Are YOU Your “People Problem?”

people problem - image via creative commons

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  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.

36 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    You are correct, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that no one can go it alone. It might feel nice being the keystone that supports the business but it sucks when you have to choose because you set it up that way. I’ve been through that and learned the lesson a lot harder than I should have.

    There is a saying “work to live , not live to work.”

  2. devacoach
    devacoach says:

    I’ve been thinking I have a people (read ME) problem for awhile now but haven’t done anything about it. This post is a timely and much needed reminder to get off my ass and make some changes. That’s what I do so easily for others in my work and yet for myself? Not so much.

    It’s time.

  3. Tom Salzer
    Tom Salzer says:

    I am confident you’ll not “…live with a grey space…” for the rest of your life. From your writing, I sense there is too much life and love and laughter bubbling inside you to accept such a life.

    With regard to your post: sometimes we are our own worst people problem. Yes, sometimes the skills and behaviors that get us to a place also block us from taking the next step. It takes a lot of introspection and a certain willingness to evolve to become a chrysalis over and over on the pathways of life we choose.

    This is as good a time as any to say: thank you. Thank you for what you share. Thank you for the introspection, and how it helps me look in the mirror. Thank you for the guffaws that burst forth when I read your words. Just…thank you.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      You’re welcome, Tom…and than YOU as well. I figure if I can’t talk about my own BS, I don’t have any right pondering anyone else’s. Therapy starts at home, y’know? 🙂

  4. Cherry Woodburn
    Cherry Woodburn says:

    If I’ve been out of balance in my life, which I have, it has leaned more to life or really being a mom. Now that my sons are grown and on their own for several years I still have not found my new balance. I will and your post was a reminder. THanks.

  5. J
    J says:

    I SO agree with this. It took my 27 years to realize that my career doesn’t define me. My happiness does. Which is why I make time to eat a cookie at least twice (or 6 times) a day.

  6. BibliophileGirl
    BibliophileGirl says:

    Well, it’s official – you have become part of my morning (or noon) rounds of blogs that I read religiously. 🙂

    I can so relate to this – although I am not the one running the business, my parents are. And soon my husband (and to a lesser degree, I) will be.

    I have the same outlook in that your career is your career – and while important it should never overtake your life. Being on the receiving end of cancelling attendance at plays, dinner and such…it’s not fun. I plan to email this to my husband immediately; and if I develop the nerve, I will send it to my parents as well. Otherwise, they will never retire. 🙂 Thank you!

  7. John
    John says:

    This reminds me of my ‘lost year’ – 168 nights away from home, they’re called hotel nights – they really are ‘alone nights’. All that dedication got me was a 20% pay cut the following year when the business became financially unstable. a.k.a. the owner f**kd up and over borrowed. I continue to work diligently and consistently in business. But, not at the risk of missing those all too important conversations, “how was your day honey?” and, oh yes, mean it.
    You’re right about that people problem thing. When you’re having some of those, go look in the mirror. Yikes!

  8. Robert Pregulman
    Robert Pregulman says:

    As a card carrying introvert, this post hit home for me. I often cancel meetings because I either don’t want to deal with people or I think I can get more done if I just keep working (which of course is just an excuse not to meet with). Thanks for the gentle slap upside the head. I’m glad you’re writing again.

  9. Pipsersmom
    Pipsersmom says:

    “seeing the way he tilted his head to one side and raised his eyebrow.” I can just see it…

    Excellent piece, as usual. I don’t run a business, but I run a home…and this hit me right between the eyes. I’ve been so caught up in “getting things done” that I’ve missed out on alot.

  10. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing. For me, letting go of “stuff” both in my personal world and work world is the crux…life happens the way it’s supposed to, relax and enjoy!


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