Why Being in “Maintenance Mode” is Killing Your Business

The view from my place in Guangzhou, China with The Elevator Life this week.

I’ve got a confession to make.

Last year I was lazy.

Not in the “I’m-a-total-couch-potato-wasting-my-life-away” lazy, but in the “I’m not pushing myself hard enough kind of way.”

The reality is that I worked harder than most people last year, however when it came to focusing on maximizing the things that mattered, I was a total slacker.

What are these things that matter?  There’s only two:

  • Real impact on readers and customers
  • Amount of money my business brought in

If my business isn’t being successful at those two things, then I’m doing something wrong.

The Laziest Non-Lazy Person Out There

So what does that mean exactly? How could I have worked harder than most,  yet been a total slacker in the process?

Pretty easy, actually.

I got great at maintaining.

Maintaining.

That’s one of the harshest words in the life of an entrepreneur.

Between 2009 and 2011 I worked my ass off to build a business that would let me live the lifestyle I wanted.

Then something crazy happened.

I got the lifestyle I wanted.

I’m able to work whenever I want, wherever I want, and do all the stuff I like to do on a daily basis.

What happened in the process?

I stagnated.

I did all of the things I had to do in order to maintain my lifestyle:

  • I answered emails
  • I wrote blog posts
  • I documented my travels (and ability to work from anywhere)
  • I stayed active in the Location Rebel community
  • I launched a new product

That pretty much sums up my 2012.  When you think about it, that’s a lot of work, and I put a lot of time towards doing those things.

In the end however, it was all a form of maintaining.  I did what I had to do to maintain the lifestyle.

I’d achieved the ultimate dream in creating a passive income business.

But that’s not what excites me.  I could continue doing everything I did last year for as long as I’d like and have a great business netting me $60-75k a year.

A Painful Realization

Halfway through last year, I came to terms with my laziness and vowed to change it.

But I never really did.

I half-assed it and started making moves in the right direction, but I fell right back into maintenance mode after a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t until the last week of the year that I realized how much time I’d wasted maintaining.

If I was truly going to make 2013 “The Year of Scale” I’d need to make a dramatic shift in how I was spending my time.

So how did I do that?

I made a bold resolution, set a time limit, and then went to work.

One of my biggest failures from a business perspective is the fact that I’ve done a terrible job of articulating how all of my products and offerings fit together.  Goal #1 for the new year was to change that.

I did this by offering a sale of all of my products, and then I put together  a whole new marketing plan that played up exactly how these products worked together.

It was the “perfect lifestyle course” but know one even knew it existed, hell I barely realized it, and I was the one who created it.

It took me about 2 days to put the offer together. The deadline was 5pm on December 31st, everything had to be done by then.

The goal? Create the most irresistible offer I possibly could that would accomplish the two primary goals of helping as many people as possible, and profiting my business.

I wrote 5 emails telling people exactly what this whole “perfect course” was all about. I wrote and formatted a new 4,000 word sales page from scratch. I created new membership levels for the sale.

Essentially I made all of the marketing tweaks I’d been wanting to make all year – and it only took me two days.

The result? Dozens of people committed to building a business and I had my most profitable product launch ever.

In two days I completely reversed everything I’d been wanting to do for months.

I went from a passive business to an active business – a move that is absolutely essential if you really want to make a difference in the lives of others, and truly be happy with what you’re doing.

You may find this surprising, but most people I know with purely passive income businesses aren’t that happy. Many of them have a lot of money, but they don’t know what to do with themselves.

I’ve never been unhappy with where I’m at, but had I stayed passive and continued maintaining, it was only a matter of time before I drove myself crazy.

How Do You Go From Passive to Active?

It doesn’t matter what size youe business is – you could still find yourself in passive mode. Your business may just be beginning and you could be operating it in a totally passive manner – costing yourself any chance of location independence in the process.

Here’s my process for evaluating your current situation and making the necessary changes:

Step #1: Assess How You’re Spending Your Time

Make a list of all the business related tasks and activities you’ve spent time on during the last week.  Is it nothing but email and blog posts?

You’re in passive mode.

I’ve found that it’s so easy to do nothing but write blog posts and answer emails, and feel like your productive.  This is why it was so hard for me to finally realize how lazy I’d been in my business.  I’d do these things and feel like I was really productive – however, that’s not growing the business.

