In my first company Trefiel, I spent a good two years building it up to half a million dollars in revenue. And when you take an idea from nothing to making money, the way you do that is by doing basically anything and everything to see what sticks.

You work your ass off, you do crazy hours and crazy days and you grind away at the coal face trying to get the ever-illusive traction and momentum. And just when you feel like you’re starting to get that, you shift the bar a little higher.

  • You start by saying “I just want my first $1k month”
  • Then you say “I want a $5k month”
  • Then “I want a $10k month”
  • “20k month!”

And so on and so on.

But something immediate happens as soon as you hit the point of $500k a year, sitting roughly at the $40k per month mark, give or take.

You just can’t work any more hours than what you are.

And everything you’ve done up until this point says that you must do MORE in order to add more money to the company. But you sit back and look at the way you manage your time and your days… and you realise there’s physically no more time or days to fill with more work.

I had this exact problem in Trefiel, my first product business.

I consider myself, just like you, an incredibly productive and hard-working person. If the world gave out trophies for business skills, mine would say “Gets Shit Done”. I can pack a lot into a week, a day and an hour.

And so can you too, given that you’re reading this post.

But do you think I could get more done and help Trefiel get over the $50k a month milestone? 

Absolutely not. It wasn’t physically possible.

Let me show what you my days at a half a million dollar product business looked like:

  • Get up at 6am
  • Train at the gym for 2.5 hours
  • Come home, shower
  • Start work at 9am
  • Work flat-strap until 1pm
  • Pack orders flat-strap until 3pm when the posty came
  • Work flat-strap until 6pm
  • Break for dinner
  • Pack orders until midnight
  • Repeat the next day

Just like you, even though I had aspirations of doing more and building a bigger company, the reality of trying to achieve those aspirations was completely impossible.

How do you add more into a day that has no room for more?

The answer that most people give is:

  • Outsource your shipping
  • Hire more people
  • Work harder

And unfortunately, while the people giving this advice about product businesses are well-meaning, if you follow that advice you will end up where I was. Burntout, hating my company and literally not having a life.

And if you’re reading this post, my guess is you’re probably at the exact same point.

When you start a product business from scratch, your biggest problem is that you don’t have volume of orders. You don’t have sales and you need to fix that problem as soon as you can.

But the huge switch that you need to make at the half a million-dollar milestone is realising that the belief that got you this far is now completely useless in getting you to the next stage of business.

Your problem in your company right now isn’t more money.

The biggest problem you have is that you’re making too much money for the business you’ve got.

I know that sounds completely crazy and like it’s not a real problem, but it actually is a very real and very serious problem in these kinds of businesses. Let me explain.

When you started your business, you were completely focused on solving the volume problem. And because you’ve been focused on building up the momentum on the sales side of things, everything else has been pushed to the side and done “as quickly as you can”.

Here are a few examples:

  • You answer customer service emails on the couch at 7pm at night
  • You squeeze in responding to social media comments whenever you can
  • You pack orders for hours a day
  • You are reactive with your marketing
  • You tried hiring for admin, but it ended up being more work for you managing the person to do everything properly that you just ended up giving up

Right now, your business is you. It’s all in your head. And what’s really going on is this:

You have $500k a yearworth of cash moving through your business machine… and the engine of that machine can tolerate about $50k a year.

That’s why you’re stuck.

Your business runs like you just started it. And that’s why you can’t find more time to grow your company. Or think. Or live.

And it’s amazing watching this happen over and over and over again in my clients as soon as they hit the $500k milestone. It’s like the Universe has a magical, invisible wall that you run into as soon as you hit this goal.

Because once you hit this revenue threshold, literally everything you’ve done to get here doesn’t matter. You might as well stop everything.

Obviously, keep making sales. Yes, keep the wheels turning and the lights on.

But also… you need to seriously look at your goals and the way you’re running your company.

Because you have a business that can barely handle the load of $50k a month… so what’s going to happen when you put another $100k into it?

I can promise you, it’s not pretty.

Why incredibly successful clients leave my programs

One of the main reasons my most successful clients leave my programs is not because they didn’t get the results they wanted. It’s because they get too many results, they grow too quickly and they make too much money.

I’ve had two clients use my system and go bankrupt.

Not because they weren’t making enough money. But because they were making too much money.

Too much money coming in, too much money coming out, no oversight of the financials and low profitability equals bankruptcy.

That sounds like a crazy problem to have, doesn’t it? But my guess is if you’re sitting at $40k – $50k a month, you’re feeling the strain of that too.

In my experience, when I come across women-led half a million-dollar product businesses, they’re just barely holding onto everything.

You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have those same problems.

The conversation you seriously need to have with yourself is that your goals of having a $1m a year company are not as important as you think. You getting there is basically a given if you don’t set fire to your business (although that’s a big if with the way you’re running it right now).

The way you get there is not by focusing on the front-end sales of the business.

The way that you make that a reality is by building the backend of your company so it can handle the load of $100k months.

And if you’re really serious about being in the company for the long-term and building something incredibly successful, then you have to start building your company.

And when I say building your company, I don’t mean building your company’s sales (that’s the Volume Problem).

When I building your company, I mean every day your work needs to be on making your company as easy to run as possible. And the way you do that is by creating processes.

“Ugh”. Yeah, I can hear you thinking that.

If you don’t think processes are sexy, you don’t understand processes.

Most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear the word processes but I’m telling you if that isn’t the biggest turn on as a CEO, you don’t understand what that word really means and what it will do to change your day-to-day of the company.

There’s so much you can do on the backend of your product business that makes it lighter to run AND more profitable without having to make more money. It is literally the most important thing you should be focusing on right now.

But… and here’s the big but….

Almost always I find that every single woman at this stage of a product business rejects this work because it’s not as appealing.

It’s not as sexy.

  • It’s not sexy to say “I’m not growing for six months”.
  • It’s not sexy to say “I don’t want a million dollar company (yet)”.
  • It’s not sexy to say “I’m building leverage in my company so I can do half the amount of work and it’s only the work I enjoy most”.

It’s not. 9/10 people won’t do it.

That’s also why 9/10 people die on the sword of their business which consumes their entire life, before they set fire to it and burn it to the ground.

Remember how I told you that two of my clients had gone bankrupt using my process?

They both refused to do the process work because it was much more fun to say “OH MY GOD, I GREW BY 700% THIS MONTH”… even though it cost them their health, their relationships and eventually, their businesses.

9/10 CEOs won’t do the work. 1/10 CEOs do though.

The CEOs who:

  • Don’t reject the less sexy work
  • Do the work on lightening the load of the backend of the business
  • Focus on improving the profitability without making more necessarily

have a much more enjoyable time getting to $1m a year in revenue.

They also keep more of the money, which is a nice bonus that most people don’t even think about.

The clients that I have that go through this milestone and decide to do the right work are focusing on three things:

  1. Building their CEO skillset
  2. Creating leverage in the company
  3. Improving the profitability of business without adding more sales in

And the reason they have to focus on all of those things is that that’s really what the work is when you have $500k a year product business. It’s not adding more money on the front-end of your company.

It’s building out these three things, so the money is more easily able to pour in.

And if you don’t focus on those things at $500k, you’re fucked.

You will set your business on fire. There is no getting around that.

The conversation you need to have with yourself at half a million dollars a year revenue

For where you are in your business right now, you have quite a few decisions to make about what you want the company to look like.

  1. Do you want to add “more money more money more money” at whatever cost to yourself, your company and your profitability?
  2. Or, do you want to focus on setting up your company to be easy to run, more profitable and able to handle significant growth without a huge cost to you and your health?

Because if you want to take the first option, that’s totally fine. I get it, I’ve been there and done that with Trefiel. I almost feel like it’s a rite of passage in product businesses to do this at least once.

But it’s not the only way.

And there’s definitely other work you should be doing at the moment that will help you hit the next financial goal, but also tick off a bunch of other personal goals too.

Like creating real personal wealth, setting yourself and your family up and not working 7 days a week for a $40k a month business.

The first $500k is super fun because it’s you “figuring it out” and realising that you’ve got a real business. But if you want to add the next $500k in, it needs to look a lot different.

You need to do less and make more.