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Inspiring Women in Business Podcast - Episode 42 - How to run your business in maintenance mode

podcast May 08, 2023

There are two main reasons you should set up your business to be able to run in maintenance mode - one, the fact that life throws unexpected things your way, and two, the need for creativity and freedom to do other things to scale your business.

In this episode, I talk about running your business in maintenance mode. I share a useful guide on how to set up your business to be able to do this and some of the useful automation tools to help you.

Listen and Enjoy!

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • It’s important as business owners to have white space in your calendar for creativity and a business that doesn’t rely on you so you can have the freedom to do other things.
  • A lot happens to us and we have to keep showing up in our business even when we don't feel like it. So having this robust kind of infrastructure in your business gives you some peace of mind.
  • Don’t make any drastic decisions and remember that most emotions are temporary.

Some automation tools you need for your business:

  1. Social media scheduling tool - allows one to plan, manage, and recycle content. It’s somewhere to also store all your content and can be easily used in a team for collaboration. (e.g. MeetEdgar, Buffer, HootSuite, Planoly, Social Bee, ContentCal, and Metrical) 
  2. E-mail marketing tool - sends a regular e-mail newsletter and podcast updates. This can also set up automation for new subscribers, sales funnels, new customers or clients, cancellations, follow-ups, and more. (e.g. MailChimp, Active Campaign, and Kajabi)
  3. Google doc of templates that are used if you need a personal touch on your e-mails.
  4. ClickUp and Slack - used for collaborating with team members.
  5. Zapier - helps different tools talk to each other.
  6. Payment plan subscriptions - used to set up payments so you’re not chasing up payments. (e.g. PayPal, Stripe, and Kajabi Checkout.)
  7. Brand guidelines and assets documents
  8. CRM for managing clients
  9. Tools for personal stuff
  10. E-mail organisation automation - helps organise the e-mails that come to your inbox into different folders.

Guidelines on running your business in maintenance mode:

  1. Make a priority list of what you need to do and be brutal if you’ve got a short amount of time.
  2. Communicate. Notify contractors and clients if things are changing.
  3. Recycle your marketing content and do not just create more and more.
  4. Look at automation and scheduling tools.
  5. Look at your expenses and financial commitments.
  6. Give yourself what you need.
  7. Batch things such as recording podcasts, writing e-mails, and creating content.
  8. Set boundaries.


Episode Timeline:

00:04 Podcast Intro

01:08 Episode Intro

01:30 How automation and systems transform businesses

04:35 Some tools you can use for setting up your business in maintenance mode

11:45 Having some peace of mind in your business when a lot of unexpected things happen

12:42 What made Ruth change the way she runs her business

13:24 The processes that Ruth went through

14:00 Having an extended period of time before making a big decision

15:52 What you need to do to run your business in maintenance mode.

20:52 Recap

21:39 Ruth’s advice to you

22:19 Outro

More about Ruth:

Hi, I’m Ruth, a business coach specializing in helping freelancers and business owners adjust their mindset and their marketing so they can get fully booked with clients they LOVE to work with. I’ve helped hundreds of self-employed women achieve the time and money freedom they craved.

I’ve started this podcast because when I first went all in and left the corporate world to be a freelancer, I was grateful for any work that came my way. After over 20 years of freelancing and working for other people, I started to realize I’d created a glass ceiling for myself.

In 2017, I finally started listening to that voice that had been telling me for a long time that I wasn’t doing what I loved and fulfilling my true potential.  It took a critical illness to give me that wake-up call.  I don’t want the same to happen to you.

You can expect practical advice, inspiring stories, and a lot of aha moments as we uncover and kick to the curb all the obstacles you have been putting in your way.

I’m on a mission to inspire women to start and play bigger in business.

