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!
We are both amazingly blessed as creatives as well as feeling cursed. We feel so incredibly inspired by everything around us, basically all the time. We have ideas that pop up all the time and that come from every direction. We want to have our hands in so many things and want to turn all of our ideas into profitable business ventures. It is like being on inspiration overload. When you have a variety of skills and want to explore new ideas and projects, everything feels like a possibility even though we want to be more intentional and focused during this year. It can be incredibly challenging to say no to other ideas, find our focus, and prioritize what we want to/need to do because we have all of our different projects.
On top of having the tasks associated with the Creative Business Breakdown, our courses, our classes, and our brick-and-mortar business (Music Therapy Connections), Rachel and I also have our own individual projects outside of our joint ventures. That adds up to at least a half dozen large projects/businesses each and we often feel scattered, especially when we are work from home or in an office with other people where there are other people and tasks vying for our attention. It is incredibly difficult to determine where to put our attention when there are so many different “hats”.
In today’s episode we break down some of the strategies we use when trying to determine where to put our focus and how we set our priorities.
- Having a set meeting time with a set agenda – We got back to the sit down meetings we so enjoy!! Within a shared folder in google drive, Rachel and I keep all of our meeting notes where we keep a running list of all of our ideas, our assigned tasks, and what we need to be working on. Our set meeting time also allows us to check-in and discuss if something needs to be addressed immediately or if it can be tabled for future discussion. Our notes also give us a written document to go back to in the future.
- Trello – Our shared (and individual) trello boards give us a place to brain dump all of the tasks that need to be done. That means not only writing down the BIG tasks, but also breaking them down into smaller checklists that make sense for you.
- Set deadlines – Even if a project doesn’t have an actual required deadline, creating a concrete deadline for yourself and sharing it with someone (i.e. an accountability partner) who will keep you on track can be incredibly helpful in achieving your goals and in a timely manner
- Creating time and space to work – Set aside a set amount of time to actually work on what needs to get done and create a short (3 items max.) list of what you want to accomplish in that time. Be sure to have a space that is free from distractions so you can do your best work.
- Decide what to do with new ideas – New ideas can be a big distraction during your set work time. Do what you need to in order to stay on track. That can mean spending a short amount of time working on your new idea or writing it down and letting the idea sit (on paper) for a while, until you are ready to come back.
- Determine the Pros and Cons of your Project – How is what you are working on or what you want to work on going to benefit your end goal? Ask yourself where you really want to be an where your wants/needs intersect?
- Write it DOWN!!! – I’ve said it dozens of time. Write down what your must get down and check it off as you go. Pull out the 1-3 things that HAVE to get done and decide when to do them.
- Use Your Energy and Motivation When You Have It – Keep your short list handy so that when you have the energy and motivation to tackle a new project, you can go at it with full force!
We tend to have a to-do list that is far too long and tend to have too many projects piled up at once. We are challenging you to eliminate something from your list today and let us know what is working for you.
Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel