Will you allow me to share something a little uncomfortable with you for a bit? When I file my 2012 taxes this year, my personal income will be considerably lower than in 2011.

No, I didn’t cash in on some big business expense that allows me to claim less income. No, I didn’t shelter any in quasi-legal bank accounts.

I just made less.

About halfway through the year, I began to feel (as in, in my body) the results of earning less income. There were knots of stress, anxiety headaches, and the taste you get in your mouth from eating a bit of humble pie.

Maybe even some shame.

Luckily, I recognized the problem fairly quickly with the help of my set of trusted mentors and coaches. The problem? Oh, it wasn’t earning less money. It was that I wasn’t acknowledging:

  • that I had purposefully taken “time off” from earning to grow my business in other ways
  • that I was having great success with that growth
  • and that I had changed my spending circumstances to meet the challenge
  • oh, and, that my measure of success–even in business–was not revenue.

Let me back up. In early Spring 2012, I had constructed a plan to restructure the very foundation of my business. I started working with a literary agent on a book proposal. I changed the way I worked with 1:1 clients.

With more clarity than ever before, I worked to make the next iteration of my business based on how I was best suited to make the impact I want to make on the world.

For me, that means writing books–whether traditionally published or self-published–because I’m an ideas person. I’m curious, a bit obsessive, and could happily converse all day on the big picture. It also means continuing to speak, teach, and blog.

That means the rest of my business needs to grow into buckets that can take care of themselves. Scoutie Girl is one bucket. Kick Start Labs is another bucket. Even my own coaching and consulting is another bucket. Those buckets don’t function without teams, clear goals, and individual visions.

So, back to that revenue thing again. I didn’t personally make as much money this year, as I said. Why? Well, this kind of growth–even carefully planned, almost-can’t-fail strategies–takes time. I had to “give up on” some big streams of revenue to transition the business into these buckets. Then I had to rebuild those streams of revenue under new brand names and with new people.

In the midst of this transition, I purposefully took some serious time off from making money to work on my book proposal. It wasn’t a sure thing–still isn’t–and there was little chance it would make up for the money I wasn’t making. It was an investment in a different type of growth, one for which I’m very well suited.

Here’s the thing: I made less money in 2012 than in 2011, but my business grew like crazy. It made a big impact. I’m so proud of everything we accomplished.

How do you know if your business is growing if you’re not making more money?

…or hiring more employees …or quadrupling your subscriber base …or selling more products

You have to change how you define growth. In my new book, I talk about growth in terms of 3 areas: reach, revenue, and depth.

Growth based on reach is about fostering new connections. You’re putting your work and ideas in front of new people, more people. You’re casting the net to gather everyone who can take your vision and turn it into deep good. You’re partnering, networking, broadcasting.

Growth based on depth is about uncovering needs and desires that reside far below the surface. You’re working towards loyalty and strong relationships. You’re allowing curiosity drive those relationships and you’re rising to the task of creating a vast impact in individual lives.

Growth based on revenue is recognizing all the ways you’re creating value and implementing systems to receive value to match. You’re organizing, marketing, and packaging. You’re letting the current reality around your business guide you to higher returns.

When you consider how you’ll explore your next growth stage, you need must consider where your strengths naturally fall. If you’re really not into diving into big questions, you’re probably must better suited to growing your reach than growing in depth. If you’re really good at recognizing opportunities to create transactions, you might be best suited to grow in revenue.

You also need to consider what the big vision is for the impact you want to make in the world with your business. If your vision is to transform lives one at a time, growing in reach doesn’t serve that vision. If your vision is to introduce broad communities to your big idea, trying to grow in depth doesn’t make a lot of sense.

When you consider your strengths (both as an individual and as a business) and the impact you want your business to make, you’ll have a prescription for the type of growth you want to embark on next. You’ll be able to weigh other considerations (like a dip in profit!) against the type of growth you’re generating.

That means you can grow without (much) anxiety. You can change directions with purpose. You can create change with a vision.

That’s the art of growth.

Praise for The Art of Growth

The Art of Growth by Tara Gentile“…offers tools to help your beloved business come of age and come into its own while simultaneously handing you the reins to your life back.”
— Tanya Geisler, creator of Board of Your Life

“By engaging the reader with her business philosophies gained through hard-won expertise, The Art of Growth will leave you with pages of notes and hope for scaling your next venture.”
— Dusti Arab, writer and branding strategist

Learn more or get your copy here.