Connect and know more about Ruth here:

Coaching: https://www.ruthgilbey.com/coaching

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruthgilbeymarketingandcoaching/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ruth_gilbey/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruthgilbey/



Ruth Gilbey  00:04

Hello and welcome to the inspiring women in business podcast. My name is Ruth Gilbey and I'm a business and marketing coach. I'm on a mission to inspire women to start and play bigger in business. Now I started this podcast because when I first went all in and left the corporate world to be a freelancer, I was just grateful for any work that came my way. After over 20 years of freelancing and working for other people, I started to realize I'd created a glass ceiling of myself. It was in 2017 when I finally started listening to that voice that had been telling me for a long time, that I wasn't doing what I loved, and I wasn't fulfilling my true potential, it took a critical illness to give me that wake-up call. And I don't want the same thing to happen to you. You can expect practical advice, interviews, inspiring stories, and a lot of aha moments, as we uncover and kick to the curb, all the obstacles you've been putting in your way.

Ruth Gilbey  01:08

Hello, welcome back to the inspiring women in business podcast. And today's episode is all about running your business in maintenance mode. And what I mean by that is, there are so many benefits to setting up your business. So it doesn't completely rely on you, it can give you that freedom from your business and give you flexibility.

Ruth Gilbey  01:30

So for many years, I've been setting up automation shuttling tools and systems in my business with a lot of help from my online business manager who's my right hand, and these systems have transformed my business. So I can do a lot more of the stuff that needs me that actually really needs me the stuff I enjoy, and the stuff that's actually going to leverage and make me money in my business. I'm also really, really fascinated, and how by working smarter and organization, I'm always interested in looking at things through a lens of how can we do this better. How can we do this smarter? And I think this comes from, I've always been a very pretty organized person. That's how people have always seen me. But I think because when I was working in corporate, I managed large teams of up to about 100 people, 50 staff, and three freelancers, I managed, I did project management as well. I was also a production manager in TV. So I was managing crews and timings and what were you know, everything that was going on? In my mind. I'm calmer and happier if things are organized. And I know what's actually going on. And I like that. I like that in my business as well. So I always look at things with curiosity and think, you know, how can we do this smarter? I'm always having conversations with Nina, my online business manager saying I think we can do this in a bit of a different way. I think what about if we tried this? What about if we do that? What about if we reuse that? Why start again and start afresh? Why don't we kind of like learn from what we've done, or reuse what we've done?

Ruth Gilbey  03:11

So I just want to today in today's podcast episode, I want to talk to you about some of the things I've done in my own business so that I can run it. I call it maintenance mode. And I'll explain more about why I call it maintenance mode. But I want to talk about the tech that I've used the systems that I've set up because I kind of look at it. And I think, oh no, there's not that many. And then when I actually wrote it out, I've just written a list, I realized there was quite a lot and it might be useful for you to hear this. Whatever stage you're at in your business, whether you are starting it up or you are growing your business, you might get one really good idea from this that makes you look at your business differently. Particularly if you're feeling busy and overwhelmed, which a lot of people are feeling and busyness is a real thing. Because you're wearing multiple hats. Perhaps it will give you some ideas and help you do things more efficiently giving you a bit more time. And I also do believe that it's really important as business owners to have white space in your calendar, white space for creativity, and a business that doesn't rely on you. So you can have the freedom to do other things as well. And when life and curveballs happen.

Ruth Gilbey  04:22

Okay, so here's a quick rundown of the tech and the systems. Some of the systems, I've probably forgotten some of them, some of the systems and the tech that I've set up and use in my business and set up with my online business manager. So number one, which I've always had because of my digital marketing background is a social media scheduling tool that allows me to plan, manage, and recycle content I have tried and tested I've used meetEdgar, I've used Buffer, used HootSuite. I've used Planoly, I've used social bee, I've used Contentcal. And now I'm currently using something called metricool. And I will put an affiliate link in the show notes for you. So you can check it out as well. Because it's something that, having tried and tested lots of different scheduling tools. I really, really like the user experience with metrical because I like the fact that you can use it for planning and that you can also use it for creating recycling, and creating more. You may have heard people calling it evergreen content. So that's, you know, that was the first thing that I've something I've always had in my business is a scheduling tool. And it's not just something for, you know, scheduling your content is actually for managing the content as well and recycling it. And it's somewhere to store all that amazing content that you have created as well. So for me, it also has to be something that can be easily used in a team where other people can pick it up and use it as well, and we can use it collaboratively.

