A lifestyle business

Each of us has different dreams, goals, and aspirations. Some of us want to build a large paint contracting business. Others want the flexibility and lower stress of working alone. Some of us define success in financial terms, while others define success in terms of lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with either of these.

A lifestyle business provides the owner with more leisure time. It allows him to meet his financial needs with less effort and fewer hours. It allows him to pursue other interests.

I have a lifestyle business. My residential painting company requires about 12 to 15 hours a week. The rest of my time is used for other pursuits—for things I enjoy more. I could certainly put more time and effort into this business, and consequently make more money from it, but I have chosen a different route.

This isn’t to say I spend a lot of time playing golf or pursuing other leisure activities. Quite the contrary, I typically work 60 hours a week. But most of that time is spent on business activities—reading, writing, planning, etc.—that I truly enjoy.

A lifestyle business can take many forms. It can be large—with a staff of salesmen, administration personnel, and production managers. It can be small—a one-man operation that is limited to 1,000 production hours a year. It can be somewhere in between.

Regardless of the form, creating a lifestyle business requires a clear identification of the final goal and the steps required to achieve it. It requires systems and procedures to achieve efficiency. Above all, it requires knowing where you want to go and the dedication to exert the effort to get there.

What do you want to wear?

I have heard many painting contractors chastise colleagues who wear Dockers. They perceive such owners as slick salesmen who care more about making a buck than satisfying their customers. Such aspersions are as amusing as they are wrong.

There is nothing wrong with being an “in the bucket” owner, particularly if you enjoy it. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with being “out of the bucket”. Each involves a different skill set and a different attitude.

I believe a large part of the animosity towards those who wear Dockers stems from different perceptions regarding paint contracting. Those who wear white (“in the bucket”) view paint contracting as primarily about putting paint on the wall. Those who wear Dockers (“out of the bucket”) view paint contracting primarily as a business.

Again, there is nothing wrong with either of these. But to denigrate someone for choosing one over the other is wrong.

The primary difference between those who wear whites and those who wear Dockers is attitudinal. Those who wear whites regard marketing and sales as manipulative. They regard the market place as dog eat dog, and the relationship between consumer and a business as inherently adversarial.

Those who wear Dockers view marketing and sales as an educational process, in which the business helps a consumer make wise purchasing decisions. They regard the market place as an avenue to create win- win situations.

Of course, these are generalizations and do not apply to everyone who wears whites or Dockers. Indeed, many who wear Dockers once wore whites. But they aspired to build their business, and undertook the necessary work. They wanted something better for themselves and their family. On the flip side, there are contractors who once wore Dockers who now wear whites. They did not implement sound business practices and were unable to sustain their business in that form.

What you wear is not permanent. You can move from one to the other. But in the end your business will be defined by what kind of business you want. In the end, your business will be defined by what you want to wear.

What is the value of an idea?

What is the value of an idea?

Some might say it depends upon the idea. Some might say an idea such as the internal combustion engine, or powered flight, or personal computers is a valuable idea. Each has transformed the way we live. Each has made life much easier and more enjoyable.

I would argue that such ideas are worthless in and of themselves. Indeed, without action ideas have no power. Ideas without action are just idle thoughts, dreams, or fantasies. An idea derives its value from the actions that result.

Business involves an integration of ideas and actions. It requires sound business principles, innovative thinking, and long-term planning. It requires execution, performance, and effort. It requires activity—both mental and physical.

The goal of a business is to make a profit. Doing so requires good ideas and good implementation. Ideas without action are useless, and action without ideas is suicidal.

Each of us desires certain things from our small business. It may be more money, independence, or any of a number of things. Regardless of our individual desires, we must engage in certain actions if we wish to fulfill those desires.

Consistent results are a consequence of consistent actions. Consistent actions come from embracing and implementing sound ideas. Sound ideas, when implemented, create consistent results.

