In the beginning
If you’re like many of our clients, you had a picture in your mind when you started your business of what you wanted to do. You could clearly see how your first office or store would look. You imagined your customers and employees. You saw yourself in the center of it all. You understood that it would be hard work, but what you dreamed for your future would be worth the sweat equity you’d put in for the first year or so.
Or so you told yourself.
So you worked harder for longer days, then added some evenings and most weekends. And now you’re always there. You can’t make it home for dinner as often as before. You’ve missed most of your daughter’s soccer games. The idea of taking a vacation this year is impossible. As you sacrifice more and more to keep it all together, you feel like your life is shrinking.
Fast forward another year. Have you noticed that as time’s gone on, you’ve stopped imagining what you wanted the business to be because you’re now completely caught up in the day-to-day running of it? Are you so far in it at this point that you can’t imagine not being there? Has the dependency on you become so great that you now feel trapped? Has the entrepreneurial dream you had in the beginning vanished?
Meet Bob and Elsie
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of coaching Bob and Elsie, the owners of a successful custom home-building and remodeling company located in Maryland. I’ll always remember the story Bob told me during our first meeting, when I asked why they decided to enroll in our coaching program. In Bob’s words, they were “fed up.” They had opened the business 20 years ago and grown it to a profitable $8 million enterprise with 18 employees. They were recognized for their award-winning designs and had a wonderful reputation with the communities they served, but they had one major frustration: The business could not run without them. Bob was president of the construction services and sales, and Elsie ran the administrative operations (which included finance, purchasing, human resources, and front office management).
One day, a good friend came by to show off his brand new motorhome. He took Bob and Elsie on a quick ride around the neighborhood and within minutes, they were hooked.
Bob and Elsie were in their late fifties. They had four grandchildren and had always talked about spending more time with them. After their ride in the motorhome that day, they thought how fun it would be to take their grandkids on some weekend camping trips exploring the national parks in their state. Then they dreamed up a vacation idea where they would drive their new motorhome across the country, taking a month off and visiting some relatives that lived up in Oregon. They fell so in love with the idea that Bob contacted the manufacturer in Florida for a catalog and placed an order. A month later, they flew down to pick it up and drove it back to Maryland.
They began taking weekend trips with their grandchildren, but still put only a few hundred miles on the motorhome over the summer. The following year was the same. Then, one Friday night, Bob got home late from the office, parked his car in the driveway, and stared at their big, beautiful motorhome parked in the back.
The question suddenly hit him: After all these years of working so hard to build up his business, why couldn't he get away for more than a few days?
Bob told me that he just sat there in his car, exhausted—but determined. After dinner that evening, he went into his study, pulled The EMyth Revisited from his shelf, and spent the weekend rereading it.
He called us on Monday morning.
The New Picture Comes Into Focus
Bob and Elsie decided to take their life back and were ready to transform their business so it served that life. First, they talked seriously to identify a set of personal aspirations and specific timeframes in which they aimed to accomplish them. Number one on the list was the month-long motorhome trip to Oregon. They emphasized that they wanted the business to function independently enough that they would not have to do daily check-ins while they were away. As their coach, this was a critical part of their goal because I knew they would need to reimagine their current organizational structure.
Next, they needed to imagine (and believe) that the business could operate successfully if they were not there. This was not difficult for Bob, but Elsie was full of doubt. “Elsie,” I said, “cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people.” I assured her it was possible. I’d seen it over and over with other clients who felt the same way. We talked about how she had to begin seeing her people in a whole new way; how she needed to look inside herself to discover why she was afraid to let go. We talked about how all the things that needed to be done already lived inside of her as systems that we would begin to pull out and document. She could then train her staff to do the work and get the same great results she did.
She began to relax, and even get a little excited.
The truth is, Elsie had been secretly wishing she could spend less time at the office for years. She wanted to volunteer more at a local senior center, and their daughter was expecting another baby; Elsie wanted to be able to help out more this time. Bob was also ready to give some serious thought to their ultimate exit strategy.
They took this new picture they had built in their minds and wrote it down. They described how the business would need to look, act, feel, and perform without their day-to-day management, while at the same time continuing to grow and operate profitably. They set a timeframe of five years to ultimately retire, but built in major benchmarks—like the trip to Oregon—to provide those important milestones along the way.
As their coach, I now had my roadmap.
I began guiding them through our process for developing a business using our unique approach to designing and setting up systems, as well as engaging and empowering their people to be a part of this new vision so the business could run without Bob and Elsie. Most importantly, they began relating differently to the business and became so focused on achieving our five-year plan that they accomplished that first Oregon milestone in 18 months.
There is a whole lot more I could tell you about Bob and Elsie’s journey, but the most important point is this: By taking back their life and asking that all-important question—After all these years of working so hard to build up his business, why couldn’t they get away for more than a few days?—they reached a significant turning point in developing a new relationship with their business.
(And when they took that month-long trip across the country to Oregon, they even swung by the EMyth offices to meet me and our entire team, so they could say “thank you” in person!)
It’s Never Too Late
I’d like you to stop whatever you’re doing right now and remember why you decided to become a business owner; I bet it wasn’t to have less time, less money, and less freedom. Like Bob and Elsie, there comes a moment when you wake up and remember what you’re working for.
So now what? How do you get back on track?
You make a decision.
Your business is a means to an end. It’s a vehicle to give you more life. If you’re ready to explore what that means for you, talk with one of our coaches. We’ve spent the last 40 years helping business owners create a picture of their business when it works, and then guiding them on a journey to build, develop, and transform the business they have to the business they dreamed about in the beginning.
To schedule a FREE session with an EMyth Coach and start creating your picture, click here.