Ruth Gilbey  06:01

The next thing that I have in my business is an email marketing tool. I started with MailChimp, then moved to Kajabi. And now I use Active Campaign and Kajabi. And I use it, I've got a regular email newsletter that goes out every week, you get podcast updates, you hear about what podcast is coming, but I also have automation as well for like new subscribers, I have sales funnels set up as well. I have email sequences for new customers, for onboarding when I get new customers as well as new clients. I have even had, you know, reminders for when a subscription is coming up, I have email automation. I even have an email automation for when people cancel as well as an email follow-up on automation as well. And there are so many more that I actually want to add to my list.

Ruth Gilbey  06:53

The other thing that I have also is just a Google doc of templates that I have used that so if not automation isn't really, you know if it needs the personal touch and you actually need to write an individual email, it's good to have I have a bank of emails for those individual sorts of personal emails as well. I also have, I use the tool, ClickUp. And I use that for collaborating with team members. And we use Slack as well for talking but tasks are put in ClickUp, I love ClickUp and it's not ridiculously expensive. I pay 60 pounds a year for it. And I use it for, kind of like storing all my tasks, working with contractors but also you can set it up you can have tasks set up for recurring activities. So for instance, we do a monthly report for my business of all my marketing activities that go in there, and because there's a recurring task in there for that there's a recurring task in there for my weekly email. So recurring tasks for podcast actions as well. I also have Zapier integration, Zapier helps different tools talk to each other. And I have payments and subscription setups using Pay Pal and Stripe and using Kajabi checkout. So I'm not chasing up payments, because those kinds of payment plans are set up, I have a checkout with my contract on it. And I have documented standard operating procedures as well. So I don't have to breathe every single project. And they are a game changer.

Ruth Gilbey  08:31

I've written a blog post about this, which I will link to about when you're working with team members. What are the kinds of things you need to be thinking about but these are so for instance, I have spent what's a standard operating procedure or what's called an SOP for what happens with my podcast because there are different parts to it, what systems I use, you know where I load it, who does what I send it off to a podcast editor, what happens after that all the different things because otherwise, what you are doing, particularly if you outsource, or it's something that you do irregularly, actually, maybe you know, because I record, I have a book house at the moment, that's only going out once a month, perhaps I forget what to do next month. And I go back to that task list that is also there for me as well as my contractors, but it stops you having to brief and follow up with everybody each time so they can take ownership of their tasks.

Ruth Gilbey  09:23

I also have documented brand guidelines and assets, I have folders with photos, I use Canva and I try and keep it as organized as possible in there. A hack that a designer showed me was on the first. If you have loads and loads of got loads of content in Canva, use your folders you know make sure you name things but the first image to actually say what the thing is, rather than it being an image and you forgetting what it's actually for. So you actually create a new image and name it. Anyway, I'm getting a bit granular here. I also have a CRM for managing my clients. I use ClickUp I use Kajabi and I use Active Campaign for managing my different clients. It's also that I have personal stuff, and I have recurring grocery delivery. So it's not the same delivery every week. But every week on a Wednesday, I get my supermarket shop delivered. And that is in the diary every week. I remember securing that during the pandemic when it was after not being able to get grocery deliveries, then securing a kind of regular grocery delivery. I've got a toilet roll subscription from who gives a crap, I've got recurring Amazon deliveries, I've got direct debits and subscriptions. So we have a lot in our personal lives as well as in our businesses. And there's probably a load more that I've forgotten and more I could set up. 

Ruth Gilbey  10:38

Did you know that you can actually automate emails that come into your inbox and they go into different folders, so you do not actually have to do I'm forever, I haven't actually set this up. And I need to, but I'm forever dragging things into different folders, which takes up so much time because I'm always trying to get my inbox down. And that's just a genius hack of not having to actually manually clear your emails. So just think about how much time you can save not having to just continually clear out your inbox. So over the last year, I've had to ramp up my automation and processes, and I've really had to look at them. Because I've had a lot of like everybody, I've had a lot of life stuff and a lot of life curveballs thrown at me. And one was having a major operation last year that took a long recovery. So I had that in November 2022. And I had to really look at working smarter, but I actually enjoy the challenge of seeing how I can work smarter and look at things through a different lens and get different ideas for people and see if I can implement them.

