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
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
Today, we are going a little more in-depth on one of the parts of our new motto for the year, “Waste Less, Share More, Live Your Why”. We specifically want to talk about all of the waste in this episode and get really specific about the ways we are cutting some of the financial waste from our business.
We know for a fact that we have wasted a lot of time and energy on things in the past, but we’ve also probably wasted a lot of money as well. We’ve been scattering our precious resources in too many places and spreading ourselves far too thin by being involved in “so many” things and using “so many” incredible but unnecessary tools.
We know just how tempting it can be to subscribe to all of the amazing services out there, opt-in to all the courses, and buy all of the tools that will “help your business run more smoothly”. In this segment, we challenge you to take a closer look at your business, your purchases, and your decisions and see where you can cut the waste.
There are so many incredible products, services, and subscriptions out there that could probably enhance our business in some way or another, but we are saying no to most of them right now and trying to evaluate what the best tools are for our business RIGHT NOW. Here are some of the main points we covered in our latest episode:
- Weigh the pros/cons of each tool against the financial commitment and what you will actually be gaining. The $5.99 subscriptions seem tempting but add up quickly.
- Investing in and using too many tools can create a sense of overwhelm and can get in your way within your business by being more of a distraction or stressor.
- Easy to get excited in your new business and want to buy all the things. Create a Wish List of things you want. You may go back and find you don’t need those things after all.
- You don’t need “stuff” to do good work or be profitable. Do the work and be your best. Use what you have for now and know that you can add more tools with time and without putting yourself in financial turmoil. You can operate without debt. There is a time and a place, a rhyme and a reason, for every tool but that doesn’t mean you need them right now.
- Do not fall into the comparison trap. It’s so easy to compare your business to others’ in regards to size, tools, and where you are spending and how much money you are spending within your business. You need to do what is best for your business in your own time.
- Occasionally, Take stock of the tools you are using to see if they are still valuable for you. We’ve been taking stock recently and realized there are some tools we haven’t been using.
- There is No Magic Bullet. Your success isn’t so much in the tools you purchase but more in the work that you do and making what you have work for you.
Let us know what your essential tools are!
Until next time,
Katey & Rachel
How has Christmas already come and gone!?! This year has absolutely flown!! We are still in the spirit though and holidays have us feeling a little nostalgic. In today’s episode we are reminiscing about what this year has meant to us as well as outlining some goals for the New Year.
Oh 2016! You have been a doozy. It’s hard to know where to start so I’ll quickly run down some of the big things we’ve been through and accomplished over the past 12 months. Here are the overarching themes that helped us make the most out of our year:
- Before starting into 2016, we held the longest business meeting we’ve ever had! 10 HOURS…. We were starting the year with a team of 10 and did a lot of brain work in our meeting so we could make some big decisions and create a vision for the year. Everything felt like a hot mess at the beginning of the year and we both felt a little out of control. Out of that meeting came our game-changing mantra for the year: Simplify, Streamline, Self-Care
- Self-care has taken a huge role in our every day life and work. Rachel and I have held each other accountable for engaging in self-care on a regular basis. That has looked different for both of us and you can read more on our personal pages (Rachel Here and Katey Here)! However, we have read some of the same motivating books that we mention in this episode and about recommend to anyone. (“You Are a Badass” & “Big Magic“)
- We have be working to create a shift in our mindset, trying tirelessly to adjust our thinking and perception regarding everything business and life. Our mindset is the single biggest change that we have made & has had the largest impact. Setting our values, living in abundance and appreciation, taking care of ourselves, and finding a new perspective and been LIFE CHANGING!!!
- Simplifying and streamlining our systems has allowed our business to be more profitable. We have found ways to save ourselves a lot of time and energy in a way that make a financial difference for our business.
Some of the specific events that took place in our year include the following:
- We started the year by adding a LOT of new classes and then almost immediately got rid of all of them so we could focus in on what we specialize in within our company. We cut a lot of programs so we could grow our business by focusing on what was working instead of further diving our attention and resources thus creating a strain on our business.
- Rachel and I made the decision to not take on ANY new direct service work ourselves. We have so much that we take care within the business. on top of all of our time spent with our students/clients. We sat down and determined what our value was within the business and determined the most important things we need to be focusing on during the few hours we have available within our days. Taking on new clients personally is unfair to our business, our selves, our employees and our students.
- Our first intern finished her internship in March and we hired her on the spot! Since then, we have built a position from scratch that is now full time!!!
- In August we started with our second music therapy intern. She is continuing to document her intern journey in her Intern’s Corner blog. We have learned so much being internship directors and love the experience.
- We started a HUGE NEW CONTRACT with a local school where our team members provide music therapy services.
- At the beginning of September we completely revised our payment system and overhauled our policies! It has changed our relationship with our families and team members in the most positive way as well as creating consistency financially.
- On top of everything else, Rachel and I went on a couple work road trips together which was an awesome new adventure!
