Every year since starting my business in 2019 I’m usually excited to share my business results. In the past, I’ve enthusiastically shared annual highlights and recaps on my podcast.
This year feels different not just because I actually don’t have an active Podcast anymore, but also because this is the first year where I did not exceed, let alone meet, my business goals.
This is why I think it’s even more important I reflect on how the year went, and share these reflections publicly instead of keeping my lessons locked away in a private journal.
I filmed a Youtube video to accompany this blog post where it expands on more of the things you’re about to read. I recommend reading this blog post and watching this video to maximize all the learnings!
In this Annual Reflection, we will have the following sections:
If you’re on mobile, simply expand the Table of Contents 🙂
Table of Contents
Disclaimer and Notes
Before I start the full recap and breakdown for each month, here are some disclaimers:
The revenue reported is only from our digital course product, BGA and does not include other earnings.
Numbers are all estimates as I can’t be bothered with converting between USD and CAD. Expenses are in CAD, Revenue in USD.
What’s perceived to be a “good” vs. “bad” year is subjective. There will be a large number of people who will be reading this and perceive things completely differently than I do regarding what “success” means and looks like. This post is meant to be similar to a journal entry that would usually be kept private, and is an honest reflection of how I felt throughout the year. It’s not meant to be a piece to dictate what should be good or bad for you. I’m not teaching. I’m sharing.
You will notice that November and December are PACKED. Not only because of recency bias, but also because these were my biggest breakthrough months. I truly hope you can invest the time to read until the end.
2021 as a whole was an interesting year because…
I significantly increased my investments in hiring more people and doing more paid advertising thinking this is what would absolutely scale my business. This is why you see a significant jump from my expenses in 2021 vs. 2020.
Mid way through the year after making a lot of business and personal purchases, my revenue conveniently started to plateau, and eventually declining vs. last year.
2020 a global pandemic happened which hurt a lot of business. At the same time, a lot of online digital education businesses like my own thrived. I went from 500k in 2019 to 2.5 million in 2020.
2021 took a down turn as we quickly realized that the pandemic was here to stay. Though this isn’t to universalize the experience of all online entrepreneurs, I WILL say I have yet to meet an entrepreneur in my close circle who had a rockin’ 2021.
If anything, the experience has been quite similar across the board: Return on Ad Spend decreasing, conversion rates dipping, attention spans lessening, and making the sale became harder than ever before.
But of course, coming off a high in 2020 where I 4x’ed my business from making 500k it’s first year to a whopping 2.5 million… I felt unstoppable.
I thought that this type of growth would last forever, so naturally the goal I set for 2021 was 4 million in cash collected, with at minimum 50% profit margins.
Now that you have the context, let’s dive into what my year looked like – month by month:
2021 Revenue: $432K (vs. $75K last year)
Expenses: $146K (vs. $35K last year)
Started strong with our New Year launch for The BOSSGRAM Academy. We set a goal for $278k cash collected and hit 80% of this goal. This was the very launch I’ve ever done for BGA where we didn’t hit 100% or more.
At the same time, this was the first time I feel we set a realistic goal instead of setting an easy goal that we would “for sure” hit
For example: Some launches we’d set a 50k goal and obviously blow it out of the water. I realize now that setting low goals to protect your expectations and feelings only conceals the truth of your business.
2021 Revenue: $178K (vs. $59K last year)
Expenses: $123K (vs. $65K last year)
Started a mass hiring spree for 4 full time salaried positions: Social Media Manager, Executive Assistant, Community Champion, Customer Support
At the time, this felt like the right move to make because our team was constantly at capacity.
Officially started to run ads on Youtube and Facebook actively.
On a personal note, Leon and I realized mortgage rates were going down and this is when we started seriously talking about buying a home together (surprisingly both our families were okay with it even though we aren’t married yet.) At the time, we were looking to buy a home in the 1.5 million dollar range and started scouting homes with this range in mind.
Key Learning: Hiring is no joke, let alone 4 people at the same time. A lot of prep work went into this as our team went full force in cleaning up SOPs and creating onboarding documents. Myself and my operations manager got busy with coming up with standardized company policies and reviewing all contracts with our HR Consultant.
In hindsight, I wish we slowed down on the hiring and consulted more experts within our industry to see whether hiring full time salaried employees made sense for these positions, and whether we should be hiring contractors instead. Through the process of hiring, I learned that hiring employees and putting people on payroll is a much bigger commitment than hiring contractors. More revelations about this in November’s recap.
2021 Revenue: $210K (vs. $65K last year)
Expenses: $795K (vs. $31K last year)
Our 4 new employees are going through a whole month of onboarding and everyone is busy with training our new staff.
