Rhonda Abrams of USA Today wrote an article about small businesses being fun. I think it is worth reminding ourselves during the recession why we went into business by ourselves.
There’s a dirty little secret most of us in small business rarely admit: we are enjoying ourselves. Sure, we had long hours and uneven income. But we scoffed at our friends, sitting in rush hour traffic or stuffed into buses, commuting to jobs with demanding bosses, endless meetings and ridiculous reports. Meanwhile, we had work we actually liked, spent our hours productively, then slipped off to the gym in the middle of the afternoon if we felt like it.
But with the recession, those of us who own our businesses have hunkered down. We’ve kept our nose to the grindstone, bogged down with administrative tasks, juggling expenses, stretching income, demoralized when we’ve had to lay employees off.
None of that’s any fun.
Well, it’s time to get serious about having fun in your business again. By fun, I don’t mean going to the movies instead of making sales calls or exchanging your conference table for a ping-pong table (though that might be a good idea…), I mean finding ways to get greater enjoyment from your day-to-day work life.
Yes, I know these are tough times. All the more reason to find ways — inexpensively — to get greater non-financial satisfaction from your small business. Heck, if you’re not making as much money, you should at least make the most of the other benefits you can get by being self-employed or running your own company.
People often use the term “lifestyle business” to derisively describe a small business. But why not, in these challenging times, embrace it? Why not create a lifestyle of your own with your business and forge your own path?
Throw out the rule book and find a way to do business your way:
• Stop watching the clock: Why not take that Zumba class at 11 am or leave at 3 pm to hang out with the kids? If necessary, go back to work at night. Structure your work day to maximize the things you like to do.
• Imitate Ferris Bueller: Take a day off (even once a week) if work is really slow. Go hiking, biking, golfing, to a bargain matinee. Connect with your inner child and your actual children.
• Put up a “gone fishin'” sign: I knew a very successful tortilla factory owner who left his business whenever the fish were biting. If you have a business trip, add a half day or more for sightseeing. If you haven’t had a vacation in a while, take some time off and recharge your batteries.
• Rah! Rah! — Give yourself an incentive program, just like you would with a salesperson. Write up the rules: “If I land three new customers, I get a nice meal out.” “If I finish this project, I get a trip to the baseball game.” Enjoy it — it’s on the boss.
• Use your talents: Face it, for many of us, the most fun is doing the work we love, the work that drove us to open our own business in the first place — especially if we’re in a creative field. Over time, it’s typical to get bogged down in administrative tasks. Decide to spend more of your time doing the work you love and delegate boring tasks to employees, outsourcing, or better use of technology.
Remember, one of the reasons we started our own business was to have more control over our life: our work hours, vacation schedule and job description. So let’s take that control, shake things up, and run our business in our own way.