The Story of Tony and Tina: A Tale of an Agency Gone Very Wrong and How You Can Avoid the Same

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If you run your own business, yours is a family business – and to think otherwise will lead to disaster.

It doesn’t matter if your family members actually work in your business or not. Whatever their relationship to the business, each member of an entrepreneur’s family will be profoundly impacted by the decisions the entrepreneur makes about his business.

Sadly, many entrepreneurs tend to compartmentalize their lives unless a family member is directly involved in the business. For most entrepreneurs, they believe that their business life is separate from their family life.

As you are about to see, this is far from the truth.

What Happens in Business, Happens at Home

In reality, your business and your family are inextricably connected to one another. Whatever is happening in your business, is also happening at home.

Consider the following, and ask if each one is true:

  • If you are stressed at work, you are stressed at home
  • If you are having money problems at work, you are having money problems at home
  • If you feel out of control at work, you feel equally out of control at home
  • If you are having communication problems at work, you are also having them at home
  • If you are having trust issues at work, you are having trust issues at home
  • If you feel alone and isolated at work, you feel alone and isolated at home

The truth is that your business and your family are one – and you’re the link that connects them. If you are trying to keep them apart, your business and your family will be like strangers and you will have created two separate worlds for yourself – two worlds that split each other apart.

The Story of Tony and Tina

Let me tell you the story of Tony and Tina.

Tony and Tina met in college and have been married for over 15 years. They have two kids and live a modest lifestyle.

For 8 of the last 10 years, Tony worked for a mid-sized corporation and earned more than enough to pay the family’s bills as well as to save for retirement.  For 8 of the last 10 years, Tina was a stay at home mom and made sure that the needs of the family were well looked after.

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Excited For The Future

Two years ago, Tony decided to quit his corporate job to pursue his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Prior to quitting, Tony and Tina talked about the change at great length. They talked about what type of business Tony would start, the type of clients he’d go after, how long it would take to replace the family income, and many other details involved in the transition.

They determined that they had sufficient savings to make the transition and agreed that the risk was worth taking. After all, as a successful entrepreneur, Tony would have more income and more freedom than he ever had during his corporate career.

With this extra income and freedom, Tony and Tina planned to take more vacations and to get more involved with their kid’s lives. The possibilities were downright exciting!

Tony’s New Business

During Tony’s last few years of corporate employment, he’d worked in the marketing department and had become quite passionate about his profession. He saw how his work had directly benefited the company and how growth had increased as a result.

The only problem was that Tony’s income didn’t go up in line with the success of the company and this was something that he desperately wanted to change.

Given his past experience and passion for marketing, Tony decided to start his own marketing agency – and unlike many traditional agencies, Tony’s agency would specialize in digital (online) marketing.

Online marketing is still quite “new” relative to traditional marketing, so change is a constant. As a result, Tony saw a huge opportunity to serve a customer segment he knew well.

The services that Tony planned to offer his clients included:

  • Website design
  • Content marketing (blogging)
  • Social media management

Unlike many traditional agencies, Tony want to focus only on digital marketing services as a way to differentiate his firm from the masses.

The First Six Months

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All Signs Were Looking Up

Tony’s first six months in business were nothing short of amazing. Using his personal and professional network had yielded terrific results. He had attracted several clients and the cash was rolling in.

In fact, things got so busy that Tony was having a hard time keeping up with all the client demands, and to solve this problem, he decided to hire two other people to help him.

Finding just the right people to join his firm was incredibly challenging. Trusting them to do the work the way that he wanted it done was even more difficult. But what choice did he have? He just couldn’t keep up without them.

Managing his new employees was more complicated and took more time than working for someone else. Tony not only supervised everyone, he was always looking for ways to keep them busy.

More Staff. More Demands. More Stress.

