Before you can begin to cure your ailing business and become a thriving entrepreneur, you must know who you really are and what you really want.
Years ago, a writer friend of mine named Julia took a job as a speechwriter with one of the big accounting firms. She took the job because it paid very well and came with a great deal of status (she would be writing speeches for the CEO).
So Julia took the plunge. She accepted the big paycheck and the beeper and walked into her windowed office at 8 a.m. and left sometime after 9 every night.
At first, when the beeper interrupted her dates and time with friends, she felt important. She was so badly needed. These guys couldn't live without her. She must be important. Her friends and family admired her and she loved the attention.
But this wore off quickly.
She told me that the job was not what she had imagined. She lamented that she had stopped writing her novel, and rarely had time to do anything with friends and family. She felt smothered by her boss, the CEO. She secretly admired her friends who were working their way up through the ranks and doing things they loved. She couldn't imagine how she would tell her mother she hated her job--her mother was so proud of her. She asked my advice about what to do next.
I asked her some questions--about where she saw herself in 10 years. How she wanted to fill each day. What did the perfect writing day look like for her?
What we found was that speech-writing was a perfectly reasonable job. Her employers had perfectly reasonable expectations. There was nothing wrong with the CEO. In fact, Julia admitted, many writers would be downright thrilled to be paid so well and to work with such interesting people.
The problem was that Julia was not the right fit for this job. When we talked about what she really wanted, none of it took place in a fancy high-rise, with a windowed office and set hours. She longed to write more magazine articles and finish her book. She wanted to manage her own hours and write about those projects that interested her.
She had no interest in building a large business. She wanted to stay small and do what she loved.
So, what's the moral of this tale? You can't make yourself happy--you can't have the business of your dreams--until you know who you really are and what you really want. Your business has to match you.
The first thing you have to decide is whether you want to stay small or build an empire.
Are You a Growth Maven?
Growth Mavens are fiercely ambitious. They do not think small.
The Growth Maven starts her business in her home office to keep expenses low but is champing at the bit to raise the company to new heights. Her dream is to grow from a single-person company to a multi-employee company and maybe even larger.
She isn't looking to settle down in her second-bedroom office and stay for any length of time. She is a visionary, and she has one eye on the future. She knows she has to take plenty of risks--there will be times when her cash flow is crunched because she is expanding more rapidly than the profits are coming in--but she knows that the uncomfortable cycle of growth will be worth it when her company is gaining attention and picking up customers.
She knows there is no limit to the amount of money she can make, and she is dedicated to innovating her products and services. But she has to get out of her house first. She has to take the first step.
Does this sound familiar? If you are a Growth Maven, you have to take the first steps to building your empire--you'll need to move to your first "real" office and bring on some staff. But you want to manage it so that the big leap doesn't drain your time, money and resources. You want to set yourself up for growth and long-term success. You want customers to know your name and what you stand for. You want to develop a reputation and have a consistent stream of dialogue running between you and your customers.
It isn't easy, but if you are a Growth Maven, you can make it happen. This is your time to harness your inner maverick and make your vision a reality. Say good-bye to your Home Office From Hell, Growth Mavens. You're off to build an empire!
Or a Lifestyle Guru?
The Lifestyle Guru made the dream happen the first day that he didn't go into the office.
His dream was to leave the soulless corporation behind and be his own boss. He hates the commute, the suit and tie, the cubicle, the office politics, and the crazy, overbearing bosses. He wants more--not to feel like he is just pushing paper until 6 o'clock. He wants to feel a sense of contribution and pride in his work. And he wants to do it his way.
He is psyched to be his own boss, have a flexible schedule and decide for himself when to work and when to take time off. He wants to wear pajamas to work and knock off at 3 p.m. for a few hours so he can catch his kid's soccer match. He doesn't mind clearing out his e-mail inbox after his wife and kids are in bed. Sometimes he works on the weekends; sometimes he doesn't.
He knows there is a limit to the amount of money he can make, but he is bringing in a comfortable six-figure income and has more leisure time to spend with his family and friends. When it works, it all feels pretty good.
