always on Slack. We keep in touch by sending quick messages throughout our week so that we can get down to the real business when we are in our meetings together in person
- Pre-planning. We spend more time usually prepping for our meetings independently than we do actually meeting. We create outlines for every single meeting that we have using google docs. Rachel and I each make notes within the outline ahead of time so that we can write down our thoughts and put them down in one place so that when we get into our meeting we have a plan. This also helps us get those tough conversations started and at least out in the open so we each have time to think about what we want to say or how to handle particularly tricky situation before we sit down in a meeting together. This tactic has proved especially helpful in meetings with our team members. If they take time to create an outline for their supervision or meeting, we can cover a lot more ground and tackle some of the more difficult topics without the pressure of having to bring things up verbally.
- Write it down. During our meetings we use the outline that we have pre-determined to run our meeting and keep us on track. We add to our outline with specific notes on each topic during our meeting so that we can go back and track our progress and what we’ve talked about in each meeting together. We try to write down everything even though we may not use some of art ideas immediately. That way we can look back a year from now and see what we talked about or even pull from those ideas or thoughts that we may have had. Writing things down also helps us to task out what needs to be accomplished. We will often put our names next to individual tasks as a reminder of who is going to take care of whatever the coming week.
- Tools. We use a variety of tools to help us stay on track and organized. Slack is used for daily messages and quick responses. We can also share documents and pictures as well as creating separate posts. The best part is, it’s ALL SEARCHABLE!!! We use Google Docs to create meeting notes, Trello to create outlines of our podcast episodes, and messenger for all personal, nonbusiness things. I love having separate outlets for each part of our business. It helps me stay in the right mindset!
- Set Expectations. We hold ourselves to a certain standards during meetings we expect a certain level of standards from each other that we meet with. We expect each other to be prepared, honest, and efficient during our meeting time together. We value our time together and want to see our business thrive. By maintaining those 3 standards, we accomplish a great deal during a short window of time and we leave every meeting with a positive feeling and with a clear idea of what needs to happen next.
- Have Fun! Because we spend so much time preparing for meetings, we have the opportunity to spend more time talking about the personal side of our lives and catching up! We also try to keep a positive energy and attitude because it helps everything run more smoothly. One of the ways we make meetings more comfortable is by making a space we love being in! That means cozy chairs and pillows for all!
- Reward yourself! I love our long meeting days because I know they will always end in Chipotle! It is one of the little ways we make our meeting times feel good! Even after a long days of talking about tough stuff, we make sure we take the time to go get good food that we LOVE! Treat yo’ self.
We’d love to hear more from you on how you make meetings more enjoyable! Let us know if you have any questions or topics you would like to hear us cover in the next episode.
Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel
Going into our meetings the other day, Rachel and I were both feeling a little off. Everything felt unbalanced and like all of the different plates we had spinning could quickly fall to the floor. We were both feeling on-edge, frustrated, overwhelmed and anxious. We initially had no intention to record and episode.
However, we decided that instead of avoiding all of the different feelings we were having, we were going to open up and be incredibly honest and vulnerable by sharing our thoughts with you.
Rachel and I are both dealing with a lot of things at both work and home. We both have our individual personal stressors on top of everything we have going on in our work life together. Usually, handling things within our business or even personal lives isn’t a problem because there are specific things we can do to handle most issues and resolve them quickly.
This week, though, things felt different. When we met, we quickly realized that the stress we were both carrying was surrounding things out of our control. The issues we are facing don’t have specific task lists where we can just check things off. Instead, we have bigger issues that will have to resolve themselves over a longer period of time. While we we wait, there’s not a whole lot we can do.
Rachel and I both tend to be very action oriented people who like to get things done and see progress. When we have situations where we have to trust other people to take actions, wait for things to pan out on their own, or put off decisions because we don’t have the right information and can’t get it ourselves, we tend to get a little more anxious. We both tend to think about the worst-case scenarios or outcomes and worry more when things are out of our control and there’s nothing we can do about it.
When things feel out of control, it’s easy for my anxiety to skyrocket and get the best of me. Rachel and I have both dealt with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression and understand how important it is to develop coping mechanisms and simply discuss this topic. Throughout the episode Rachel and I talk about our individual stressors (both positive and negative) as well as some of the ways we deal with anxiety.