Rare is the business that consistently achieves the results it desires. Consequently, successful businesses constantly look for new (and better) ideas, or better ways of implementing old ideas (which are also new ideas).

(In this context, “new” means new to the business. A proven business principle is not new, but it may be new to the business.)

Successful businessmen constantly look for new ideas. Business is a dynamic affair, and if a business isn’t moving forward, it is moving backward. The implementation of new ideas is what drives businesses forward.

Businesses pay hundreds, thousands, sometimes millions of dollars for new ideas. They do so because new ideas are an investment. New ideas, when properly implemented, can lead to great results. In other words, a successful business invests in new ideas because they can help it achieve the results it desires.

Certainly, there are bad ideas. There are ideas that, no matter how well implemented, can only lead to bad results. Curing a cold with a massive dose of arsenic is one example. And equally certain is the fact that good ideas will not guarantee the desired results. But implementing good ideas—such as sound business principles— stands a much greater chance of success than muddling along.

Most small businesess fail. More than 90% do so within 5 years. Most small business owners are competent technicians, and poor businessmen. Competent technicians think differently than competent businessmen.

A technician seeks to reinvent the wheel. A businessman seeks to learn how wheels are made, and then finds a better way. A technician repeats what he was taught. A businessman seeks to improve upon what he was taught. A technician does it that way, because “that’s how it’s done.” A businessman does it that way because it is better.

Are you happy with the state of your business? Is your business producing the results you desire?

If your answer is yes, then good for you. You are rare.

If your answer is no, then you need new ideas, and you need to implement new ideas.

If you wish to get new ideas, where do you intend to find them? How do you intend to implement them? How will you make the changes necessary to transform your business and produce the results you desire?

These are not hypothetical or rhetorical questions. These questions go to the very heart of what it means to own a successful business. Your answers will determine your future.

So, what is an idea worth? What would you pay for an idea that brought you less stress in your life? What would you pay for an idea that helped you move towards your goals? What would you pay for new ideas? Your answers will determine your future.

More importantly, your willingness to implement those answers will determine whether you move forward and achieve the results you desire, or become another small business statistic.

That can’t be done

It is very easy to find people who say that it can’t be done, no matter what “it” is. Propose some idea and you can find no shortage of people telling you that it is impossible. If you surround yourself with naysayers it will eventually have an impact on you. You cannot listen to continual negativity without some of it rubbing off.

There are those who say that you can’t make much money as a contractor. Or, you cannot advertise successfully in the yellow pages. Or, you can’t find good help. Or, you can’t find customers willing to pay decent prices. And the list goes on.

I have recently experienced this. For several years I have thought of investing in real estate, and last summer decided to do so. I was, and remain, well aware of all of the horror stories regarding rental real estate. But as I investigated real estate I realized that nearly half of all housing is rental and almost all commercial property is rental. If rental real estate is such a bad thing, why are so many people involved?

So rather than listen to the naysayers, I sought out those who are successfully investing in rental real estate. I joined a mentoring group. I attend workshops and seminars. I subscribe to newsletters. I talk to people. In other words, rather than listen to those who say that it can’t be done, I chose to listen to those who are doing it.

Nothing will be successful if you approach it improperly. Invariably, those who say that real estate is horrible either: 1. Have never invested in real estate; or 2. Did it all wrong.

Having developed a network of successful investors to serve as mentors, I have avoided many mistakes common to new investors. I have developed systems to locate properties well under their market value. I have developed systems for locating and screening tenants. I have developed systems for keeping the properties maintained with virtually no effort or personal expense.

Even better, I have learned how to buy properties without spending a single penny of my own money. Indeed, I did so yesterday.

I don’t say this to brag, but to demonstrate that it is possible to start a new business and do well, even when others say that it can’t be done. It is possible to build a thriving business even when others are trying to fill your head with negative thoughts. Rather than listen to the naysayers, try listening to those who are proving them wrong–those who are actually doing what supposedly isn’t possible.

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