The best business investments I made and the worst investments I made | Podcast S3E11

We are at the end of a quarter, and it’s time to do an assessment… might be a good time to assess how you are spending your time and energy and money in your business as well. Here I talk about the best investments I made in my business in the last two years and the worst investments I made. And what I plan to spend on next.

Specifically, in this show, we will talk about: 

  • What were the worst investments I ever made in my business from apps to programs and more
  • The number one expense in my business right now – Coaching and advisers
  • From paid ads to a fractional CFO – Where I plan to spend next

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Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript is auto generated and is nowhere near perfect. There will be typos and weird words in the transcription. It will however, serve as a guide to the contents of the episode.

Hey, how you doing?

Erin Trafford here with you and you are listening to. Permission to leap.

Cause you got it. You have got it. You have permission take permission to leap towards. How was things you think you want to do? What.

Why not. I think I, at this point, I’m a professional leaper.

By the way this show is for creative entrepreneurs and business owners who are ready to understand content strategy. And learn from a pro and unlock the power of story to fuel growth.

So, while I’m going to say today is just get ready to sink in. I mean, you got to lick leap and sink in at the same time. I know that that feels counterintuitive, but we’re going to talk about. Decision-making today and I’m going to cut up open things up. And share with you. Uh, on this show. Uh, retrospective.

Of both the best and the worst investments that we have made in our business, because. And I recognize that not everybody is going to be on the same growth trajectory that we are right now, but. I always find these kinds of shows really helpful. To give you a sense of. The decisions. That needs to be made and that, you know what sometimes.

You make a boneheaded decision and it’s just kind of unavoidable. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. The best. And worst business investments. I have made, and I’m going to admit, I’m feeling a little bit vulnerable at this point, because. Just, you know, Total truth bomb is that. 2021. I almost said 2011.

What. 2021. Was a really rough year for us, for me personally. Um, And when you are a, I wasn’t a sole operator, but my team was entirely contractors at that point. So effectively I was. Um, when you are personally having a rough time, It will trickle into your business. And it’ll trickle in and weird ways that pretty much only, I think hindsight can show you.

But it’ll also be rocket fuel. If you can turn it on its head and look at it objectively, why were those decisions made? What was the Headspace. You know, what did we learn from that? Because you know, when you’re in business, there is no fail. There is I’m only learning. And I know that that’s like, oh my God, that’s so sad. And so over done.

I’m actually sorry that I just said that, but it’s so true, right? Um, the people who quote unquote fail. Are the people who never get out of the starting blocks. Who sit there with a always feeling like they could have, but just didn’t. And frankly, those are the kinds of people that I can’t help. So when I work with students, I always, you know, I made it a point. We’ll talk about this to be best and worst investments. Now in 2022, I really make it a point of ensuring that anyone who works with me is somebody who not necessarily is an action taker to a fault.

Like, I don’t want you to go out there and like quick. Start yourself into a problem. Where you’re just constantly taking action and never taking a breath. Right. That’s a problem, but I always make sure that anybody who works with me is somebody who isn’t going to get in their own way. All the time who isn’t going to be their own worst enemy.

Um, because that is truly, truly, truly what is going to stop you a from progressing in your business and B from making good sound investment choices. So let’s, you know, with the caveat that 2021 was a really challenging year. For me personally. Um, and just the backstory being that my daughter was born in July of 2020.

And it was a few good few months before, um, I was diagnosed with post traumatic. Uh, stress syndrome after. Giving birth, um, And I won’t go into the details, but it was quite true. It was traumatic and dramatic and it really took a toll on my mental health in ways that I. Had not anticipated and was having trouble putting my finger on what was going on.

And as a result. My business, my decision-making was hampered because I was in either a state of reaction. Or a state of needing to soothe myself and those two states. Um, are not the best states to be in when we want to. Act as the best decision maker for our business. So whether you are a solo operator or you have a corporate entity, like we do.

I want you to think about decision-making from the standpoint of you got to remove your person, like you, you, from what the business needs to do. So a business is designed. For one reason only. Businesses only exist to make money. Anything else that happens as a result of that. Whether, you know, you can donate to charity or your community gets better or whatever, like anything else.

Related to that is like an offshoot. It’s like a, like a fringe benefit, but the job of the business is to make money. And therefore, if you are in the business as the only person working for the business, When you’re making decisions for that business, you do have to evaluate it through that lens. Is this going to make me money? Is this going to save me time? Because time is money.