Here is a brief description of some of the points we covered when talking about how we personally deal with anxiety. Check out the full episode for a more in depth explanation of how we use these techniques.
History. First, we recognize that everything’s going to be ok. We take time to look back and reflect on similar moments that have had positive outcomes. This helps us realize that it WILL all work out.
Mantras. We use mantras, affirmations, and positive reminders to get us in the right mind set.
Reframing. When Rachel’s stuck in a negative headspace, she tries turning her view of the situation around and thinking about the best possible outcome. When you focus on the positive outcome, you end up working even harder toward your goals.
Accountability. Rachel and I act as each other’s accountability partners. We work together to always keep our eye on our goals and recognize the achievements we’ve already made and the goals we are currently reaching. We point out the positive things that have been accomplished already.
Venting. We create a safe space together so we can have some relief and feel a little validation by simply opening up and getting things off our minds.
Honesty. My anxiety compounds when I haven’t been honest with the people around me or I have to have tough conversations. Being as up front and honest in my everyday interactions helps me to keep my anxiety to a minimum.
Presence. Being in the moment and dealing with things as they come my way helps me to feel less overwhelmed and more in tune with everything around me. Realizing that you only have this moment and that you get to choose your mindset it liberating. I remind myself to, “Do what you can and do it right now.”
Get it Out. Whether that looks like journaling, blogging, podcasting, talking to a friends, etc., getting things out of your head helps you to process in a more appropriate and objective manner.
Do Something Different. Creating a change in your physical state or environment is a great way to get out of your own head or change your mentality. Engaging in a different activity or moving on to a new project creates a shift and helps break a negative cycle.
Create Space. Put distance between you and whatever may be causing you anxiety by creating time for yourself and realizing that what ever you are dealing with does not define you.
Treat Yourself. Do something special, just for you, that makes you feel like your most amazing, boss self.
Awareness. Know what your triggers are and what your anxiety feels like so you can learn how to best deal with it. Know your boundaries and what your personal limits are so you can best handle situations that may cause you to feel anxious.
Practice. Realize that big changes are not made over night. Choosing a different mindset, using new coping mechanisms, and dealing with anxiety take a huge amount of practice and patience.
Be Proactive. Being proactive in your self-care and mental health care instead of reactive sets you up to be the most successful. Do what you need in your life to make yourself feel the best your possibly can.
Taking care of ourselves and managing our stress/anxiety is so important, especially because we work with so many people and serve in a variety of roles for those people. We know that the way that you are feeling impacts how you interact with everyone around you. You cannot fully show up for the other people in your life unless you are dealing with your own “stuff”.
We hope you found this episode helpful and relatable. We’d love to hear about your coping mechanisms and what you do when you are dealing with stress or anxiety.
Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel
Episode 22 of the Creative Business Breakdown podcast is quite the departure from the topics and content we typically cover. Instead of talking about the nitty gritty business details, we decided to cover one of the more personal topics that has been coming up in our office a LOT recently.
A few months back, Rachel and our employee, Alisabeth, were having a conversation about being introverted and how that can really impact their work, especially in our very people-centered work environment. That conversation encouraged Rachel to delve deeper into the topic, and ended in her creation of a new continuing education course, The Introvert’s Guide to Thriving in an Extroverted Career.
With all of the conversation surrounding this incredible course and what it means to be an introvert, we all got a little more curious about personality types, especially how they impact our daily work and how we function as a team. Our intern, Rachel P, was so interested in the topic that she dedicated one of her weekly blog posts to talking all about her personality.
Within a week of publishing her post, our whole music therapy team had taken this free assessment and shared our individual results in our shared Slack channel. The results were fascinating! They were such an accurate depiction of each of us! It was interesting to read about the different personality types we each bring the table and learn more about the specific personality traits of each member of our music therapy team.
I’m going to be honest. I avoided taking the test when the topic first came up. I knew going in that my results were going to be different than everyone else on our team and that they weren’t necessarily going to be what I wanted. There are parts of my personality I’m not totally thrilled with and things that I’ve wanted to change about myself, so it took me a little extra time to get on board.