If you are aspiring to be a Lifestyle Guru, you'll want to do a few things--increase your productivity, stay competitive, get better clients and continue to make more money--all without compromising your lifestyle choices. Whew! Sounds like a tall order, right?
No way. The Lifestyle Gurus who are doing it successfully have a plan for making it work. They make themselves look big even when they're small. They outsource the things that both drain their time and aren't revenue-producing. And they get their customers' attention.
They aren't wasting away in their basement offices, hoping they'll get that next assignment. They are out there. They have a reputation for being professional, organized and on the ball. They are constantly sending that message in everything they do.
It isn't a cakewalk, but if you are an aspiring Lifestyle Guru, you can make it happen. This is your time to harness your inner maverick and make your vision a reality.
So Lifestyle Gurus, get ready to eliminate the "From Hell" from your Home Office. You have a life to start living!
Quiz: What Type of Home Based Entrepreneur Are You?
Jeffrey A. Landers is a serial entrepreneur who has founded five companies and has advised small businesses for more than three decades. His company, Home Office Success Inc., has helped thousands of home based businesses become more professional, more productive and more profitable. His book The Home Office From Hell Cure is available from Entrepreneur Press.
Quiz: What Type of Home Based Entrepreneur Are You?
Figure out who you really are and what kind of entrepreneur you want to be. Are you a Growth Maven or a Lifestyle Guru?
You probably have some idea whether you are a Growth Maven or a Lifestyle Guru, but if you are sitting on the fence and not sure in which direction you'd like to go, then this quiz should help you figure that out.
1. When you fantasize about your successful business, what scenario appeals to you the most?
A. More than $500,000 a year in compensation, many employees, a nice office space buzzing with activity, and the knowledge that you are building a well-known regional or national company and brand.
B. A steady low six-figure income, great clients (that you can pick and choose) with challenging and reputation-building projects, and a casual and relaxed environment with plenty of extra time for leisure, home responsibilities and family.
2. When you think about the perfect workday, which description is more in line with your way of thinking?
A. A cup of Starbucks coffee to get you going, in the office by 8 a.m., eat lunch at a fancy restaurant with prospective clients, high-powered afternoon meetings with investment bankers and members of the media, a strategic planning session with your senior staff, complete employee reviews until 7:30 p.m., meet with colleagues for networking and drinks, get home by 11 p.m.
B. Up at 8 a.m., get kids off to school, at your desk in the spare bedroom working in your sweats until noon, grab a cold burrito from the fridge, conference call with clients while throwing a load into the washer, pick kids up at school at 3 p.m., coach soccer, finish new client proposal, and send invoices. Spouse and kids home at 7:30 for dinner, check e-mail, do 12 little things that need to get done, call Singapore, in bed by 11 p.m.
3. What is your definition of professional success?
A. Building a major business with a legacy, respect of colleagues, financial independence, opportunities to use your position and wealth to make a difference in the world.
B. Independence, challenging and creative work, time with family and friends, a secure and consistent living, service in the community.
4. I am more comfortable in a working environment that is _________.
A. Formal. I prefer designated spaces for employees, clear boundaries between staff and management, a conference room for meetings, a receptionist to greet guests, and a clear beginning and end to the workday.
B. Informal. I prefer to multitask, moving between personal and professional obligations as they come up. I like to work in my pajamas or sweats (except when going out to meet clients). I prefer a workday schedule that corresponds to the needs of my family and my clients, even if that means working at odd hours in the middle of the night or on weekends.
5. What do you think (hope) your business will be like in 10 years?
A. My company, its brand, and its products will be recognized as a leader regionally/nationally/internationally, have many employees, be positioned for consistent future growth and be constantly innovating in new directions.
B. I will have a steady, but not overwhelming, stream of challenging work and an impressive reputation. I will make more than a comfortable living and have plenty of free time to be with family and friends.
Growth Mavens to the Right; Lifestyle Gurus to the Left
You probably have a pretty good idea now which way you want to take your business. If you answered "A" to at least three of these questions, you are definitely a Growth Maven. If you answered "B" to at least three out of the five, then you are a Lifestyle Guru.