How to scale your business sustainably without burning out

We all want to scale. But we don’t want to burn out in the process. So how can you intentionally implement sustainable ways of working to scale your service-based business and support yourself, your team, and your clients?

If you feel stuck with a to do list and overwhelmed as you create or scale your business, this article will help you, we are talking all about being more agile in your life and business. And don’t hesitate to reach out as I offer support.

My experience with agile ways of working

I have been working in strategy consulting and leading product incubation, innovation and creating startups within a corporate environment, scaling them to over $1m (by leading a team of over 30 multidisciplinary members from software developers, data engineer and scientists, product owners, sales, marketing, etc.) mentoring startups/soulpreneurs for over 12 years. I’ve been embracing Agile ways of working early on in my career and I love to coach my clients on how it applies to their business, whichever stage they are at.

In that time, I’ve discussed many times with my clients on how to get things done sustainably without burning out. I’ve already spoken about outsourcing & staying in your zone of genius. Some of you after reading that blog asked me to go deeper on ways of working.

In the way I speak about agile, I blend as usual strategy and spirituality. My cadence are aligned with the moon phases, the seasonal calendar rather than month or quarter. You decide how you want to do it.

What are the agile ways of working?

When I started my career over 12 years ago in Strategy consulting we were applying agile methodology.

My last role was in Telstra where I was leading all strategy, innovation and data commercialisation. It is a huge australian company that is fully agile. When I joined Telstra, over 6 years ago, in strategy in their Telstra Digital Business Unit we were already working agile. So we can say I’ve a bit of experience in Agile.

Here what being agile can mean for your business:

  1. Instead of putting a whole launch together in one go, break it up into smaller tasks

  2. Evaluate performance continuously. This allows quick response and change when needed

  3. Collaborate with others to help you (outsource or ask for help around you)

  4. When you lead a project, empower those around you help add creativity

To be agile means to move quickly and easily. With the right guidance and support, you can be agile too!

How is Agile different from Waterfall?

What does “waterfall'' mean?

This means everything is cyclical. It means everything is a priority and you spend your time putting out fires. You are scattered and feel like you have your hands in so many different projects. As your to-do list grows, your progress doesn’t. You might also always feel behind and busy. Do you relate to this?

Things to suggest you are in the ‘Waterfall’

  1. Your to-do list never gets shorter

  2. You feel you have 1000 things on your mind

  3. You start so many projects and never finish

Now, let’s talk about agile. To be agile is to be cadenced. You work on a certain number of things in allocated time. You set boundaries around your deadlines and don’t get distracted on what needs to be done.

Things to suggest you are in the “Agile”

  1. You have crossed off your to do list by the end of the week

  2. You know where your energy needs to be at what time of the day

  3. You know how long things will take to do

Really there is no right way to practice being agile. It can be flexible to the infrastructure of your business. But remember:

  1. It is all about the people in your team

  2. It is built off core values

  3. It runs off authentic human connection and collaboration

  4. It is followed by processes and documentation

If you prefer to watch a video, here is one that I’d love to share with my team members when on-boarding with how it is to work with me.

Applying agile - the step by step guide

In more detail, here is how to apply agile practices in your business (and life).

  1. Set your cadence (aka sprint for the agile connoisseurs): do you work on 1, 2, 3 weeks increments? I plan my work in alignment with the cycle of the moon (read this article to learn more about this). New Moon and Full moon so ~2 weeks increment.

  2. Set your items that go into this sprint: What is the intention for this sprint? What are the top priority items that need all your focus and attention and are aligned with the intention? What are the upcoming tasks to be completed? By who? How much time each task requires? Are they independent from one another? Everything that comes up during the sprint that is not a priority goes into the ‘backlog’ (aka back burner) for the next sprint so you stay focused.

  3. Schedule daily stand up (aka checking) for 5 to 15 mins or daily VM on Voxer (which is how I do it with my current team on Essential Shift) to cover what has been done yesterday and what’s the focus today. If any blockage then cover it during stand down.

  4. Schedule daily stand down aka one meeting where every hurdle or dedicated VM where hurdles, decisions needed are discussed.

  5. Schedule a retrospective at the end of your cadence: Some ideas of questions to reflect upon with your team (or by yourself): What has been achieved? What are the next steps? What needs to be postponed to the next sprint? What needs to be deleted (you need to justify why because you prioritised it in the first place)? Who needs to be appreciated and for what? What worked? What didn’t work? Why? What to start, stop and continue?

All of that falls into a bigger vision and timeframe, as we will cover it in my 3 day challenge. You set quarterly intentions (or seasonal intentions) and those cadences need to be in alignment with it.

For some background, with my husband we planned our wedding, our move to Australia, our move to the new house using agile (he is also a former strategy consultant and now still works in corporate strategy).

The benefits of being agile

Here is a list of benefits for being agile - just in case you need more convincing

  • It allows you to manage your bandwidth by allocating time and energy to avoid burnout

  • You can plan at least a week ahead (if not longer)

  • You can plan long-term projects (like a launch) in sprint phases to stay on track

  • Your list will be short, which means you can be super focussed

  • Your tasks can build on top of each other, building momentum and helping you get closer to your goals

  • If you tell people this is how you work, it makes it easier to set boundaries


Case Study - a client working with agile

One of my private clients, Caroline, is growing her startup, Skoutli and now they are a team of eight. We discussed how to implement stand up, stand down, retrospective and planning meetings to help her share the priorities for the business and make sure she empowers her team members.

We defined ways of working that integrate with her values to deliver an intentional experience that she and her team are able to execute on confidently. After implementing it for just a week she said: ‘It is all moving forward at a faster pace without me having to be the bottleneck. Everyone is clear on the priorities and the daily check in works really well for us’.

It is not a blueprint to copy and paste. Like everything else that I teach, mentor, coach on, it is about making it yours.

“Laetitia was able to guide and support me in working with an agile team. I really wanted to empower the people in my team rather than manage, and she really helped me with that.”

Final thoughts

So, think now. How can you build a more agile experience for your business and life? Even if you are a solo entrepreneur, you can easily implement this. Then when it is time to outsource, you have a strategy to help you empower your team.

This can help with your family and other aspects of your life that need more guidance! It is all about creating a life in alignment with who you are and what you want!

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