What if you knew you were never going to sell your business and never going to retire? How would you change your business plan and your life? I was at a conference recently and the speaker asked a room full of small business owners that question. This sparked a lively conversation and a few profound “aha” moments for all of us.
If you assume you are never going to retire and there is never going to be a next job or next business, your focus shifts. In this scenario, there is no reason to put off things, or do things you really don’t enjoy. Here are a few of the things which topped the lists of many of the business owners in the room
- Delegate more – Spend your time doing things you enjoy and things which add value to your business. To do this, you will need to hand off tasks which don’t really require your expertise. This may mean training one of your team members to take on some of the tasks. The added responsibility will provide growth opportunities for them, while freeing you to do more of the things which add value to your business. And, in some cases, you may need to hire someone to outsource a service (like IT support or payroll) which need to get done, but isn’t central to your business.
- More clarity on what you do – When you first started your business, you probably took on projects which weren’t a great fit and clients you weren’t excited about working with because those jobs paid the bills. You did it to lay the foundation, betting someday you would be able to be more selective. Well someday is now. While it is hard to say no, or turn down a project which just doesn’t fit, that allows you the capacity to take on the right project when it comes along. Also, as you clarify the kind of work you want to do it is easier to create plans and marketing messages to position your business to reach the right customers.
- Employee development – What if your employees were going to be with you forever? Hiring decisions become more critical. To be sure you hired the right person you would spend more time evaluating candidates for both skills and cultural fit. There would be a more formalized orientation and feedback process and it would make sense to invest in continuous education and personal development for your team.
- Raise prices – If this is your forever business, it needs to be profitable so you can reward yourself and your employees. Will you lose a few clients along the way? Maybe, but the ones who stay will value what you do. Re-read the second bullet point. It is ok to be selective and work with fewer, better clients.
- Regular vacations – If you are never going to retire, you can’t put off seeing the world, so start planning those vacations now. No way your business can function without you? Then it is time to change your business model. If you are going to do this forever, you need to take breaks.
- Learn something new – How often have you thought, when I retire I am going to learn to ______. If there is no retirement date there is no reason to wait. You can sign up for a class now. Take one hour a week for yourself. The things you learn will stimulate different parts of your brain, keeping you healthier and more interesting in the years to come.
Take a look at my list and then make one of your own. Sure you will exit your business some day, but which of the things on your list can you start doing now? Pick one thing. It doesn’t matter if it is a personal change or a business change. Make the change today. As you start to enjoy your business and your life more, it will be easier to dedicate energy to the right activities to improve both.