Finding the balance between your ambition and your lifestyle
By BRETT DAVIDSON
Lots of advisers I speak to are torn by a familiar dilemma.
On the one hand, they know their business is primed to become something bigger and better. While on the other, they don’t want to throw away the current lifestyle they’ve been able to build for themselves.
On Monday you’re thinking about all the new clients being referred and how this could translate into significant growth. And on Tuesday you worry about whether that might mean working 14 hour days and taking less time off.
These two competing internal goals can create feelings of confusion, frustration and can generate years of paralysis.
There is a way forward.
I call them the unwritten rules of the game.
The unwritten rules
These rules are unwritten because to my mind they go without saying. Although I’ve realised from my conversations with adviser-owners that they’re not always seeing things the same way that I am.
So let me spell out my unwritten rules of the game:
I'm only going to work normal business hours – 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. No nights and no weekends.
I'm going to take ten weeks off every year.
It has to be fun. If it's not fun and enjoyable, I don't want to do it.
I want to be stretched. Without personal growth, there's no deep fulfilment.
I want to focus on the jobs that I love and I am good at – what Dan Sullivan might call my unique ability. Everything else I'm going to try to get rid off (i.e. delegate). Refer to rule 3 above.
Most owner-advisers I know will have something similar in their minds when challenged.
What are your unwritten rules of the game?
You might have a different set of unwritten rules.
For example, you might be happy with only 6 weeks off per year, or alternatively, you might want 13. It’s your call.
Having established your unwritten rules, you can now let your ambition run wild and set some goals for business growth. You can do that and still feel safe because the unwritten rules trump everything. Your lifestyle isn’t going to suffer if you set yourself a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), because it goes without saying that you have to achieve it whilst sticking to your unwritten rules of the game.
You set the parameters against which you can grow the business.
For example, you might want to triple your revenue and profitability over the next 10 years. However, you will have to do it without the unwritten rules being violated in any way.
Don’t get me wrong, maybe as your business starts to grow there are pressures on your time and you start having to check emails in the evening or on the weekend. It happens. But because you’re clear on your unwritten rules, you start asking yourself how to fix that issue before it goes on for too long.
Maybe the solution involves hiring another team member or two or hiring a practice manager.
The bottom line is that while growth might challenge you for a few weeks or even months, eventually, you break through your next ceiling of complexity and return to how you want to live.
In case of emergency, break glass
No matter what happens, the unwritten rules are inviolable. If you can only achieve your business objectives by destroying your life in some way then you’ll just let the business goals go.
Great financial planners are helping their clients to live their best lives. For financial planners to do that with credibility they have to be trying to live their own best life too and not become overrun with work commitments.
Limits increase creativity
At one point in my life I was interested in writing a screenplay. So I did a screenwriting course in Sydney, just prior to moving to the UK.
My teacher gave a great example of how limits increase creativity.
He said, "Unstructured writing without rules generates nothing worthwhile. It's the rules of the particular genre you're writing in that force you to be creative.
"Poetry has rules.
"A screenplay has rules.
"A novel has rules.
"The creativity comes from the limitations that you sign up for when you choose what type of writing you will do."
I am absolutely convinced that the same is true in a business environment.
Business owners who work all the hours under the sun end up doing themselves no favours. They use extra working hours to avoid solving the underlying issues and challenges in their business. It’s easier to be busy than creative.
Business owners who set and embrace limits are forced to be creative if they want to achieve their goals. They find ways to get more with less.
Business is an exercise in creativity. And yes, it’s hard. As Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is.”
It's OK to dream big
Once you get clear on your own set of unwritten rules you can start dreaming big when it comes to your business.
When you know what your rules of the game are, you can do that safely without worrying about creating a seven-headed beast of a business, getting divorced, or never seeing your kids.
Let me know how you go.
BRETT DAVIDSON helps financial planners take the headache out of running a business, so that they can get back to doing what they love — looking after their clients.
This article was first published on Brett’s blog and is republished here with his permission.
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