Bang crash! Watch out! Duck! Hang on! Oh no! Here we go again!
My life as a business owner feels like a roller coaster ride, I’m hanging on for dear life half the time… How can I slow it all down a bit and take control of my business and my life?
Running your own business can feel like a constant juggling act and most of the time, all you do is hold on for the ride and try to make sure you duck at the right time.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Running your own business is never something you should because you want to have an easy life, because it’s never going to be easy. But you can make sure the business works for you rather than the other way round.
The Big Question of Small Business
It all starts with this question, The Big Question of Small Business:
Why does your business exist and why would anybody care?
Most business owners can’t answer that question clearly, in a single power sentence. And if you can’t answer that question, there is one really important thing you can never do, with confidence and clarity, and that is to say NO.
Saying NO is probably the one, most important thing that you have to learn to be able to do well in your business in order to to get off the roller coaster and to take control.
I’ll give you an example from my own experience that happened to me only last week.
That question, the Big Question I talk about above: Why does your business exist? My answer to it is this:
I help small business owners feel great about themselves and about their business, by helping them discover and build their own unique Beautiful Business and Life
That’s what I get up to do, each and every morning.
So last week I received an email from the health and wellbeing officer of one of the Big Four Banks here in Sydney. This person is running a personal wellness program for the entire staff of the bank in Sydney and she was looking for a coach to be involved with the program. The opportunity was enormous. This bank employs thousands, if not tens of thousands of people in Sydney alone and being offered a sponsored opportunity to get in front of all those employees is incredible… For the right person.
I wasn’t the right person for the job
And there’s the rub. I’m not the right person for the an opportunity. I work with small business owners, not with employees in the corporate world. Now I’m sure I could have done something for this wellbeing officer and made it work and I would have done a good job, I have no doubt about that, but I actually know someone who is much better equiped to take on this project. She specialises in working with employees in the corporate world to help them feel better about themselves and advance in their careers. So I thanked the Wellbeing officer and I introduced her to my friend and two days later, my friend had signed up the gig. There’s a good chance that this is the best gig my friend has landed in years and I am absolutely sure she’ll lay them in the isles… She’s brilliant at this kind of thing.
I didn’t get the gig, I won’t make any money from the gig, but I also didn’t get the stress from doing something that wasn’t absolutely in my area of expertise. I’ve learnt over the years, that I’m really good at some things and not others, and I need to stick with those. My friend is really excited and will have a lot of fun with the project, probably make a lot of money and do really well. What’s more, she’s super motivated to return the favour and I have no doubt something will come my way at some stage that’s right up my alley.
Learning what to say No to, and do it in such a way that means everybody is happy is absolutely a core skill if want to get off the roller coaster and take control of your business.
So: Why does your business exist, and Why would anybody care about that?
The secrets to getting Un-Stuck, take control and to make Business Fun again
Many small business owners feel frustrated, stuck and overwhelmed in business on a daily basis. They operate in crisis management mode, running around from this urgent problem to that emergency all day long, extinguishing brush fires along the way.
In the first years of business, you accept that all this running around and stress is par for the course, but a few years on, nothing much has changed, you’re still running around fixing everybody else’s problems and the stuff you really want to work on, for the long term development of your business, just keeps getting pushed back and back forever.
Fun in business Overwhelm and Stuck in business
Do you feel stuck as well?
Most business owners have experienced that sense of frustration and the secret to building a Beautiful Business and Life, is to find your way around this state of overwhelm and take control of your business. The first step to getting unstuck in business is to start thinking differently about your business than you have until now.
Did you know that all that matters in business is Fun?
Fun is the opposite of Overwhelm and being Stuck. When you’re having Fun, you’re not Overwhelmed and when you’re in Overwhelm, you’re not in control and you’re having Fun. The two are mutually exclusive.
And when your business is Fun, it means everything is working:
It means you’re making money
It means your staff are engaged and doing great work
It means your customers love you
It means you’re proud of the product or service you deliver
It means you’ve created a level of balance in your life that works towards your wellbeing.
So Fun in Business ought to be a key focus to help you move from crisis management and overwhelm to taking control and building your own Beautiful Business and Life.
I’ve also written a book about Fun in Business, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun. You can download it for free as Ebook or Audiobook here.
Fun is serious business
It may seem strange to make Fun the key focus in the development of your business. We’re generally told that the function of business, the purpose of business, is to make money. Hence we should make “maximising shareholder value”, making profit and generating cash in other words, our key focus. But in many years in and around business, I’ve come to believe that to really build Great Businesses that Stand the Test of Time, we need to think differently about business than we’ve been taught for the past 200 years.
