2019, A Year in Review

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2019 A Year in Review

My word for 2019 was BOLD and it has definitely been a BOLD year, although completely different from what I anticipated. I expected myself to be more BOLD on the outside - externally and visibly - but instead this year has been more about catching up with the fast growth of the previous two years and having a BOLDER mindset. It all makes sense in hindsight but there were definitely times where I felt as if I was not living up to my word for the year. As I am writing this review, I feel immensely grateful for everything that has happened this year and I can absolutely see how it is helping me to become ready for a new and BOLD decade.

Quick snapshot of 2019

$2.2M in revenue12 team members158 travel days1 new eye

Big Travel Year

2019 was a big travel year and I loved every minute of it! I spent 122 days at home in Switzerland, 83 days at my second home in Iceland and 158 days on the road. What may sound exhausting to some, is exciting to me. I love traveling and it is one of the reasons I wanted to build an online business. I don’t want to have a local team or a local office. I want to be able to work whenever and wherever and that’s what I am doing - and I love it.

Below is my travel schedule for the year, month by month.

January: 5 days Reykjavik → 20 days Zurich → 4 days Toronto → 3 days Phoenix

February: → 4 days Laguna Beach → 7 days Reykjavik→ 3 days Zurich → 7 days Nendaz (Switzerland) → 6 days Zurich

March: → 3 days Amsterdam → 4 days Zurich → 10 days Reykjavik → 4 days Phoenix → 2 days San Diego → 3 days London → 4 days Reykjavik → 1 day Zurich

April: 2 days Zurich → 12 days Dubai → 2 days Zurich → 1 day Amsterdam → 5 days Alicante → 4 days Zurich → 2 days Ascona → 1 day Zurich → 1 days Phoenix

May: 2 days Phoenix → 13 days Zurich → 4 days Valencia → 6 days Reykjavik → 6 days Brand (Austria)

June: → 3 days Chicago → 4 days Zurich → 7 days Nendaz (Switzerland) → 12 days Zurich → 4 days Brand (Austria)

July:→ 6 days Zurich → 25 days Reykjavik

August:13 days Reykjavik → 9 days Zurich → 3 days Reykjavik → 6 days South of Iceland → 1 day Reykjavik

September:1 day Reykjavik → 3 days Phoenix → 25 days New York → 1 day Phoenix

October:→ 46 days New York → 26 days Zurich

November:→ 4 days San Diego → 3 days Phoenix → 9 days Los Angeles → 4 days Zurich → 10 days Transatlantic Cruise(Genova, Marseille, Barcelona, Malaga)

December: 8 days Transatlantic cruise (Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten, Martinique, Guadeloupe) → 5 days Zurich → 2 days Stuttgart → 4 days Zurich → 4 days Alicante → 8 days Reykjavik

The biggest traveling highlight of the year was going on a transatlantic cruise. I had been on a cruise once before when I went on an Abraham Hicks cruise to Alaska in 2016 but Martin, my husband, had never been on a cruise before. Since we are planning to go on a 3-week Antarctica cruise in 2022 to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, Martin wanted to go on a cruise once before to see if he liked it. Turns out that we both loved it, especially the days at sea. On my previous cruise there were 2 separate days at sea but on this transatlantic cruise there were 5 consecutive days at sea.

There was something magical about crossing the Atlantic, the soft movement of the ship and the endless sea with not a single ship in sight. Martin and I were both able to completely relax and recharge which was so needed after a busy year. We are now even more excited about our dream cruise in 2022 to Antarctica where I’ll make my dream of seeing penguins in their natural habitat a reality.

Growing Pains

Let’s rewind back to the end of 2018. I was feeling tired. In August 2018 I started a brand new group coaching and accountability program called SOMBA Momentum and I was also running 4 mastermind groups; 2 Momentum Masterminds, 1 Accelerator Mastermind and 1 VIP Mastermind. The plan was to retire the 2 Momentum Masterminds in favour of the new SOMBA Momentum program but for 4 months I was running 5 group programs instead of ideally only 3. I was running too many programs and I was running out of energy and I realised it. The year was coming to an end so I knew I could pull through but I began to wonder about 2019.

In October 2018, I started to think about merging two of my higher level masterminds, Accelerator and VIP, into one. I wanted to have more space and time in my calendar to be creative, create more content and finally write a book. Instead of taking a swift decision I went back and forth on whether I should merge Accelerator and VIP into one program or wait and see how many signups I got. To say that I agonized over this is an understatement. Since I was so indecisive on what to do, I also didn’t do my best at marketing both programs. And suddenly it was almost Christmas and I realised that I had to make a decision.

