My dearest, please indulge me as today we’re getting semi-philosophical.
There are lots of reasons to start a business.
To help more people.
To be the captain of your professional fate.
To have fun.
To increase your earning potential.
To learn and grow as a human being.
And these are all good reasons. And they all resonate with me. But there’s a slightly loftier reason I think about a lot.
To test your philosophy of life.
This sounds out there (Burning Man guy over here, hi there, so great to meetcha!). But when you think about it, the list above are the desired outcomes of the business you build.
And your business is a machine; it’s made of systems that are guided by a set of values, ideally pointed at a mission and en route to a vision, in service of a certain kind of human.
The systems are what you do.
The values are how you do it.
The mission is why you do it.
The vision is where you’re going and when you’ll get there.
And your client avatar is who you exist to serve.
As will shock exactly ZERO long time readers, I think your personal values are the foundation. Yes, the mission matters. But with all due respect to Simon Sinek, your mission is a reflection of what you believe to be important in life.
All the other pieces have to be a reflection of what matters to you. What you believe in your heart of hearts to be true about life, about how humans interact, and how to create win-win relationships.
You see, I think a small business is actually a chance to create “the city you want to live in.” You get to test hypotheses of how humans can be with each other.
As any training gym owner knows, you’re not a dictator. But you sure are the mayor.
Yes, you make the final call. But you’re still beholden to your team and clients.
Because if you can’t create a machine that builds order from chaos and balances the needs of all parties, these stakeholders will be displeased and will leave you. And a city is no fun when you’re all alone. And if you’re all alone, the game is over.
Or even WORSE, they stay. And you’ll all be slightly unhappy together. Eek.
That’s why I think all businesses are an opportunity to test a philosophy of life.
How should we treat each other as humans?
How do we fairly balance each other’s needs when there’s a zero sum conflict and you all can’t get what you want?
How can we come together and seek to understand even when there’s conflict?
How do we work together to make the best decision when each of us sees through a glass darkly?
What are the standards of behavior we can expect of each other?
How do we hold each other accountable when those standards are violated?
What’s the best and fairest way to share the work and share the spoils?
How do we respond to adversity?
How do we manage the need for stability with the need for growth?
We strive to answer these questions by building a machine that reflects our very best answers.
And then we track data to keep score. The game of business gives you feedback about how satisfying your answers are to citizenship of your city.
PRO TIP: In spite of every disgruntled entrepreneur who’s grumbled about his employees and clients, the issue is NOT your people. Therefore you can’t solve your struggles by just getting new citizens. Wherever you go, there you are.
Some of the feedback is subjective. The comments you hear from your team, your clients, and not to be underestimated, the feelings you have about your business when you’re lying awake in bed at night.
Some of the feedback is objective. The key performance indicators that tell you how you’re doing: new trials sold, monthly revenues, terminations, profit margins, etc.
When taken together (and both matter), you’ll be able to see how well your philosophy is working. And over time, you can refine your hypothesis.
Because unlike a sporting event, business is an infinite game.
Sometimes it makes sense to sell your business and start a whole new game. But the goal isn’t to “win” and then be done.
The goal is to “keep playing.”
And in the process of serving your community become a more fully realized version of yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to spend my days.
Always appreciating you.
PS I recently had a great chat with Dan Goodman on the Business of Strength podcast.
We go SUPER deep on:
- MFF’s email marketing strategy
- How I approach copywriting
- The first thing I have aspiring fitness entrepreneurs do when they’re ready to grow their business
- The joys of introducing Mike Boyle and Dan John to Broadway
- Why you can’t actually apply “Who Not How” without appreciating “when” (important!)
- Secrets of a successful business partnership
Lots of actionable stuff in this one, and some content I haven’t covered elsewhere.