With all of that being said, we’ve both been thinking about the coming year and what we want to see. Going into 2016, we were both exhausted and burnt out! The big goal for 2016 was to pull back, go back to basics, and simplify everything so our business could continue. Because we’ve made so many changes throughout the year, we are feeling invigorated and ready to take on new and exciting things in 2017.
Rachel talked about her focus for the new year in the episode with the word, share. Sharing resources, experiences, time with family, and more. Giving more. My word for the new year is intention. I want to waste less (time, energy, money, etc) and be more present in the time and experiences I am a part of. We are definitely on the same page with wanting to reach more of our potential and follow our passions within our work and individual lives! Stay tuned for our next episode in the new year where we reveal our new mantra and get more specific about what this year will hold.
Wishing you Happy Holidays, a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!!
Until next time,
Katey & Rachel
It’s been a strange and hectic couple weeks around the office. With everything already going on around the holidays, we decided to throw in a couple extra events and then had a few other big things pop up.
These couple weeks have really made us realize just how much our business has grown and how far we’ve come over the past few years. In keeping with that theme, we want to talk about the pros and cons we’ve experienced in growing our business and what growing our team has meant for us, personally.
Rachel and I both started in business as sole proprietors. In the early days, we only had to worry about ourselves. All of our expenses, scheduling, profits, etc., were ours to handle however we saw fit. Those are now all joint decisions and shared responsibilities. We’ve learned so much about ourselves, our values, and what we need to put into and get out of our business in order to make it work for us as we’ve grown.
Growing your business, your team, and your space can seem like “the dream” when you look at the pretty pictures other business owners post on instagram, but there are a lot of unpleasant details just outside the border of that perfect image. In today’s episode, we share both the pros and cons of our past lives as sole proprietors as well as the pros and cons of our current partnership with a team of 10. Here are a few of the highlights.
As a sole proprietor working alone:
- You get to do everything yourself but you also HAVE to do it all yourself. You get to see all of your clients yourself and have the joy of any business related tasks you enjoy, BUT you also have all of the tasks you may not enjoy or might struggle with.
- You choose where you want to be, with whom, and when. You’re the boss and you are only in charge of yourself but you also have to be accountable, organized, and responsible for every bit of your livelihood and there is no one to share the load or lend a hand.
- There are fewer expenses usually, but you have to shoulder all of them.
- All of the profits are yours! BUT you have to make sure you’re paying your own taxes and dealing with your own expenses and accounting.
In a partnership and with a team:
- You have a team full of awesome people to share your day but to a certain degree you are accountable for them.
- Growing your team and opening a physical location can lead to serving a larger portion of your community but that comes with more expenses and responsibilities.
- You can provide fewer direct services personally, but may have more business related tasks to take care of your team and will be paying others to provide the direct services you were providing.
- Having a brick and mortar business is such a cool experience! It has saved on travel, allowed me to learn so much, and is what I consider one of my biggest personal achievements BUT there are so many things we never thought would be an issue or ever gave a single thought to before opening our doors.
There are so many conversations Rachel and I have had over the past two years that we never thought would come up, but the most important topic we’ve covered regards our values. Finding what you value in your business and personal life is the most important thing to consider when working to find the next step in you business.
Find the why behind your decisions and make your most important choices based on what YOU need.
Until next time,
Katey & Rachel
Our clients shape our business; they are the reason why we do exactly what we do. We’ve talked in the past about defining your business and what sets you apart, but one component that is just as vital, is figuring out who specifically you want buying your product or engaging in your services. Creating an avatar for your ideal client and having a business filled with the right clients can help inform your large decisions, find appropriate marketing strategies, and articulate what you want to see in future development.
The first step we recommend is identifying where you are providing services or products to for your clients so you can then determine who you are looking for and where to find them. Is your business online or in-person? Do you have a physical product, a service, or an online product? Knowing what YOU do will help you determine what else you need to know about your client. Our free online course will help walk you through a series of questions to help you determine your business identity if this is something you are still struggling with.
The next step we recommend is identifying your red flags and ideal traits. What kind of clients do you know, for a fact, you DO and DO NOT want. We listed a couple of our red flags in this episode along with some of the questions we ask ourselves and things we keep in mind when looking for our ideal customer:
- Red Flags
- Lack of response or respect of time
- Missing appointments or trying to reschedule at the last minute
- An unwillingness to be flexible
- Pushback on policies we have carefully crafted.
- Refusal to communicate via email or file forms online
- Issues with payment
- Things to keep in mind & Questions to ask
- You do not have to say YES to everyone willing to pay for your services
- You may not be the right fit for that person
- What does the client need? Are they looking for a service that isn’t your speciality. If so, it’s ok to refer!
- Is this a client you want talking about your business? If not, they may not be the customer you want.
- Do they understand your product or services?
- How do you feel about your initial contact with your client?
- Trust your gut. You know what’s best for you and for your product, service, and team. Create your ideal vision for your client and stick with it.
- You can always revise your vision as you go.
Determine what you want to be doing and with whom so that you can continue to do your best work every day without risking serious burn out. Take care of yourself in your business every day by making the decisions that work for you.
Until next time,
Katey & Rachel