In my working life I quite often hear people make a distinction between life-style and ‘growth’ businesses.
‘Growth’, at least from the entrepreneur’s point of view, really means exit.
The idea is to build fast and create a lot of value in the company – in the eyes of prospective purchasers – so that the business can be sold.
Naturally, this also creates a lot of uncertainty for employees, and other stakeholders. And often it creates a lot of uncertainty for the entrepreneur.
Maybe they sell. But then they have to endure an earn-out, and disrupted relationships with all those around them. And at the end – well, often they’re back at the beginning, needing to find the next opportunity to express whatever they feel the need to express.
So-called life-style businesses on the other hand provide the owners with a steady income over many years, provide steady employment and can lead to strong, resilient relationships with staff, customers and investors.
I guess this distinction can be a useful way of getting someone to think about their values: about what is important to them.
I nearly said goals, but goals as opposed to values are perhaps part of the problem.
“Growth” businesses are all about long-term goals. They’re about imagining a particular future (e.g. making a lot of money; lying on a beach) and working single-mindedly towards that goal. They’re sometimes about control: making sure that the actual future matches that imagined future.
Short-term goals can be useful, especially as a measurement tool. But long-term goals, don’t make as much sense, as I don’t think we can control our lives. Whatever we plan, something else will usually happen. We plan to lie on a beach and end up starting another business.
Ever so often, our lives evolve outside of our conscious control and something unexpected happens. Particularly over time, few of us can predict the detail of what will happen to us.
Of course, being the kind of creatures we are, we do make sense of it – after the event. We’re excellent at dreaming up good explanations. So we can very easily fool ourselves into thinking we are in control.
But if it’s an illusion, and we can’t control the future, what should we do? Well, I’d say relax and let the future come. It will.
And if that doesn’t satisfy the need to control the external world, what about transferring that need to your internal world?
Why not start with yourself? Try and understand yourself first, and if you wish, make a choice to be different, to be more conscious and self-aware.
Make a choice to communicate better/differently. Make a choice to build better relationships, ones that last and give you something that no amount of money can.
Make a choice to build a team around you that works in a very special way – a team that is supportive, creative, fun and challenging. And one that gets things done.
Make a choice to learn new business skills – and to learn about the world outside and explore what is really out there.
Do those things and let the rest happen. Life-style or growth. Whatever will be, will be.