How to Escape Hustle Mode

August 7, 2015 , 11 Comments

In the last post, I introduced the concept of Hustle Mode - a state of extreme focus that is necessary to get a new business off the ground quickly.

As was correctly pointed out by several commenters, while Hustle Mode is a great way to make a business successful, it's not a great way to live. If you're in Hustle Mode, your health, social life and perhaps even sanity are taking a hit.

What's worse, Hustle Mode will only get you so far and if you don't know how to successfully escape it again, you'll be stuck in entrepreneurial purgatory.

Watch the video below to learn when, why and how you need to leave the hustle behind.​


The Hustle Mode Problem

Here's an overview of the concepts from the video:

Zero to Something

Hustle Mode is ideal (and sometimes necessary) for the very start of a new venture. If you're a solopreneur and bootstrapper, Hustle Mode is how you get a new thing to market as quickly as possible, build traction and revenue and zoom past some of your smaller competitors.

However, you have to be aware that this kind of personal effort is not scalable. And in fact, if you stay stuck in the Hustle Mode mindset and try to keep growing the business that way, you're dooming yourself to failure.

Once you reach a certain amount of traction, here's what typically happens:

Stagnation: You Hit a Ceiling

If your business revolves around providing a service, this is the most likely outcome. Demand for your service keeps increasing and you reach a point where you're working at maximum capacity. Your business can't generate more revenue past that point because you can't work longer or harder than you already do.

Collapse: Demand Kills Your Business

This is more likely to happen in businesses that aren't tied to a service. Demand for the product keeps going up and revenue keeps increasing, but things start to slowly go wrong. Maybe you can't keep up with customer support, maybe technical issues prop up and take way too long to fix, maybe the quality of your content starts to suffer (e.g. for memberships or information products).

The more demand increases, the worse it gets until the business finally collapses under too many problems and a rapidly declining reputation.

Reluctant Growth: You Spread the Suffering

This is the same as the previous scenario, except that you decide to hire someone once the problems become far too much for you to handle. So, maybe you hire a support tech to help you out or you get a developer on board who can make sure technical problems are addressed and your site stays up and running. Or maybe you just try to find an all-rounder who can help wherever help is needed most.

As demand keeps growing, new problems prop up and even with two people working​. Once you're both exhausted and stress levels have become unbearable, you finally hire a third person.

This cycle keeps repeating and you as well as your employees find yourself under almost constant stress and overload.

Your business is growing, more money is coming in, but your life sucks and you start to question this whole thing about being an entrepreneur.​

The Solution: Owner vs. Worker

The "reluctant growth" situation is actually quite close to a much better solution: instead of hiring people when things get really bad, hire them before things get really bad, so that everyone can stay sane and have a less frustrating work experience.

The role of Hustle Mode is to get your business out there and generate demand for it. Once that's happening, you have to start scaling your business in one way or another. There are only three things you can do to accomplish that:

1) Outsourcing/Hiring

You take on more people to do the increased amount of work that needs to be done.

2) Automation

You set up systems that automate more of the workload, so that fewer additional man-hours are necessary.

3) Systematization

You set up systems and rules than make the business operate more efficiently. Like with automation, the goal is to cut waste and reduce the amount of man-hours required to keep your business going.​

To implement the above, you need to switch to an owner mindset. You are no longer your business. Instead, your job is to set up an entity that can operate on its own and you have to put in place the systems, rules and people necessary for it to work.

Think of it as the difference between pulling a cart yourself vs. building, managing and maintaining an engine that powers the cart so it can move by itself.​

"But I don't have any traffic..."

Perhaps you've read along until now, but you're thinking that this doesn't really apply to you. Maybe you have none of the above problems because your business is actually still not up and running and you're still in "getting started" mode (note that you can remain in "getting started" mode for years).

Most commonly, I see this expressed in comments and ​messages as something along the lines of "my website doesn't get enough traffic!"

If that's where you find yourself, then I recommend you watch this video to discover why you might be focusing on the wrong thing altogether...

Apart from traffic, there might be two other versions of the same problem:

Your Product Isn't Released Yet

​One possible reason that you aren't facing the problems that come with growing demand and scale yet is that you simply haven't launched your product yet. Or maybe you've made a very tentative attempt at releasing something, but if you're really honest with yourself, you have to admit that unless "build it and they will come" had suddenly stopped being a complete myth, what you did was never going to work.

In that case, I recommend that you take a close look at these two posts:

Especially that second post is probably the most complete recipe for doing this that you can find anywhere online (for free, at least). There are no secrets to what I do, I've laid it all out in a post for you.

