It seems everyone wants to grow their business at all costs, to be the next Atlassian. But trying to do that can take a huge chunk out of your life.
“Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.”
― Françoise Sagan
Striving to grow a business fast, all hours of your days, can waste a lifetime better spent….. living. People at the end of their lives talk about how good people in their life was all that mattered.
And the percentage of fast growth businesses that do really well is very small. Fast growth usually costs time, margins and cash. Lots of each.
There is another path. Successful lifestyle businesses allow people to have great lives, and there are a lot of great examples around when you start looking for it.
Lifestyle businesses can be very profitable as well as much less drain on you personally. That’s not to say they can’t grow, just that you get to better choose the quality of the growth.
Dent Business Accelerators talk about the typical business lifestyle journey, that ahead of a lifestyle business is “the desert“. A very unpleasant place. Clearly most businesses never make it out the other side but live in a perpetual state of turmoil and fear.
If you design and run your businesses to be a lifestyle businesses it doesn’t preclude you from growing, it doesn’t preclude you from selling the business at a good price. In many cases it may well have the opposite effect. If you focus on margins, simplicity and quality your business may well be more attractive to a buyer. Let the next owners focus on growth, based on your great foundations of quality and client satisfaction.
There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.
If you have been aiming for fast growth and burning yourself up in the process you can pull back. You just need to prune and weed your business like a garden in spring.
STEP 1 – Prune Your Clients
Work out the margins on all your clients and better manage the troublesome and unprofitable. Charge them fair fees plus extra for being troublesome (unprofitable clients are often the most troublesome). Sort clients by margin and draw a line thought at the level that is the most efficient for you, not them. Repeat this process regularly, perhaps once a quarter.
STEP 2 – Outsource Non-core Processes to Experts
Don’t try to do your own dentistry, or worse, employ a cheap dentist with no qualifications because that’s what bigger businesses do.
STEP 3 – Have Great People
It sounds counterintuitive but expensive people are often more cost effective, and a lot more satisfying to work with. Work with experts that want to run their own mini lifestyle business, give them a fair margin. They should be responsible for all of their hours being billable. Employ smart juniors that can enjoy working with experts, and clients, and have a great life. Nurture and defend the culture vigorously. Don’t hesitate to terminate people that don’t make the grade or cause trouble.
STEP 4 – Cut Out Busy Work
Great lifestyle businesses don’t need “senior management”, they usually don’t have offices, or inhouse HR, or mountains of polices. They live and play client focus. If someone only wants to focus internally, get rid of them.
“ I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle. ”—Arthur Dent’s statement that caused the Vl’hurg’s war[src]