Why are you in this business? There’s no right or wrong answer to that question, so there can be a temptation to not really stop and think about the answer. But, while it might not be important for everyone to agree on their answer, it is important that everyone have an answer. Why? Because our answer to this question serves as the foundation for many other questions. What I’m really asking you to do is to think about your ultimate motivation and then to make sure everything else is congruent with that motivation.
Before I just jump into this, let me first say that these so-called ‘soft skill’ posts are always my least popular. But, I think they’re important, so I’m going to keep writing them. I don’t get paid by how many hits my blog posts get, so I don’t need to title every post “4 Ways To make $1,000,000 in 2016” or “7 Quick Steps to Streamline Your Business”. Deep down, I have the ‘soul’ of a teacher, and sometimes that means writing what I need we need to hear more than what we want to hear.
So, back to motivation. If you read any books or watch any movies, you’re probably familiar with a popular plot line. It goes something like this: A person gets so caught up in his work that he begins to hurt his or her relationships. If it’s a story about relationships, then it might be the career woman who has poured everything into becoming the CEO of a company or head editor of a publication and suddenly finds herself at 37 alone as all of her closest friends are married and have children. If it’s a story about family, it might be a man who thinks he’s doing the right thing by working 70 hours a week to “put food on the table” and give his family the things he never had, but he slowly starts to lose touch and his kids resent him and his marriage grows cold. If we wanted, we could have a long conversation about the social commentary of these tales, but I just want to draw one point from them. Ultimately, what these stories are is a protagonist being confronted by competing motivations and, after some soul-searching, realizing that their motivations were either wrong, or they’ve been improperly balanced.
My goal for you, and for me, is to make sure that from the beginning we have a clear idea of what our motivations are so that we can make sure that our business decisions reflect that. To cement the point, let me give some illustrations about how our actions might not be congruent with our motivations.
Are you in business because you want to make life a little easier for your family? The logic might be that only a few hundred bucks a month can make a big improvement for your family. True enough, but is it possible that in attempting to achieve this you make life miserable for your family? Did you used to have a ‘family room’ that is now a room stuffed with overflowing boxes and piles of products? Is no date night complete without a night cap of Walmart clearance runs? These things might be fine, on their own, but what I’m trying to prod you to consider is whether it’s possible that you could make your family life worse in an attempt to make it better.
Are you in business because you want more time and freedom? Worthy goal, but something might get lost in the application of that goal and somehow working 45 hours/wk has turned into working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week at your own business. Again, nothing might be inherently wrong with that, but if your goal is to have more time and you end up having less time, it might be worth pausing and asking yourself what you really want this to look like.
Are you in business because you’re tired of that rat race of a job and you want to build a business? Well, most people doing FBA aren’t building a business, they’re building a job. Author, Michael Gerber, writes, “Too many entrepreneurs start out with passion and drive, to only find themselves with a lousy job a few years later, working their butts off for little or no reward.” Pulling further from Gerber, he highlights three personality traits that business owners might have:
- Technicians – live in the present: Experts in doing stuff, craftsman at their trade. Their ethos is captured by the statement “you want it done right, do it yourself”.
- Managers – live in the past: Pragmatic in nature, planning order, creating predictability
- Entrepreneurs – live in the future: They turn a trivial condition into exceptional opportunity, true visionaries and catalysts for change. They are focused on the bigger picture continually questioning the business and its place as opposed to operating it.
His contention is that most people who start their own business are NOT entrepreneurs (hence, his ‘E-Myth’). On the contrary, he argues, most people are technicians and this is why most business owners haven’t really created a business, they’ve created a job. If you want to read more about this, I’ll recommend the book E-Myth Revisited for about the 85th time.
We could keep going, but my goal is to highlight the point, not highlight every possible manifestation of the concept. The point is this: unless we understand our true motivations, we cannot make correct decisions about a whole host of issues: How much time to put into the business; How much money to take out of the business; When to take money out of the business; When/If to hire employees; When to take time off; etc.
As a tangential point, it’s probably a good idea to make sure the people closest to you understand your motivations and are more or less in agreement. If a husband wants to build a $10 million business and a wife wants to have more time, you have a recipe for problems down the road. There was a thread on the facebook page this week that looked at family who were not supportive. That’s a hard place to be, but I’ll try to offer just a tiny bit of practical advice: Make sure they get to feel the positives of the business, not just the negatives. To clarify, every business has Pros and Cons, but sometimes those closest to us get to feel a lot more of the Cons. They get less time, they get less space, they get you with a higher stress level, they get to have 5 minute trips to the grocery store turn into 90 minute sourcing adventures. Maybe that’s just a reality of life in the short term, but I think that it can be helpful if we’re intentional about making sure they get to feel the positives also. Q4 is coming to a close and many of you have been reinvesting every last cent into this business. Maybe this is a good opportunity to take advantage of some of the fruits of your labor and share them with those who care about you. Depending on where you’re at with this business, it might mean taking your husband to an NFL game to thank him for dealing with your craziness. It might mean taking your family on an unplanned vacation. It might just mean showing up to the kids’ baseball games that you’ve missed the last 10 years because of work. I’m not claiming that this will solve all disagreements or even that I’m particularly qualified to give advice on this subject (Jessica actually dragged me into this business, not vice versa!), but it might be one small step that can help. (P.S. This point isn’t only applicable for those who are married or have families. YOU should feel the pros of your business also. Many of you have worked your tails off for months. Maybe it’s time you get to enjoy some of the rewards of that investment.)
Back to motivations.
A couple months ago, I implored you all to create goals. Most of you didn’t. Part of that is that is just human nature. Taking time to write goals doesn’t add to your bank account today, so it’s easy to put it off. It’s also easy to rationalize and say that you already know what your goals are and there’s no reason you need to print out a piece of paper and write them down, the research be damned! It’s probably also my fault. I need to learn to write in a more compelling way.
Regardless, I’m now imploring you to pause and to consider your motivations. Why are you in this business? Specifically. What do you want out of it? After that, all that’s left is the real work: making sure that every business decision ultimately reflects those motivations.
Next Friday is Christmas. One of my motivations for becoming self employed was not wanting to work Nights, Weekends, and Holidays anymore! If you want to work on Christmas, have at it, but I won’t be here. I’ll be back blogging the following week, though, to bring in the New Year. So, for the last time this year, I’ll say what I always say…