As a business coach to women business owners, I’m always inspired by the things they dream of being, doing and having.
But so often, I hear about things they think are only pipe dreams because they’re clouded by perceived limits. It’s my job (and joy, frankly) to help them find the way beyond those limits — without imposing limits.
But really, truly working “without imposing limits” required changes to my business model and how I work with clients. It was a risk, but early indicators show that it’s been paying off for both my clients and me.
Because so many of us look around at how other people are doing business in our respective industries, I want to lay out my thought process with the hope you’ll give yourself permission to do things differently, despite what “common sense” or naysayers tell you.
For starters, it helps to have friends who have figured out which crazy ideas are really just for giggles…
No need to poll friends or make announcements on Facebook about “for realz” changes. I don’t need their approval. Laughs are enough. 😂
So it was a solo decision when late last year I decided to increase my fees and implement an unusual practice of offering unlimited phone sessions and email access for my 90-Day Strategy clients. I’ve always offered unlimited access to private clients who sign on for annual contracts, but this was a first for these shorter term engagements.
I know, I know. It sounds crazy. Who does this?
We’ve been told to create boundaries and impose limits to protect our time. And that makes sense in many cases. It’s advice I might give to some of my own clients and follow myself with other programs.
But in this case I had 4 good reasons to give it a go.
And I’ll start by putting it into the context of what an actual client might come to me for. Imagine this…
You want to increase take home income by a few hundred thousand dollars. You’ve been dreaming of opening a physical space to expand your visibility in the community you serve. You have intellectual property that isn’t being fully capitalized upon. You might be toying with franchising. And there are 17+ other things that would benefit from mini-makeovers to increase your revenues.
Now, I never promise we’ll get it ALL DONE in 90 days. That would be absurd. Some things will creep past 90 days — or even a year. But damn, we make a lot of headway on the very highest priority toward reaching that higher vision.
Here’s how and why unlimited access works for both of us once we’ve completed an initial half-day strategy intensive which lays the groundwork for seeing your vision through…
Reason #1 / The Sprints
My goal isn’t to string you along quarter after quarter. My goal is to see you get shit done so that you can do more damn good in this world — which is why I work with clients in 90 day “sprints.”
I’m finding this works because it is a 90-day sprint. The sprint lights a different kind of fire 🔥 under my clients’ asses. Women founders come into an engagement with the mindset, “what game changing goal can I reach in the next three months? What’s one (or two or three) thing I can make happen to realize my big vision?”
Putting limits on access to me during a sprint might get my clients to need me beyond the 90 days, but that could possibly defeat my goal because…
Reason #2 / The Pivots
There are so many moving parts to all of this. How many pivots do you think need to be made to parts B, C and Y when part A moves? Why should you have to wait until a week from Tuesday to hash it out with me? An email exchange can solve a lot. But sometimes it isn’t always the best answer. So an extra 10 minute phone conversation can get us to a decision, much more quickly.
(BRAG 👉🏼 You are one of the best listeners I’ve met, and have a way of encapsulating the most salient points of what’s said and reflecting them back to us.)
Let’s make it happen!
Reason #3 / The Calm
This story I’m about to tell you about went down like a shot of tequila, so I’ll admit it comes with a bit of salt… 😝
I once paid a “speak to sell” coach $13,000 and flew to San Diego for a half-day VIP session in her home, only to have her tell me within the first 5 minutes that she didn’t have a solution for what I had requested on her g*damn “application.” WTF? She hadn’t even bothered to read it before “approving” me as a client. I was too shell shocked to tell her to fuck off and demand my money back. In hindsight, it explained why she wouldn’t agree to a single follow up session when I tried negotiating one before I hired her.
You might be thinking “bitter much, Carolyn? And yes, I was bitter for a very long time. I felt betrayed because she was 100% out of integrity for taking me on as a client because I was very specific about what I wanted to accomplish by hiring her.
But like many of my letdowns, I eventually learned the lesson from it once I could let my “victim” go. This happened to remind me to NEVER EVER be out of integrity with a client. By offering unlimited access, this takes “no woman left behind” 20 steps further and delivers a sense of “I’ve got your back” that creates calms when going through a big change.
It even extends to when I’m on vacation. I find that when I unplug from the everyday, not only do new ideas spring to mind for my own business, but also for my clients. Last week I was reading a magazine on the beach in Mexico and read something that sparked an idea for a client — so I snapped a pic of the blurb and shot it off as inspo to them.🌴🏖 👉🏼
Reason #4 / The Flyer
I’ll admit this is an experiment. But thanks to my friend, Tina Forsyth, she taught me long ago that it’s okay to experiment and not think that every single thing I do has to result in massive success.
I may find “all you can eat” doesn’t work long term. But based on all of the clients I’ve worked with since I began offering unlimited sessions, I’m discovering it’s the right thing to do. Sure, it has the potential to be time consuming — so I may decide to increase my prices again and work with even fewer clients — or drop it altogether.
But I haven’t had a single client abuse it. They’re professionals, not time carnivores trying to eat my calendar alive.
Yes, I recognize the danger of this model.
Someone could potentially feel let down if they don’t get it all done in 90 days. But we already know we can’t and won’t do it all at once. That’s why setting intentions, expectations and priorities is a critical component to making these 90 day sprints work.
And I’ve observed over the past 9 years of doing strategy work with my clients that there’s almost always a final push of breathlessly trying to shove more into our last week together. I’m not sure whether that sense of urgency will ever go away. We always want to do more. But when you stop to look back at what you have accomplished over 3 months, you realize that last minute panic is a mind trick. There’s always more to do. But I’ve noticed less of that panic lately because they see how much they’ve accomplished — and have a different viewpoint about how much they can get done with greater focus.
I’ve even questioned if I’m a “lesser coach” because a peer might be able to do it all in 4.5 meetings. But my clients come to me for my style of coaching and capabilities, so there’s no need to worry about how others do it or what they might think of me. That’s a waste.
Here’s what happens when we work through perceived limits — without imposing limits.
(These are actual results, not made up.)
The price increase you thought was way out of line with what “competitors” are charging? You’re already closing new deals at 1.5x their rates within 2 weeks. Sure, there’s still tweaking and tuning to increase close rates, but you’re making it happen.
That brick and mortar you didn’t think was possible until 5-10 years from now?
You’ve already found a very strong contender for your space within 3 weeks of our initial strategy session.
The way to max out client programs? We’ve sketched out the marketing approach to pump up more referrals and sales. To be continued…
The opportunity to capitalize further on your IP? We’ve compromised on a short-term vs. long-term plan (I see SOOOO much leveraged growth opportunity here) that has the potential to expand the reach of your work and increase annual revenues by several hundred thousand dollars. The overall vision is in place, but is a lower priority in light of the other things in motion.
This is just the first 3 weeks. We still have 70 more days to go.
If we limited our time together, I’m not sure this much momentum would be in play in such a short period. It helps that these women are motivated! Go team.
So back to what you think might be too “out there” to do…
What’s something you’re drawn to do, but nobody else is doing it that way? Or everybody else tells you NOT to do it that way? (You’re welcome to my selling diamonds on the beach idea, btw.)
You’re not nobody.
And you’re not everybody.
So listen to that whisper, my friend. And give yourself permission to give it a go. You just might find it works.
And if it doesn’t, it’s a data point. You can make another adjustment. Raise your price, lower your price, add, remove, swap, flip, expand, contract — or a make a million other choices.
But whatever you choose to do — DON’T allow their limits be your limits.