Now that I have my results, I’m so grateful I took the test. Yes, there are things that are part of my nature that I’m not necessarily proud of (ex. Being a messy person or being louder and more attention seeking), BUT I know that my personality is perfect for me and is so helpful in balancing our team and making our business run as smoothly and effectively as it does.
Seeing and understanding not only the results of my personality test but also the results for our team members helps me to be more aware of what our team needs, and sheds light on things that may need a little more attention as well as traits that help each of us shine. It helps us to understand each other on a much deeper level and communicate in a new way that makes our team function even more effectively. Knowing how my personality differs from those around me also alerts me to the fact that sometimes I need to reign in parts of my personality in order to best serve the people with whom I’m working.
One of the most interesting parts of the whole experience was finding out that Rachel and I are polar opposites when it comes to our personality types. You’ll have to listen to the episode for the full details, but it was enlightening to learn more about each other and really come to realize that our unique personalities are precisely why our business works so well.
We may be polar opposites, but our very different personality types are what help bring balance to our office and allow us to divide and conquer with ease! We each have unique skill sets that nicely fit our individual personality types, and we are grateful that we have been able to put those to use in managing and further developing our business.
Dividing out tasks and responsibilities has never been a challenge for us because there’s usually a clear fit for who should be handling things based on the nature of each item! Knowing more about our traits helps us to be aware of our own personal limitations, but also helps us both to push each other and challenge one another to grow in new ways.
Even though our personalities are so different, we hold most of the same values and have high standards that we keep for ourselves and the people around us. That means that we are almost always on the same page when it comes to business matters, but have unique perspectives and plans that help us accomplish amazing things quickly and effectively because we balance each other perfectly!
I’m not going to share too much more because I think this episode is a MUST-listen, but I am going to encourage you to go take your own personality test. I have loved delving further into the topic and learning more about how I can best take advantage of my unique personality and how I can better work with others based on their individual traits. We’d love to hear more from you and how your specific personality traits are benefiting your business!
This episode is a follow-up to Episode 20, in which we talked all about the Summer(s) We Didn’t Get Paid. Those summers were devastating for us. We were exhausted and knew that if we wanted our business to continue even another year, we would have to make some big changes. We knew that we were going to need a business overhaul in order to make things work.
In Episode 21, we cover one of the biggest areas of change, our billing system. Making this one change allowed us to “rise up from the ashes” and completely revitalize our studio/private practice, so in this episode we’re giving you all the details of exactly what it is, how it works, and why it has been such a game changer.
Before we get too deep into the changes we made, we first need to give you a little information what our old payment plan looked like.
We were operating within a solopreneur mentality, and using old billing principles that worked (mostly) when Rachel and I were still woking on our own. Families would be billed only for the services they attended and at the end of the month. Come the last day of the month, they would receive a bill for only the time that we saw them; all cancellations were left off the bill.
This meant that sometimes we were getting paid only a ¼ of our potential income when clients canceled ¾ of the month because they joined a new sport, went on extended vacations, or got sick. When we took on team members and moved into a new building with higher bills and clients weren’t showing up or simply weren’t paying their bills, we still had to pay our rent or pay our teachers/employees. On top of that, we had no way to budget because we couldn’t predict how many lessons/sessions our clients would actually show up for.
We knew that things had to change, but we didn’t want to rock the boat and ruin the beautiful relationships we had built with all of our incredible families. We were scared, but knew that in order to continue in our business, we HAD TO do something.
Within our business, a new school year is like the start of a brand new year all together. With the start of the new school year comes new commitments, big changes, and a shift in scheduling for everyone. We figured there was no better time to make a change that would affect our families/clients than during a time already packed with changes 😉
We spent months doing research. HOURS upon hours of research trying to find the right solution for our business and figuring out what would be the most sensible and economic answer while still providing a smooth transition. THANKFULLY, we found the perfect solution through our bank! We had overlooked a simple solution available through our bank.
Prior to our billing change, we had collected the majority of our payments through PayPal, which was super simple but also incredibly expensive. Handing over lots of money to a 3rd party was not a mistake we wanted to make again. We found a system through our bank in which we could setup auto-withdrawal from clients’ checking accounts with a minimal set fee per transaction (like $0.30 per transaction).
