Meredith Noble’s business journey began with a simple resolve to avoid traditional employment—she would do just about anything to avoid holding a normal job again. She had thrived in the corporate world, but she was frustrated by the glass ceiling on her earning potential and career.
Initially, this led her back to her family’s cattle ranch to assist with calving season. While out in the fields, she started thinking about passive income, and it occurred to her that she could teach grant writing online. She spent the next six months constructing course content, without the slightest clue about what she was doing, assuming that customers would sign up eagerly. But in the first year, she made only $2,000.
After nearly going under twice due to cash flow issues, she finally cracked the code for success, transforming her business from a $20,000 loss in December of 2020 alone to achieving $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) just two years later. She’ll be the first to tell you that she couldn’t have done this without her co-founder and business bestie, Alexandra (Alex) Lustig.
What’s been your proudest financial achievement as a business owner?
Hitting $1 million in annual revenue. Within the first month of starting my business, I read an article in Forbes that said only two percent of businesses hit the seven-figure mark (even less for women-owned businesses), and that became my north-star goal.
I’m especially proud of this given that, in my business’ early years, I looked successful, but I was losing money with every new customer because I wasn’t charging near enough. From that wake-up call, my co-founder and I learned to calculate what we call “Cost to Acquire AND Serve a Customer” (CASC). Most people just look at cost to acquire (CAC), but that doesn’t factor in the true costs of delivering on your promise to the customer.
What have you found is worth paying for to help you grow, and what have you been able to achieve more scrappily?
Hands down, the best investments for growing my business have come from investing in other programs and coaches that have been where I want to go. I’ll buy anything I can get from business coach Dan Martell. (I actually spent $25,000 to buy 500 copies of his book to get access to a two-day mastermind at his house.) I also love Victoria Song, author of Bending Reality, for mindset coaching.
While I was definitely scrappy in the early days while we were figuring out product-market fit, I haven’t taken that approach since. If I need to deny myself investments, I see it as proof that my business model is off. That almost always means prices are too low!
How do you decide how much to pay yourself versus invest back in the business?
I first learned what to pay myself from Dan Martell. His approach is that owner’s pay is 50 percent of top-line revenue up to $250,000 in revenue. It then goes to 35 percent until hitting $500,000 in revenue. Then 20 percent until hitting $1 million in revenue.
I have followed these benchmarks generally, though I have a co-founder earning equal pay so some of our compensation has come from the operating expense allocation.
I only started taking an owner’s draw in excess of tax payments once hitting $1 million in annual revenue. Otherwise, I continued to pile all earnings back into the business (besides my salary).
Now that we are in the $1 million to $5 million stage of growth, we are in the “danger zone”—when you have enough money to make expensive mistakes. You think you have things figured out and then realize what got you to $1 million won’t get you to $5 million. For that reason, we are being conservative in what we pay ourselves so we have the cash flow to make bigger investments in the business for innovation.
Tell us about your team. At what point did you decide to hire employees or contractors? How do you think about when and who to bring on now?
I started hiring contract help immediately. I even hired help when I was a temp employee at the local transit department so I could bill more hours than I personally wanted to work!
My hiring strategy follows the advice offered by Dan Martell in his book Buy Back Your Time. The essence of the strategy is to hire back your time, so your time is free to work on higher revenue generating activities. The best starting point is hiring someone to manage your inbox. As scary as that sounds, you’ll never go back!
My team consists of myself as Visionary, my co-founder Alex as Integrator/Operator, a marketing lead, a customer success lead,
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