What Kind of Growth is Right For Your Work?

Tiny white capped mushrooms growing on a forest floor
image courtesy of  Daniel Brachlow via pixabay.com

Business owners, especially small business owners, are constantly pressured to expand. We’re told that our goal is to start in our garages and wind up like Amazon.

But what if we don’t want that? Plenty of small business owners I know started their small businesses for other reasons: being their own boss, earning their living from their passion, and the freedom of their own schedule.

They don’t WANT to become a huge corporate entity.

And that’s okay. It’s better than okay. It’s the right choice for many businesses. Because when you stop loving what you do, it’s then time to wind it up and move in a new direction.

Sometimes, that means selling the business you built and starting something new. Sometimes it means rethinking your vision for your current business and aligning with that.

We all want to make a healthy profit from our work. But the “how” in the way we make the profit matters.

We want to do work that matters to us, because we spend so much time working. We also want to have the time and resources to live our lives.

One of the things I love about where I live now is that most small businesses take a typical business day off, such as a Monday or a Tuesday. That gives them a day to do their banking, their doctors’ appointments, etc., and is a smart way to do business, especially when they’re open over weekends during tourist season.

This is a stronger choice, I feel, than the typical tourist-driven locations which push for 7 days a week “in season” and then everything is desolate out of season. I’ve seen a much higher burnout rate in those choices than in places that set a saner schedule, even in high season.

It’s worth taking the time, when you make your plan for the year ahead, or the season ahead, to be honest about what you want. Is it just about profit? Or is it about earning enough to feel secure while also having a particular quality of life?

Why are you the captain of your own ship, rather than being a crew member on someone else’s?

Once you have the answers that fit YOU (not what someone else thinks you should do), then you can start searching for resources and tools and support to make it happen.

One of the most positive changes I’m seeing in our relationship to work is that it is becoming more of a relationship and less of an obsession. That’s healthier for the person driving the business; it’s healthier for the employees. Ultimately, it’s also healthier for the customers (even if it takes them a bit of time to get used to the business not being on call 24-7 the way huge companies with outsourced customer dis-service centers are).

We’re at the halfway point of the year.  Many businesses end their financial year in June and start a fresh one in July. Other businesses look to September as the start of their next season. Others work on the calendar year.

As you look back in order to plan ahead, what was the most satisfying of the past cycle? What made you feel like you were in a good spot with your business, and how did that make the rest of your life feel supported and secure? How can you build on that in the next cycle?

Even if you don’t plan to make changes until the end of the calendar year, it’s worthwhile to start thinking about it now. Integrate your personal strategic plan with your business strategic plan, and let them feed each other.

What is your vision for your business? How is it changing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Note: Today is the Juneteenth holiday — I hope you’re taking it and honoring it! Taking holidays is important. Honoring their true meaning is also important.

Blessed Juneteenth to you, with hopes that we’re working toward a better world.

Your Roadmap Plan

image courtesy of cocoparisienne via pixabay.com

Why do you do what you do?

That’s an important question. Whether it’s a job, a career, a passion, or a mix, you need to know why you do what you do.

Maybe it’s just for the paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Maybe you love your job (and it’s a surprise) and it’s turned into a career.

Good for you!

Too many people hate their jobs, and then try to punish those around them who love their jobs.

But take responsibility for the “why” of what you do. That gives you a great deal of freedom.

Now, then, what do you WANT to do?

Maybe you’re doing what you want, and that’s wonderful.

Maybe your current job is a steppingstone to what you want.

If they are different, don’t lose sight of what you want because you’re either too comfortable in what you’re doing, or too afraid of change. If the pandemic taught us anything, it was how much misplaced loyalty most workers gave their companies, who thought nothing of throwing them away at the first sign of trouble. Which is why workers went off and started doing their own thing instead of going back to being treated like crap for subpar wages.

If you are not doing what you want to be doing, try this:

Take a piece of paper. Landscape orientation works better than portrait orientation for this exercise, and I suggest doing it by hand, not on screen.

On the far left, write what you do.

On the far right, write what you want to do.

On the page, they are relatively far apart.

How far apart are they in reality?

In the middle, jot a bunch of steps to take you from one to the other. Don’t do them linearly. Just jot them all over the middle of the page, squiggly, sideways, upside down, whatever. Write them down as you think of them, in no particular order. Take your time.

Go back and take a look at what you’ve written. It doesn’t have to be right away. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to put something aside for a bit, and then take another look.

Now number the steps, so there’s a sense of order (even though the steps are all over the page).

Take a different colored pen and draw a line from where you are to each step, in turn, to where you want to be. There will (and should) be criss-crossing lines, because creativity is not linear. The best journeys have tangents, while still driving to their destination.

How can you take that first step?

More importantly, WHEN will you take that first step?

Put the first step into your calendar.

Do it.

Look at the page and do one step at a time. Regularly reassess to see if your needs, interests, and goals have shifted. This is a roadmap, not a prison. You can take other exits as you wish.

But you need to start.