This is a follow up story for Screw The Cubicle. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey, I’m Lydia Lee! I’m a Work Reinvention Coach & Small Business Strategist at Screw The Cubicle. Since 2013, I’ve mentored corporate escapees to repurpose their skills from their 9-5 careers and build a meaningful business that supports the lifestyle they want to have.
I work with service-based professionals who are coaches, consultants, freelancers, and creatives through one-to-one coaching partnerships and in my signature program, 90 Day Launch Academy.
I currently run a six-figure business in a ‘company of one’ model that supports me in having a minimalist business that I enjoy (and most importantly, have time to enjoy my life and live in multiple countries every year).
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
After my last interview with Starter Story, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Like everyone else, I had to navigate uncertainty in my life and business. In hindsight, I see this moment of change as a ‘pattern interrupt’ that was needed in my life. A necessary pause to evaluate and reassess what was important to my values and wellbeing.
Instead of doing more to pivot my business, I’ve been practicing doing less. As a recovering perfectionist and perpetual ‘do-er’, this was something hard to practice at first, but I knew it was important to create spaciousness in my life during times of anxiety with uncertain change.
Create intentional time for working on the business rather than always working in it.
I focused my efforts on identifying what was truly essential for running my business with more ease, and doubled down on increasing attention and care to improve and sell one core product, my 90 Day Launch Academy.
And talking about ease, I reinvented the way I marketed and spread the word for this program without falling into the ‘launch hustle’. I started focusing on marketing activities that felt authentic to me and leveraged my personal genius zone. These were more human-focused activities that allowed me to have intimate one-on-one conversations with leads, share education through live streams, and pitch myself as a guest on podcasts and media to talk about my work.
Committing to nurturing and engaging my existing community through my Newsletters have been great to cultivate meaningful conversations with my audience. Clients have told me that the ongoing valuable ‘seeds’ I plant through my weekly newsletters have helped them trust my work as a coach and when they were ready, I was someone top of mind.
I stopped putting attention to playing the algorithm game on social media to focus on these key areas. It’s been wonderful to make marketing feel more like me, and by doing so, attracted wonderful ‘soulmate’ clients to work with me.
As I did more outreach to channels and collaborators that align with my vision, journalists started to find my work and feature me on publications like the Globe & Mail (one of the biggest newspapers in Canada).
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
One of the biggest lessons I learned last year was that some of the best decisions we can make are with creative constraints. The pandemic has certainly brought constraints to our lives, but it’s also instigated creative energy in using what we’ve got available to us to improve our day-to-day lives.
I remembered almost defaulting to my usual behavior of handling uncertainty and anxiety by believing I have to do more things to prepare for what’s ahead. But what has been a fruitful lesson has been to pause to evaluate what’s in front of me already. How can I leverage what’s working and drop what isn’t? What can I better and improve on that’s existing in my business rather than make more things?
In a nutshell, how do I create a tiny but mighty business?
This encouraged me to take on a new mindset of an ‘essentialist’. As Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism writes, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it's about how to get the right things done.”
It helped me to pull back the curtains on my business to make conscious decisions for what truly mattered for my work and the business I want to build. It’s changed how I market, my operations, and how I define ‘success’ in my business (which should only be personal to me).
This has formed healthy habits where I question growth and make decisions mindfully, not just jump on the bandwagon of business trends for the sake of it.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I would love to continue hosting live retreats when we’re able to travel safely again. Taking people to experience an environment outside of what’s familiar has always brought out creative ideas when they’re able to create space for their vision and meet like-minded folks to support their ventures.
I’m excited for the growth in remote work and location-independent careers that are being created from how the world has adapted towards the pandemic and hope that reality is here to stay.
In 2021, I’m getting ready to launch my crowdfunded Screw The Cubicle book and share more inspiring stories of people who’ve built unconventional lives outside of the 9-5.
As I bring all my learnings from last year into the future, I’m looking forward to using the foundations I’ve been building to create a more hustle-free and values-driven approach to growing my business.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’ve mentioned Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and love recommending Company Of One by Paul Jarvis. I’m in the middle of reading Reboot by Jerry Colonna which reveals why radical self-inquiry is critical to professional success and healthy relationships in all realms of life.
A podcast I’ve been a guest on and also an avid listener of is Ashley Gartland’s Better Than Big podcast that’s very much in-line with the kind of business and life I want to create.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
My advice for entrepreneurs who desire to build the kind of business that fulfills them in deeper ways beyond profit is to create intentional time for working on the business rather than always working in it.
Having ‘thinking time’, whether it’s to take personal retreats often or have intentional breaks during the week can be wonderful in using the power of ‘pause’ to evaluate what you need to experience in your business.
As the saying goes, what’s the point of going somewhere fast if it’s not the destination we want to go towards?
I purposely schedule 3 days of a personal retreat every 3 months for my well-being, but also as a strategic activity for my business. It’s helpful to gain perspective with these mini sabbaticals to get clarity.
Finally, avoid comparing your business to the way others have grown theirs. Truly think about how your business should give you a rich life, however you’d like to define success and ‘richness’. Knowing what’s ‘enough’ for your success, be it time, money, or impact you want to make, will ensure you’re building a business you’d want to keep.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m not currently looking to fill any positions at the moment, but always love connecting with people who are doing meaningful work and entrepreneurs who are redefining interesting versions of success as business owners!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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