Changed video editors and onboarded my friends, Lex and Josh to start editing our Youtube videos and Podcast episodes. Switched mainly because of the rising prices of our previous video editing agency, and also because I thought having a local video team would elevate our videos a bit more.
Did 3 weeks of back to back interviews with previous BGA students in preparation for our Podcast relaunch
On March 27th was when we fell in love with the home we would end up buying 🙂 After searching, although our initial budget was 1.5 million, we realized that if this was going to be our home for the next 5+ years, we’d be willing to pay a bit more for something nice and didn’t need any fixing. Upped the budget to 2.5 million with the condition that it would have a mortgage helper built in.
Oh and… Got hit with a 690k tax bill from 2020. Happily and ignorantly paid it without questioning my accountants at the time. Hurray.
Key Learning: If your accountant is just inputting a simple formula to come up with the taxes you owe… get a second opinion from another accountant who will actually help you plan ahead for big tax bills. This single handedly was the biggest hit I ever took financially, and I didn’t even realize it until months later when other entrepreneurs who made MORE than me told me that it was not “normal” to be hit with such a big tax bill. Luckily, I had a lot of cash in bank from running a highly profitable biz in 2019 and 2020 that paying this bill did not hurt my ability to keep the business running… but man, was that A LOT of money to be coming out at once.
2021 Revenue: $221K (vs. $100K last year)
Expenses: $140K (vs. $39K last year)
Enrolled all my full time staff in an online training from The Kinswomen to teach us how to become an anti-racist company. It was incredibly helpful and it resulted in us rewriting and updating all our customer support canned responses, landing pages, and policies.
Re-launched my podcast on my birthday. This time, the podcast was not only audio only, but we had the video version which we would post on my main Youtube channel.
Closed the deal on our home and was approved for our mortgage! Put a 700k downpayment on a 2.5 million dollar home at 5,700 sq feet. We loved the home because the entire bottom 3rd level had 2 mortgage helpers meaning we could have 2 sets of tenants which would decrease our monthly payments significantly.
I think this is the month where Apple updated their iOS system which hurt everyone who was running paid ads because people could opt-out of ad tracking. Our return on ad spend started to decline, and I started to seriously question whether I should continue throwing money at ads. Running Youtube ads was NOT getting us any return, which was ironic considering I’m a Youtuber..
Got the worst fucking haircut of my life. I still haven’t recovered from this emotionally.
Key Learning: In hindsight, posting our podcast video content on my main Youtube channel was a terrible idea. We thought we could be like Gary Vee and post whatever we want on the channel and still be successful, but we were wrong. Looking back we should have created a separate channel for the podcast from the get go. Since the podcast catered to a different audience than our regular videos AND it was formatted differently (length and style), it pulled a lot of our stats down which then messed us up with the Youtube algorithm. Youtube stopped recommending our videos like it used to.
Offering video version of the Podcast also created a lot more work and increased our expenses. This is why months later we shut down the whole thing entirely because it was time consuming and we didn’t have the bandwidth to sustain it at the level of production we wanted.
2021 Revenue: $196K (vs. $130K last year)
Expenses: $91K (vs. $59K last year)
Cut down on ad spend because we realized every time we tried to spend over a certain amount, our ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) would dip and we would not be profitable. This was the start of realizing we had a scaling issue with our current Webinar.
Started to kick off the process of redesigning our website www.vanessalau.co with updated branding. I really wanted my website to shift from being just about “me” to also sharing the space with my team and our company mission. My business no longer felt like a lifestyle business and was starting to shift into being a real company, so I wanted my home on the internet to reflect that.
Started to plan for our BGA course launch that was set to be in July to anniversarize the million dollar launch we had the year prior. After planning for it with my Operations Manager and Content Manager, I felt even more overwhelmed and discouraged which led me to impulsively cancel the launch without thinking of the repercussions. This would later bite me in the ass months later.
Key Learning: I got overwhelmed when planning for the launch because now with a team of 8, it felt like there were even more moving parts than any other launch I’ve done before. This was frustrating because I had done launches with less people and less time in the past, so to be told that something cannot be done by team members felt discouraging. As a result, instead of being a sound business owner, I became an emotional one and cancelled the launch altogether instead of compromising and making the launch smaller, or moving it so team members could catch up.
