The thing I love the most about entrepreneurship is the freedom to create your own rules. Nobody is standing around with a clipboard marking off the hours you work or counting whether you’ve reached your four week quota of holidays. As an entrepreneur, you can decide to not work weekends. You can decide to spend two uninterrupted hours with your family each day. You can decide to only sell vegan food or not to sell vegan food. You can run a corporation of 23 employees without renting facilities. You really can do whatever you want. But this flexibility also leaves business owners with a challenge. What are you going to do with this freedom? Will you design a business for your own financial and personal gain, or will you build a business that also impacts the lives of others?
I like to ask small business owners I coach these three questions to consider. Firstly, what are your non-negotiables? What are the things that you are just not willing to compromise on? Secondly, what is your definition of success? Forget about what the world is telling you is “success”, what is success to you? And, lastly, I ask them what their motivation is for starting their own business.
When I started my floristry business I decided that I wouldn’t do Saturday weddings. I am a Seventh-day Adventist and we observe the Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. This naturally became my non-negotiable. I wanted to design a business that meant I didn’t have to work on Saturdays. When I was setting out to build my wedding business I didn’t realise the extent to which Saturday weddings were the big money- makers. I was turning down 50% of all the enquiries that were coming in. There were times when I really wondered whether I could create a profitable business in the wedding industry. But I was determined to make it work and through determination, I began to be blessed with clients who were spending between $6000 to $8000 on their flowers during the week. It was unheard of for week day weddings. It is really amazing what happens when you decide not to compromise on your values.
I challenge all entrepreneurs now to think about what their non-negotiables are. We so often get caught up in what we think is the “normal” way of running a business and we don’t step back and design our businesses to suit our own personal needs and values. Your non-negotiables may look very different to mine, but I think it’s a great idea to identify what’s important to you and design your business around these things. If you put your life and values first, then your business second, the blessings will come.
Your own definition of success
The other thing I find entrepreneurs doing is comparing their success against the success of others. I find this to be the most discouraging and debilitating practice in business. If we compare our success to others, we will always feel dissatisfied, unsuccessful and unfulfilled. I think the best thing an entrepreneur or business owner can do for their business is to write down their own definition of success and use this as their only measure of success.
When I started my wedding business, I had just come from a stressful, full-time teaching job. I quit my job and started a business with the intention to have more time in my schedule. I wanted to work less but still maintain my teaching wage. I had no idea what other people in the wedding industry were making and, quite frankly, I didn’t care. All I knew is that I only wanted to do two to four weddings a month, while replacing my teaching wage.
It didn’t take me long to realise that other wedding businesses were doing several weddings every weekend. They’d spend their entire weekend racing from one event to the next, to the next. I was really impressed with their efforts, but this was just not for me. Success to me was running a business I loved, while living a life I loved, all at the same time. Success was replacing my teaching wage and having time to volunteer for my church and contribute to my community. This may not be a success to someone else, but for me, this was enough. I put my blinders on, didn’t focus on what others were doing and strived towards my own definition of success.
A motivation that’s more than money
And that leads me to the last thing I think all entrepreneurs should consider: the motivation behind their business. For me, my motivation was time - to make an impact on the world. I knew that my business wouldn’t necessarily be the thing that made an impact on people’s lives, but I dreamt of a business that would give me time to volunteer for organisations that I believed were making an impact on the world. The motivation of time became the driving force behind why I did business. I truly believe that passion, not money, fuels drive and success. Money might be a driving force for a little while, but it won’t be lasting. True business satisfaction only comes when the ultimate outcome of your business is fulfilling that soul-deep desire to make a difference in the world. If you’re an entrepreneur, I challenge you to think about how the resources you produce in your business could make an impact on your community or the world at large. If you want a deeply satisfying business and life, the best thing you can do is to dig deep and figure out, not what you can get from your business, but what your business can give to the world. Then, let this deep desire become the driving force behind what you do. Building something from the ground up is hard. Entrepreneurship is hard. But I think the bottom line is this: it’s your business, so why not pave your own path? Use the freedom and flexibility that you have to not compromise on your values and to design a business that works in perfectly with your own lifestyle ambitions. You’re on this planet for a reason. Whatever your dream, whatever fires you up, whatever satisfies your deep desire for more, do that! You can do whatever you want, that is the beauty of entrepreneurship. But most importantly, why not create something that can ultimately make a difference in the lives of others? That’s where you’ll find true life and business satisfaction. Remember: your business, your rules!
Entrepreneur · Business Consultant · Florist
Emma is helping creatives build businesses that help them achieve their life dreams and make real money.