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Stevie Dillon

The No Team Dream: A One-Woman Show Working 5-Hour Days With 80% Profit Margins

March 12, 2024

It was 2am on a Tuesday in 2020 🌖

The rest of Australia was faaaast asleep. 

Not me. 

On most nights in that season of my life, I was up with my four-month old son anyway.

(He didn’t sleep – ever). 

But on THIS night, like every Wednesday, I committed to being up for a coaching call with a US-based mentor. 

This one, I was looking forward to. 

At the time, I had a group coaching program, and I was at breaking point. 

It was growing, and growing, and growing.. And I couldn’t keep up. 

Earlier that day, I’d spent 7 hours filming 23 Loom reviews critiquing client work for the program. 

As soon as I’d finish one video review, another would pop through.

I. Was. Drowning. 

I didn’t know a lot at the time, but there was one thing I DID know for sure: 

Something needed to change. 

Of course, the standard rhetoric online was crystal clear: 

“You need to hire!”, they cried, “freedom comes from team!” 

And so, with the topic of that evenings coaching call being team growth, I thought: 

I CANNOT miss this. 

I logged in, baby on my lap, and waited for the host to start the meeting. 

Over the next two hours, the mentor shared her screen and as promised, walked through her suggested growth map for a leveraged business. 

The strategy she shared boggled my mind. 

“At X revenue level, you need these two full-time team members”. 

“At Y, you need these five”.

“And at Z, you can have these 13.”

The org chart on screen got more and more complex.

I could feel my anxiety rising. 

THIS was how you got freedom, I wondered?!

As I watched her flick through slides, it really felt more and more like the opposite of the type of freedom I’d started MY business for. 

When I started out, there was one thing I was clear on: 

I did NOT want a big team, complexity or to put out HR fires. 

And yet, it seemed that it was the ONLY solution in ORDER to achieve the time freedom, flexibility and family time I so desperately NEEDED in that season.

For me, and for my little boy.

At that point, I was willing to try anything.  

So, I logged off and made a mental plan. 

I’d hire, and I’d do it right. 

Taking my mentors suggestion, I’d hire TWO full-time staff at once. 

And, so I did. 

The next three years were a blur. 

Time marched on. 

The work didn’t get lighter.

I didn’t experience more freedom. 

And yet, I continued to hire – convinced that there was just something wrong with me. 

At times, I felt like I was carrying around the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Over time, here’s what I discovered: 

Hiring and growing a team requires more of you, in every respect. 

Eventually, there is a payoff, when you hire well and train diligently. I will say that I have had some truly incredible team members, and they did make my life lighter. 

But on the whole:

Growing a team requires mental fortitude. 

Developing the skill of being a leader. 

Time spent managing, reviewing, training and sometimes, baby-sitting. 

And I want to share with you my truth, in case it serves someone else like the old me too. 

Building a big team did not give me more of what I wanted. 

My Lifestyle Business Sweet Spot is a simple, high profit business with the freedom and flexibility to work 5-hour days on work that creatively fulfills me. 

It’s a lifestyle business, in the TRUE definition of the word. 

In the end, building a team gave me the opposite of that. 

I listened to a podcast recently where the host was talking about the “death zone” — a revenue threshold in a small business the founder needs to “push through” with gritted teeth to get to the other side. 

Most of that “zone” is focused on developing team, which takes the founder away from their sweet spot. 

In traditional businesses, I understand the need to do so. 

But in these personal brand businesses, not so much. 

The sweet spot IS the smallness. 

Doing work you love. 

And spending your days creatively fulfilled. 

It comes back to founder intent: 

What is the business you want? 

A lifestyle business, or a scale business?

And if you want the former, there’s actually no NEED to accelerate through the death zone. 

You can stay small, doing the work you love. 

Outsourcing the little bits you don’t. 

And avoiding a life spent managing and putting out HR fires. 

It squeezed my margins. 

Growing a team profit margins – considerably. 

I was able to make more revenue and take on more clients, but my take home pay took a nosedive. 

In the thick of it, I felt like I was working harder than I’d ever worked before. 

I had more team and more clients and more responsibility – and yet my “salary” had taken a pay cut. 

“What’s it all for?” – I wondered. 

My clients didn’t love it. 

Here’s the cold, hard truth when it comes these personal-brand based business. 

They are powerful, and fun, and can be highly profitable.

But also? 

The typical business “rules” don’t apply. 

Standard business advice tells you to outsource.

To remove yourself from the business, and get help. 

But they don’t tell you the one BIG problem that exists in this particular industry. 

You’re the face.

Your intellectual property and unique perspective is the magic. 

And people want YOU. 

I tried to outsource some coaching. 

It was fine, but I know that my clients would have preferred me (and in some cases, told me so). 

I tried to outsource some content creation. 

It wasn’t fine. My engagement tanked and my posts were invisible. 

I realised that the typical business advice didn’t apply, and that if I wanted to do less? 

I needed to do something different that simply “hiring team”. 

I needed a strategy for a whole different way of doing business. 

It added additional weight, and complexity.

Managing others is a skill, and a responsibility. 

For some, it’s something they enjoy. 

For others – building scale businesses that they will one day exit – it’s a necessary role they tolerate. 

For me, it felt like a weight responsibility when I’d started this thing to DO my own thing. 

There’s no right answer here, just the right answer for you. 

And if you don’t WANT the responsibility.. I want you to know that’s okay (because there is a different way). 

And finally, it was difficult to sustain. 

Here’s what NO-ONE tells you about hiring when you have a small business. 

Usually, a smaller business isn’t able to pay big salaries. 