On December 23, after one more sleepless night over this decision, I finally sent an email to those who had signed up for these two programs and announced to them that I was merging the two programs and upgrading all of those who had signed up for Accelerator to VIP. Of course Accelerator members were ecstatic about the change but I didn’t feel so good for those who had already signed up for VIP so I gave them an extra bonus too. I felt relieved after the decision like I do after every big decision I make in my business. And then I thought to myself, why didn’t I make this decision right away in October?

Besides merging two programs, I also had to take a hard look and see if there was anything that I could stop doing or at least pause for a while. Already in October I had stopped recording new episodes for Sigrun Sparks which is a 90 sec daily audio experience. Still today my team is running the 100 episodes that I created from May to September 2018. In my mind I have just paused the production of new episodes and when the time is right I will start again.

At the end of December 2018 I didn’t have the energy to record any new episodes for my podcast The Sigrun Show so we re-ran older episodes that I felt were good but hadn’t received the downloads they deserved - and this turned out to be a good idea. I didn’t have to record 10 new episodes and these episodes got a new life.

The decisions to stop something, merge something or pause something are not easy but through this experience I believe I am much more willing to make a decision like that and make that decision faster than I was before.

I had more growing pains to go through in 2019. It had been clear since I tripled my revenue from $340K to $1M in 2017 that I needed to grow my team but still hadn’t.

There was something holding me back and I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. Was I worried about the investment? Not really but maybe a tiny bit. Was I worried about not finding the right people? Partly yes as I had hired and fired a lot of contractors over the years. Was I worried about the time it takes to train them? A little bit. Was I worried about changing the team dynamic? Somewhat I guess. But overall I didn’t have a clear answer on why I wasn’t growing my team when we so obviously needed more help to achieve all the goals that I wanted to achieve.

As I stood in front of my mastermind group in February 2019 explaining to them my vision and listing all my goals for 2019, I realised that the biggest thing holding me back was my resistance to growing my team.

My mastermind buddies were amazed how far I have grown my business with such a small team but it was crystal clear to everyone in the room that the only way I was going to achieve my goals was to build a bigger team. Then one of my mastermind buddies, who rarely speaks up unless she has something important to say, said: “Sigrun, I think the reason you are not growing your team, is that you want to prove to the world, to women, that you, as a woman, can do it all on your own.” Boom! That hit me.

Yes, I want to prove to myself and prove to other women that they can do it. And my mastermind buddy continued: “Sigrun, you’ve proven that you can do it, you’ve already built a million dollar business”. Boom! Yes, I have. “Now build a dream team to achieve your vision”. She hit the nail on the head and I felt something being released, the resistance was less.

The day before that memorable hot seat I had written and published three job descriptions. We took our time with the hiring, the ad was up for over a month, we got over 300 applications and then my team interviewed potential candidates and we gave them tests to complete. We ended up hiring 4 employees instead of 3, although a few months later we had to let one of them go.

Overall I added 5 members to my team in 2019, plus I hired an event manager as a contractor and 4 new coaches for my programs. Today I feel no resistance to growing the team, actually I feel the opposite, I am constantly thinking about what role I want to hire next and if I know someone I could hire. I am really enjoying building a dream team.

Living in New York

In February I said to my husband: “I would love to live in New York for a month.”“Let‘s do it”, he said.

A few hours later we found the perfect studio apartment in the middle of Manhattan.

The dream of living somewhere else for a month was no longer a dream.

It was going to happen and it happened in September 2019.

We moved to New York for a month without big plans. Interestingly, I got several invitations to events even if I didn‘t tell anyone that I was going to be in New York. Somehow the Universe sent me people and/or events that happened exactly during the time I was in New York. And of course I took advantage of that.

The first thing we did was to set up our office space. As luck would have it, there were two tables in our studio and two monitors! We had to get a few things, like a stand for my microphone and keyboards as we had not thought everything through when we packed for the trip. Martin didn’t mind going shopping because all the things we needed were in our favourite shop in New York - B&H. I think Martin went there at least 4 times during our stay if not more often.

We quickly established a routine in our new home-for-a-month. Martin would go to Starbucks in the morning and get a Latte Macchiato for himself and a Chai Tea Latte with almond milk for me. We would work in the morning from 9am to 12pm and then go to lunch at one of the many restaurants around our area.