Um, is this going to be a good investment over the longterm? Is this a short-term solution? You know, there’s actually, we’re weighing a lot of things when we’re making these decisions. And so when personally we’re in a state of crisis, Uh, that can be a challenging thing to do, right? Like you’re in a bit of a foggy state. So.

Let’s just, you know, pull, pull this back and look at some of the worst investments they made. And this go back to like 20, 20. It’s not only 2021. I think really it was the pandemic that changed the way I made decisions, but also in the end, you know, here where we are in 2022, the end result is.

Is positive. Right. The company’s growing. So this is a good. The end of the story as it is right now is, is a good ending. Um, But let’s just talk about some of the worst investments and I’m not going to name names, but I’m going to give you some guidance. Some of the worst things I did. And when I say worst, I mean, basically they were a waste of money or a waste of time.

Okay. One or the other. Um, when I looked back at the last couple of years were programs that I purchased. That I didn’t ever really use to their fullest potential. And. So that could be, you know what? I was just postpartum. I jumped into a Facebook ads mastermind. Which was not a smart decision.

It was a great mastermind, but I was not in the frame of mind to take advantage of it fully. And so I only took advantage of it partially. And therefore, I probably only just recouped my investment. I didn’t actually see any gains from that. And I’m going to put a pin in that because I’m going to come back and explain why we didn’t see gains from that.

Where, when we should have seen gains from that. The other. Worst investment I made. And this one is a little bit, uh, less specific, but was investing my time and energy. Building a program. For the company, like a course program. Uh, to sell. That didn’t feel awesome. And I spent. The better part of eight months building something, because I thought.

It’s what I needed to do. And in the end. It didn’t sell the way that we wanted it to sell. And I, I had a look at it and thought this isn’t actually what I wanted to sell either. So that was an investment in time that I ended up having to go back and redo. The other investment we made. And this is a cautionary tale is when you are first starting to build your team. And usually this looks like you need to hire someone because you have too much on your plate. Right? Typically entrepreneurs will be solo operators, solo operators, everything’s going great. And then all of a sudden you’ll hit this critical point in your business.

And it’s usually when you hit about the 80 to a hundred K mark, usually it’s around there where you hit a wall and you’re like, I can’t do this on my own anymore. I’m overwhelmed. I’m working crazy hours. I’m not getting paid enough. The business is going to collapse. If I leave my business, everything’s going to.

You know, burn down. And so you go out there and you try to hire of quote-unquote general VA to help relieve the overwhelm. And I love VA’s VA’s are amazing my right hand. Jamie started as my VA, and now she’s basically helping me run the company and the studio. So VA’s are great when you have a great one and a great relationship with them. But the problem that happens is when you hire one.

In two situations when you hire one under duress and you don’t really know how to diagnose the problem that you’re having in your business. Or you hire one and you aren’t. Well, I guess the flip side of this is kind of the same thing is like, you aren’t really able to articulate what you need them to do.

Um, so one of my, my clients, Lauren Goldstein, who we’re going to have on the show, if she hasn’t already dropped into the feed already her podcast called the business doctor. You should have listened to this because she talks about when you go up there to make a hire, you can hire a worker bee, or you can hire a player.

And a worker bee is somebody who typically ends up being that VA role. There’s somebody who needs you to be able to tell them exactly what needs to be done when, where, how. And that’s all they’ll do. They won’t go above and beyond. They won’t anticipate. And they won’t necessarily think strategically beyond what you tell them to do. And that’s okay. Like those are super valuable people to have on your team.

No, they’re the doers of the team. The problem is that when you hire somebody like that, when you yourself are under duress or as I was foggy brained, right. Not fully with it. You end up. In a cycle of things not getting done properly. You end up in a cycle of actually creating more work for you. And the end result in being a bit lackluster. And that’s what happened to me is I hired under duress. I wasn’t clear.

And as a result of that, Uh, we spent a lot of time and energy. Kind of what I would say, pushing paper around the desk and not really moving the needle. Um, and there are ways around that there are ways to avoid that mistake and that, you know, when I look at the numbers, that was probably my most costly mistake because you should be spending the most amount of money on the people in your business, not the apps and the technology and all of those things.