This was probably one of the worst mistakes I made in 2021 which was letting my emotions take over instead of being a rational business owner (who, by the way, suddenly had mortgage payments to make…)
2021 Revenue: $167K (vs. $117K last year)
Expenses: $132K (vs. $47K last year)
Had my first meltdown in front of my team on a Zoom meeting, cried my eyes out because I felt overwhelmed with all the changes that were happening (moving to a new house, cancelling the launch, team members still feeling at capacity even though we just hired 4 new people. I felt helpless.)
This was also the month where I noticed my revenue was plateauing. It was the first month in a while where we didn’t hit 200k which is usually my month-to-month baseline (and frankly, what I expected to consistently make with our evergreen funnel).
Let go of one of the new employees we hired and dealt with our first difficult off-boarding. Felt like I failed as a leader, and I felt really bad for putting my one of my managers through the stress of letting someone go on not-so-great and abrupt terms.
Letting people go is always a traumatic experience for both parties, and this incident really helped us both see the gravity of why setting clear expectations is important, and the consequences when not done properly.
Stopped running Youtube ads because after 6 months of throwing money and effort at it, it gave us 0 results.
Got the keys to our new home!!
ALSO got my Porsche 911s! Leon and I had put a deposit in November and ordered the car on our 5th anniversary. We did NOT expect the car to come at the same time we would get the keys to our new home…
2021 Revenue: $227K (vs. $628K last year)
Expenses: $126K (vs. $67K last year)
Started to freak the fuck out financially. The car payments and mortgage payments were kicking in and I started to feel the weight of my personal expenses and increased business expenses, namely: Contractors, Employees, and Ad Spend.
Went into panic mode and uno-reversed my decision to cancel the launch. Hopped on a call with my team and explained that I regret cancelling the launch, and that we should have moved it instead. Now, the launch will be in September.
Started to plan for the September launch, only to find out that one of our key managers needed to take a personal leave to focus on their mental health. Again, felt like I failed as a leader because having someone take a leave from your business is no joke.
Cancelled the launch AGAIN because with one of our key managers taking a leave, it would be hard to proceed with launch planning, especially with 3 brand new team members who’ve never done an online program launch before.
Did not learn from my mistakes and again cancelled the launch without calculating the financial implications of not having it (for example: If we cancel this launch, how will we achieve the 4 million revenue goal? Can we even afford NOT to launch this year?)
I felt completely alone and had my first serious panic attack. All I could feel was my expenses rising, my profit dropping, and my revenue not growing the way I planned it to. At the time, I felt alone in making the big decisions, and that all eyes were on me to bring in revenue for the company. It felt frustrating because as the team grew, it felt like we became less productive:
(”I hired all these people! How come we’re not growing faster!? How come I’m working MORE than I ever did before!? How come it feels like we’re all working, but nothing truly needle-moving is getting done? Why does it feel like we’re always reducing scope or abandoning projects?)
At this point I also felt depressed and anxious for the future ahead, because deep down I knew that I needed to be a stronger leader AND I needed more guidance if I wanted to scale this business. I then came to the uncomfortable prediction that perhaps I would need to start letting people go and/or seriously re-evaluate the way I was running my business. This made me cry every weekend for about 2-3 weeks because it was not something I wanted to do.
At the same time, I had a gut feeling that it would be something that I would need to do at some point on this journey.
2021 Revenue: $163K (vs. $444K last year)
Expenses: $100K (vs. $121K last year)
This is when my mental health took a serious hit because my biggest fears were starting to happen: We’re actually plateauing. We’re not growing like we were before.
Saw my Youtube performance seriously decline. Hated everything I was doing and especially hated my awful haircut which was in all my Youtube thumbnails. It almost felt like everything around me wasn’t meeting my expectations: Including myself.
Announced on Instagram that I was putting a pause and no longer doing the Podcast. Started another channel for it and spent time to migrate all the videos to the other channel.
During this time was when I started to network a bit more and talk to other entrepreneurs about their businesses. I knew if I didn’t get external help, my business would not only continue to plateau, but it would start declining (which is what was already happening now.)
I started to slowly collect the information I needed to figure out through casual zoom meetings with a handful of entrepreneurs, specifically 1) Where I’m falling short as a leader 2) What support am I missing and 3) What is required to scale a company
Went back to my team and said that we actually can’t afford to not do a launch, so even though we cancelled the September launch, we’re going to be doing something in November for Black Friday. This time, it was a non-negotiable.
Reduced our annual goal from 4 million to 2.9 million. At this time, we had hit the 2 million dollar mark exactly, and with only 4 months left in the year, it would be difficult to make the remaining 2 million.
Note: The reason why I set the goal for 2.9 million is with the assumption that the next 3 months we could continue to do 200k per month ($600k), and have a $300k launch for Black Friday ($900k).