We made the decision to set a monthly tuition rate as opposed to sending a per-lesson or per-session invoices. That means the families we work with pay a set fee whether they choose to attend or not. We debated the cost and fee structure a great deal, and decided on a fee that was a slightly reduced rate from what a family would pay if they attended every lesson. In fact, we looked at the attendance rates we had been tracking and figured that with holidays, vacations, and illness, families missed approximately 12 lessons per year (one per month). Some canceled more and some less, but we used that average as a way to create a fair monthly fee already in line with what families were paying.
If only deciding a fee structure, rewriting 10 pages of policies, and deciding on a new payment method were the hardest part of the process…
After making those incredibly difficult decisions, we had to actually break the news and ask 100+ families to completely change the way they were used to paying us. Rachel and I were both filled with anxiety throughout the whole process, but nothing was as difficult as drafting the perfect email to inform everyone of the change. We wanted to answer as many questions as possible with that first contact. We wanted to create the perfect path to transition. We knew there would be resistance and push back.
After hitting “send” we both took a deep breath and waited. Email replies started to come in. We were both shocked and overjoyed when the first responses we received included words like “why didn’t you do this sooner” and “thank you”. Of course, there were dozens of emails with questions, but the incredible thing is that we didn’t lose a single client due to the big billing change we were so scared to roll out. NOT A SINGLE CLIENT LEFT!! In fact, people were grateful for the convenience, and the new policies encouraged families to attend more regularly, meaning our teachers got paid more as well!!
We spent a solid month making the transition to the new system. It took weeks to simply gather and input all of the data correctly and to get everyone on board, but we made it through. We have since streamlined the onboarding process for new students and clients. We’ve worked out most (if not all) of the little kinks in our process and made everything more simple and straightforward.
It wasn’t always an easy transition, but since we made our big billing change, Rachel and I have gotten paid EVERY SINGLE MONTH and more than in our previous “good” months. It’s been the most incredible experience and made such a huge difference in our company and in our personal lives. On top of the financial difference we have seen, we have saved so much time and energy moving to an auto-payment system.
We know that our methods won’t work for everyone, but we are so glad that we have found the right solution for us. We are thankful to everyone who listened to us, encouraged us, and helped us along the way.
If you’re in our shoes and need a change, let us know. We’d love to hear from you. What decisions or big changes are you struggling with? Do you have questions we can answer or things we can help you work through?
We are officially into Season 2 of the Creative Business Breakdown Podcast! AHHHH!!! We are beyond thrilled to be back, and cannot wait to share our stories and thoughts on so many juicy topics. Today’s topic is no exception. We are talking about something we’ve put off sharing with you for over a year.
We weren’t originally planning to tackle this topic so early in the season, but it felt super appropriate and timely after we wrapped up our morning meeting on Tuesday.
Every week, Rachel and I get together for a weekly meeting where we review our goals and financials. We talk about what needs to get accomplished, and we hash out some important details. We keep organized meeting notes and track all of our very specific goals on a huge white board that we update during each of our meetings. If you haven’t gotten into goal tracking yet, I highly recommend you get started and get specific!
Because of our goal tracking, we recognized during our meeting that in the month of August, we paid our team more than we had ever paid them before while still being sure to pay ourselves. That’s crazy talk considering what the past couple summers have looked like.
Summers in the past have been a rough time in the studio and are the very reason we made some huge changes and started tracking all of our goals very specifically. The past couple summers have been almost devastating for our business. We were literally trying to just make it from one month to the next. We have come so far since then and want to share with you the huge changes we made to make things work and turn our business around.
Before getting into things any further, if you haven’t already listened to Season 1 and you aren’t up to date on how our business came to be, take a listen to some of our earlier episodes you have the full scoop on where we’re coming from. We’re not going to take it all the way back in this episode, but we will rewind to 2 summers ago.
Summer 2015 was a monumental time in the life of Music Therapy Connections. Rachel and I knew that we had to expand into a larger space in order to continue growing the business and move in the direction that we wanted. It was a scary leap because at the time, it was just the two of us (plus one very new part-time teacher) moving into a space fit for a much larger team.
