March 9, 2021
When folks in business talk about business, they tend to define success as follows.
Revenue = Success
And while many of us bristle when we see success defined so narrowly, we also struggle to come up with a better alternative.
Yes, we know that running a business can take a toll on hobbies, family, mental health, etc., but…well…revenue is still required. So what if we changed that formula to make those other things part of the story:
Life + Revenue = Success
The phrase “lifestyle business” tends to conjure up images of someone in a hammock checking affiliate commissions, but let’s bridge the gap between all-in on lifestyle and all-in on business by making this a continuum instead of two absolutes.
So, for example:
20% Life + 80% Revenue = Success
That “20% life” could represent skiing with the kids each week or being able able to check out 100% from the business for a week-long camping trip or being able to step away at any time to focus on the holidays or a family member in need or just sleeping well at night.
In all of these situations, however, you’d go in knowing that your revenue would be less, but you’d be okay with that because a decrease in revenue is being made up by an increase in life.
You’d also run your business differently so you wouldn’t impact those things.
The first businesses I started I defined success solely by revenue. As I got older, got married, had kids, etc. this started to change. So when I started SendView a few years back, my formula was something like:
80% Life + 20% Revenue = Success
I love camping and I didn’t want to be stressed about the business while I was off the grid. My day job is still my priority, so I didn’t want to be forced to answer support or fix things during work. I love to build stuff, so I didn’t want it to takeover every evening and every weekend. And my family is top priority, so I didn’t want to leave my wife with too much on her plate or my kids playing in one room while I worked all night in the other.
So I did a few things differently, including:
- I got a co-founder and designed redundancies so we could each check out 100% as needed.
- We don’t sign contracts to snag bigger users so we don’t have to leave the birthday party just to fix that bug.
- We limit ourselves to ~5 hours/week on work so we have plenty of time for other things.
So, yeah, we have 1/3 the revenue of other companies like ours, but we’ve also spent 1/5 the time on it (or less) and have still done all the other things we love along the way.
And that, to me, is success. But not because it’s a nice thing to say, but because that’s the definition I started with.