Lesson Learned: From my interviews and calls with other seasoned entrepreneurs, I realize that a big reason why I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted despite hiring all these people is that I was not assertive enough as a Leader. In short, I was too nice and I prioritized people pleasing. I also didn’t hold team members accountable for getting results, which is why I felt alone in my journey of GROWING the business. Sure, every single week we would report the numbers… but no one was actively owning the numbers and trying to grow them. Reporting and taking action on the data are two different things. In other words, it felt like many team members maintained the business, but I felt I was alone with the weight of actually GROWING the business.
This then gave me the realization that I needed to be more assertive and explain that this time, the launch was a non-negotiable, and that executing a launch was high priority. To my surprise, majority of the team members were excited for the launch, and after explaining the WHY, everyone understood the importance. This was also the happy realization that I DO have a great team and that these incredible people ARE willing to do the work. We just needed better processes, and more clear + confident leadership.
2021 Revenue: $148K (vs. $267K last year)
Expenses: $104K (vs. $74K last year)
Had our first client “backlash” in our program, The BOSSGRAM Academy where a student wrote a post in our Facebook community expressing how they were disappointed that the program didn’t come with access to me and that she expected me to “do better”. This then sparked ~100 comments from other students who publicly shared their thoughts: “Vanessa should do weekly calls.” “Vanessa just wants our money.” “We helped make her a millionaire, so we should have more access to her.”
This was tough for me because it was the first time that we ever had something like this happen in our student community at this type of volume. I was used to getting criticism from the internet, but receiving criticism from your own customers just… hits different, and in the worst way possible.
To be honest, I felt incredibly misunderstood, hurt, surprised, and initially frustrated because my $997 program was always meant to be a self-study program (something that had been communicated in all our sales pages). It was also bad timing because I was already going through a slight depression where I was constantly questioning whether I was even capable of running a business, so this incident threw me over the edge of doubting myself even more.
At the same time, this incident also sparked my motivation to restructure my program AND increase my price significantly for 2022. While some of the comments hurt, it caused me to reflect a lot more on the type of client experience I wanted to bring into my programs AND it also made me question my money mindset. It was the push I finally needed to realize that if I wanted to provide X experience and attract a certain type of client, I would need to increase my price.
This incident also led me to join a Money Mindset program. In this Instagram Live here, I breakdown some of my key revelations around my Money Story that was keeping me stuck.
2021 Revenue: $133K (vs. $267K last year)
Expenses: $202K (vs. $66K last year)
Another fear unlocked: Negative profits. Keep reading, because this was the ass kick I needed to start taking serious action in November and December.
Chipped away at planning for our Black Friday BGA launch with my team. Felt like the most organized launch we’ve had in a while which was a huge plus!
Got invited to speak at Neil Patel’s and Eric Siu’s event for November in Miami! Was super excited because this would be my FIRST ever in person speaking event since starting my business (yay COVID!), but I had nightmares and stomach aches every single day leading up the event because I was riddled with imposter syndrome.
My thoughts were that this event would be THE event that would reveal me as a Fraud. I was struggling to grow my business, and now I’m the one speaking in front of multiple 7, 8 AND 9 figure business owners!? I felt like I didn’t deserve the invitation, but at the same time, I’m not one to say No when it comes to opportunities like this. I truly felt out of my comfort zone.
Bought a ticket to Tony Robbin’s Unleash the Power Within event that would be right after Neil and Eric’s event in Florida. Felt like since I was in Florida already, might as well go so I can straighten out my negative mindset around my declining business results.
This month was all about taking action and making moves behind the scenes. I decided to take the leap and hire an external consultant (Veronica Romney) to help me see what I could optimize in my business, what the bottlenecks are, and why despite hiring so many people, I felt like progress was even slower than before.
During my few meetings with Veronica, it became clear that I was overstaffed in the wrong areas, and severely understaffed in areas where the business needed the most support. Specifically, I had too many people under Client Success/Client Support, and not enough people under Marketing/Content/Sales. This was a big reason why I was constantly exhausted, because not only was I CEO, I was also the Talent, the Marketing Manager, AND the Finance Manager.
I learned that people were in the wrong seats. I learned that I had positions in the business that should be fulfilled with part time contractors – NOT full time salaried employees. After restructuring our org chart by moving people around and filling in the holes, we also found some positions that didn’t need to be there at all.
This type of clarity was so priceless that I cried. I realize because I was so bogged down in the day-to-day, it was hard to come out of it to objectively see what needed to change. Having a 3rd party expert (who’s seen the backend of multiple 7 and 8 figure online businesses) was exactly what I needed. It felt like all the little gut feelings I had finally turned into tangible facts and action items. I felt seen and validated.
