Reckoning, Reorganization, Rebranding, and Reality Checks: My 2017 Year-In-Review

Tara McMullin
Nov 27, 2017 · 6 min read
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I didn’t accomplish all my goals this year.

There are plenty that I didn’t even come close on.

But I tell people that you don’t set goals to achieve them, you set goals to change the way you act. In the process, you might just accomplish more than you bargained for.

Such was the case over the last 12 months of my life. Below, you will find the story of both big business changes and big personal changes. I wrote it for me as much as I wrote it for you — but I hope you’ll find this reflection valuable for your own year-end reflecting and planning.

The Reckoning

As with many business owners, last year’s election hit me like a ton of bricks. Also as with many business owners, I asked myself if what I was doing really mattered. Was I really working towards an important mission? Or, had I fallen into a pattern that worked to make me money but wasn’t making that big of a difference in the world?

On top of that, I was over the online education marketing, sales, and delivery cycle. I still loved to teach, I still loved to market & sell, but I didn’t love the way it was all baked together. Something big had to change.

In my grief and exhaustion, I went through several ideas. Most of which involved standing up a completely new business. Some of which involved running for office.

None of which seemed especially viable…

At the same time, I knew that I had a mission at the core of my business. It was an important one — advocating for New Economy small business owners — and that it had the power to make real, lasting political change. I realized that I really could achieve the big things I wanted to achieve with the business I already had.

So I asked myself: how could I tap back into my mission and truly put it at the center of my action and value creation?

How could I actively work on that mission everyday instead of hoping for it as a nice side effect?

The answer was right in front of me.

I’d been running a membership community for almost 5 years. It was always on the back burner as an offer but it was valuable to members and fun for me to engage with. After all, I just love hanging out on the internet.

I decided it was time to go all in on this community and level it up to be the go-to place for small business owners to get the help they need at a price they can afford.

The Reality Check

At the same time, I had a reality check with my health. What I wanted to accomplish in 2017 was going to take more mental bandwidth, more stamina, and more energy than I was currently operating my business with. I was overweight, drinking too much, and out of shape.

Like so many, I started New Year’s Day. It was a beautiful day in Lancaster County and my partner, Sean, and I took our bikes out for a ride. It was a 5-mile out and back trail. I made it about 4 of those 5 miles on the bike. It was rough — but it was also really fun and motivating.

I started walking and jogging on the treadmill shortly thereafter. Later in the month, we hiked through a local wildlife sanctuary and the 2 miles up to the lookout and back felt like a real accomplishment.

As the spring progressed, we tackled a 10-mile bike ride, then a 15-mile bike ride, and multiple 6-mile hikes — all of which I completed after walking or jogging 2+ miles in the morning.

My energy levels crept higher and higher, my mental toughness strengthened, and my pant size went down, down, down.

The Reorganization

The other thing I knew I needed to change about my business was how my team was organized.

Like many small businesses online, my team was made up exclusively of contractors. I did my very best not to fall into the trap of treating contractors as employees — and, as such, the support I could receive from my team was, in retrospect and through no fault of theirs, extremely limited.

I wanted to finally have people who were as invested in our mission, metrics, and customers as I was. So I made the decision to go from all contractors to all employees.

Since that decision was made, it’s taken some time to get the right people in the right positions. But I feel extremely good about where we’re ending the year. We now have 4 part-time employees (2 administrative and 2 membership experience specialists) and 2 full-time employees (me and our Community Advocate, Shannon Paris).

The Rebrand

Once the direction of the business became clear and our mission became the focal point, I could tell we had a rebrand brewing.

Our brand — Quiet Power Strategy — was strong and resonated with all the right people… but it didn’t feel big enough to hold what I wanted to build. Eventually, we would need something that we could imbue with new meaning.

A series of fortunate events created the need to rebrand now instead of later.

Luckily, that urgency reminded me of a brand I had created a few years ago. It was the name, idea, and story behind a minimum viable coworking space I started in Astoria, Oregon. While the coworking space had closed down, the idea was still alive with me.

That coworking space had represented a home for freelancers and small business owners on Oregon’s north coast. It was a symbol of the New Economy where the old economy was fighting to hold on. It was a platform I used to tell the story of new residents who brought their jobs with them.

It was perfect.

CoCommercial is a much bigger idea than that coworking space. It’s a much bigger idea than the small business social network we have now. It’s an idea that will grow as we work towards our mission.

Quiet Power Strategy: The Lab became CoCommercial in a matter of 2 short weeks in February. Yes, it caused some confusion. Yes, we upset a few people when they thought they were losing benefits. Yes, we missed some big opportunities to message the transition better.

As the year progressed, I realized there was a much bigger rebrand at play than simply changing the name associated with our community. It was a shift from relying on me as “the brand” and communicating the value of our collective intelligence in the form of the CoCommercial brand. It seemed like each month I was identifying a new way in which our messaging was misfiring because I’d ignored an aspect of my personal brand interfering with our community brand.

It affected little things, like changing the account we run ads from, up to big things, like not always being the “expert” on Q&A calls with our members. First, I needed to get right with not being the end-all-be-all solution as the business guru (I never really wanted to be in that position anyway), then I needed to get out of everyone else’s way, and, finally, I needed to learn to enjoy the freedom it allowed. It sounds counterintuitive but it’s been a tough transition!

The Revelation

I look back to just 1 year ago and barely recognize myself. I am more physically fit than I’ve ever been in my life. I climb 15ft walls with no ropes or harnesses. I run 5ks and I hike through national parks. I run a company that’s building something that has the potential to change the game for small business owners in the New Economy.

One year ago, I set out to change the way I did business and I ended up changing myself. This year has made me a new person with new goals, a new perspective, and a renewed mission. I am turned on and turned up.

Next year? Bring it on.

Ready for your own year-end reflection and planning? We’re hosting a virtual conference on December 13, 2017 to do exactly that.

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Join CoCommercial today and enjoy exclusive access to this conference. Plus, for each new member that joins, we’ll donate $10 to the Special Olympics now through December 13.

Click here to learn more about CoCommercial, the fluff-free social network for small business owners! Don’t let another question, obstacle, or setback stand between you & your goals.

What Works

What Works is honest conversation about running & growing a…

Tara McMullin

Written by

Founder & Executive Producer of What Works and The What Works Network — a small business podcast & community. Formerly Tara Gentile.

What Works

What Works is honest conversation about running & growing a small business today. We seek out the thoughtful, intentional, and unconventional ways small business owners make it work.

Tara McMullin

Written by

Founder & Executive Producer of What Works and The What Works Network — a small business podcast & community. Formerly Tara Gentile.

What Works

What Works is honest conversation about running & growing a small business today. We seek out the thoughtful, intentional, and unconventional ways small business owners make it work.

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