And so, their business becomes a training ground. 

You do the (very hard) work to train a more inexperienced team member. 

And eventually, they leave – for a better salary, with the increased skill set they now have. 

It’s a difficult cycle to break, UNLESS you are willing and WANTING to build a scale business that can sustain higher salaries to allow you to hire top-tier talent from the get-go. 

In the end, the ongoing apprenticeships and training burnt me out. 

After the first one or two hires I got to know the cycle, I couldn’t break it, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. 

The No-Team Dream

At the end of 2022, I knew things had to change. 

Only, I found myself doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of changing things. 

Instead, I’d decided to launch a new group coaching program.

I mapped it all out. 

It would involved calls, complexity and a bigger team. 

As I spent weeks preparing to launch, everything inside me was screaming NO. 

Happily though, by this stage in my business journey I had more self-awareness to listen to that intuition. 

My second baby was 1, and my boy was 3. 

Both were sleeping through the night.

I had a greater sense of clarity over what I really wanted. 

“Will building this new program give me more of what I want?” – I asked myself? 

Will it give me more freedom? 

Creative fulfillment? 

Time spent with little ones, and loved ones? 

I knew the answer. 

It wouldn’t. 

It would mean more and bigger, and that was the very opposite of what felt like alignment. 

And so, I pulled the pin. 

“I’ve cancelled my launch” – I announced on social media. 

Here’s what I wrote: 

I was supposed to be launching Legacy, my high level program for established course creators, this week. But, I’m not. The reason is nuanced, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts in the event that it serves you, too.

The intention of the Legacy program is to help established course creators to reach the Lifestyle Business Sweet Spot. It’s a mission that many of you aspire to, and I always want to be in integrity when selling something. And the truth is? Right now, launching Legacy would move me OUT of the Lifestyle Business Sweet Spot. 

In every season of business, I recommend optimising for something. Profit. Space. Time. And yes, it can be a combination of all of them, but usually – at the start – not all three at once.

When I made the decision to launch Legacy, it was a profit optimisation call.

I was willing to optimise short term for profit, so that I could increase my leverage over time.

Due to some personal circumstances however, I have needed to park profit and instead optimise at all costs for time.

It doesn’t mean a “never” to Legacy, but it does mean that I can’t give it the space and time it deserves right NOW.

The process of creating the Legacy curriculum has been an interesting one, as I put myself through the same process.

And what it brought up for me is a sense that I was starting to build a business that didn’t align with the endgame I have in mind.

I value a simple business model.

Creating Legacy would mean building, launching and scaling TWO high end offers, meaning double the workload, double the time, double the team… and more.

It would mean launching twice as often. Optimising two funnels. Double everything.

I realised that I was starting to veer off in a direction that isn’t aligned with the Lifestyle Business Sweet Spot, or the business I myself want to build.

Listen On: Apple Podcasts | Spotify

I was honest in the post, and I feel proud about that. 

I shared my truth: 

I didn’t WANT a big team. 

Never had. 

I wanted me. 

And my high margins. 

And my time freedom. 

And the simple business I’d set out to create in the first place, because I started listening to the noise of other peoples “shoulds”. 

A One-Woman Show with 80% Margins and 5-Hour Days. 

In my post, I mentioned a change was coming: 

I have a sixth sense that I am coming into a new season.

I want to make changes, in a way that I haven’t for the past three years.

I can feel myself going through an evolution of sorts, and it didn’t feel right to commit myself to a big 12 month container and I can feel those shifts inside me.

Even I don’t quite know what they involve just yet, and that scares me AND excites me.

It’s a big call. I have left a LOT of revenue on the table with this decision, but I do have an intuitive sense that it will pay off.

I have never been scared of making big decisions, and I needed to remind myself of that when I made this one.

Here’s what has happened in the months and years that followed: 

In the past two years, I have gone from three full time team members.. 

To me, one part time contractor. 

The result of scaling DOWN my team? 

My business went from 40% profit margins on a good month.. To 80%, always. 

I halved my revenue.. But took home WAY more profit. 

And I felt lighter, happier and more fulfilled than I had in years, with my days spent working on the things that truly light me up. 

Two years on, things looked so very different.. 

It feels like a dream. 

The no-team dream. 

Systems Over Team

So, what changed? 

And specifically, what ENABLED me to re-build my business A One-Woman Show Working 5-Hour Days With 80% Profit Margins?

Here’s the cliff notes: 

From a business model perspective, I moved to a model that felt far more aligned. 

It required fewer moving parts, fewer offers and fewer resources. 

And I started prioritising systems over team. 

It looks like this: 

✔️ A Simple Model:

One of the most overlooked “secrets” to an elegant business is simplicity. More offers, more work. I worked on refining my business model and offer suite to be simple.

✔️ Increased Leverage:

I built offers that leverage my time by packaging my Intellectual Property into scalable offers that were divorced from my time (and didn’t require big team to run).

✔️ And Systems BEFORE Team:

Rather than hiring FIRST, I worked to systemise as much of my business as possible, so that my time is now leveraged by processes, automations and tools instead of another set of hands. 

Together, those three things, once achieved, are a little thing called Operational Elegance –  and it has changed my (business) life. 

Operations doesn’t sound sexy. 

But truly, it is the thing that has set me free. 

I want other people to experience it, and it’s why I have dedicated my entire business mission since 2022 to help others achieve the same.

If you resonate with this mission?

Lifestyle Business School is for you.

Click here to subscribe to our newsletter, where we will walk you through how to build a simple, profitable lifestyle business to the lifestyle business sweet spot.

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