I like to quote John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Wholefoods markets in the USA. The company was recently bought by Amazon for US$14 Billion. Wholefoods made profit and paid dividends to its shareholders every year for its entire existence. In other words, John Mackey has established credentials where it concerns making money in business. Yet John Mackey wrote a book called “Conscious Capitalism” (more about the book here, as well as here), and in it he says this:
“Thinking that the Purpose of business is to make money, is as silly as thinking that the purpose of human beings is to eat food. We need to eat food, eating food makes us feel good, but we eat food so that we can do what we need to do on this earth. It is the same with business and profit. Business needs to make profit, and plenty of it, but it needs to do so, in order to fulfil its purpose, the reason it exists”
So, yes, business must make money. The business must generate profit and cash flow, and it must work hard to maximise its return to shareholders. Undoubtedly… As I say in elsewhere in this website: “A business that doesn’t make profit, is a hobby.”
If your focus is making money, there will never be enough. This year you might focus on making $100,000 profit, but as soon as you’ve made $100,000, you’ll want to make $200,000, and then $500,000 and so on, there’s always more money to be chased.
If your focus is making money, why pick $100K or $500K, why not $531,629,23? or $496,187.42. Any number you pick will be arbitrary, and hence meaningless.
If your focus is making money, your brain won’t cooperate. To your subconscious brain, there is no difference between $100K or $150K. Your subconscious can not think in concrete concepts, such as numbers, it can only get engaged by emotional concepts.
If your focus is making money, you’ll wonder what it’s all been about when you’re on your death bed. Nobody has ever lain on their death bed and thought: “I wish I’d made more money”. I guarantee you that much.
How do you get beyond money? Take these four steps;
So, if you want to get unstuck, stop being a crisis manager and move out of overwhelm in your business, you must start thinking beyond making money.
These are the big 4 steps to take to move out of overwhelm and into having Fun in Business:
Ask yourself the Big Question of Small Business: Why does your business exist, and why would anybody care about that? (The Purpose question, more about the Purpose of Business here)
Learn to ask yourself every week: How much Fun in Business did we have last week, and how can we make next week a little bit more Fun? (I’ve written about measuring Fun in Business in my book and also here)
Develop a discipline around your time. Know that your time is the most valuable asset of your business. As a responsible business owner, it is your job to ensure that you look after your most important asset and get the best return you can from your assets. This means you must discipline yourself not to waste your time on things that are actually not all that important. (Read more about business owners and time management here)
People: Get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, facing the right direction, and the wrong people off the bus. There is no greater cause of stress, overwhelm and frustration than people. (More about managing people here and here)
Further reading about overwhelm, taking control and Fun in business:
Work-life-balance is elusive for most business owners, but here’s how to find it
Work-life-balance is a term that’s been bandied about by many business and life coaches, in the books and videos by the life style gurus and in the personal development industry. It’s what we’re all supposed to be creating for a long and happy life. It’s the dream. Sadly, it’s a distant dream for many business owners.
One of the reasons for the unattainability of the dream, is that the generally accepted idea of Work-life-balance is a myth. Many great philosophers and thinkers, such as the gently spoken Alain de Botton, consider that the way we think about Work-life-balance is fantasy (Watch Alain de Botton’s TED Talk here). We need an entirely different picture to model our lives on, if we want to feel satisfied about our life and work.
And you know this is true too, because in your business, if anything is to get done at all, it’s down to you; if you don’t do it, the whole thing collapses like a house of cards. You’re often the first one in the door in the morning, and the last one out the door at night. You have breakfast and lunch on the run, and after the kids have been put to bed at night you have to catch up on your admin and quoting. And by the way: Isn’t it funny how with every new staff member you employ to lighten your workload, you seem to get busier?
Work-life-balance: It’s personal
To create a better Work-life-balance in our lives as small business owners and entrepreneurs, I believe there are a few principles we need to understand first:
Balance is a personal thing, what works for you won’t necessarily work for anyone else.
What feels right, is right. There are no hard and fast rules for balance.
Balance is a never ending negotiation. There is no set formula for balance. Priorities change constantly in life and business.
Sometimes we’ve just got to do what’s got to be done.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard, there’s nothing wrong with averting a crisis, but too much is too much.
