Sunsetting Programs and Rebuilding From Ashes

by | Productivity

If your house were to burn down, would you rebuild it the same way? Doubtful. We must look at the programs, services, and groups we belong to and ask ourselves the same question. Is it time to sunset, and should we be rebuilding from ashes?

My former business coach revealed something fascinating during a group livestream a couple of months ago. She talked about the numerous times she decided to ‘burn down' her business. She wasn't talking about a literal fire but closing successful and profitable ventures. And it's not because they weren't doing well, but because they didn't align with her vision anymore.

She posed a question that rocked my world. She asked, ‘If your house burned down, would you rebuild it the same way?' I know I wouldn't! In fact, my revamped dream house would definitely have more than one bathroom, that's for sure. Why would I replicate an outdated model of programs or services when I have the chance to improve?

Women's Group

This new perspective got me thinking about all the programs I was part of, especially the chapter of a women's program I helped launch a year ago. It wasn't delivering as expected, and it took me some time to admit it. But, stepping down from the leadership team freed up a slot for something more impactful, like my new role as the treasurer of the Work Meaningful Foundation

Lesson earned: Always create a timeline to reevaluate any group you're in. If you weren't a part of this group and were asked to sign up today, would you? 

Training Resources

Moving on to our training materials. Oh boy, had they grown into a mountain of resources! Our RaderCo Go-To Guides were so overwhelming they were becoming more of an obstacle course than a help desk. It made me wonder: If all these guides disappeared tomorrow, would I rebuild them the same way? Nope! Not at all! So, I brought our branding specialist, Greatest Story Creative, on board again to help us make sense of the guide and recreate it more streamlined and user-friendly.

Lesson earned: Regularly seek fresh eyes to review your materials. Ask yourself, ‘If I recreate these materials, would they look the same?

Work Well. Play More! Masterclass

I had already decided to sunset the Work Well. Play More! Masterclass. The program was a year-long group coaching program that had the unfortunate demise of starting in April 2020. It was based on the book about behavior change in Productivity, Clutter, and Health, in levels of novice, pro, and master. It included live streams, recordings, interviews, and Ask the Expert sessions. The initial enrollment was low, and I partially blame COVID and the world's uncertainty just two weeks after the pandemic's start. After the first year, the course was offered as a self-paced course with live Ask the Expert sessions. It was still a low return on investment, and it had quickly become outdated because the recordings often referred to the pandemic and being stuck at home. The sessions were also 25-45 minutes, which is long now because most people want micro-learnings unless it's live. This year in March, I decided to sunset the program when the last person to sign up would reach their one-year mark. I took the website down, removed references in all of my materials, and sent a notice to current participants. 

Lesson earned: Just because something is mostly automated doesn't mean that the cost of running it or keeping it on the platform is worth it. We still had to maintain the site, host the Ask the Experts, and send marketing and group emails, with very little coming my way as a positive feedback loop. Don't get me wrong, I loved the program, but it wasn't worth the effort I put into it to keep it going.

Focus90™

The latest sunset was to my beloved Focus90™ program. Why am I burning down a program I love so much? I started it about eight years ago as a free program and started charging about 2-3 years ago. It was a once-a-week program of virtual co-working. We would get on Zoom, I would give a productivity tip, everyone would write in the chat what they would be working on in the next 80 minutes, and we would work silently until the time was up. Then we would write in the chat what we accomplished, and I would give the productivity tip again. It is a form of body doubling – performing a task next to or with someone, which helps you stay focused. There are many reasons why it makes you more likely to stick to the task that I don't need to go into here but trust me, it worked. 

I offered lifetime access for $99 when it went from free to paid. Several people didn't want to pay at all. They dropped off (I could go on a soapbox about the mistake of free programs and lifetime memberships), and many others grabbed the deal. Since then, I've had subscriptions ranging from $14.99 to $24.99 monthly and included Focus90™ Days and monthly Ask the Expert sessions. When my travel schedule started getting pretty heavy from May through July, I realized that I either wasn't able to fit in a session for the members or I was giving up valuable coaching time for my clients, which isn't fair to them and definitely not what makes sense when looking at revenue-generating activities. It also happened to be at times of day when I didn't have a lot of focus. My magic time is in the morning. I was trying to work with multiple time zones and what the F90 community wanted: sessions between 1-3:30pm, which are prime coaching hours.

When I made the decision, it was easy. I looked at the revenue I was generating and the time I was spending and asked myself, if I knew how much money I would make before I invested time and energy into this program, would I start it over again? Nope. Was I happy about my time over the last eight years? Absolutely. I know it's not all about money, but remember, this was time, energy, taking something from my coaching clients, and not breaking even. As a responsible business owner of a company that employs others, I needed to reevaluate my time. I couldn't justify something that wasn't profitable.

Lesson earned: Review money and time ROI on programs yearly. I will continue the program if I have time and revenue that supports a give-back.

Weekly Check-Ins

My talk of burning down the masterclass and Focus90 and not rebuilding it inspired my friend Lilly to burn down a weekly check-in we had been doing since 2017. Every weekend Lilly, my brother, and I would text each other our Peach, Pit, and Fuzzes for the week (something good, not-so-good, and something unexpected). We started this while doing the Freedom Journal and got the Peach, Pit, and Fuzz prompts from Savor the Success. Lilly said the check-ins had run their course and didn't need them anymore. I had been thinking a little bit the same but hadn't brought it up. Did it work, and was it helpful? Yes, but would we restart it again if we stopped doing it? Nope. 

Lesson Earned: Set a date and regularly decide as a group if you want to continue can keep you from something that starts to feel like a chore or isn't adding value to your life.

I invite you all to take a look at your lives. Is there anything that needs to be burned down and rebuilt? Or maybe, something that has served its purpose and needs to see the sunset? Remember, change can be intimidating but also a catalyst for growth. Embrace it and rebuild from the ashes.

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“Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.”

jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects