What a fantastic feeling the first day you start your business. Whether you have been a business owner for one year or 40 years you will still remember that first day. You may have gone straight into business or come from a job; you now have no teacher, parent, manager or boss to tell you what to do – you are in charge. You can get up every day and do what you love doing, building websites, advising people on their investments, running a sandwich bar, or whatever it is you do. As you go forward customers talk about your business to their friends and your business grows. Life becomes easy and you can relax and enjoy your work till you are 65 when you can sell up, and live off the cash. Finished!
If you are like the hundreds of business owners I speak with, the reality is something very different. You are not your own boss, but just another employee in a company you happen to own. That exhilarating feeling you had in the beginning is waning as you work longer hours, dealing with such diverse areas as finance, marketing and IT, which you know little about and do not enjoy. Let’s not mention the plethora of perpetual problems surrounding employees, for those of you who have successfully grown to that size! Your goal of retiring at 65 and living off the profits has gone. You begin to wonder if you can survive working like this until you are 65, or whether you might in reality have to work well beyond that. “Will it ever be finished?”
Tackling these issues in a business is one thing; however, the starting point I would recommend is in clarifying what your business will look like when it is finished? Very rarely do we as business owners get an education in this. Even if you have done your MBA you will find the focus is on instilling propositional knowledge on topics like organisational behaviour, managerial economics, operations, logistic and the like. This reminds me of a story Stephen Covey tells in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. A group of managers and workers are doing an extremely effective and efficient job of clearing a jungle, when the boss arrives and says “wrong jungle!”
The dream business I spoke about at the start of this article is rarely achievable because, I expect, it is not our true goal. Often it is the only goal we know so we follow it blindly stumbling as we go. If I may, might I open your eyes to a few other options of what your finished business might look like?
First, the finishing line does not have to be when you reach 65 or even the two to three years prior to that. What if you could get there now? Yes, even if this is your first year in business. Secondly, and this is my main point, the finish is not necessarily the sale of your business; I believe, it is simply about you getting more time. Now this can mean different things to different people so let me give you a few examples to help you find your “jungle”.
Consider the parent who feels guilty working 50 hours a week and is permanently tied to their desk between 8.30am and 5.30pm. If this is you, you might like to finish at 3pm each day so you can collect the kids from school, have the flexibility to attend the odd sports day or school show, and be able to take 6 weeks off in the summer.
Or are you the serial entrepreneur with a successful business who is desperately looking for time to start your next, and another two after that? What if you could get your first business running with just a few hours of your time each week?
Maybe you are the workaholic who does not want to stop or slow down, but instead wants to open another two or three offices this year, expand across the country then go global? Imagine if your first office or branch could run without your input? Then you would have time to focus on the new offices and manage the expansion of your business.
Maybe holidays are your thing, and you are looking for three fortnights a year away, a trip of a lifetime for a whole month in Australia, or to have the flexibility to permanently travel the world. What would need to happen in your business to allow you to do this every year?
For those of you still saying “I don’t want more time, I love working in my business”, let’s look at one more scenario. I speak to many people who love their business and don’t want to stop – I am one of them! However, when I tease into this I often discover they would like it if they never had to do their accounts again, or manage staff, or worry about sales, or some other task they do not enjoy. By all means keep working 40+ hours a week, however might your life be better if your daily work did not involve those chores?
Please note finishing your business is not about stopping work. Very few people are genuinely happy when they have no work. Look at all the Lotto winners who head off to Spain, get drunk for three months, realise they have no friends out there and end up depressed and broke. Do you really want that? I do believe work is a good thing. It gives us purpose in life, structure, social inclusion, a sense of pride and a reason to get up in the morning. However, I feel we have lost the balance between work and life in the last few decades. It is time to redress the balance in our lives. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you didn’t have to work tomorrow? What if you decided you would rather be climbing a mountain, visiting your mum or playing 18 holes at Gleneagles?
In business we are so busy we rarely stop to consider why we are in business, where we are going or what it will look like when finished. I hope you have paused for thought today to consider your work to life balance, and what your finished business might look like.
Finishing Your Business