how to run a less profitable business (after my #teawithgaryvee)

Last week I had my chance to ask GaryVee a question on his quaran-time show #teawithgaryvee. If you're not familiar, the show is essentially Gary reserving 2 hours out of his insanely packed schedule to go live on social, and bring individuals like you and me on to ask him different business questions. It's amazing, insanely value-packed, and oddly accessible. This show has become one of my favorite parts of my day. It's basically the 2020 version of a radio show where people panic when they get on and start by rattling off "long time listener, first time caller!" Somehow (at the grace of Dustin not Justin, Zain, and May), I ended up on there - and sure enough, like an entrepreneurial tarot card reader, Gary Vaynerchuk essentially answered my simple question, then read into a very real (unrelated) question that I didn't ask. Then he gave me something I didn't realize I was seeking...


"Let me ask you something, do you have a hard time firing people?"

me: "Oh my gosh YES."

Gary: "I've got to tell you this and it hurts me saying it but I think it's going to help you."

What Gary didn't know (but probably knew because he reads people like a book), is I've struggled with my numbers. I'm really proud of what I've built - it's sustainable, it's impactful, and the company for me builds my legacy while maintaining my family's. But, over the past year, I've been pushed and told my 'margins need to be higher', I need to 'net more', I'm 'paying too much' - all things that add up and can make you feel like you're failing, even when you're growing.

What I didn't realize is that I needed to give myself permission to build a less profitable company because it meant treating people well and maintaining ethics.

I walked away from that call with an adrenaline kick, not just because I'm an introvert TERRIFIED of being in front of people who was pushed in front of thousands of people just to fumble through my question, but also because of something that took a few hours to sink in. It was the part about how I said "I'm told I pay too high," but what he knew I meant by that was "I'm being told my margins aren't high enough."

"The next time someone tells you that, you're going to say 'That's very sweet. You run your business, Sally."

I didn't realize that although I tend to lean masculine and action-oriented in business, I had been allowing how others build their businesses to sculpt how I built mine - even though we're not building the same kind of business.

It's OKAY to not net 40 freaking percent. It's not only OKAY to have to grind every day - that's the part about all of this that you should love. The entire point in being okay with 'low' margins, while being proud of building something that truly serves others, is being absolutely 1000% in love with the process of building it. It's OKAY to have to keep both hands on the wheel while navigating a small business during a pandemic. The truth is, if things are net positive, and you're truly happy, then you're right where you should be.

The point is to not be charitable within your business, but instead to be charitable because of your business. That was the day I took control - somehow it finally snapped in my head that I can not only impact more people positively in the long run by pulling the charity out (aka hiring the wrong people, promoting them out of tenure and not because they truly deserved it, or over-paying in certain scenarios because I wanted to financially treat them better than how I was treated when I first started), but also being fine with lower margins if it removes the pressure of 'making it.' Because the point is..

don't be in love with the idea of owning a successful company, or hitting a specific margin...
but instead being in love with the process of building one.

It's the journey I'm in love with - which is why every margin-focused meeting sucks my soul or makes me feel insecure. Once I recognized that - it's breezy. For the past week, I've had zero anxiety over the trajectory or the bottom line of my company. In the middle of a pandemic, I've been able to give my business, which relies so heavily on entertainment (LOL right now), a little breathing room and a lot of perspective. I think for so long, I zeroed in on the fact that I haven't made it until I've hit a specific margin - rather than realizing that if I love my process, my team, and my clients, I've made it already and while it's okay to be ambitious for growth, that doesn't have to come from screwing anyone over, adhering to anyone's math equations, or sacrificing quality. It took a few days for it to really sink in - and that perspective shift changed everything for me.

Thanks Gary.

Watch the episode here!