You know when you give a cupcake to a child – the part they focus on first is typically the frosting, sprinkles and all the sweet sticky stuff on the top – and in many cases the cake itself is left behind and sometimes just discarded.
This same mindset and methodology translates itself into so many independent businesses and the result is that they will unlikely be sustainable.
The base of the cupcake, the part that’s in the paper casing, is the core stable part of the business. On top of this beautifully baked cupcake, in its paper case is the frosting that sits on the top. Then on top of that are some bonus toppings like sprinkles or fruit. These 3 component parts make up the cupcake.
Our businesses have plenty in common with said cupcake, because the part that many entrepreneurs enjoy the most is often the frosting and the sprinkles, the yummy part that sits on top and is deliciously sweet. This idea of trying to sustain your business on just the glamorous part is sabotaging the success of too many businesses year after year.
Many businesses start every month with no customers and no income. Every month, they have an overhead and a commitment, both personally and business-wise, and the first sum of money they make every month is just to keep them in business – not to make profit or plan for growth – merely to continue existence.
Sustainability and growth are continually challenged by this inconsistency and worse than that, is when you look to survive on nothing but the super sweet opportunities they eventually stop tasting so sweet and you can quite literally get sick of it.
For me, the sprinkles on the top of my cake is when I get to travel the world and speak on large stages, share my experiences with huge rooms of people and often get paid quite handsomely for doing so. That work I thoroughly enjoy doing and it really does make my heart sing.
If that was only work that I focused on, I’d have some months when I’m a hero and some months where I’m a villain and the uncertainty would create an anxiety that was both difficult to live with and a breeding ground for bad decisions. This uncertainty would also mean that taking on responsibilities like new team members and investing in my marketing become almost impossible to make as it would be hard to feel confident about the associated commitments. Ironically, it’s the commitments in these investments that have resulted in more of the deliciously sweet work becoming a reality.
Let’s face it – the bottom of the cupcake is far less exciting than the top. It isn’t so sexy looking, grabs far less attention and exists out of sight of the masses. Without this hidden layer, the fancy stuff you see above it fails to exist and it is this denser base that provides the existence for everything else to flamboyantly shine.
Developing this in your business means creating predictable and sustainable revenue streams that allow you to start every month in a position where you know your bills are paid, you can create stability and it gives you a platform to grow on top of. When this is in place, every sweet, sticky and crunchy opportunity that you create on top of your solid foundation tastes exactly as intended.
In my business this base has changed often through the years. Historically it was retained consulting clients, a portfolio of coaching clients and mastermind groups. Today the base of my cupcake exists with a long term client that books a fixed number of events year in year out and pays me a fixed monthly amount. The future I am building is that my books and audio programmes make up the base of my cupcake.
The revenue stream that makes up this part of your business can change regularly – what I believe is essential, is that unless you have substantial existing wealth, building your base of your cupcake is what delivers you the freedom and confidence to win more of what you want to build on top of it.
Put simply – if you put effort into building from the bottom, the top becomes even easier to reach.
Your challenge at this time is to check in with yourself and be sure that you are not simply chasing the frosting and sprinkles in your industry and have dedicated sufficient energy to building the base level too.