I will take the risk of sounding banal or corny, but 2023 was a shit show of a year. There were several huge, life-changing hurricanes going on, affecting everything we see and feel in multiple areas of life.
The purpose of this yearly report is transparency. I am hoping you can take something from it, learn from my hurdles, and use these insights to grow. And in the name of that transparency, I am going to share with you the highs and the lows of 2023.
The context matters, so this is a tale of nine months of an attempt by the Israeli ultra-right government to execute a judicial reform, followed by three months of war in Gaza. A war that started with a massacre of tragic proportions that included the kidnapping of 241 people.
One of those who got kidnapped and is still being held by Hamas terrorists is my second cousin, Itay Chen.
I know Itay’s family well. I remember performing on his 11th birthday. He is a young mensh. The type of young man that makes you feel hopeful about the future. He was taken on Oct 7th of 2023 and I pray for his release.
The nine months of the government trying to destroy Israel’s democracy and turn it into a corrupted theocracy were a huge burden personally. I demonstrated in Kaplan Street almost every single week. I volunteered my coaching services to one of the organizations and helped them form a plan and dream bigger about their impact. I walked in the four-day journey from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and got a t-shirt to prove it.
The hardest part in those nine months was the daily hatred spread by the populist politicians in power. They would constantly ignore and dismiss any warning that the dispute might have severe side effects – on the economy and our safety as a people in Israel.
The attack on the 7th of October was not surprising in that sense. We all felt that the government’s decision to undo democracy through a full-on attack on the rule of law would end up with something violent with our neighbors. What was surprising was the extent of the attack, which included an Isis-like brutality that was shocking. Beheadings, rape, mutilation, mass murder and mass kidnapping – these are all going to leave an ugly, painful scar forever on our people.
The war is not over yet, and it’s hard to see its impact on the world. I am hoping for good news every day. I scroll and scroll and it isn’t there yet.
These two mega streams are enough to distract any business owner…
But I had additional shit shows to figure out.
As a dad, this year included managing a team of psychologists and advisors to help one of my kiddos heal and rebuild after a suicid attempt that was rooted in depression. This scary journey hovered over me daily. It was the highest priority to figure out an environment that would allow her to heal, to be healthy, and to get back into growing. There is something very depressing about seeing a depressed teenager not finding purpose in their life. I had to treat myself as well, and throughout this year, I regularly visited my psychologist’s office. He helped me tell stories about myself and everyone I love in this world. To see connections between how I feel and how I dream, and make hard, balanced decisions.
That wasn’t it. Turns out the signs of burnout from the end of last year… manifested themselves into something bigger this year. I used to be able to do 18-21 meetings per day and during this year even 12-15 has felt like a lot sometimes. I found myself struggling with getting shit done outside of a meeting with either a client or a team member. I took my eye off the ball. I got so busy looking at the state of democracy and then at the war and its impact… so busy trying to figure out my family and my life that not a lot of energy was left for my clients.
I don’t think they felt it that much in terms of results, though. They knew everything I was going through, as I didn’t keep anything secret. And they kept on seeing results from Kivi Media.
* We got into LinkedIn automations and realized when it is a good idea and when it’s not
* We mastered ChatGPT (a.k.a Charlie) and managed to double our efficiency as a team, and the result: in a 12-week program we now manage to do more than 14 weeks of work for our clients
* We got into bot creation and AI automation and have managed to get to a level where we can scale our impact, even with a relatively small team
* We got into Shopify. We now build, maintain and optimize sales for Shopify clients and 25% of our clients are e-comm businesses
* Many of our clients in the KMC got yummy results – like growing from 30k a year to 60k a year to 110k a year. Or like getting to $800k for the first time ever. Or like getting their e-comm to do 60 deals a month instead of 5-10 deals a month.
One of the biggest goals I had for myself during this year, which was repeated every quarter when I planned it, was to be profitable. I ended up losing about $17k in 2021, and about $2k in 2022. I wanted 2023 to be different.
And different it was. I looked into our income and expenses EVERY single day in 2023. I summoned karma from carrying so much and made decisions, such as firing auxiliary services we used (like video editing or Pinterest help) based on the need to maintain profits.
In some months we only had $200 in profits. On others, we made about $5-6k.
We did not have ANY month in which we lost money.
We made a total of $23.5k of pure profit.
