Here we are at the beginning of a new year (and a new decade!)—an incredible moment that offers the opportunity to metaphorically wipe the slate clean and start fresh. And what if you really could start fresh, start anew? What if this were the year you could achieve the dream we know so many business owners have, the dream of freedom in their life from a business that makes that life possible?
Whether you know it or not, the business you have right now, with all its imperfections, could be your path to the life of your dreams. Your business is supposed to serve your life, not the other way around. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn’t work that way.
Most business owners I know work hard, are passionate about their product or service, and are making, selling and delivering something that people want. But it’s just not enough. They don’t get back from their business what they put into it. Business owners are often consumed by their business. Their business consumes their life rather than giving them more freedom in it.
If that sounds like you, don’t worry. It’s a painful reality that you absolutely have the power to change.
We’ve spent the last 40 years at EMyth helping business owners take back their life. To us, that means creating a business you love leading and a life you love living. From the place you’re standing that might seem like “pie in the sky,” but it’s exactly the kind of transformation we see every day in businesses and in the lives of business owners throughout the United States and around the world.
So with all the possibilities of the new year still before you, I’d like to highlight four key drivers behind making your business the vehicle for achieving your dreams that it was meant to be. There’s no better time to take back your life than right now.
1. Discover what you want for your life
Maybe you’ve never actually thought about or written down what you want your life to look like. Maybe you’re frustrated with the way things are, but have never really considered how you’d like them to be. Maybe you once had a dream, but the difficult realities of your life caused you to abandon it.
Whatever the circumstances, to take back your life you need to know what makes your life rewarding. What motivates you? What makes you feel most alive? What do you really care about? This kind of discovery process opens the door to a rewarding life lived on purpose.
2. Create a vision for your business that serves your life
This bears repeating: The purpose of your life is not to serve your business. The purpose of your business is to serve your life. Once you know what you want for your life—and once you’ve committed to living with intention—then you can ask yourself: What would your business have to look like to give you the life you want to live?
If you want your business to give you more freedom, then you have to create a world that energizes you rather than drains you, one that takes into account your dreams and goals in every aspect of your life, not just the goals you have for a successful business.
For example, if you want a business that supports your family but doesn’t depend on you to be there all or even some of the time, then you have to create a vision for a business that can operate self-sufficiently.
If you want to spend less time doing tactical work (like selling, meeting with customers or getting jobs out the door) and become the leader your business needs and deserves, then you have to create a vision of a business in which you’re not occupying the Technician position boxes (or all the boxes) on your organization chart.
If you want to sell your company in the next five years, or the next 15, you need to think about how your business needs to be structured to make that possible.
If you want to take back your life as a business owner, there should be a direct and purposeful relationship between your vision for your life and your vision for your business.
3. Change the way you spend your time
This is where things get really challenging. You have to change. You have to develop new skills that won’t feel comfortable at the start but will become second nature before too long. You also have to drop some long-ingrained habits and behaviors. There’s no getting around it.
In my blog, “Work ON it, not just IN it,” I talk about the three personalities that live inside most business owners—the Technician, the Manager, and the Entrepreneur—and how difficult it is to create a business that really works when the Technician is running things most of the time. Technicians naturally build their businesses around their own ability to produce results. You probably already know that this is never going to give you the freedom you went into business to find.
Your business is a place to invest time in developing the skills of your inner Manager and inner Entrepreneur. It’s a place to learn how to let go of your need to do things yourself so you can be sure they’re done right, and begin instead to inspire others to produce results according to your values and standards. Once you awaken your other personalities and give them time and focus, they will give you back so much in return. Your managerial personality loves turning chaos into order through structure. Your entrepreneurial personality loves turning the present into the future through innovation. To take back your life, you need to change the way you spend your time—your most finite and precious resource.
4. Understand the relationship between people and systems in your business
Building a self-sufficient business where you have the choice to either be there or not starts with a deep understanding of the powerful interplay of people and systems. Carefully crafted systems produce consistent, predictable results in a way that reflects your vision, your values and your standards. Thoughtfully developed people bring an inspired, joyful and genuine spirit to the systems that actually make them more effective at their job. When good people and good systems come together in the right balance, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a result that represents your vision but doesn’t depend on you personally to get things done.
This is what it takes to make the transition from where you are today to a business you love leading and a life you love living. It isn’t a mystery; it’s just work. It may be a different kind of work than what you’re used to, but in the end it’s still work. Fulfilling work. Rewarding work. Work that can be done by anyone who puts their mind and their heart into it. Work that’s worth doing—because you and your business matter.