At the same time, even though so much clarity happened, the next feeling was dread. I knew that in order to make these changes, I would need to have tough conversations before the year ended. Namely: Letting people that I love, go.
2021 Revenue: $402K (vs. $325K last year)
Expenses: $297K (vs. $128K last year)
Met so many incredible entrepreneurs at the Growth Accelerator Mastermind. It was refreshing to be surrounded by entrepreneurs who had 20 – 100+ employees and owned more than 1 business. It truly felt like I was quantum leaping. At the same time, leading up to my presentation (I was the last speaker of the event), the more brilliant people I met, the more my anxiety grew. I stopped eating and could barely sleep. I was running on full functioning anxiety that made me lose complete appetite.
During my time networking, a lot of conversations revolved around the future of the internet. This opened my mind and got me really excited to learn more about Web3, NFTs, and Crypto. It also got me excited because I could finally see how a business like mine could play in the NFT space.
This desire to learn suddenly ignited a sense of urgency to restructure my business so I could free up my time to learn more about the future. It also made me realize that I wanted to dive deeper into the content creator space, not necessarily just the “coaching” space.
Another “aha” moment was how so many of these entrepreneurs had freed up their time to the point that their sole focus was networking and travelling. They had teams that ran the business without them, while they did what a CEO does best: Go out and look for opportunities and new ideas that would further their businesses even more. They weren’t executing things in the present… They were planing things for the future.
Seeing this stark contrast gave me even more conviction that a company restructure was needed, and that making tough calls would be necessary, despite my anxiety and sadness around it. It further highlighted that the way I was operating my business was not working and what needed to be improved in order for us to scale past the 2-3 million dollar mark.
At the event, I also learned that all these entrepreneurs had leaders on their team that made decisions on their behalf. They had people on their team that had 6-figure salaries – but with tons of industry experience. This made me realize that in order to get to where I wanted to go, I would eventually need to invest in more experienced —and expensive— leadership; not just people who’ve just graduated college or learning things for the first time at my company.
This brought me a lot of clarity and validated my observation that at the moment, I was the most “experienced” person on my core team, and therefore all the learning was capped with me. My knowledge could only bring us to the 2-3 million dollar mark… but if we wanted to scale past this, more experience and knowledge would be required.
I finally did my presentation and knocked it out of the park! Once I finished presenting, Neil Patel and his friend, Syed (who owns the most businesses out of everyone in the room) said they were impressed and even learned new things. Eric also followed up with me a week later with a screenshot of the attendee survey, showing me that my talk about Youtube and Instagram had the highest ratings! This alone was the highlight of my year and taught me a valuable lesson: Believe in yourself. You were invited for a reason, so stop selling yourself short.
Not only this, the whole journey of being so anxious all the way to delivering a strong presentation (and getting lots of recognition from the people I admired) taught me that regardless of your business size, you will always have something to bring to the table. So many of the people at the event were so high-level, that I brought something different to the table. I didn’t share theories or high level vision. I shared tactics that were actionable and immediately implementable by their teams. What was my biggest insecurity of being a small business ended up being my biggest strength and differentiator.
The Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within event was so powerful for me that I can’t even put it into words. Not because of the event itself, but because of the people I met. The Growth Accelerator Mastermind felt like it helped me shift from a business and strategy perspective, while the Tony Robbins event helped me shift on a personal level.
Going into the UPW event, I thought I would mostly be trying to solve my business problems, but I walked away reflecting a lot about my romantic and non-romantic relationships. I also rewired a lot of my personal values. For example, before the event, I was someone who valued achievement, praise, and success. Leaving the event, I’m now someone who values love, joy, and contribution.
I loved the UPW event so much, I ended up signing up for the next-level event: Date with Destiny which would be happening in December. I specifically wanted to do the event with Leon, because a good % of that event revolves around relationships, and I was eager to share this experience with Leon so we could learn more about each other and what we wanted out of life. This was especially important to me, because we aren’t married yet – and with that being our natural next step, I wanted to give us the opportunity to go deeper and share things we may not know about each other despite knowing each other for 12 years.
Came back from Florida and executed our Black Friday launch for The BOSSGRAM Academy. Since we kept missing our monthly objective of 200k, our launch goal increased to $500k cash collected to make up the difference. We did 4 live trainings on Youtube, and achieved $290k cash collected. I was not surprised by the outcome, because I knew our objective of 500k was aggressive as we hadn’t warmed up our list yet, and we also had a weaker and last minute paid ads strategy.
