I ventured out yesterday to be with people. Yeah, I know that sounds nothing like an accomplishment of sorts, but my public appearances lately have been limited. I spoke at the Angel Capital Summit to a crowd that was standing room only, and after the initial piss-my-pants moment…I liked it. I especially liked the topic I was invited to speak on: building the unpopular brand. I spoke about five things that the branding process must include (and graphic design wasn’t one of them). And number four on the list is scalability, my favorite part of the subject.
I’ve recognized and been kicked in the heart by the simple fact that a business is just that: business. I asked my audience how many times they’d:
- called home to say they’d be missing dinner
- cancelled a date
- missed their son’s soccer game or their daughter’s play
- answered a call or checked email during lunch or dinner
Because those things suck, and if you’re running a business at the expense of your life, you’ve got the wrong business model.
And I can tell ya, as a woman who lives each day with a certain weight of regret on her shoulders for putting tangibles above the intangibles, you don’t want to be in my shoes. I knew what I had when I had it – and I’ll now live with a grey space for the rest of my life, wondering what might have happened if I’d only closed the laptop and turned off the phone a few more times.
I made a commitment to myself: I will work, and I will live. The two will gloriously intertwine, dance together like Fred and Ginger and croon like the finest a cappella ensemble. But there will be a time when I turn off the phone, close my laptop. I’ll build my life so I can take calls from those I care for and be by their side. I won’t sacrifice my opportunities to create memories, because no matter what hour of the work day, here are the things that matter:
- Taking a call because you know it will make you smile.
- Opening your door to see him standing there with a smile, small dog, a DVD and a bouquet of flowers.
- The way he tickled your arm…every time.
- Seeing the way he tilted his head to one side and raised his eyebrow.
- How he hugged you.
- The feel of a kiss.
- The feel of semi-burned popcorn in one hand and his hand in the other.
- Hearing him ask about your day…and mean it.
Substitute “she.” Add a “they.” Maybe what matters in your life is different, but without those things above, I realize I have fuck all.
Your business has to learn to live without you. You need to pull a Jim Collins and find the right people to put on the bus. If you can’t leave your business and find you’re consistently sacrificing your life, you don’t have a problem with your business model. You have a people problem.
And you might be one of them.
I don’t believe in the myth of the “solopreneur.” No business (and no man) is an island, so why do we keep kidding ourselves into believing we are? I don’t know about you, but I love having people in my life, personally and professionally, that I can trust. It didn’t happen overnight and so far as I know, they haven’t opened a Trust Boutique where you can just get 100% guaranteed friendships and productive colleagues. It’s a bumpy road to travel, but I wouldn’t trade the nails in my tires for anything.
Live, learn, grow. Find time to laugh. Screw serious. Lighten up. Build your business to run without you and stop planning for “missed revenue” because you’re taking a vacation. That shit should be able to go on autopilot when you – and the people who fill your heart and create memories – want to get the hell out of dodge.
Fix your business model, and promise yourself it’ll never be broken again.