How Entrepreneurs Can Stay Engaged and Happy
One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is getting to do work that makes the person happy. Business owners can work on problems that matter to them and do so with people whom they care about. As an entrepreneur, I measure a lot of my success by happiness: that of members of my team, our customers, my family and myself.
But running a business isn't for the faint of heart, and sometimes it can be tricky to stay positive and on track when things go haywire (and they do) or the volume of work becomes overwhelming (often). Here are my top tips on how to stay happy and engaged while building a business:
1. Don't let small things nag.
Early on, I found that the roots to many unhappy moments were small irritations or problems that I let linger, such as an employee with a certain tic that I found problematic. I now think about these items as nuisances that create "psychic drag." Eliminating psychic drag, by stepping into difficult conversations with people and fixing small problems, has made me much happier.
2. Create and respect boundaries.
Most entrepreneurs throw the majority of their energy into their company, but that doesn't mean a venture needs to commandeer all his or her time. It’s so important to put a fence around important breaks and moments to create balance in life. For some people this means spending time with loved ones. For others, it’s important to pursue treasured hobbies. For example, I try to never miss a roast chicken dinner with my wife on Sundays or my company's basketball game on Thursday afternoons.
3. Celebrate small victories.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor was any great company. Success is often a series of small wins, and it's important to celebrate each and every one. Do this in remarkably simple but effective ways. For example, my company, Funding Circle, has a gong in the office that employees strike when they have a major breakthrough, be it a product release, a major investor's deal or when a new hire accepts an offer. Momentum and fun build upon each other.
4. Consciously build in fun for the team.
Entrepreneurs spend a huge amount of time at work. It should be enjoyable. When a business owner hires great people and provide them an environment that they'll enjoy, fun should follow. For example, I run a lending business, which is in one of the oldest and typically more conservative industries in the world.
On the surface, my company's office should be a gray sea of cubes or something equally as dull. Instead, it is set up in a way that encourages employee interaction and entertainment, including flying sharks (to represent our nemesis, the loan shark) and a mobile DJ station, a library and a ping pong table.
5. Stay curious. Never stop asking questions.
Making room for curiosity can add vibrancy to the daily routine, ignite passions and ideas not previously recognized and keep the businessperson interested even while solving stubborn problems.
At my company, staffers have a few ways to do this: Every new hire is asked to name his or her favorite book and we add that to the company library. We also have regular “lunch and learns” and “passion lunches” when staffers talk about what they’re working on and things outside of work that inspire their passion. One employee gave a talk about his rooftop herb garden, for example.
My passion is trying to read as much as I can since I'm involved in an interdisciplinary business. I try to reserve my plane flights for reading up on things that interest me. I'm surprised by how often I have aha moments from reading things that on the surface have nothing to do with lending to small businesses.
What things does your company do to keep yourself and other employees engaged?
Sam Hodges is co-founder and U.S. managing director of San Francisco-based Funding Circle, which provides an online marketplace for small business lending. He is responsible for overseeing the overall strategic direction and day-to-day operation of the company in the United States.