Step #2: Create Your Action Plan Full of “Active” Tasks

I define an active task as something that will directly effect my bottom line.  Emails and blog posts, could be, but they aren’t going to lead to the explosive growth that I want.

Here are some active tasks you could consider:

  • Writing and Editing Your Email Auto-Responder Series. I’ve been meaning to update my email series for months.  Then I created a new one for this sale, and sure enough, it was the most effective thing I could do for my business.
  • Testing and Tweaking Sales Copy. I have the exact same sales pages for each of my products that I had from the day each of them launched. This is just plain embarrassing. The problem is it works, but it could work so much better if I continued to update and try other approaches.
  • Creating a new product or service. My general philosophy is the more offerings you have, the more opportunities you have to provide solutions for people who are looking for them and make money in the process. While you should never just throw out a product to make a quick buck, if you devote some time to putting out a handful of products a year, your bottom line (and customers) will thank you.
  • Reaching out to potential partners.  This could be other major media outlets, other bloggers, or any number of other people.  From my one post over at Hack the System last week, I got hundreds of new email subscribers, and a few product sales.  Usually a blog post somewhere else is a much higher value activity than a post on your own site.

You’ll notice most of these things aren’t things you usually have to do. 

That’s what was so interesting to me about my new years sale. I set a date publicly and had to do these things – and had a lot of success because of it.

Step #3: Evaluate and Adjust

Set aside two hours every month to evaluate and review which “active tasks” have been the most successful.  Did you just launch a product. Ok great, now what task are you going to start doing more of now that you won’t be working on that product?

Not getting enough traffic to make your testing worth it? Then adjust to focus on an activity that will drive more traffic to the site.

Your business is constantly evolving, and once you get out of maintenance mode and start taking an active approach to your business, you’ll see just how big of an effect even the smallest changes can make in your business.

Quick Update

I’m at the beginning of my whirlwind trip through Asia, and am slowly developing a rough idea of my schedule.  If you’re going to be in any of the following places at these times definitely let me know!

  • Guangzhou, China – Now until January 19
  • Singapore – January 20
  • Saigon – January 21-25
  • Angkor Wat – January 25-28
  • Bangkok – January 28-1
  • Boracay – February 3-7
  • Hong Kong – February 8-9

I’m thinking more formal things might be planned in Bangkok and Saigon, so make sure to let me know if you’re going to be around.

Jenna January 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Let me know if you still need tips to do in Boracay!

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R.C. Thornton January 16, 2013 at 7:47 am

I know what you mean about “maintenance mode”. It’s easy to get stuck in the rut of continuing to do things the same way, and to get overly-comfortable with the status quo. I suppose it’s all about balance, especially w/ a lifestyle business. BTW how was Guangzhou? I live in China for about 8 months and had a good time when I was in Guangzhou!

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Eden January 16, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Interesting post/thoughts. You are right, yesterday I took action with my blog, changed the opt in box – rewrote it, wrote an email broadcast, a bit of social media etc but theres a LOT more I need to do towards my goals. A LOT. Cheers for the reminder.

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Eddy Azar January 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Aw man, I’ve been running in maintenance mode with my business for months! I haven’t even been writing the articles the last few weeks, I’ve hired writers xP.

And it’s not like the business is successful yet. It’s just getting off the ground.

Thanks for posting this, I needed to realize that. By the end of next week, I’ll have created an email auto-responder sequence (for new signups & for new customers), and have begun talking to my email list to see what kind of posts they want to read about in the future.

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Dennis Dang January 21, 2013 at 12:44 am

Welcome to Vietnam =)

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Laila Atallah January 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Super helpful post, Sean! I ran into a similar issue with my own biz a few years back, where I was focused on growing my biz/online skills, and got far too much in maintenance mode with keeping up my craft of holistic career counseling and job search strategy coaching. And, of course, it takes far more energy to get yourself back up to speed if yourself get too far behind, than if you regularly stay on top of things. I love a holistic approach, but it means I have to stay on top of a lot more approaches/resources/industry and economic trends/ job search strategies/etc.

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Randy January 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Great read. I can definitely relate to being in “maintenance mode”.

This is something I currently struggle with, so it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one.

Cheers

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christina February 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm

oh my goodness, SO know what you mean about maintenance mode. ugh, hate it! we’ve resolved to make 2013 a year of stepping up our game as well =)

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