Um, people should be your biggest investment when you get to that point. So when you make that mistake, it hurts. It’s costly. It’s hard to undo. Um, it’s hard to diagnose, so, you know, Those were my worst investments. Really? It was investing in programs that I couldn’t fully take advantage of. Um, it was.

And then it was investing time. And creating a program that didn’t align with me or my audience. And then it was also hiring. And not being fully clear on what I needed. To solve the problem and what that job needed to do for the company. So it was really kind of like throwing money at a problem that was ill defined.

So those were the biggest mistakes we made. And, you know, if that’s the worst that we do over the, you know, then I’m fine with that because those really are that big mistakes. It’s not like I was out there and I was like, oh my gosh, I dropped $50,000 on this program. And it was a, you know, a total racket and this and that. No, I’ve never really done that.

I’m pretty discerning. But I think that those three things that I just described as being my worst investments. I tend to be where a lot of entrepreneurs find themselves. It’s like, oh man, like I, I created this program and now it’s just collecting dust on my desktop and I don’t know why, and it’s not selling and this and that. And that can be because there was like just a general lack of alignment through the creation process.

A lot of, a lot, a lot, a lot of my students come to me and say, well, I really want to create a course, or I want to create a membership or want to create a program so that I can create this elusive passive income. And they go out there and they create this thing. And. And it’s not actually the right thing.

And once he get, uh, You know, A quarter or a half way into building something it’s called. You know, you kind of have this like loss leader mentality about it, where it ends up that you’re so far into creating it, that you might as well finish it. And it’s then by the end, it’s taken you all of this time and you’re not really excited about what you’ve, what you’ve done. Right.

So that’s what happened to me. And so I don’t want that to happen to you. And over the course of the next few episodes on the show, I think we’re going to start to unpack some of the things that I now do in my business to make sure. That when we create a program. Um, or a training, anything that we create that it aligns.

That I’m not wasting my time and energy, and I’m not wasting your time and energy most importantly, right. That you are always getting what you need and expect from me. So I think those are pretty common pitfalls as, um, nonspecific, as they are. So let’s talk about some of the good investments that I made.

So the best investment and to this date, it is actually the most expensive thing on our balance sheet, besides my team. Uh, coaching. Advisors and mentors. And I’m not just saying that because I act as a mentor to all of my students. Like that’s basically the way to work with me is to hire me as your mentor.

Um, or to join one of my programs as a mentorship student, like, that’s it. It’s like, unless you buy it. One of my courses. You buy stories to sales. If you buy a story and strategy school. I’m your mentor. Um, But the best investment I’ve made has been in coaching and advisors. And. It’s the number one expense in the business right now.

And the reason I say that is because back to what I said at the beginning, Regardless of the structure of your business, you are the tip of the spear. I always say this as the CEO, as the sole operator, as the number one. Person who has the vision for your business, who knows what you want it to do? Who knows how you want it to feel? Who knows what doesn’t feel good, who, you know, has all of that. You are going to end up needing outside perspective, no matter what.

You’re going to need a sounding board. You are going to need to walk in the footsteps of somebody who has done it before you, you are going to need the relief. Of having a place to go. And I S I jokingly say, ask a stupid question. You need that. And it is not one of those like nice to have maybe one day I could have, if you are serious about building your business, if you are serious about building a strategy.

You need advisors. And. Like, I will never not have this in my business. This isn’t a nice to have, this is a need to have my team. I can’t support and lead my team. If I don’t have somebody else around me to help keep my, my mindset in check. To help open up some doors for me, in terms of my thinking, I can’t be a good leader if I don’t have that.

So I invest in that and I put my whole self into it and I show up as coachable and I ask, I joke. I asked the stupid questions. What should I be doing right now? And questions I ask of my coaches and advisors are, what are you seeing that I’m not? Or how can I reframe this failure? Or the other question I love to ask is how can I be making this easier?

On myself. Right. Those are the kinds of questions I ask my coaches. I always need somebody in my life to be able to ask those questions too. And it can’t be my dog and it can’t be my kids and it can’t be my husband. And it can’t be my team. So I invest in coaching. And advisors. And this goes right back to, you know, when I worked in startup in tech startup.

Any startup has a board of directors, but they also have a board of advisors of industry advisors. Some cases it’s necessary to have that in order to raise capital in your company. So don’t think of joining a mentorship or getting a coaching program or anything like that, where you’re able to actually converse with the people in the program.

