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Are You High-Maintenance?

What you do in your personal time is your business, but that's no way to run your company.

There are many luxuries in this life that I cannot afford. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm perfectly happy not owning a million-dollar home, taking expensive vacations every other week and buying new socks every day simply because I can. But like many of you, there is one luxury that I wish for every day: time.

If "wake, work like hell, collapse into bed" is a familiar refrain for you, you know what I'm talking about. Some days feel like nothing but maintenance-putting out fires, checking the oil, repairing the brakes, occasionally washing the damn thing when it gets too dirty to see out the windows-there is simply no time to do anything else. And some days, that's just fine. But if you do that every day, before long you'll drive yourself-no, not into a rut-over a very steep, very scary cliff.

Now that I've gotten a chance to speak in metaphors, let me spell things out in relation to your start-up. (You knew that was coming, right?) If you're simply "maintaining" your business, you're not giving it a chance to grow. And I don't even mean expanding your business necessarily, though that might be a goal of yours. I mean re-evaluating your business on a regular basis to see if what you're doing is working. You might be surprised by what you find-it could be as small as learning that a particular marketing strategy is quite lame, or as large as discovering that your entire business model needs tweaking.

This concept, fleshed out in "Don't Make Yourself Comfortable," couldn't be more pertinent right now. During a time when the economy is placing higher demands on business, you can't afford not to make time for more than just maintenance.

Finding that time is not easy by any means, nor is it necessarily easy to muster the creativity. But then, luxuries-the ones that are truly worth it-are rarely easily had.

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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