Now in my fifth decade as a business owner, this Baby Boomer has been reflecting on what’s been learned that would benefit the next generation of entrepreneurs.
It’s understandable to focus most of our attention on the many hard fundamentals of how to sustain a successful small business operation. But after logging many hours in that tangible mode, you’ll discover that it’s just as critical to respect the softer entrepreneurial intangibles that tend to be the human being behind the venture. And those who recognize and incorporate these in their approach to ownership are more likely to achieve that elusive holy grail of human intangibles: happiness.
In that spirit, allow me to offer two intangibles that are just as essential to business success as cash flow and profitability:
1. Function: Your ability to achieve high function physically, mentally, and emotionally.
2. Balance: Navigating across the line of demarcation between your business and your personal life.
Out here on Main Street, being one with your business is not only a good thing, but it’s also essential. You’re responsible for everything your business does or fails to do. Unfortunately, extreme commitment weaves a fine seam between business life and life away from the business. And entrepreneurial single-mindedness will often result in the opposite of that holy grail: a business in jeopardy run by an unhappy human.
The best way to be successful AND happy is to define success in many ways, including having a life that’s balanced with richness outside of the business. Getting that new customer on board is an essential part of your business’s future. But making the time to attend a child’s activity in the middle of the day is an intangible that produces a dotted-line contribution to the long-term well-being of your business.
A small business is more like a patchwork quilt than a gilded security blanket. Some patches are about the business, others are about the owner, and some are hard to tell. Some patches represent good things and some not so much. Success will be found more often by those owners who find a way to be happy regardless of which patch is in front of them, demanding attention.
Having multiple touchstones of success, not just money and stuff, helps keep the rough patches in business and life in proper perspective. If your ownership quest was weighted heavily on achieving financial success, good for you; as a capitalist, I respect and admire that motivation. But if you think being rich will make you happy, get your umbrella out because I’m going to rain on that parade with these two truths:
1. Wealth only provides options, not a guarantee of happiness. Ask any billionaire.
2. If you can’t be happy without money and stuff, you aren’t likely to be happy with it. Ask any billionaire’s ex-spouse.
Now let’s talk about fun.
The most successful business owners I know are those who’ve learned that one of the keys to their success is to run a tight ship while encouraging their people to laugh and find joy in their work. Every workday that goes by without some kind of joy is a precious opportunity lost.
Three thoughts on fun and happiness:
1. The happiest people have learned how to laugh at themselves – daily.
2. Make being happy an intangible business fundamental essential to success.
3. Take your business very seriously without taking yourself seriously.
Write this on a rock … Live a balanced business life – focus on the tangibles and intangibles of business success.