We were committed to renovating, furnishing, and filling 2,500 square feet of space all while Rachel was attempting to take some kind of maternity leave with her second child. Even though it was just the two of us in this space, we still had to pay our bills, which were growing rapidly.
Even with a small loan (the only loan we’ve ever taken as a business) we were working our tails off nearly around the clock and with very little financial compensation. At the end of the day, though, we knew we needed to be in that space and the growing bills lit a fire under us to grow our team and take on more students/clients.
We very quickly were able to pay off our loan and get ourselves paid as well. One of the best things we did to prepare for that summer was write out a specific action plan on how we were going to make the income we needed and set goals for when we would achieve those specific numbers. Writing out our plan helped make everything seem more manageable and helped us go into that crazy summer with realistic expectations.
By winter/spring 2016, Rachel and I had turned things, around but we were exhausted. We were letting things coast a little more because we both needed a mental break, and things were going fairly smoothy.
Then summer 2016 hit. Do you know what happens during the summer? Have you experienced this?
Families want a break from things. They go on vacations and kids want to do activities or camps and everyone wants some time away. That’s all fine and dandy, but we still have to pay the bills!
In the past, students not coming for lessons or music therapy sessions meant a drop in our income, but it was manageable because we didn’t have a team to support or huge overhead related to our location and business needs.
We made a huge mistake going into that summer by not taking the time to plan ahead. When all of our families wanted to take a break, we didn’t have the income to pay our team, our bills, and ourselves. You see, we used to have a different billing system where students were only invoiced for the lessons/sessions that they actually attended. At the end of the month they would get a bill that they would then have to pay.
That meant that when students took a break, our income drastically dropped. On top of that, we also ran into the issue of people simply not paying their bills which ate into our profits even further. For Rachel and I, summer 2016 is now referred to as The Summer We Didn’t Get Paid.
It was exhausting, draining, and disappointing. We had put so much love, time, and effort into everything about our business. Not getting paid for any of it was a huge letdown.
HOWEVER, it has led to some amazing changes that have since helped us have our most profitable year and summer yet. Looking back now, I’m so grateful for those months, because they helped us learn some valuable lessons and have given us a new perspective so that now every month we are paying ourselves we come from a place of gratitude and celebration.
Here are a couple of changes we made:
- We uprooted our billing system and overhauled the way our families pay us.
- We are firmly committed to the idea that we deserve to be paid for the work we do.
- We learned to stick to what you know and what you’re good at.
- We pared down the services and classes we offer in order to only offer our best.
Other lessons we learned that we want to share:
- Go back to the basics. Decide what your business stands for and figure out what pays the bills!
- When you do something solely for money it is less likely to succeed.
- Track what you want to attract. Set goals and track them religiously.
- You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but instead you have to focus in on the things you love doing and what’s moving the needle forward.
- Focus on the positives and the big picture!
You Can Do THIS!
No matter what, you’ll figure it out!
No matter where you are in your business in life, please reach out to us. Let us know what you are struggling with or what you are celebrating so we can help you along your journey! We love hearing from you!
I cannot believe our last episode was in February! In so many ways that feels like both an eternity ago and also like it was just yesterday!
Episode 19 of the Creative Business Breakdown podcast is a quick mini-episode to share with you that we are coming back for a whole new season of the podcast starting in October.
We wanted to take a few minutes to share with you a few of the reasons why we had to step away in February and let you in on our “why” behind come back and really “why” we are doing the podcast in the first place.
When we finished recording episode 18 of the CBB, we had big plans to continue recording episodes but we kept putting it off. I was so sick the week were originally going to record what was going to be episode 19 so we put it off until the following week. That following week Rachel was sick. After that, one of us was out of town.
Week after week, things kept coming up and getting in the way of recording a new episode. It felt like there was never a “good time” to record new content. And honestly, the longer we waited, the better it felt. When we finally had a conversation several weeks after putting off a new episode, we made the decision to officially take a season break. It felt easy to take a break. It felt right.
Our break was not due to lack of content. We have several full outlines of episodes we still want to record and have a massive list of topics we want to cover at some point! We definitely still have PLENTY to talk about.
