Close your eyes and imagine that for a minute. Could you do it? What would happen? This is a great focus question. But for me, it is suddenly more than a hypothetical …
Do You Have A Lifestyle Business?
My business, The API Guys, is a lifestyle business. So were the other seven businesses I have started. I bet yours is too, whether you call it that or not.
I break small businesses into two categories: lifestyle businesses and payday businesses.
My definition of a “lifestyle business” is a closely held small business with no planned exit. This makes up the majority of small businesses in the country. Realtors, restaurant owners, local newspaper publishers, and ad agencies are all lifestyle businesses. So are Infusionsoft Certified Consultants, virtual assistants and business coaches.
(By the way, being a lifestyle business doesn’t mean the business isn’t salable. It just means it isn’t built and run with a sale as the primary aim. I have recently sold one of my businesses, PoloSkilz Network, and am in the middle of selling another.)
The difference is a “payday business” is one you build with an exit as the specific intent. Whether that be an IPO or just to build and flip, the end game is a big payday at the end for founders and investors. Infusionsoft, for example, is a payday business.
Which are you?
Because of the different end games, these two types of business are fundamentally different. They are run differently. They care about different things.
The payday business MUST optimize for one thing: growth. Without rapid growth, there can be no big payday. The faster the growth, the bigger the payday.
Growth attracts top talent, investors, drives up multiples, and is the “raison d’etre” for the payday company. When you hear “start-up”, this is the stereotype.
The lifestyle business, while potentially fast-growing, does the opposite. Because there is no exit on the horizon, the lifestyle business optimizes for some combination of three things: time, income and mobility for the owners.
The relative importance of these three is different for every lifestyle business. One business owner may be 100% focused on cash flow while another places equal value on all three.
There may also be secondary motives, such as impact or celebrity. But, generally, the purpose of a lifestyle business is to provide the owners with an ample amount of disposable time, money and the mobility to spend those when, where and how she chooses.
So you DO own a lifestyle business. Are you acting like one?
I have a personal reason for this musing. Each year, when I create my new goals for the coming year, I typically have between five and eight goals. But this year I found I could wrap most of my business and personal goals into one single, overarching goal:
To be able to spend a month in Argentina, playing polo every day, disconnected from the business (for the most part), without it falling apart.
This goal requires a pivot. Up until I moved to Aiken and built my farm, my businesses emphasized income over time and mobility. But this goal requires all three. This is a scary goal. Seriously … scary … goal.
But wait … there’s more. It’s now more than a goal. It’s real. As of Thursday, it’s not a goal, it’s a plan.
I am leaving the middle of January 2016. I have the blessing of my amazing husband. I have committed to playing in a tournament while I am there, against a South African team who will then host us, in August 2016. I have the opportunity to live one of my greatest fantasies … And now the hard work begins!
Because this trip is now out there … I have to take a hard look at my business and figure out what needs to change to make this a reality. All I have done is a first pass and the list is loooong.
What is your most productive day of the year?
It is always the day before you leave on vacation, right? Because you have a to-do list and a deadline. And somehow … it all gets done. Well, this trip is sort of like that.
Here is what I have learned in the last few days … while The API Guys is definitely a lifestyle business – and many would look at it and think it is a pretty good lifestyle business – I just realized it is not even close to what it could be … or needs to be. And to pull this trip off, I am going to have to optimize the heck out of it. I am also going to have to let go … of a lot! A good thing.
The good news is I have a great team … who don’t know about this yet! I also happen to be an expert in the best tool possible for optimizing a lifestyle business … Infusionsoft.
So, my plan is to share some of my optimization plan with you and how it is going. But you don’t get to sit in the bleachers and watch. I want you to learn and grow along with me. I want to challenge you … (Don’t worry. You don’t have to ride a horse!)
This trip may end up being the best thing I could possibly do … not just to check something off my bucket list or to improve my polo game … but for my business. It has radically changed the lens through which I see my business … overnight.
What if you did the same? Is there some major bucket list item that would require a lot of time, money and flexibility? Plan it. Do it right now.
If not that, imagine you were going on my trip with me. What would have to change in your business?
I’ll write about what I need to optimize in my business in hopes it will help you think about yours. But it would be awesome if you would do the same and leave your thoughts in the comments. That will help the rest of us think differently about ours …
And finally, do you identify with the lifestyle business label? Some people think it is derogatory. Or they just don’t think of their business as being about supporting a lifestyle. Let me know that too … I am curious what comes to mind.