The way I calculate profits and expenses is quite different from the standard ways taught in finances. I think my way is more accurate for small business owners. The main difference is that all of my family’s expenses are covered by my business. Even if the expense is not related to the business at all, I measure it as a business expense. That doesn’t mean it’s tax deductible. I only declare to the tax authorities the expenses that they allow me to. And I declare ALL of my income to the tax authorities – everything is legit in my business.
But I changed the focus of what is an expense and what is profit – I look at a type of profit that you feel – the size of your bank account. I ask myself – the money in the bank… is it growing or not?
If you add to the pure profits our retirement plan expenses, then on top of the 23.5k we also saved 38.5k – which is a total of 62k of profits + savings. So “king cash” grew, and “future king cash” grew too.
Kivi Media did $430k this year. Again.
We wanted to do 501k but at some point I decided I didn’t want that anymore. The burnout made me want to not take too many clients. The war and the attempt to do a governmental overhaul made me step away from content creation. I wrote half of my book “The Fully Booked Coach” instead of finishing the whole thing. I was still fully booked but did not aspire to be overbooked anymore.
So we did 430k. Here is the year-by-year breakdown:
2017 – $110k
2018 – $165k
2019 – $277k
2020 – $305k
2021 – $377k
2022 – $430k
2023 – $430k
And here is the breakdown of how we got to 430k:
KMC – $118k
BAC – $33k
KEA – $40k
KM – $239k
At one point in the year I thought I would end the year doing $405k… but we eventually managed to stay the same size.
It felt like we were growing, as the profits were there month by month and were what I focused on. But it was more than that. The ratio of NIS to USD grew during this year on average by about 17%. My business makes money in USD, but our family expenses are in NIS. That means that while we have made 430k in the USD, in NIS it felt more like 503k.
So did we get to our goal of growing to 501k or not? I don’t like factoring in something that is out of my control. Most of the change in the USD to NIS ratio is rooted in that judicial reform and I don’t want to celebrate that.
So how do I summarize my year?
We stayed the same size, but grew our profits significantly. I was able to maintain an overall 15% profit and that’s way better than losing money.
We have learned a lot (Shopify, AI, automation) and are still very much focused on serving our clients and finding ways to improve on that every single day. We know we are not perfect and are okay with that. Our heart is still in the right place, despite all the hurdles – Kivi Media is here to serve, solve problems, and make businesses grow. Most importantly, we really do care, and I think that shows by the fact that many of our clients stick around for a very long time.
I don’t have a finalized plan for 2024. I am working on one, and I am willing to give myself more time to form one. Probably a couple of weeks, tops.
I do have a direction, though. A prediction of sorts.
I know where the fast money is for my clients – and that’s what we will help them sort out the most:
* Your site and marketing material (pictures) have to be stunning
* Google Ads is still the best way to get new clients, but you have to hyper-segment your search campaigns
* Relationships with your past clients and leads is key. Think newsletters, as well as personalized attention to key clients.
* Email outreach is still a very strong tool, but you can double its power with some dream client personalized outreach based on real research
Sometimes doing anything else apart from these four things can take away your energy from what makes you grow fast. Slow money like social media and SEO is so slow these days that it feels like busywork and can be so frustrating that you will lose track of what works.
You have to know what makes up 80% of your income. You have to want to grow that part if you want to grow your business. Trying to make the 20% of your income do better for you will take 80% of your efforts, and if you blink for a second or two, you might accidentally put 100% of your effort into that 20% of the income and you will not feel the results fast enough. Perfectionism will always get in the way, and when it does you will be asking the wrong questions.
Instead of asking, “Why isn’t this working? Why aren’t people buying this or buying here?”
try asking, “What can we do to get more people to see us? What can we do to figure out the top of the funnel? How can we simplify our offer? How can we be different from our competitors and communicate that more clearly?”
One last insight – almost EVERY business I worked with this year invested too little in advertising. I am talking about businesses who are making $100-800k, and who, when measured, are seeing an ROI anywhere between 1-2 to 1-5. You might think that 1-2 is not lucrative enough and be afraid to put in more money. But you are investing in your future business and are buying buyers. Sometimes, with the right marketing material and package crafting skills, the only difference between a 1-2 ROI and 1-5 is putting in more money into ads.
Got any questions? Want to share with me how your year was? You are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or even schedule a 15-minute coffee break using this link: https://kivimedia.co/15
Oh… I also lost 20kg this year. That’s gotta count too, right?