While business-as-usual defines success as rocket financial achievement (generating revenue to its investors), there’s another breed of people that perceives success as providing the financial means to support the ideal career-life balance, working with what they love. They are called lifestyle business owners.
You can call yourself a solopreneur, self-employed, freelancer, one-person business owner, independent professional or even you are founder of a business with a small team. The configuration matters less than the motivation behind your zest to start your own practice. And if it is to find means to live a life that makes sense for you, instead of building an empire, maybe you are a lifestyle business owner without even knowing it.
It's not that you don't want to be rich in some sense. You want to travel, to spend time doing what you like, enjoy your family and friends, and have a career that allows you all that, while doing something that you love. Is it too much to ask?
Even though the startup model is a seductive way to reach that dream, tons of people are choosing the consistent and sustainable growth path instead of the crazy paced one, by keeping the business as simple as possible.
The startup model is growth-based. That means that the main goal is to create financial gain for its founders and investors and, ultimately, being sold for lots of money. They also create great value, of course, making our lives easier. Commonly it starts with someone trying to solve a problem they’re passionate about, and after working hard and failing a lot (that part we usually don't see) they got to create a million-dollar business.
The problem is, in my perspective, the purpose: to make money, to be profitable, even if the company vision features the most altruistic intention that one can imagine, the ultimate objective will always be financial gain and enterprise value. It's all about scaling up, regardless of the personal and environmental consequences. As you already know, that involves great time investment, lots of money, high risk, and also some burnouts.
On the other hand, the definition of success in a lifestyle business is to provide the financial means to support the founder's ideal work-life balance. You may think that it sounds like settling for something small, lazy or too modest, but it's actually quite the opposite. Lifestyle entrepreneurs are in a search for a personally rewarding work, selecting carefully their set of like-minded clients to offer mostly a high specialised services, usually connected with their personal interests. It’s not about quantity, as if you offer a great value you can charge more for it.
The model is freedom-based, requires less investment, it's designed to generate profits from day one, and tends to be less risky. The list below can illuminate the way to your self-reflection on this.
You can describe your work and your business as:
( ) Personally rewarding, normally based in your personal interests;
( ) Enjoying the time spent working it's crucial. Work is a source of pleasure and fulfilment;
( ) Freedom, flexibility, purpose and work-life balance are central;
( ) It's normally a service-based business;
( ) The business model outsource everything beyond the founder core skill sets;
( ) It's run by one person or a small team;
( ) The outcome is normally highly specialised, delivering great value;
( ) Targeting a very specific and selective niche, with a highly personal, trustful evolvement;
( ) The brand essence overlaps the founder's personal brand;
( ) It's usually a borderless business, where geographic barriers doesn't matter much (work from anywhere);
( ) The business has low fixed cost, with value mostly based on the founder's intellectual capital or some "special sauce";
( ) It's not easily replicated and to scale or leave a legacy it's not the goal, quality of life and to serve are.
You are eager to create something bigger, better, softer, soulful, and regenerative. Your brand is directly connected with your personal brand or self, so it must translate your essence, your vision and your purpose. It needs to be honest, elegant, and at the same time compelling.
You need to connect with your audience on a human level, and as your service is exclusive and unique, you won't be targeting the whole universe, but a really specific (and special) kind of people that will value your offer. So you need a magnetic proposal that connects exactly with what your audience is desperately already searching for, and you need to make that simple and clear.
A couple years ago acknowledge all that would sound embarrassing. The only goal possible would be to become a bigger company. Companies of one would pretend to be big corporations, with websites assembling the global brands ones. Working from home and not having employees were signs of failure. Well… not anymore.
The trend that started with the digital nomads became true for almost everyone during the pandemic, and being honest about what makes us happy (and also what make business more profitable) became the new rule.
People started to realize that keeping the business simple and the value high could be a recipe for a new type of (self-defined) success. Instead of high fixed costs, we noticed that it was possible to work from home, with the freedom to choose times and dates to do so. We also realized that we could outsource everything beyond our core skill, collaborating on projects with super talented professionals from all over the world, that we would never be able to maintain in our team on a full time basis.
Being honest about what we want as founders and our real organization’s aspirations is a bold move. Giving up all the complex processes and systems that made us feel important in the past could be hard or even counterintuitive, but could also be the key to financial sustainability and personal fulfilment.
Finding our sweet spot is not simple (being there!) and showing ourselves proudly to the world is really not a cup of tea. The most common sentiment for lifestyle businesses owner in that sense are:
The good news is that branding could be one way to solve that, because the process of creating and building a brand passes naturally to uncover the business essence, digging deep until the core and asking again the important and tough questions (and every time we are lost in difficult questions, turning back to the essence is the most effective solution).
It’s the opposite of searching for more (books, courses, coaching sessions, webinars, workshops), trying to figure out solutions when the problem is still not well defined. Those examples are typical for the execution phase, when the core is solid and the north star is already shining bright. That’s an easy decision for companies that are starting, but a hard one for well-established organizations that could feel like moving backwards, even though this step will help them move in full speed in the near future, after having a clear compass and getting rid of all complexity.
A strong and crystal clear brand proposition is the essence and the foundation where we build the entire business presence. Gives clarity, direction, a tool set to operate and a couple of important answers that we can come back to every time we lose track or feel lost about the future.
Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business, from Paul Jarvis is an excellent book tip to know more about Lifestyle Business concept.
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