Sometimes, not doing something, at all, (whatever the thing might be at this moment), or not doing it perfectly is fine. Your business and your life will most likely survive and the world will not come to an end.
Nobody has ever come to the end of their life and said: “I wish I’d worked harder”.
There is no rule book for Work-live-balance. There have been times in my life when I’ve worked insane hours while feeling totally balanced, in “flow” and happy, and other times when I’ve worked much less hard, yet felt overwhelmed and stressed. And just because I might work fewer hours per day, than you might do, doesn’t mean I have achieved better balance than you do. If you feel that your life is balanced, it is, and if you feel your life is out of balance, it is also.
All-nighters can be fun sometimes, can’t they?
As business owners, sometimes we’ll be confronted with situations that simply mean we have to pull an all-nighter or work on Sunday. It’s part of the package of being a business owner. It can even be highly rewarding to pull an all-nighter on a project, with a deadline looming and at the end of it, know you’re the one that’s made it happen, pulled a rabbit out of the hat. It can be one of the most fun experiences you have in business.
I will always remember the last weeks leading up to the opening of the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. I and my team worked every hour that God gave us for two weeks straight to complete the fit-out of the Holland Heineken House in Darling Harbour. It was probably the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. That’s now 18 years ago and I have nothing but fun memories of that period (and about the 14 day long party with 100,000 of my closest friends in the Holland Heineken House afterwards).
The simple fact is that if you feel good about your life and the mix of things you spend time with, you’re in balance, and if you walk around feeling bad about the fact that your kids or your spouse or your choir or your health and fitness or your peace of mind are missing out, then your life is not in balance. And what’s more, it’s really important to understand that what is right for you today, may not necessarily be right for you tomorrow. It was perfectly alright for me to spend those weeks building the Holland Heineken House and barely seeing my family, for those weeks, at that time.
Things change… Don’t they?
But it would not have been alright for that to be my life all year round. It may be fine for you right now to catch up on your email after the kids have gone to bed, but it may also be that at some point in the coming year it will start to bother you, and then it’s not alright anymore.
But one thing is absolutely sure. You’re going to want to take the issue of balance in work and life seriously and check in with yourself regularly what is and what isn’t right, and you will want to move towards finding the balance that is right for you, because nobody has ever laid on their death bed wishing they’d worked longer and harder. (The top five regrets of the dying)
The 4 quadrants of time management. And also watch my video about managing the most valuable asset of your business here
Learning to delegate (one of the 4 D’s, see below)
Work-life-balance follows automatically once: you’ve learned what really matters in your life, you learn to say No to the stuff that doesn’t matter, you learn to trust that you’ll probably make the right decision (after all you’ve got this far, why not assume you’ll continue to do ok), and finally you learn to set time aside for the important stuff you must do and delegate the rest (or apply the 4 D’s)
Once you’ve learnt all of that, you’ll have started to create a Beautiful Business and Life and that although it mightn’t look like Balance to an outsider, it works for you, and that’s all that matters.
I’d love to help you take those 5 steps above. I have created a Five Steps to Discovery Process to help you get moving and find greater balance in your life and Build a Beautiful Business and Life. The steps are small and mostly free, find out more here.
The 4 D’s
The 4 D’s I mentioned a couple of sentences ago are a nice management concept. The idea behind the 4 D’s is somewhat parallel to the 5 things I talked about above. For any task that comes across your desk consider one of the 4 D’s:
Do It –If it takes less than two minutes, and it needs to be done, just do it now. You could schedule it for later, or delegate it, but it might take you a couple of minutes just to do that. Save yourself the hassle and do it now.
Diarise It –if it’s going to take more than two minutes, if it’s got to be done, and you’re the right person for the job, block out some time in your diary in the next week or two to Do It.
Delegate It –The secret of getting more done and scaling your business is to delegate, delegate, delegate… So get good at delegating and look for every opportunity to do so.
Dump It –When you really stop and think about it, and you have a look at the 4 Quadrants of time management, some stuff isn’t actually all that important… A lot of demands on your time are firmly in quadrant 3 (urgent bu not important) or maybe even quadrant 4 (neither urgent, nor important) … The world won’t come to an end… What’s the worst that could happen… DELETE.
Have a look at my Big Pain of Small Business survey to see how you compare against other business owners on balancing work and life. You might also like to complete the very short Richard Branson Questionnaire, to see how you compare against the most famous of all the noble knights of business, who also seems to have his work and life sorted better than most of us poor peasants.