We would then work in the afternoon from 1pm to 6pm and then go out for dinner. Our studio apartment had a decent kitchen but neither of us like to cook and New York just has so many great restaurants.

The view from the apartment was amazing so I took a picture every morning and every evening. I also used the opportunity to have a photoshoot in New York, right after I arrived. We did one inside the apartment and another one outdoors just before we left New York.

September turned out to be a great month to go to events and meet people. The first event I went to was Marie Forleo’s book launch in New York were I met a few fellow B-Schoolers (I did B-School in 2013) and fans.

I met up with Jon Briggs who does trailers for people like Mark Schaefer and Gary Vee and he introduced me Steve Cohen, the most connected man in the world and producer for the Altucher Show. Steve then invited me to attend two events with James Altucher, one was were he did stand-up comedy and the second one was with Ryan Holiday where they were discussing his new book. At that event I met Derek Halpern, who sat down at my table.

And then I was invited to Selena Soo’s VIP Networking Dinner with 30 other entrepreneurs and media people. You may or may not know the people I have mentioned. My point isn’t the name dropping but the fact that you can meet so many people in New York is amazing. No wonder a lot of entrepreneurs live in New York!

New eye

2019 was the year that I finally had an eye operation. Since 6 years I’ve known that I have a cataract in my right eye. I didn’t see it coming, it happened gradually. I was having all kinds of issues in the right side of my body which were not all explainable so I thought about going to the eye doctor. The eye doctor didn’t see anything wrong with my right eye, so I asked him to look again. And then he shouted: You have a cataract! I was in shock. Isn’t that something that 70-80 year old people get?

Obviously there are exceptions and I am one of them. The eye doctor wanted to operate right away but I didn’t trust him. I believed him when he said I had a cataract but I didn’t think operating so fast was a good idea and also not by a local eye doctor that rarely does eye operations. I got a second and a third opinion, both eye doctors agreed with me to wait. This was six years ago.

What nobody told me back then is that you shouldn’t wait too long. Earlier this year I had lost all sight on my right. I see a bit of colour but that’s it. It is like looking through a white paper bag. Check what you see, it’s not much I can tell you. My husband noticed that my right eye had started to wander off and didn’t look straight. We even started to see this in pictures of me. It was time to have that eye operation. There were two reasons why I waited so long, one was that the more experienced eye doctors recommended it and second, I wanted the latest and best technology. I had done my research and found out that there is a multifocal lens you can get as a replacement when they move your own lens. And I decided that was what I wanted. I wanted to be able to walk around and use my computer and read a book without glasses.

In July I had an appointment at an eye clinic in Zurich. They did all kinds of test on my right eye but it was very hard to measure anything because my right eye is like a white paper bag where I don’t even see what I am supposed to be looking at. The results were devastating, even more shocking than having the cataract in the first place. You cannot have the multifocal lens, the eye doctor said. I was in shock ... and cried when I got outside the eye clinic. I had waited too long…

But I had been waiting too long to get the right treatment and was not willing to take no for an answer so I asked for a second appointment with the head doctor of the clinic. An appointment was set up for August and I flew especially from Iceland to Switzerland. At the clinic I was first sent to a different doctor who told me all about a test that we had to do to simulate the eye operation. I asked again to see the head doctor and after a bit of back and forth I could finally see her - and she agreed to the multifocal lens that I originally wanted. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

A date for the eye surgery was set - Tuesday October 8, 2019. According to the eye doctors all went well but it took me a few days to recover. Within 2 days I could see 100% with my right eye and it was amazing to be able to read a book and sit at computer without needing glasses.

A few days later though, my eye sight dropped to 60%, I noticed as we were driving that I couldn’t read the motorway signs anymore. The eye doctors had warned me that because my cataract was so strong, that I would most definitely have to have a post-cataract eye laser operation about 3 months after the first operation.

Instead of waiting 3 months the eye doctors decided to do the second operation only 3 weeks after the first operation to improve my eyesight. The date for the 2nd operation was November 18, 2019. I felt an immediate improvement and in the eye test that I did right afterwards I guessed that my eyesight was at 80%.

Just before Christmas 2019 I was invited for a final check and my eyesight had improved even more. Now I have 100% eyesight in my right eye! What a relief after everything. I just need to have the left eye operated at some point but probably not until 2021.