Closing out a season of CBB felt right because Rachel and I were both moving on to new seasons in both our personal lives and business. We both have been dealing with a lot of big changes all happening at the same time. We needed time away and some space to really process so we could come back to you fresh and excited share about everything we’ve experienced recently.
We are thrilled to be back!!! We started our initial conversation about coming back during a meeting in June but the timing still wasn’t quite right. Not only were we still in the midst of some big changes and processing some large decisions (including Rachel no longer teaching lessons ), Rachel and I simply weren’t in the same place. We were both on the go, with our families, performing, traveling, and working in our other business throughout the entire summer. Outside our weekly meeting, we didn’t really see each other over the past few months.
When we started talking about reviving the podcast for Season 2, we had a serious sit down conversation regarding “why”. Our theme for the year has been “live your why”. We’ve wanted to have a concrete why behind what we are doing in our business. The podcast is so different from our regular business and it’s not a source of additional income at this point so why do it?
We eventually came to the game-changing revelation that the podcast doesn’t have to have the same “why” as our business. We had built up a lot of unnecessary pressure around something that simply brought us both joy and relief!! That’s our why: because we like doing it. The general nature of our business can be so heavy. We are therapists working with people all day! We make huge decisions and work through seemingly never-ending task list daily.
This podcast is an escape. It’s a chance to debrief, catch up, share the lessons we’ve learned, and just chat. It’s a shift away from everything else we do. The podcast is our time to chill and take a break away from our daily checklists that keep our business running and talk about what we want! There are no rules for this podcast! We talk about the hard stuff, but in a way that makes it seem fun and real and I absolutely love it!!!!!
I’m so incredibly excited to share that the podcast is officially re-launching in October. We have so many stories we are looking forward to sharing with you soon! We’re going to be talking about some really juicy material in upcoming episodes that you won’t want to miss! Be sure to catch up on old episodes now and subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss anything.
Also, a huge thank you to all of you who have reached out over the past several month! We so appreciate all of the positive feedback we’ve heard from every one of you! Please keep sharing your thoughts, feedback, questions and comments. We love hearing from you and looking forward to sharing more soon!
Thank you for joining along on our journey!
I cannot believe we are on episode 18 of the Creative Business Breakdown and celebrating 18 months in our most recent location. Our business has gone through several different transitions and locations over the past few years as an LLC. In today’s episode we are covering a little bit of the history of our physical locations as well as the reasoning behind why we have made the moves/transitions that we have. We also share a few lessons we’ve learned along the way and where we want to put our focus moving forward.
To give you a little history, Rachel and I used to be two different businesses working from two very different locations. Rachel was teaching out of her home while I was traveling to see clients in each of their individual homes. As Rachel’s personal life underwent several changes (i.e. the birth of her first child), I was wasting a great deal of time and energy on the road and working out of my car. Three years ago this February, Rachel and I sat down to discuss how we could more together more functionally and make the most of our time, space, energy, and unique talents.
When we decided to form our LLC, we also took the leap into renting our first space. Our first location was perfect for just the two of us. We were renting a couple of studio rooms within a music store and using a large room within their building occasionally for groups. With this new, set location we were both able able to fill our schedules by adding services and taking on new students. As Rachel and I quickly filled every time slot we had available, our income grew but quickly hit a plateau. There are only so many hours in the day and after filing those hours weren’t able to grow any further. As we looked to our future goals for our business, it quickly became apparent that we would need a larger space that was all our own.
When we were looking to find a new location, there were several things we had on our list of wants/needs. We wanted a location with:
- the opportunity to control/decorate any way we needed.
- a seperate entrance for our clients
- a large sign
- several seperate small rooms
- multi-stall bathrooms
- a waiting area
- a large area for groups
- some sound proofing between walls
- room to grow
- natural light & windows
Being a music therapy business (especially one that works with children) presents its own unique set of challenges that can be a turn off to realtors. When realtors hear that we are musicians they immediately red flag us for being too loud and disruptive to other tenants. We had to be persistent in order to even get a foot in the door and needed to provide a full explanation of what we do and what kind of noise we really make.
As we looked at potential locations, we made a list of our top three. Each location had a special set of circumstances that made it both the perfect location for us but also came with a series of challenges.