Ruth Gilbey  11:45

But we all have, I think that we all know about automation we all know about systems and processes. But sometimes we think it's we leave them on our to-do lists for a lot longer. And then we're not prepared, not ready. So life stuff happens to all of us all the time from the general things like school holidays, children of school, boiler, packing up, something happening in your house, to the more serious things like a pandemic, homeschooling by choice, or if it's forced upon you, parents or family members who get ill or need support, illness in the family, divorce, redundancy, job loss, losing clients, I mean, lots of lots of different things happen. It's a lot, a lot happens to us. And we have to keep showing up in our business even when we don't feel like it. So having this robust kind of infrastructure in your business gives you some peace of mind.

Ruth Gilbey  12:42

I'm not unused to having to adapt as life happens. As you probably know, I had to really ramp up how I ran my business when I had breast cancer in 2017. And I had to make massive changes to how I ran my business because I went through a year, at least a year of treatment and recovery. And it really taught me a lot about decluttering, being organized, and focusing actually on what's important in life and business and how we can get stuck into a rut of being very, very busy when there are things and there are systems processes automation that we can set up to give us a bit more freedom and space. So this is one of the processes that I went through last year to make sure when like I was having my operation and I had a few personal things thrown at me I still had a business to return to and this is something that I went through when I was diagnosed with breast cancer as well. First of all, as particularly if it's an emotionally charged it's deciding if you want to keep running your business when something major happens and thinking, considering, can you pause things, can someone else cover for you or can you outsource until things have calmed down or you through that particular difficult period or whatever has been thrown at you.

Ruth Gilbey  14:00

The next one and I've talked about this quite a lot is don't make any drastic decisions remembering that most emotions are temporary. I may have said this on a podcast episode before but it always really springs to mind that I remember vividly when my father-in-law lost his wife when she died. He was advised by the probate solicitor to wait one year before he made any big decisions after his wife died. And I remember hearing that and I remember feeling really relieved because he was jumping from wanting to sell it out, give his money away, buy a house abroad, move abroad, buy a car, doing this, doing that, and he was changing his mind. He was changing his mind so much because he sought an answer to gain I think some control so this advice immediately calmed and defuse the situation because he trusted the solicitor and he kind of thought on wait to make a decision, you know our Molly's decisions over and these ideas is over. And a year later, he didn't want to do any of the things that he had thought he wanted to do, he actually wanted to stay in his own home. So I think that's a really, it's giving, maybe it's not a year. But if something big happens to him in your life, it might be that you need to wait for an extended period of time before you make a big decision.

Ruth Gilbey  15:20

So when I talk about running your business in maintenance mode, it was something that came up for me last year when I was like, I'm running my business in maintenance mode, I am getting things in order and systems and processes. I'm really ramping things up. I called it that. I called it that I called it running my business in maintenance mode, but it's actually stuck with me. And I really enjoy the fact that I have an infrastructure in place and things don't rely 100% on me or my actions all the time. That's it's sort of a pretty well-oiled machine now.

Ruth Gilbey  15:52

So this is what you can do. If you think, yeah, I want to be able to run my business in maintenance mode. If things happen today. First of all, make a priority list of what needs doing and be really brutal, particularly if you've got a short amount of time, like I had with my operation, you know, planning for this operation, and to think about what needs doing, what is revenue generating, and it's also a chance for a bit of a declutter what is working, what isn't? What is nice to have? Where am I spending my time? What is at, and what activities are actually working? And this is about looking at your data as well. Look at your revenue and clients look at what is essential in your business, and your client commitments. Focus on what's paying the bills.

Ruth Gilbey  16:33

The next thing is communication, notify contractors and clients if things are changing. And if you feel your services are going to be affected, all I've ever experienced is really understanding and supportive contractors and team members and very supportive clients as well. I thought I would have to give contracts up when I was diagnosed with cancer. And I just had class saying no, it's fine, you can outsource it. And when you come back, you know, you could come back and take it over, which was amazing. And such a relief because it meant I had a business to come back to.

