Does your business free you to enjoy life or has it become a ball and chain than keeps you from doing what you really want in life?
When you're just starting to put together the ground work for a new business, before you start anything, you should sit down and think about your goals.
Not your business goals, but your life goals.
There are lots of unhappy small business owners. Maybe they're not making the kind of money they dreamed of. Maybe they feel like a slave to their business, never able to take time for themselves. Maybe they just don't like their business anymore (it happens).
I think the really happy and successful business owners are not only doing what they love, but doing something that aligns with their life goals.
My first real business (I had several mini failures) was in retail. It was something I thought (emphasis on “thought”) I understood and it seemed like the perfect fit for me. I like people, I enjoy relationship style selling, I could wrap my head around how it worked. Great fit indeed. Man, I was so wrong.
It was about a year into it that I realized I made a mistake. Actually, it was like a month into it but I was in denial. Unfortunately the lease was already signed, the construction was paid for, the employees were hired and the bank loan I personally guaranteed was in full force. Not something I could easily back out of.
The business I was originally in love with went totally against what my real life goals were. I didn't realize it until it was too late. Yeah, I'm an idiot, but it happens all the time.
So what was the problem?
Number one, I never sat down to think about what my life goals really were and if this business was in-line with them. I was blinded by the endless possibilities of money, prestige and what I thought would be freedom. Number two, I think I let my dreaming get in the way of reality. If I sat down and looked at my life goals, I would have realized that brick and mortar retail was not the best fit.
My Life Goals
We homeschool our 4 kids (when I say we, I mean my wife, on top of helping run our business). One of our goals has always been educational travel with the kids. Instead of reading about history, we could travel around the world and let them experience it first hand. I guess this goals fits into our bigger goals of building a really strong family. What family wouldn't want that as a goal?
I have some other life goals, but in the end, my main life goal revolves around experiences with the family.
But here was the problem, the business I chose was not conducive to my life goals.
When it comes to retail:
- You have a fixed location which ties you to a geographic area
- You have tons of overhead and potential financial responsibilities
- You have employees that need you to train, manage and mentor
- You have enormous pressure to market and keep people walking through the doors due to your overhead
I think it was the exact opposite of what I should have chosen as a business.
Now let me say there is nothing at all wrong with retail, I'm actually still involved in it and do enjoy it, but it required enormous overhaul (and a few years) on my part to get it working properly to fit in with my life goals.
If I had chosen a different type of business, I could have saved myself lots of heartache and stress. It's like trying to force a square peg into a round hole….if you push with enough force you may eventually get it through, but wouldn't it be easier if you chose a round peg to start with?
To make things work I had to learn how to hire and train great people, learn how to let go and delegate and to build operational systems that could take me out of the equation when possible.
So what would I have done differently?
- I would have started with understanding what my real life goals were as a starting point
- I would have evaluated if the business I wanted to start would help or hinder those goals. You have to be honest here, it's easy to gloss over things when you're in love with your business idea.
- I would have done more research. If I had spoken to more retailers, I would have learned more about what I was getting into and challenges I was going to face.
- I would have made sure my life and business goals were in-line with each other.
It's never too late to re-align your business and your life. It's easier to do it from the beginning, but if you're in the middle, you can do it too. If I did it, anyone can.