Although we didn’t meet our goal, we learned A LOT. I often believe that launches highlight and magnify the things that are broken in your business. When you are constantly just “maintaining” the business, it becomes hard to actually see what needs to be improved. When you have something as intense as a launch, you then realize how many gaps exist in your biz. The launch further validated my decisions to restructure the business and clean up all our processes.
2021 Revenue: $120K (vs. $190K last year)
Expenses: $150K (vs. $127K last year)
At this point, I’m just exhausted… but the action doesn’t stop. This was the month where I started to make the necessary moves. I let go of some people, had some staff resign, and also let go of multiple agencies.
I contracted a Fractional Chief of Marketing (Rose), a Fractional Chief of Staff (Veronica), and a Chief Financial Officer.
With my new CMO and my soon-to-be Chief of Staff, Rose and Veronica, we mapped out the future org chart more in depth, with the goal of moving some team members to other departments, and hiring more contractors in the right places.
We also mapped out the entire marketing plan for 2022, and dove deep into my company mission and positioning.
Through this work, I realized that deep down, I’ve always identified as a content creator – not necessarily a coach. This made me relook at my programs and future program with a new lens. This lightbulb moment also reignited the passion that I have for my business, and is a big reason why I’m so excited for 2022. Just a slight change in positioning and a clearer idea of my mission was really what I needed to fall in love with my work (something I was falling out of love with the more “successful” I got.)
Specifically, I learned that the reason why I even got into social media was because I wanted to help more people. Social media is like an international stage, and by creating educational content and sharing my experiences, I’m able to help a lot more people. Social media has helped me reach and help more people than I could ever imagine.
In the last 3 years, I’ve also met so many incredible people who’s goal is just to serve, but they struggle to reach the people they want to help because they lack the social media skills to get visible. Worst of all, even if they DO gain some reach online, they struggle to actually monetize and make good money.
This is where my current program, The BOSSGRAM Academy comes in, because we help people (who already want to help other people whether it’s health, wealth, relationships) launch their coaching / consulting programs and sign paid 1:1 clients. However, this isn’t the final destination – because with 1:1, you can’t help people at scale.
This is where my next offer will come in (launching in 2022!), where I’ll be helping those who are booked out with clients expand their reach even more by packaging their knowledge in a course – especially after it’s been validated with their 1:1 programs.
The main difference in this pivot is that I’m no longer thinking of serving JUST coaches – and therefore my ideal client has changed.
I’m more about serving content creators (who are already helping people through their free content) monetize by getting into the 1:1 coaching / consulting business model, then helping them transition into a course to achieve the goal of sharing their knowledge and helping people at scale. This is the exact path I took, and the type of person I identify most with.
At the end of the day, if you’re a content creator and you’re already sharing free information online, the best way for you to 1) help more people, and 2) make a good living for yourself that YOU can control [not brand sponsorships and affiliates where you have less control]… is to productize your knowledge through online courses. HOWEVER… the pre-requisite to this is to make sure you’ve validated your offer FIRST with 1:1 clients (this is where BGA fills that gap.)
I’m also excited with this slight change in positioning, because it also opens opportunities for me to dive into the Web3, Crypto, and NFT space: Helping content creators monetize even further with this new technology. Of course, this is something I’m still learning about, and likely won’t be actively doing projects around it in 2022.. BUT I am holding the vision, and excited to make it happen in the next 3 years.
Did Date with Destiny with Leon and LOVED it. I honestly was surprised that he was receptive to it. While the details of my learnings pertaining to my relationship with Leon will remain private, I will tell you that there was a point at the event where we had a breakthrough and cried. It brought us closer than ever before, and we experienced a level of honesty that we hadn’t reached in the 12+ years we’ve known each other. 10/10 recommend.
I also learned a lot of great mindset and personal development lessons that I can’t wait to share on social media. Specifically, I learned a lot about rewriting my beliefs and values.
Ended the year at ~2.7 million with BGA alone, not including other revenue streams like Youtube and affiliates (although it’s a very small% of total earnings.). Pretty much the same as last year except with lower profit, but ultimately did not hit that shiny 4 million dollar goal.
👇 Recap of Main Lessons Learned
First of all, if you got to this section of my blog post, please DM me on Instagram and let me know. I’m genuinely impressed you got this far – because the more I wrote this piece, the more I realized it was for me personally than it was for the public to read. I would love to know if you actually got through this and whether it helped you feel closer to the raw journey of entrepreneurship.
🌟 Lesson #1: Getting a house and a car is not the end destination. If anything, once you achieve these items, it makes you feel worse.