With more clients and more staff to manage, the demands on Tony’s time were greater than at any other point in his life. To cope, Tony began leaving home earlier in the morning and coming home later at night. He rarely saw his kids now. For the most part, Tony was resigned to the problem. He just saw the long hours as essential to build his company.

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Every New Opportunity Comes With Some Drawbacks

Money was also becoming a problem. Much to Tony’s surprise, clients didn’t always pay on time and when they didn’t, it had a huge impact on his cash flow. He still had to pay his bills on time. Why didn’t his clients do the same?!

Back when Tony was an employee, he got paid every two weeks, but now that he was the boss, there were times when he didn’t get paid for a month or more.

The financial stress was taking its toll.

Making matters worse was the fact that Tony didn’t feel like Tina was sensitive to his troubles. Though, given that his mantra was “business is business”, Tony didn’t talk to Tina much about it. Instead, he believed it was her job to look after him and the family.

As time went on, Tony became even more consumed with running his business. Not surprisingly, Tina became increasingly frustrated with Tony’s lack of communication and increasingly long hours. She’d put many things in her life on hold to focus on the family, and now her husband was barely ever at home.

Tina was not impressed.

Client demands never let up and Tony was now regularly working 10+ hours a day and it still wasn’t enough. To keep up, he was now also getting up at 5am on Saturdays so that he could catch up on emails before the rest of his family started their day – a day that they expected Tony to be a part of!

Tony hated working so much, but he just couldn’t see any other way to keep up with all the work he needed to get done.

Not only that, Tony had exhausted his list of personal contacts to drum up new business, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to do the activities that he knew would attract new clients.

Problems With Clients and Staff

On top of all this, some of his existing clients were complaining. They were upset that Tony’s staff wasn’t delivering the quality of work that they had come to expect when Tony was personally handling their accounts.

One client was so unhappy, they told Tony they’d planned to leave if he didn’t fix the problem within a month.

As a result of working so hard, Tony was starting to feel burned out. He was also feeling overwhelmed and really stressed out.

After a few months of this, Tony’s stress levels started to impact his business – and his family.

As the owner of the company, Tony felt very alone. There were so many things he needed to talk to someone about – and talking to his staff about these things was totally out of the question.

Instead of talking to his staff, Tony micro-managed them even more. He just couldn’t afford to lose any clients, so everything had to be done exactly the way he wanted it done.

With the micro-management increasing, Tony’s staff started to become disillusioned – and, unknown to Tony, they started to look for employment elsewhere.

More Stress and Isolation

Around this same time, Tony began to isolate himself from his staff. This was a marked change from how things were at the start and his staff began to behave in ways that surprised Tony. They didn’t seem to care as much. They missed deadlines. They didn’t tell Tony about problems that they should have.

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The Stress Was Taking Its Toll

As you might guess, this drove Tony’s stress levels even higher and his relationship with Tina and his kids was now suffering. When they did spend time together, Tony was always preoccupied with thoughts of the problems of the business.

Tony didn’t feel like he could tell Tina that his business was suffering. He wasn’t getting as many new client leads. He wasn’t getting as much work from existing clients. His staff wasn’t very happy.

If he told Tina about any of this, she’d be stressed out, too!

As time went by, things just weren’t getting any better.

One of Tony’s employees told him that she just wasn’t enjoying working for him any more. The environment had become one of stress, frustration, and negativity, and she wanted no part of that, so she handed in her resignation.

The thought of having to replace this person was more than Tony could take, and he became angry.

Now, instead of feeling full of optimism, Tony’s daily routine had become one of anger, frustration, loneliness, and despair. What this really what he signed up for?

Family Life Starts to Suffer

Tina was running out of patience with Tony, too. When they started this business, their goal was to get more balance in life.

That had not happened. In fact, Tony was working almost 50% more hours now than he ever did at his corporate job. Tina and the kids were feeling neglected, to say the least.

One night when he got home from yet another long day at work, Tony noticed an unfinished email on the screen. It was an email from Tina to her sister complaining of how distant Tony had become and how she was thinking about leaving him as a result.