Finances

When I read other people’s year in review blog posts, I am naturally always curious about their numbers because I am a business coach and I help women make money. It would be weird if I wasn’t interested in numbers. This is why I’m including this detailed section with my revenue and costs because I know you’re curious, too.

Total Revenue in 2019 was $2M

The 2019 results are a $500K revenue increase from 2018 which is over 30% growth. I started the year aiming to double the revenue from $1.5M in 2018 to $3M in 2019 but already by the end of January I adjusted the projection to $2.5M, so I am pretty happy with our results, especially considering all the issues we had with Facebook ads in all of our launches. The revenue for SOMBA in 2019 was similar to our SOMBA revenue in 2018 and the key growth area was my new group coaching and accountability program, SOMBA Momentum.

SOMBA revenue was $1.1M in 2019

Although it wasn’t our original plan, my team and I did three SOMBA launches in 2019.

The original plan was to do two launches, like in 2018, but in January and June, instead of January and September. Our reasoning was that it would be good to have people start just before we run a 60-day summer challenge inside SOMBA called SOMBA Summer School. But our June launch didn’t work out the way we wanted, partly due to Facebook ads and partly due to the heat wave that went over Europe in the week of our launch. That’s why we added a September launch and were able to close off with over a $1M in SOMBA revenue.

Our Facebook ad troubles started already in September 2018 when we hit an invisible daily ad spending limit and couldn’t spend our ad budget. Despite talking to three Facebook ad experts, none of them could figure out what was happening.

It was actually Martin, my husband, who knows nothing about Facebook ads that figured out that there was a limit on our daily ad spend. Our Facebook ad manager was sceptical that this was the reason but after checking with Facebook, turns out that Martin was right and Facebook was willing to increase our invisible daily ad spend limit. Unfortunately this was already on our open cart day so it was too late.

In the three launches in 2019 our Facebook ads issues were around ad disapprovals. We’ve had to completely change the language of our ad copy and also our landing pages and sales pages to get through the eagle eye of Facebook. Getting a lot of ads disapproved increased costs so overall lead cost went up in all three launches.

A lot of time was also spent on writing ad copy, much more than in previous years, which is something we have to factor in now. In our latest launch we feel we have finally got the hang of getting our ads approved and currently our Facebook ads are running smoothly - fingers crossed!

Mastermind groups revenue was $1M

In 2019 we ran two group programs; SOMBA Momentum, a group coaching and accountability program, and VIP Mastermind, a true mastermind program. Both are 12 month programs but the sales process is very different. VIP Mastermind starts once a year, in January, Momentum on the other hand starts at any time. Most of our Mastermind group clients come from SOMBA and therefore we don’t need to run any ads or launch these two programs. In January 2020 starts a new program, RED CIRCLE, which is for women who are already making $500K or more.

Other revenue streams were over $100K

Under other revenue streams falls the Selfmade Summit, my biggest and boldest project to date, happening in June 2020 in Reykjavik, Iceland. We soft-launched our super early bird tickets during SIGRUN LIVE in October and they sold out in 48 hrs.

Net Profit was 10% or $220K

When most online entrepreneurs talk about profit, they actually mean salary, they sometimes even call it take-home-profit. They run their businesses as sole proprietorships and any profit they make is actually their salary.

I’ve always run my business as a limited liability company and therefore any profit my company makes is not my salary but a profit that belongs to the company. In some countries it makes sense to pay yourself dividends from your company profit but in Switzerland that doesn’t make sense because the tax dividends double. First you pay tax on your company profit before you can pay yourself dividends and then you pay income tax on the dividends. The best way to pay myself is through a salary.

When I talk about profit, I mean company profit, after salary, company taxes, depreciation of company assets and currency losses or gains. And that’s a very different profit than the one most online entrepreneurs talk about. I actually don’t want a lot of profit in my business, a 5% profit is more than enough for a business that I never plan to sell.

Instead I want to invest any potential profit into the growth of my business before the end of the year. This investment can be in the form of a new project like a venue for a conference, larger ad budget, expanding my team, creating an investment fund etc.

Next time you hear someone talk about profit, ask them what kind of profit they are talking about.

If I would calculate profit like most online entrepreneurs do I could easily have a 50% profit in my business but that would not be smart business- and tax-wise and that’s why I don’t do it.