2021 was a year where I felt like I was going through an identity crisis. It was the year where I ticked off all the things in my vision board: Buy a big ass house, Drive a fancy car, Get all the Chanel and Birkin handbags.
I thought getting all these things would make me feel like I finally made it, but if anything it made me feel worse. Of course, the more money you make, the more comfort you get. I am definitely a lot more comfortable than I’ve ever been before and I’m always grateful for it.
At the same time, I’ve also never felt this empty. Getting these things are fun to post on social media and make you feel good in the moment, but once you start living out your Pinterest Board, you realize that you’ve now got nothing else you can tangibly ‘pin’. You feel kind of… lost… because now you feel empty, but don’t know WHAT to tangibly fill this void with. It’s a strange feeling that I don’t think many people will understand until they’ve gotten everything they ‘think they’ve ever wanted.
🌟 Lesson #2: A strong mission matters. Without it, your business will not last.
Here’s why the months of November and December became pivotal for me.
When I went to the Growth Accelerator Mastermind, I learned that all the most successful business owners in the room no longer cared about money or status. They all had a single thing in common: They wanted to change the world. They had a strong mission, a clear vision, and a strong sense of contribution beyond themselves. It wasn’t just marketing bullshit. These people actually meant it and it was clear in the way they thought, acted, and spoke.
The two Tony Robbins events then poured fuel to the fire and it actually gave me the action steps to re-wire my brain. No longer do I value material items, money, status, praise, and unhealthy levels of achievement. I now crave contribution, finding joy in every day things, and giving love to others.
Following this, having Rose and Veronica challenge me on my company mission and WHO I wanted to serve then crystallized things even more.
I want to create a business that contributes. A business that gives back to my team (where when I win = they win). A business that helps millions of people (who ALREADY have a strong desire to help others, ie: educational content creators, coaches, teachers, healers) get in front of more people, and have a business model that allows them to build wealth thanks to their contributions (because remember, you can’t further your mission if you’re not making the money necessary to expand and fund it.)
In a nutshell, I learned that what I was missing was a mission I genuinely believed in. My biggest win in 2021 was getting clarity around this, because I can confidently say that my mission is now dialed in… and I’m ready to rock the next decade of my life and the lives of others.
🌟 Lesson #3: The energy behind growing a business and building a business are not the same.
“I truly believe that the never-ending pursuit of growth in our businesses is leaving us depressed, burnt out, overwhelmed, and disappointed. It’s toxic. It’s dangerous. And it’s unrealistic. When did growing year over year become the norm? Why do we expect to always have a better month next month than we had last month? A better year next year than we had last year? What kind of toxic culture have we created in the online business world where we expect small businesses — with tiny teams and no outside funding or access to debt or capital — to increase revenue by double digits every single year or else be written off as failing or fledging?” – Tyler McCall
He’s right. I set myself up for failure because I had unrealistic expectations on what growth should look like. Getting a business from 2 million to 4 million, without changing anything about how you market your products or manage projects, is simply a pipe-dream.
While I’ll still be setting challenging goals, I’m learning that the energy behind reaching that goal needs to be different. No longer am I going to see it as a pass/fail. Instead, I’m going to see it as a journey, or even as a video-game where I can restart anytime and try again.
I also realized that going from 0-100k or 100k to 1 million can be easily done with more marketing and getting more traffic…. but to get your business to 5 million, 10 million, requires WAY more than that. I learned that the higher level of growth you want to go, the more operational changes you’ll need to make, and the more things you’ll need to tear down and rebuild.
Not only this, through networking with other entrepreneurs at various business levels, I was also challenged to think about whether I even wanted 10, 20 million dollar business. Do you even know what’s REQUIRED to grow to that level? No longer are you building a little business that funds your lifestyle, you’re now building a real company that needs to be a well oiled machine.
A lifestyle business and a business that’s truly built for growth and scale are two different things. Are you prepared for what’s required to actually grow and scale? I expand more on this in Lesson #5, so keep reading.
🌟 Lesson #4: Your business is a separate entity that has its own needs.
One of the most challenging things by far as an entrepreneur is realizing that your company will have needs of its own that are separate from what you want.
For instance, every entrepreneur could clearly see what needed to change about my business so objectively, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t clearly see things because it conflicted with my personal preferences.
It’s easy to look at an org chart and move people around. It’s easy to attend an event or join a coaching program that clearly outlines what you need to do.
The steps to growing a business is pretty clear and can be outlined in a textbook – but what’s difficult is actually taking action and not only making, but committing to the decisions you make. A lot of emotions get mixed into it, and it becomes extremely hard to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong.