​You Can't Afford to Hire Help

Perhaps you are making sales and your business is showing growth potential, but you can't apply the solution I recommend above because you don't have enough money to do so.

In this case, you have to take a step back and reevaluate both your pricing and your marketing. This comes back to the owner mindset again. Your job is to create a business that works and one of the criteria such a business must fulfill is that it can pay for itself. More specifically, a business has to be able to pay for itself without making a slave of you or anyone else involved.

If your business only functions because you put in endless hours of work for virtually no pay, then it's not a sustainable business.​

​The straight forward fix to this is to raise your prices to the point where you can pay for all the man hours required to keep the business running.

As mentioned above, you might also have to reevaluate your marketing, because just raising the prices alone might not work. You also have to convince people that your new price is worth paying.​

Over to You

In this post, I've tried to address every issue you might encounter in your struggle through Hustle Mode and your transition out of it.​

Now, I invite you to take a look at the situation you're currently in and do one of two things:

  1. Apply what you've learnt here to fix the problem, make your business far more profitable and live happily ever after.
  2. Leave a comment below telling me the specific issue that's preventing you from doing the above.​
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About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Hi Shane,

    As per your explanation in the video it seems that I’m not ready to go out of Husle Mode yet. I have been in “getting ready” mode for a couple of years, not because I wanted but because I didn’t have a system to follow and was taking reactive decisions all the time (this started changing this year).

    I don’t really see myself in any of vthe other situations you described. I do have a successful product that creates raving fans, I have awesome testimonials, a blog with over 150 posts, a 15k+ fan base and a very decent sized list (around 5k active subscribers). More traffic wouldn’t hurt of course (my blog is under 10k visits per month), but what I really want is more clients. I struiggle with conversions and I know my marketing needs to be so much better. I’ve recently started putting all the pieces in order so I can really start reaping off the benefits of everything I’ve built since I started with this, in early 2010.

    Looks like I did everything backwards! Hopefully it will all start to really take off this year (what’s left of it). The first huge step for me that is proving to have been a great decision was incresing my prices. Working on my blog, branding and reach is coming next.

    Wish me luck :)

    • Well, low conversions are arguably the best problem you can have. It looks like you’ve already overcome many of the major obstacles and I congratulate you for that. But I also know that those last 5% can be really, really tough.

  • Matthew Newnham says:

    Another tremendous post, Shane – absolutely top drawer, thanks.

    Your combination of clarity, real-world experience and outstanding teaching / communications skills really set you apart, and I always look forward to your posts. [My business partner and I are also solid fans of your Thrive Themes & Thrive Content Builder, by the way – they’ve both helped us no end in getting our landing pages & offers online faster, so we can test and refine much quicker than we’ve been doing before this year.]

    P.S. I’m not one to get hung up on typos, but just in case this trips up any readers of this post, there are two places in this post where the text reads “prop up” instead of “pop up”. [Could be angled into a funny Freudian slip, I guess!]

  • Another obstacle — where the rules suddenly change in the marketplace.

    For example, folks like me who are doing FBA have to constantly watch Amazon for rule changes. Sometimes Amazon will change rules drastically with no warning at all. They did so just this week — I suspect that Amazon no longer thinks they need 3rd party sellers, and are trying to screw them enough to discourage them into quitting.

    • Such is the risk of basing your business on someone else’s platform. This is a lesson I learnt from gaming Google with niche sites. Even basing a business on something like WordPress, as we do with Thrive Themes, has a few disadvantages, but at least it’s open source, so it won’t just disappear or radically change over night. With commercial platforms like Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube etc. there’s always a very real risk that your business will evaporate from one moment to the next. In fact, one could argue that it’s only a matter of when that will happen.

  • I have learned so much from you, Shane! And I love your products.

    I’m currently working on a pilot course with my first 25 students. Once the course is finished and ready to go public, then I’ll be focusing on marketing it and increasing traffic even more. One of my first priorities is to set up a system for my business, and automating as much as I can.

    Then once I start getting some sales, I want to start hiring part-time help. That is HIGH on my priority! Then add full-time help as the business grows more. Of course, that means I need to learn how to hire and manage that help – whether it’s outsourced or employees. (Sigh… yet another learning curve!)

    • Thank you very much, Debra! I know the growing pains you’re going through. I hope you can believe me when I say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. :)

  • Great article. Focus is of vital importance when you want to get your biz going. No matter what it is. Owner mindset is crucial to have as very often the owner is bogged down by details and doesn’t want to let go. What is your worth? That is the question I ask myself time and time again. A lot of people talk about change and how to deal with it. Well, change is inevitable, so we have to deal with it, learn and adapt and grow.

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