Total costs were $1.9M

Employees & contractors $700KThe biggest expense in my business is paying people. This includes me and my husband, all employees, all contractors, and all outsourced tasks. My team now consists of 4 full-time employees, 8 part-time employees/contractors, a 2-people podcasting team, 3 external coaches, and I regularly work with photographers and videographers. In addition we have several tasks that we outsource e.g. transcription services. It gives me great joy to be able to employ people and now that I have gotten over my resistance of growing my team, I love building a dream team and paying good salaries.

I pay myself a six figure salary since 2017. For the first three years of my business I didn’t pay myself any salary so I am making up for that now.

Live Event Cost $120K

Once a year my team and I hold a live event in Zurich, Switzerland called SIGRUN LIVE for our SOMBA students and Mastermind members. This year I invested over six figures to fly in my team for a whole week and create an amazing 2-day event for our community. In 2020, Sigrun Live will be an even bigger investment as we are making it a 3-day event, 2 days for SOMBAs and 1 Mastermind day for Mastermind members. My team is already excited and I hope you are excited, too - get on the waitlist for SOMBA if you are not already a student.

Facebook Ads $200K

When my clients ask me which amount they should invest into Facebook ads, I tell them that investing 10% of the revenue you want to have in your launch is pretty normal. If you want to have a million dollar launch, you need to be willing to invest $100K into paid ads. In 2019 we spent 10% of our total revenue on Facebook ads and that was too much. The reason why we spent so much was that we had a lot of issues with ads in 2019.

Affiliates $200K

We work with affiliates to sell our SOMBA program. All our affiliates are former and current SOMBA students or Mastermind members and know the SOMBA program in and out. Their success stories are the best proof of the effectiveness of the program. Affiliates get a 40% commission for every SOMBA sale.

Coaching $90K

I believe in investing forward. I invest a lot of money in masterminds and coaches every year. In 2019, I invested in two masterminds, one was $40K and the other one $50K. If you want to add $500K to your revenue then you need to be willing to invest $50K in coaching. Besides masterminds I also invest in coaching and consulting when the need arrives.

Travel $150K

Travel is a big part of my life and business. This is one of the reasons I started my business in the first place. I wanted to be able to live in two countries and travel the world. 90% of my travel is for business and therefore my travel costs are probably higher than in most online businesses.

Both of my masterminds in 2019 were in the US so I did 6 trips there to attend retreats and other events. A part of the travel costs is travel that my team has taken. I have always had a virtual team but 2019 was the first year where I brought my team together and more than once. In February I flew to Toronto to work with my launch manager and in June I flew my launch manager and my new executive assistant to Zurich. Then for my live event in October I flew in team members to Switzerland from the US, Canada, Italy, and the UK. Under travel costs falls also accommodations and meals.

Selfmade Summit

I cannot end a year in review without speaking about the Selfmade Summit.

The seeds had been set for a while. I knew that one day I would do a conference but I didn’t know when or what it would be about.

October 2018 I started to feel ready. My VIP Mastermind clients were in Iceland with me and I decided to show them Harpa, the Icelandic concert hall. If you haven’t heard of Harpa, imagine the Sydney Opera house and then a more modern version with a glass facade at the harbour of Reykjavik. That’s Harpa.

Harpa was built between 2007 and 2011. I originally studied architecture and was fascinated by Harpa from day one. I love how the outer structure of a glass facade changes with the seasons, sunlight and artificial light. It is a building that has been praised in magazines around the world, not just for its looks but also because of its sound.

Harpa was designed as a concert center but equally works as a conference center. It has many multifunctional event spaces plus the main concert hall called Eldborg which translates to fire city.

When I saw Eldborg for the first time, I had to catch my breath, it was so beautiful and fiercely red. I instantly knew it: this was my event space. So when my VIP Mastermind clients came to Iceland last October I decided to show them my dream event space. I booked us a tour of the building and then we came into the red room called Eldborg. They fell in love just like me and then asked me: Sigrun, when are you going to book it?

“Now,” I said. I opened up my laptop and booked the venue.

I put a date on my dream, the rest is just logistics.

The last 12 months have been quite a journey. It’s been scary, frustrating, annoying but also so exciting which makes up for everything else.

I came up with the concept of the conference, decided on a name, worked with three different event consultants to plan the best conference experience, hired an event planner after offers and negotiations from 5 different event agencies, booked speakers and sold out super early bird tickets….

My team and I have been busy creating a one-of-a-kind conference.

And I cannot wait to see you in Iceland June 18-19, 2020.

Tickets are on sale now for The Selfmade Summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.

I wish you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020.

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