My personal preference was to not let anyone go.
My personal preference was to keep prices low so more people can join and to keep me comfortable.
My personal preference was to have a small team and be close with everyone.
The business on the other hand, required something different.
The business needed staff that had more experience.
The business needed products with higher pricing to maintain healthy margins and fulfill growing customer demands + expectations.
The business needed more support in specific areas, which would require a shift in staffing.
Something that my HR Consultant, Cass, taught me is that whenever you are making a decision in business that makes you feel like it’s personal, is to remember that it’s not.
It’s not “This is what I need.”
It’s “This is what the business needs.”
This re-frame helped me a lot when having challenging conversations, and when deciding whether I should take uncomfortable action.
🌟Lesson #5: A lifestyle business and a growth business are two different things.
- Lifestyle business = get the highest profit possible so you can fund your lifestyle.
- Growth business = continuous investment in your business (even if it means lowering your profit) so you can keep scaling.
This distinction was huge for me. I was operating like a lifestyle business, seeing profit margins as a vanity metric, but had the vision of a growth business.
This was a problem because you can’t have 70% profit margin while still wanting to: Grow your team, expand to more product lines, reach more people.
What Veronica also told me was that anytime she sees a business with over 50%+ profit margins and is at the multiple million dollar mark… it’s a strong indication that the business is understaffed.
^ What was interesting is that I always felt like I was OVER staffed, but the truth was that I was overstaffed in the wrong areas, and understaffed in the areas that needed the most support.
While there isn’t a right or wrong in how you want to operate your business, what’s most important is being honest with yourself on what type of business you want to build, and setting realistic expectations around that.
Remember: You can’t have 80% profits while still wanting to grow into new heights. You need to invest in that growth. An extreme example would be companies like Amazon, that ran at zero profit for many years in order to fuel growth.
PS: Your desire to have a lifestyle business vs. a growth business can always change. Take me for example: When I first started, I wanted a lifestyle business – because the initial reason why I wanted to start a business was to buy nice stuff and not work a 9-5. Once I achieved these things, my desire to contribute more WITH my business grew outside of my own needs because all my personal needs are now fulfilled.
🎉 What’s ahead: Goals for 2022
If I can do 25% better than I did last year, beating out inflation and maintain reasonable profits, then that would be a win in my eyes. I’m here to build a business that lasts, and like Tyler McCall said, my worth is not going to dissipate if I don’t have 5x growth in 12 months or less…
Have fun while building the business.
Regardless if I hit my goals or not, I don’t want to spend another year robbing myself of happiness. Of course, the business will always test my patience… but what I learned from Tony Robbins is that I am in control of my state and the experiences I have. I’m consciously choosing Joy.
Free up my time as CEO and travel more so I can learn more.
Spend more time on learning and networking. Learn more about Web3 and start investing in this space personally. Be a student again. Travel to learn.
Launch the next offer.
We have so many clients from BGA that are booked out with their 1:1 clients, and for the longest time I wasn’t able to offer the “next” thing because our operations were not strong enough. If my plan works, then launching the next offer should be feasible now for 2022 – and I’m pumped! Hint: The next offer will be focused on helping people productize their knowledge – similar to how I did with BGA.
Of course, I have a lot more goals – but those would be the top 4.
👋 Parting Note
I’m not sure how to close out this blog post, because truthfully it started as a piece for the public… then turned into a full blown Diary.
If you got to the end – thank you for reading it. If you feel like this piece could help an entrepreneur you know, share it with them.
I’ve never written such a long piece like this before, and frankly I’m not sure if anyone will actually read the whole thing. So if you have the time, please do me a favour and let me know that you’ve read it? A simple IG story share (tag me @vanessalau.co) or private message will do.
Thank you. I love you. I appreciate you. And I hope that 2022 will present even more learning opportunities for the both of us.
PS: I'm going to be writing similar pieces like this on a weekly basis to those subscribed to my email list. I'm calling it: Confessions of a Content Creator to CEO and you can subscribe here.
I had a lot of fun writing this, and my only regret is that I didn't capture these moments when they were actually happening. It took me 3 days to write this blog post because I spent so much time trying to remember things. So, here's what I'm planning for my Newsletter:
I will release an email every Monday where I candidly share what I'm working on, what's happening, and advice from my learnings. So, if you enjoyed this blog post and want to stay subscribed to my candid journey, click here to subscribe, and I'll write to you on Monday. 🙂 Thanks for being a part of this journey, and I look forward to continuing to share my honest thoughts on entrepreneurship. Love, Vanessa.