Tag Archive for 'balance'

Are you looking for answers in the wrong places?

This is a story about three small business owners who had one thing in common: a wise man named Luther. Oh, by the way, Luther is their janitor.

On Mondays, Luther cleans the offices at National Supply Co., Inc. Sometimes he talks with the founder, Mr. Gilbert.

One Monday afternoon Mr. Gilbert said, “Luther, I don’t know how long I can survive.”

“What’s wrong, Mr. G?” Luther asked.

“It’s those big-box competitors,” Mr. Gilbert said. “I’ve looked under every rock for ways to lower our prices and increase advertising, but I just can’t compete with those guys.”

“Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place,” Luther offered.

“What do you mean?” Mr. Gilbert asked.

“Those big competitors will always be with us,” Luther reminded him. “Why don’t you emphasize the value of the human connection and customized service that only a small business like yours can deliver? Those two things alone are worth more than anything the Big Boxes offer.”

On Wednesdays, when Luther cleans the offices at Central Data Corp., he often visits with the owner, Sarah.

“Luther, I always assumed my kids would take over my business, but now it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” Sarah lamented one day.

“Why aren’t they interested in the business?” Luther asked.

“I’m stumped, she said. “I’ve shown them the opportunity and how profitable the business can be. What else can I do?”

“Maybe you’re asking them to look in the wrong place,” Luther suggested.

“What do you mean?” Sarah asked.

“Sarah, I’ve noticed how much you love what you do,” said Luther, “even when times were tougher and things weren’t so rosy. From what I’ve seen, being an entrepreneur is as much about nourishing the spirit as growing the bank account. Help them think about that.”

On Fridays, Luther cleans the offices at Westco Dynamics, Inc. Mr. West usually talks with Luther for a few minutes, but he seemed pensive today.

“Luther, my family was so poor that we struggled just to survive,” Mr. West said. “When I left home, I vowed to never be that unhappy again.”

“Mr. West, it sounds like you’ve got something stuck in your craw,” Luther observed.

“Aw, it’s nothing,” Mr. West fibbed. “It’s just that, with all my money and stuff, I still can’t stop looking for ways to make sure I’ll never be poor again.”

“Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place,” said Luther.

“What do you mean?” Mr. West asked.

Then Luther said, “You’ve been motivated by the fear of being poor instead of the joy of creating something from nothing. Try finding happiness in knowing that you provide valuable products and services for your customers, and jobs and income for your employees and their families. Remember, money and stuff only give you options, not happiness.”

Write this on a rock … When you’re looking for answers, make sure you look in the right places.

Four reasons you should take a vacation from your business

Could you use a vacation?

Of course you could and most of us know time away gives any leader a better perspective. But polls show less than half of small business owners are likely to take off a whole week for vacation.

Perhaps this is a better question: Could your business use a vacation from you?

Of course it could. Your absence will reveal organizational weaknesses that need attention as well as strengths you may have overlooked.

Regardless of your motivations, here are four ideas to consider to help you take more time off.

1.  Define success.
Webster defines success two ways: 1) a favorable outcome; 2) gaining wealth and fame.
Embracing both definitions as having equal value will help you recognize that living long enough to enjoy the fruits of the second definition—with your loved ones—must be part of your success definition.

2.  Hire quality.
Taking time off requires being able to leave your business with a team that’s trustworthy.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of leaving your baby in the care of others, your instincts are probably good, but your hiring practices may not be. Part of your interview process should determine whether a prospect is the quality of individual you would trust with your company in your absence.  By the way, this is one of the best times in history to acquire high-quality talent.  It’s a buyer’s (hirer’s) market.

3. Delegate.
If you’ve already assembled that trustworthy team, their usefulness is limited by your ability to delegate.  Delegating isn’t easy for entrepreneurs; you’ve done all of the jobs, and you know how you want them done. But there’s an old saying that successful delegators embrace, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  If you cringe at the thought of how things won’t be perfect in your absence—get over it.

4. Leverage technology.
No one has to be completely unplugged anymore. There’s plenty of affordable technology that can serve as your security blankie by helping you “mind the store” without actually being there. And if you practice, no one will notice that you checked email on your smart phone while rolling over to tan the other side.

Finally, if you’re not intentional about living a balanced life—that includes vacations—you may accomplish the “wealth and fame” part of success, but the big celebration may involve others toasting you posthumously.

Write this on a rock …

Give yourself—and your business—a vacation.

Defining success in more ways than one



There are times when being one with your small business is not only a good thing, it’s essential. But extreme commitment weaves a fine seam between business and owner. And, unfortunately, entrepreneurial single-mindedness often results in the opposite of what is intended:  a business in jeopardy, run by unhappy humans.


The best way to be a successful AND happy small business owner is to define success in many ways, including having a life that’s balanced with richness outside of the business.


A small business is more like a patchwork quilt than a security blanket.  Some patches represent good things and some not so good. Some patches are about the business, others are about the owner, and some are hard to tell. Small business happiness is found by those owners who feel successful regardless of which patch is in front of them.


Having multiple touchstones of success, not just money and stuff, helps keep the rough patches in business and life in proper perspective. If you became a small business owner to find financial success, good for you; as a capitalist, I admire that motivation.


But if you think just being rich will make you happy, get your umbrella out because I’m going to have to rain on that parade with these two truths:


1.  Wealth only provides options, not a guarantee of happiness.


2.  If you can’t be happy without wealth, you aren’t likely to be happy with it.


Small business success can actually be found in being able to attend a child’s school activity in the middle of the day, as well as in getting a new contract.  And you should be as proud of being able to give back to any worthy cause as you are of the reason you can give back: your business’s financial strength.


Now let’s talk about fun.


Reasonable people disagree on where we will spend eternity, but most agree that this is our only trip through this life. And every moment that goes by without some kind of joy is a precious opportunity lost.


You’re no doubt planning for success this year, but have you made any plans to have fun?  Not your trip to Disney World.  Are you having fun on any given day as you run and grow your business?


If you desire maximum small business success, learn how to run a tight ship while encouraging your people to laugh and find joy in their work.


And one more thing: Be sure to laugh at yourself — in front of others.  Those are usually the best laughs of the day.

Write this on a rock… Define success in more ways than just money and stuff. And don’t forget to have fun.

On Monday, I talked with JoAnna Brandi, The Customer Care Coach, about what it takes to be happy and keep the good and bad stuff in perspective. Take a few minutes to listen and tell us how you keep your life in balance.


For more great Small Business Advocate content, click HERE

Nourish every part of your life

One of the things that has become abundantly clear about modern humans is that there are definite rewards and consequences for the way we live our lives.

The most obvious example is the way we treat our bodies — this stack of protoplasm that drives our spirit around. Surrounded by plenty and extravagance, our eating habits can lead to longevity or brevity. We know that smoking shortens life, as does drug and alcohol abuse. And since more and more of us pursue a sedentary profession, lack of exercise can affect our quality, as well as our length of life.

Recently, a cardiologist friend told me that over half of his practice involved treating patients who were sick because of their lifestyle alone. A sobering statement.

But that is an example of what we do to our flesh and blood. What about that thing I mentioned that is driven around by our protoplasm, the spirit?

At this stage in my life, I’ve noticed that many people my age are emotionally and spiritually adrift. When I use the word “spiritual,” I’m not talking about theology, although that could be part of the equation.

In my anecdotal observation of this phenomenon of humanity, I’ve noticed that everyone I know who fits this “adrift” category has one thing in common: They have lived their lives without having anything in it that was more important than themselves.

This group was more likely to not have an active faith life. They were more likely to have not volunteered over the years for some social, community or religious cause that allowed them to contribute to people whom they would never meet. In short, they had spent very little of their lives putting others first, including their own children.

What have I learned from my observations? I’ve learned that just as we should nourish and exercise our protoplasm, making sure we avoid things that harm our flesh, we should also nourish and exercise our spirit. And in my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to spend as much time as possible putting other people, and worthy beliefs, above our own immediate gratification.

What does this mean for small business owners? I think it means that we should take care not to let our precious business, that we have nurtured from birth and love so much, become the single most important thing in our life. This is a challenge I make to you and I also make it to myself.

Oh, and cut back on the doughnuts and get yourself to the gym a couple of times a week.

A while back on my radio program, I talked about what it takes to be happy with my friend and long time Brain Trust member, Jim Donovan. Jim is an international bestselling author whose books include This is Your Life, Not a Dress Rehearsal and Don’t Let an Old Person Move Into Your Body. Take a few minutes to listen to Jim’s sage advice and leave your thoughts on achieving a work-life balance.

Are you taking charge of your own happiness? with Jim Donovan

Life is short; enjoy every sandwich

In a former life, I sometimes counseled small business owners who were going through a difficult time in their business. The circumstances would be so desperate and the prognosis so dire that the person on whom this business’s buck stopped would be close to being unable to function.

Having been there myself and calling upon what I had learned about what really matters, I would begin a visit with, “How are your children?”

To which they would ask, incredulously, “What?!”

When I asked the same question again, they would invariably respond, “They’re fine. I’m about to lose my business. Why are you asking me about my family?”

To which I would respond, “Does anything else REALLY matter?”

The late 20th century rock star and malcontent, Warren Zevon, succumbed to lung cancer at 52. If poets were punctuation, Zevon was a great, big, bold, in-your-face exclamation point in a world with too many pedestrian periods.

He was also a small business owner.

Having penned songs like my favorite, “Werewolves of London,” and the now ironic, “Life’ll Kill Ya,” Zevon was an independent artist working without a net, passionately creating products in hopes of finding customers who would appreciate and pay for his wares. And we did.

In preparing for death, Zevon had one very important thing to say, especially to small business owners. In an interview with David Letterman, both knowing Zevon’s days were numbered, Letterman asked what he had learned about life: Looking straight through the camera lens into every soul watching, Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich!”

Zevon didn’t mean life is short; go get more sales.  The man whose life’s work was the definition of sardonic was saying, “This just in: You’re not going to get out of this alive!!”

We sometimes get so wrapped up in our business that we risk losing our grip on the things that really matter:  health, happiness and those who love us. “Enjoy every sandwich” was Zevonese for “Slow down to the speed of life! Listen to a bird! Smell a rose! Hug your kids!”

Surviving these tough economic times is important, but not at the expense of love. Financial security is a good thing, but it’s not more important than health. And all the credentials in the world can’t begin to move the scales when weighed against having joy in your life.

Warren was lucky; he knew how much time he had left. You don’t.

Life is short! Enjoy every sandwich! Thanks, Warren.




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