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In 2019, life hit me in the face like my old grandma when she caught me using the F-word. Only it hurt me a lot more: I was diagnosed with breast cancer. stage 3 breast. I was 45 years old, healthy and up until then I was living a pretty amazing life.
My OB suggested a mammogram, but I postponed it. Thank goodness she followed – a diligence that saved my life. I didn’t have a lump and didn’t think it was an urgent matter, but it was classic for me, always putting my health and well-being after business, family and friends. On mammo day, I knew within minutes that something was wrong. The technician took on a pasty tint and her voice rose a few octaves.
It was really a shock. My daughter was 8 and my husband and I had just turned 17and wedding anniversary. In an instant, life was different.
As my family planned for the coming year of treatments and surgeries, I also had to plan for months away from my business. (I own Brand Builder Design Studios + Collective; we build brands for entrepreneurs and offer a series of courses to help business owners master the art of marketing and offers.) organize and that I would need to rely more on my team. My doctors told me that chemotherapy would be debilitating at times and that it would take me time to rest and heal. The problem was that it wasn’t my usual modus operandi; I used to be more active, do everything and use my team for the rest of what I couldn’t handle.
Related: Taking care of business when illness strikes
As I began to formulate what I wanted my future to look like after cancer, I knew the era of 12-hour days was over. There were too many other things I wanted to pay attention to, including my family. I also wanted this new life to have a lot more freedom, more adventure, more contribution, and easier financial success – to have streams of income that weren’t dependent on my day-to-day participation. I wanted to operate as the creator of my business instead of the actor of my business.
At first it seemed like a pipe dream, but as I started to structure the business, create processes and develop roles for my team, I worked less and less and we started to grow faster than ever.
Today’s post-cancer business looks markedly different, and it’s much better than I could have imagined. I created the life balance I envisioned, while simultaneously creating exponentially greater business success, and with less personal time and effort. I also moved from Arizona to Florida, started homeschooling my daughter, and had more fun than ever with my family. We had our best fiscal year in a decade, and I’m cancer free and my head is full of hair again.
Now that I’m on the other side of it all, I consider myself beyond lucky to have survived and thrived. My experience with cancer has given me a unique perspective on the value of time and the role business plays in my life. Before, it was something that I served, but now it is something that serves me.
Before my diagnosis, I spent long days and long weekends working…I was always looking for the next client and doing way more than I should have. To meet the sudden need for time off, I simplified my offerings and sought out relationships that would bring growth, but with less effort, including creating a white label program for business coaches who could offer our branding and website packages to their customers at a handsome profit price. This gave them an additional source of income and kept a steady stream of new business on our doorstep. We also created referral incentives, which reduced our marketing costs and further increased customer volume.
Simply put, I turned it all into a process. My company runs on Asana, a versatile project management software that allows us to put everything into one process and one template. When we onboard a new client, we simply duplicate the model and the project is underway.
Related: Use these platforms to increase the productivity of your business
I also gave a lot of responsibility to my team. It was the most difficult change, but I really had no choice. I couldn’t operate when I was down from chemo, so I had to trust that they would rise to the occasion, and they did. My project manager basically ran the show when I was out of pocket. We onboarded new team members who had dedicated roles running the business from finance to delivery and I effectively stepped into the role of CEO and out of the “doing” of the business . It created the space for me to heal, but was also a catalyst for growth. Now I spend my time making critical decisions and planning, while my team manages the day-to-day.
I also added automated and recurring income streams in the form of online courses and coaching programs. I created a program called CEO Freedom Accelerator, where I work with other business owners to streamline their systems so they too can live a life of freedom now, rather than later. This program turned out to be the most rewarding endeavor of my career, and if I hadn’t had cancer, it would never have happened. This year, we helped 67 executives and business owners achieve exponentially better results while simultaneously creating more personal freedom.
Here are the key lessons that have allowed me to use the experience of overcoming cancer to create a business that thrives multidimensionally:
• Stay in your zone of genius: I don’t spend a lot of time learning things that I don’t want to become an expert in. Instead, I hire people who are experts in these areas and rely on them to provide excellent service. It saved me countless hours of frustration and helped me develop trust in others and in my own ability to lead.
• Make it a whole process: Most owners recreate the same tasks over and over. It takes a lot of time and energy. Instead, take the time to record every step of what you do on a spreadsheet or in project management software like Asana. Once you’ve completed this process, you can hire someone else to do it.
• Bundle your promotional content: We schedule our promotions months in advance — record videos and batch create social media content in a block of time — then use an automatic scheduler to post them. Doing things this way helps us stay off social media when we don’t need to be there, as well as avoiding other distractions.
• Perfect your offers: When you have complete clarity about your offers and the ideal customer avatar, you are able to create streamlined marketing plans that will convert. When I learned more about creating online courses and coaching programs and started CEO Freedom Accelerator, it freed up my time by allowing me to automate most of our marketing, sales and delivery. Perfecting your offer will help you make more sales with less effort.
Related: The 7 elements of an irresistibly compelling offer
Using great organization, streamlined processes, and deal conversion helped me scale my business faster without having to rush. You can do the same, by first envisioning the outcome you want for your life – including personal and professional roles – and then putting in the work to get there. This is possible to have the life you want and the business that supports it.