That night Tony slept on the couch. He left the house early in the morning before anyone was awake. For perhaps the first time in his life as an entrepreneur, he was in no mood for questions.

When Tony got to the office, he headed straight for the liquor cabinet beside his desk…and you can image how the situation goes from here.

What is the Lesson Here?

What lessons can we draw from Tony and Tina’s story? As I’ve already emphatically said, every business is a family business. Every business profoundly impacts every family member – whether they work there or not. Every business either gives to the family or takes from the family, just as individual family members do.

If the business takes more than it gives, like Tony’s did, the family is always the first to pay the price.

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Sound Familiar?

Tony’s biggest mistake was trying to do everything himself. True, he hired staff, however, he didn’t really trust them to assume responsibility for important projects and he micro-managed their work.

Had he succeeded, life would have been grand and he would have felt fantastic. Instead, Tony unwittingly isolated himself thereby achieving the exact opposite of what he sought.

He destroyed his life – and his family’s life along with it.

Repeat after me: Every business is a family business.

Are You Like Tony?

I believe that many entrepreneurs have many things in common with Tony. You must learn that a business is only a business. It’s not your life – it’s just a part of your life, albeit an important one.

Your business can have a profoundly negative impact on your life unless you learn how to run it in a way that is different that what 99% of other entrepreneurs do. You must not run your business like Tony did.

Tony’s business could have served his family in the way that he’d originally envisioned. For that to happen, however, Tony would have had to learn how to master his business in a way that was completely foreign to him.

Instead, Tony’s business consumed him. Lacking in a true understanding of the critical strategic thinking that would have allowed his business to flourish, Tony and his family were doomed from the start.

There is a Solution

The story that I have just told you was inspired by the story of Edward and Abigail in the book eMyth Attorney, by Michael Gerber.

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I Made My Business Work For Me

When I read the book, I was reminded of my first business, Dyrand Systems, which I started in 2001. Within 6 months of starting that business, I’d discovered and read Michael’s first book, The eMyth, and it was my decision to embrace the principles in The eMyth that allowed me to grow the business from nothing to several million in revenue, while working 40 hours a week or less.

In the year that I sold Dyrand for $1.2 million, I barely needed to show up for work. The fact that the company continues to do well today is ample proof of how redundant I’d made myself using the principles I discovered in The eMyth.

For some people, just reading the book will be enough to help you alter the course you are on.

For others, I suspect more support would be highly beneficial.

How to Avoid Tony’s Mistakes and Get the Support You Need

After reading the book the other day, I posted a message in the Facebook group for my Mastermind Elite members to see. Being exposed to the eMyth again after all these years had reminded me of some things I’d forgotten, and I wanted to see if the members of my mastermind group would be interested in what was now on my mind.

When you read the thread below, pay particular attention to Drew’s comment. Drew grew an online retailer to $6M in sales and then sold it for a tidy sum. He and I are the only two guys in the mastermind that have (thus far) grown a company to millions in sales and then sold it for 7 figures.

Both of us LIVED the message in The eMyth. Perhaps you would benefit from doing the same?

If so, keep reading and I will tell you how I’d like to support you in that regard.

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How to Embrace the Principles of the eMyth

The eMyth is now going to become a guiding pillar for the members of the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite.

We are all going to read the book and we are all going to embrace its principles in our respective businesses – but we aren’t going to do it in isolation. Instead, ours will be a coordinated approach.

Taking a coordinated approach to problem solving is a fundamental part of any mastermind group. Why figure everything out on your own when you can instead share your ideas with, and learn from, others who are pursuing goals that are similar to yours?

If you’d like to be a part of a group of like-minded entrepreneurs and build a business that allows you to live the life of your dreams, instead of becoming a business that sucks the life out of you, then please accept my invitation to apply for membership in our exclusive group.