Ruth Gilbey  17:04

The next thing is recycling your marketing content. We always think we need to create more, more, more, more. And so I've started to actually look in my Google Docs for ideas rather than starting afresh sometimes and just refreshing something. I actually found this is true, I actually found the notes for this podcast episode when I was trying to come up with an idea of what to record this week. And this came up and I'd actually forgotten to record it because I got I thought, no, I won't do that. Well, now I wanted to do something else. And I've forgotten to actually record it. So I had it all kind of like the notes written out for it all ready to go. So look at what you have already. Look at your social posts, look at your blog posts, and reuse and reshare. You've got loads and your audience will not notice. I heard it referred to as content mining Oh mining and looking for that golden content go mining for it and create you know, recycling. Every week I sit down and write a new email. And I've probably got over 50 email newsletters. Would someone notice if I shared an email or weekly email of mine again? Probably, there might be someone new on my list anyway, so they've never seen it before. So recycle your marketing content and also evergreen it if something's time-sensitive, a little bit of an extra step, provide a time-sensitive piece of content, look at it and see if you can evergreen it and add it to your content schedule. Because that's something we don't do a lot of the time we will do something that goes out because it's time-sensitive and then we forget about it. So evergreen it and that means it can go out at any time. It's not time-sensitive.

Ruth Gilbey  18:43

Look at automation and scheduling because automation and scheduling are your friends. Look at the scheduling tools. Look at email marketing scheduling and you know set these up or invest in getting help from someone to get the setup for you that you know some people can do it in a couple of hours which might take you days to learn and set up.

Ruth Gilbey  19:05

The other thing is to look at your expenses and financial commitments. when life throws things at you, it can be really overwhelming, you can feel like you are going to lose money you are going to lose clients all these different emotions. So look at your data, audit your expenses and upcoming commitments and you know really think about having your needs changed.

Ruth Gilbey  19:26

The next thing very important is to give yourself what you need. Sometimes, continuing to work is necessary. Bill's knee pain but also can be either a really healthy distraction stopping by completely isn't always possible or the best solution. So I remember actually what was a really nice distraction for me when I was having my cancer treatment and getting some support but not outsourcing it completely was really nice for me, but the pressure's off so really just knowing what you need and what works for you again, looking your financial commitments really thinking about would actually stopping work completely? Can you do that? Do you actually want to do that? Do you want to have nothing to do? Or do you know a bit to keep your time you know, ticking over and distracted sort of healthy distraction might work really well for you?

Ruth Gilbey  20:16

The next thing is batching, like recording podcasts, writing emails, and creating content, I did a huge amount of batching and recording podcasts writing emails, and creating content before I had my operation last year. And set boundaries from a simple out of office, of times that you're available, notifying people, you know, is it time to reset your working hours? Or have days that you don't work? Remind people what you do and don't do. You have the perfect excuse to do that you could use that as a real excuse to actually reset some boundaries.

Ruth Gilbey  20:52

And that's I think that's it just so just to recap that again. You know, make a priority list, prioritize revenue and clients, communicate with clients and contractors, recycle your marketing content, evergreen that content, and look at what you've got already. Look at automation and scheduling, how can you automate more things to make your life easier? Look, at your expenses and your financial commitments, create and design the plan that suits you and listen to you first, batch things and yeah, and set boundaries. I mean, I've said these things, sometimes it's about now actually, I want to take a break from my business and pause things. I don't want things to keep running when I'm not doing them. And it's just a really, really personal choice. There's no one size fits all.

Ruth Gilbey  21:39

So my advice to you is to sort of use this podcast and all this is in the show notes as well. You know, the guide for doing this, this before life throws things at you so you have a bit more control. And also, as I experienced you might absolutely love it, and it might give you even when life isn't throwing things at you, it might just give you more whitespace to be more creative in your business. As I say all these things are grateful when life throws curveballs at you. But also, it's great to practice setting up your business so it can run without you.

Ruth Gilbey  22:19

Thanks for listening to the inspiring women in business podcast. I hope you found this episode helpful. If you did, I would love it if you would leave me a review. Also, I would love to connect with you on Instagram. That's where I hang out most of the time. I'm @Ruth_Gilbey. I'll put a link in the show notes for you as well to come and connect with me. Tell me about your business. And also tell me what you'd like to hear next on the podcast. And lastly, go and check out the business building hub on my website. There you can find more amazing free resources to help you take the next step in your business. And you can also find out other ways that you can work with me. I'll see you soon.