Don’t think of that as a nice to have, as soon as you can afford it. You should be doing it. The results in my business, show it every single time I invest in a new coach or a new advisor. They changed my thinking and my business grows. I don’t, I, you know, every time. Every single time. And I’ve had multiple, I mean, right now I’m counting. I’ve got three, I’ve got three coaches and advisors.

Uh, all at the same time. So it’s very important. The other investment that we have made to date that has been the best to date has been in an extremely focused program. That is helping us streamline. The operational. Um, structures of Erin Trafford story and strategy. Because spoiler alert for 2022 and 2023, we are looking to grow story studio network into an agency model where we’re able to help lots of people produce their podcasts and make them sound major market and make them sound amazing. And if you’d like to do that, obviously just get in touch and.

You know, we’ve got some really cool stuff. Um, Cool. Cool things available. If you want to start a podcast. But that’s really where my focus has to be. So in order for that to happen, we had to get really serious about this side of the business, the Erin Trafford side of the business and how we want that to look and feel. And so we went out and found a very specific program that is going to help us get very specific results.

Um, And train my team at the same time. So that, that side of the business feels great and is still doing awesome. And we’re able to have fun. Um, but we’re just shifting the structure. So that’s what we’ve invested in is a program to help us get a very specific results. Or I should actually say is teach us a very specific thing. Okay. And it’s more operational.

Where we plan to spend money. In the next 12 months, nine to 12 months, I would say is back into. Paid ads. So up until this point, we have not been investing in any kind of paid advertising at all. All of the growth of my business. And I have had, I have two, three. I have three effectively at this 0.6 figure businesses. Right? I have DIY passion media still exists as part of Erin Trafford, Inc. I have ErinTrafford story and strategy, and I have story studio network.

All three of those businesses are multi six-figure businesses. I have grown all three of those businesses without paid ads. Until this point. When we are now investing in a paid ad strategy. So that is where we’re going to be putting some, um, testing money. Like we’re not even going to go whole hog on it. We’re just going to start testing it like five, $10 a day.

Um, and then the other thing that we’re going to be doing is hiring a fractional CFO because you do get to a certain point in your business when like you should not be handling the money. And trust me, math was not my strong suit. So we’re hiring a fractionals. CFO this year. So, I, I don’t know if this is helping you or not. My hope is that it’s giving you some permission.

To make mistakes. And to know that, you know, when you’re looking at other business owners, they are probably making these mistakes. Everybody does. It’s just a matter of how you choose to pull up your bootstraps and reframe those mistakes. And the other thing I would say is at this point, You should just.

Be gentle with yourself. I mean for me, that’s the lesson in all of this. Is that. I had to learn.

How to be gentle with myself. And forgive myself. You know, And not add up all the dollars and cents of those bad investments that we made. Because if I do, then I feel like. Crap. So I’m not going to do that. I’m going to look at the lessons. I’m going to look. To the horizon. I’m going to get excited about.

What we’re doing. About the, I’m excited about the investments I am making. And that’s the other thing, right? Is. If you’re going to make an investment, make sure. That you’re excited about it.

Because usually that is an indicator of. How fruitful it’s going to be for you.

And if you make a misstep.

If you, if you hit a wall, If you realize. You know, hindsight’s 2020 and you should have coulda, woulda. Just give yourself a little grace.

It’s not easy and it’s not overnight.

Nobody expects it to be.

Certainly not me.

Sound good. Does that work for you? I hope so. I hope so because you know, Life’s too short to beat ourselves up. Over the worst investments we’ve made.

Focus on the good ones. And Hey, I’ve got a good one for you and it’s not going to cost you a cent. Why don’t you go take the new free training.

How to create your time saving content plan. This is where I teach you the content growth framework that we use. With all of our clients. All of our students. It’s a free training. It’s a brand new free training that I put. So much time and energy into. Making sure it’s aligned for both you and me.

Down in the show notes. You totally need to go dig it. Grab a cup of tea. Go take the training. Let me know how it goes. You’re going to love it. Guaranteed.

And we’re going to talk more about this whole like investment in alignment and the new process that we go through to make sure that we’re on track. We’re going to talk about that over the next few episodes have permission to leave. Which by the way, thanks for listening to this episode. And if you like it, please consider subscribing.

On your favorite podcast platform and leave us a review.

And if you want to be a guest on the show, Drop us an email We’ve got some really killer opportunities coming up. For you to be on this show interview talking about. What you do. And all of the things.

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