At the time of this writing, we are a group of 8 entrepreneurs who all share the goal of building a highly profitably business that is built to run on systems. Systems that will empower our staff to deliver excellence, while giving us the freedom to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Like Drew, I have already experienced the thrill of selling a company for over a million dollars, and I can assure you that I plan to do it again – and experience tells me that the way to do that is to build a business that is built on systems.

I’m sure some of you can do this on your own and if you do, please write to tell me about it.

For those of you who don’t want to do it all alone, I recommend you apply for membership today. Trust me when I say it will be the best decision you make this year. But don’t take my word for it. See what one of our members has to say…

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What is Holding You Back?

What do you think? Can you relate to Tony’s struggles? Please share your thoughts down in the comments, and if you are feeling bold, go ahead and share with me what one of your biggest struggles is. If I have advice for you, I’ll be sure and reply to your comment. Thanks!

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  • Wow. Incredibly powerful story.

    I’ve seen and heard of eMyth, but have not read it yet.

    That’s now my next book!

    I really hope this post gets Retweeted a thousand times or more.

    The Tonys & Tinas around the world need to read this.

  • Derek Buntin

    Trent those eMyth series of books, i have read a few of them, are nothing less than amazing, it really does show you how a system can make things work, after all, people can fail and do fail all the time but systems don’t, in most cases, if they are well thought out and delivered properly. I’m off to read those books again just to remind myself as i am currently in the process of launching a new online subscription based service 🙂

    • I’m pleased to hear that you enjoyed this post so much. If you are really keen on building systems, please see my reply to Gavin.

  • As I read this story I kept replacing Tony with my name and it fit. While we have some systems in place – I’m in need of more of them! Thanks for sharing the story and more importantly the reminder that I need to make sure I’m making my family a priority.

  • I enjoyed your post. Like Tony, I struggle with scaling my business. I provide a personal service, copywriting. Clients hire me because they like my writing style. Most wouldn’t be pleased if they learned someone else was actually doing the work.

    Also, because every project is different, I’m not sure how to build systems that would allow me to delegate the work beyond administrative tasks. Sure plenty of competant copywriters exist, but the good ones charge rates comparable to mine, which means there’s not enough meat on the bone for us both to make a profit on a job.

    • Susan,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Let me challenge you on a few things.

      #1: If you didn’t exist, would your clients go without copy writing? I suspect they would be working with someone else, and, if that is true, the only logical conclusion is that you are NOT the only one skilled enough to write the copy.

      #2: If you agree with the point above, if you were detailed enough in your instructions to a writer, is it possible that, over time, you could train some people to write in to a standard that you find acceptable?

      #3: If you agree with #2, then the only thing standing between your growing your business to a level of production that is greater than your personal output is to create a system for creating content that meets your standards. To give you an example of a set of instructions see: http://brightideas.co/editorial-guide/

      Is this set of instructions detailed enough? No, if this was an operations manual, they instructions would go into even further detail (as our does) and specify things like how many paragraphs, what each paragraph is to accomplish, how many sub-headlines, the style of sub-headline, how many sources of research to cite, what qualifies as a source, how many bullet points to use, how many images, what size, where to place them, etc…

      I’m willing to bet that if you look at your work through this lens, you could in fact break your writing down into a repeatable process that you could document. At a minimum, it’d would ensure that your own work follows a consistent formula for success.

      Cheers,
      Trent

      • Trent,

        Thanks so much for the detailed reply. Your point about me not being the only one skilled enough to write copy is of course true. I’m not that egotistical to think I’m blessed with a talent no one else can match. My challenge has been finding copywriters with good skills who are willing to work at a sub-contractor’s rate. There has to be enough meat on the bone for us both to make money.

        With regard to creating detailed instruction sets for the purpose of delegating work, your response has got me thinking. I can think of some projects where that approach would work. Again, thank you for your suggestions.

        • You’re welcome. Please let me know if you make some progress with this 🙂