When you and your business want different things

One of the big benefits of the Internet entrepreneur revolution these past 15 years is that we have so much more control over how to design a business. No longer relegated to cramming ourselves in uncomfortable blue suits to eat rubber chicken lunches in dim hotel rooms with coffee stained carpets, we can do business and build businesses where and how we want to.

Working while camping out of a van? YES!

Closing deals over fancy coffee in a co-working space? YES!

Building a random thing to sell on the Internet, fueled by digital funnels and smart Facebook advertising? YES!

Getting paid to give advice to people all over the world from a computer screen and free software? YES!

I don’t think my Grandpa Frank, who took a bus across the Golden Gate Bridge each day with a carefully packed lunch to go to his office in the Tenderloin for his job with the Methodist Church, would believe the way I earn a living.

The Internet is truly an amazing thing, and it has afforded us so much opportunity and flexibility.

And yet …

I have noticed that this focus on “I design my business to perfectly fit my lifestyle” has fueled lopsided and unrealistic expectations about what our business is supposed to do for us.

There is a difference between a vision of what an optimal business model would look like that would deliver the exact life I want to live and …the actions I must take, whether I like them or not, to make this business model function effectively.

For example:

  • You are a big picture person and not so much an implementation person. You also hate to manage people and do business development. You design a consulting business to give big picture advice to people.Win! You get to use your strengths.
    Worry! You can’t get any clients if you don’t do any business development. And if you can’t hire someone and oversee their work, you will be sitting on a big pile of coulda shoulda wouldas.
  • You are a people person and not so much a numbers person. Dealing with analysis and defining things like monthly revenue targets and profit margins makes your skin crawl.Win! You never have to feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed by things you don’t like.
    Worry! It is really hard to make and measure progress in business if you have no sense of how it is doing financially. How can you know the most profitable products, services or clients if you never look at the numbers? Financial health is key to business health. It is the tooth brushing of the business world.
  • You are a hands-on maker person, and not a technology person. You also have visions of your products being shipped all over the world.Win! You stand out in a crowd with your artistry and craft.
    Worry! It is pretty hard these days to build a scaled business without using some form of technology or social media. You can definitely build a following through word of mouth, but if you want to scale and build more quickly, it is challenging.

You are not your business

As a design principle, I am in favor of doing everything you can to create a business that complements your skills and strengths.

I am also in favor of recognizing that your business may need a lot of things (accounting, analysis, business development, product development, operational strength) that you are not able to provide.

I like thinking of business design with the lens that John Warrillow provides in Built to Sell — how can you create a business that you would be capable of selling (even if you have no intention of selling it)? In order to do that, you must build in operational and sales capacity that is not dependent on your brain, body or force of will.

When you recognize the areas that are not your strength, and the impact they will have on your business, you can either choose to change your business model like Jeff did, or move forward despite the discomfort like Jared did.

Either are great choices.

Not choosing, and expecting your business to deliver things to you that you are not willing to do for it, is a road to nowhere.

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