Seven building blocks of a Lifestyle Business
My personal lessons from building one.Chetan Mahajan
People have many fanciful notions about lifestyle businesses. The dream is fuelled by the likes of Tim Ferris, whose “The 4-Hour Workweek” has sold 1.5 million copies. The Lifestyle business idea has caught on so much that the town of Brighton in the UK is well-known as a hub for such people.
I thoroughly enjoyed moving away from growth businesses to my lifestyle business – The Himalayan Writing Retreat. The response to my last post about this (https://yourstory.com/read/47bba0d13a-entrepreneurs-saying-no-to-growth- ) was so stunning that I got thinking about the essentials needed to build one. It isn’t all milk and honey, and there is always some risk. You need clarity and conviction.
Here’s my take.
1. Start with who you are. Understand your own wiring.
.This can be hard to wrap your head around. Are you unhappy with your work / career? It could be because you are doing stuff that you think you should do, not what you want to. And where does the “should” come from? It could come from a father who expects a lot from you. Or a super successful peer group. Or just a strong desire to adhere to what is “Normal”.
Getting in touch with yourself is critical to deciding what you will do. That discovery can sometimes be a long and arduous journey. Getting outside help is not a bad idea as long as you skip that past life regression stuff and go to a real counselor.
2. Ignore Conventional Wisdom. Herds are for sheep.
Conventional Wisdom is, um, conventional. It is the outside-in guidance. It is what the world thinks is normal, and how things “should” be. By extension, it also dictates what you, my dear tiny-cog-in-the-wheel, should be doing.
There is only one thing to do with Conventional Wisdom. Ignore it.
You can either listen to what the world thinks you should do or follow your inner voice on what you truly want to. Unless you were born with taxation in your rebirth documentation, chances are you’re doing taxes because of conventional wisdom.
3. Lead with passion.
Lifestyle businesses are about finding happiness, and you cannot be happy doing something you don’t love. You have to be passionate about what you do. Think with your heart. The big reason Gary Vaynerchuk succeeded with Wine Library TV was that he truly, deeply cares about wine.
4. Be clear on your priorities
Have clear priorities. When my son started wheezing in the Gurgaon air, in my priorities his long-term health was more important than my corporate career. I can reinvent my career, but not his health. I also value spending time with the kids, and wanted them to have a natural, stress-free childhood surrounded by nature. Once you are clear on your priorities, look at the business ideas around those priorities.
5. Ignore valuation
Don’t start your business by with saying “I want to build this business so that I can sell it for X”.
Instead, start by saying, “I want to do this because I will enjoy it. Because it will be fun, and will help me reach my life goals on my terms.” If your life goal is to work from a beach in Goa with a chilled beer, hey, I can relate to that!
6. Live for today, not the future
Most entrepreneurs live in a dream land of future success. The dream includes a huge valuation and the big sale. After that they live happily ever after with their series 7. That can be a nice carrot. Unfortunately, only too often there’s a donkey chasing it.
Employees in steady jobs on the other hand, are often offered a different carrot. Things like stock options and company cars which invariably transfer over years. These retention policies often work, but not on everybody.
Sumit Bansal is a great example. He quit his cushy, full-time job with IBM two years ago. Had he stayed with IBM he would earn a lot in 10 years. There was stability and security. But he did not want to live in that future, tied to his desk, working long hours, and following orders.
Instead, he quit to blog full-time. He is now an expert blogger on Excel and a Microsoft MVP. He works from anywhere. He travels when and where he wants, pursues his hobbies, and has an amazing family life.
7. Don’t wait for the perfect time.
“When I have enough put away, I will move to entrepreneurship / the mountains / wherever.”
Famous last words. It is amazing how many times I have heard them, and how delusional people saying them often are. I was too. The biggest problem with this is the "enough". It's a moving target. The moment you reach your definition of enough, you need more. So you stay stuck in the rut.
But as Lau Tzu summed up, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
The only way you will discover who you might be – with all its risks and pitfalls - is by letting go of who you are. It can be rather scary because our business card is a strong part of our identity. Heck, for most of us it is our identity. But there is much more to you than your business card.
How much more? There is only one way to find out.