Location #1 – Pros: It was a brand new structure in the newest part of our community. It was close to a highway entrance and had ample parking. Because the structure was brand new we could build out the space in whatever way we wanted! Cons: COST. Not only was the rent higher because the property was new, but the cost of simply building out that location was astronomical and would have required a large loan. Also, deciding how to build out a new building can be a daunting task. For us it would have been especially challenging because we had no idea what our business would look like 3 years down the road. The location was also a little too far from the center of town and could be isolating to some of our clients.
Location #2 – Pros: Cost. This property fit perfectly in our budget. It had so many of the features we were looking for including a large group space and a few smaller rooms already set up the way we needed. The location was also more central as well. Cons: This was an older building that would have needed a little more TLC and could have some small structural issues moving forward. While the space was nicely divided, it would have required us to get creative to make the space function exactly the way we needed. The entrance also led to multiple business spaces.
Location #3 – Pros: GREAT LOCATION with awesome visibility and a large sign. There is a separate entrance for our clients and the rooms were all ready set up in a way that we needed. Cons: We were concerned that this space would be too large and possibly out of our budget, but was on the border line. The interior also needed updating, including new carpet and a fresh coat of paint on EVERYTHING!
In the end, we decided on location #3. It has been perfect for us and we have very quickly grown into the space, filling every room several days of the week. We’ve even been afraid that we would outgrow this space. Before signing a contract, we negotiated with the owner regarding updates in order to keep everything within our tight budget. He has always been splendid to work with and covered the cost of new carpet while we repainted the entire interior. 🙂
During the process of looking for and leasing a property, we learned several lessons that we shared throughout the episode:
- Patience is so important. New properties come on the market every day!! It is ok to take your time and wait for the right fit for you.
- Location is everything! We have gotten so many comments from the families we work with regarding how convenient our location is.
- Having a separate entrance where clients can walk in the door, know where they are going, and feel at home from their first time entering our space was incredibly important to us. Take time to figure out what you (and your clients) value and how that factors into what you need in your space.
- Having a business plan and goals can help inform your decisions when it comes to finding a physical space. We are so lucky that we went with a larger space. We had to have a serious conversation regarding how we wanted to grow. Even though the space we were in felt massive when we moved in, within six months, it felt like we had perfectly settled in and filled every room.
- A coat of paint and the right decor can make a HUGE difference. However, you do not have to go into debt to create the perfect space from day one. Get thrifty, look for deals, and know that you can always upgrade as you grow.
- Make the most of what you have and do what is right for your business. Not every business needs a separate physical location. If driving to client homes is what makes sense for your business then stick with that. Decide what you NEED and what you are ready for before jumping into something that isn’t the right fit for you. When it was just Rachel working by herself, she was most profitable when working out of her own home. What is going to be the most profitable for you?
- Crunch the numbers. What can you afford? Have you taken into account all of the extra little things that you will need? (ex. furniture, shelving, cleaning services, insurance, a sign, advertising, wifi, etc). Are you leasing or buying? Are utilities & maintenance included in your lease? Get specific. Ask all the questions. And plan as much as you can so you know what to expect without getting in over your head.
- It is ok to take out a small loan to open the doors to your business as long as you have a plan to be profitable and be able to pay off that loan and still pay yourself.
- Be ready to walk away and say no. Negotiate in order to get what you need. Know what you want, stick to your guns, and stand your ground. People will try to take advantage of you when creating a contract, especially if they know you are in love with the property/product they are trying to sell you.
- Ask for help! If your forte is not reading contracts/negotiating or if you don’t know the right questions to ask, find someone who will go with you to look at spaces or who will help you work through an agreement. I definitely had my husband take a second walk through of the spaces we were looking at so that we could get a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. I asked my family and friends for advice and what questions they would ask a realtor. It is always helpful to have an extra person in your corner rooting for you and helping you stay focused on what you really need.
We say it in every episode and mean it from the bottom of our hearts: do what is right for you and your business. Always make your decisions based on what you and your company need in order to help you live the life you want. Take time to ask yourself what you will need moving forward and be patient so you find the perfect solution.
Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel