Pushing past break even: how your comfort zone controls your income

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Most entrepreneurs that I know have a break-even mindset.

If you’re just getting started, maybe your goal is to make just enough money to quit your day job.

Or, as you start to grow, you want to make just enough money to hire that next employee, or to buy that expensive piece of equipment.

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When the end of the year rolls around, you want to spend just enough money to limit your tax liability and keep from digging into your pockets to look for money you don’t have.

And so the pattern begins. Breaking even (phew) but just getting by (sigh), over and over again. At some point, breaking even could mean your business is broken.

This year, set out to break the cycle and break past break even.

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I reached out to some of my most successful entrepreneur friends for some advice, and here’s what they had to say about getting out of the grind and finally making the money you deserve.

Move the goal post

As you prepare to be profitable, the first step is to adjust your goals. If your goal is making payroll, that’s probably the best you’re going to do. So set your sights on something higher!

Think about your financial goals like you’d think about a fitness goal. If you want to be a competitive athlete, would you set a goal to lose 50 pounds, or to run a marathon?

Losing 50 pounds might be a byproduct of your marathon training, or a milestone on the way to successfully completing a marathon.

But if you just focus on the weight to lose, your best-case scenario will be “breaking even” at a target weight.

Similarly, entrepreneurs often set weight loss goals – like getting out of debt, instead of achievement goals – like having six figures in your savings account. Aim higher, and celebrate the milestones in moderation.

Get uncomfortable

When I was growing up, being “comfortable” seemed like a good goal, but as a growth-oriented entrepreneur, nothing scares me more.

Instead, focus on being consistently uncomfortable in order to develop new capabilities.

To figure out your current level of comfort, Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach has a great concept called “The Largest Check.”

Looking at all the deals that you’ve done over the past 12 months, add up the cumulative dollar amount that each of your clients or customers has paid you as if they wrote you one check for that year.

Then, take the average of those top 5 “checks”, and you’ll get a sense of where your current comfort level for closing a deal is.

How will you increase that number? What do you have to do?

Your business is a living thing, and like a cell in the human body, it’s either growing or it’s dying. So continue to expand your comfort level and your potential to do bigger deals.

Set new minimums

A couple years ago, I noticed a trend in my business that I shared with financial coach Vanessa Shaw. One month, I’d have the best month ever and close a lot of big deals.

Then, with that accomplishment in the bag, the next few months would be very slow, as if I had earned the right to relax and let things normalize.

Thankfully, she called me out on this lazy behavior and encouraged me to set new minimums.

Each time I have a new record month, I raise the bar on the minimum monthly revenue that will be acceptable for my business. No excuses.

Leverage your time

If you’re already a customer of Bench, then you’re ahead of the pack on this one.

There are only so many hours in a day, so in order to really be successful and make money, you need to free up your time to do whatever activity produces the best results for your business, and outsource the rest like bookkeeping.

Pay yourself market wage

It’s easy to take a discounted salary while your business is getting up and running, but get to a market salary as fast as you can.

First, you’ll be happier when you feel you’re fairly compensated, and second, if you ever need to replace yourself with an employee, it won’t be a death sentence to the business.

Beyond your regular wages, consider taking regular raises or distributions.

Paying yourself more should be as high a priority as anything else you might spend that money on, but many business owners continually sacrifice their own compensation and build a business that relies on that very unsustainable competitive advantage.

Commit to others

You’d think we could hold ourselves accountable for getting wealthier, but it helps to have some outside intervention.

So, tell your financial advisor that you’re making a big deposit next month. Set an auto-transfer from your checking to your savings account. And tell your spouse that you’re going to Europe.

Nothing fuels growth like pressure!

Buy the Tesla

Ok, maybe talk to your bookkeeper before you spring for the sports car, but at some point you’re allowed to reward yourself for all of the hard work.

In business, people are attracted to success, so don’t be afraid to embrace your success and make an investment in your self worth. You might walk a little taller, and that confidence can help you close that next uncomfortable deal.

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