Ask most business owners if they ‘live to work’ or ‘work to live’ and the majority will go with the latter option, albeit with varying degrees of confidence.
Probe a little deeper however, and most people will give a slightly more considered answer, which acknowledges the many difficulties that can get in the way of balancing their personal and professional goals.
Just to be clear, I’m not simply talking about work/life balance here. If long hours at work are sometimes what it takes, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you know for sure that it’s getting you closer to your personal goals too.
The problem for many business owners is that they become so caught up in the day-to-day running of their business that they can easily lose sight of what they’re doing it for.
Which is just one of the reasons why we love to meet our clients’ life partners even more than we want to talk to their business partners and colleagues.
When You Make Plans, The Deity Of Your Choosing Laughs
Yes, I know, the original quote is ‘When men make plans, God laughs’, but this is the Internet, so I hope you’ll understand if I favour inclusiveness over literary style.
However, the point is that life has a way of changing priorities, and solving new problems can easily divert you from the course you really need to be on.
The need for confidentiality means I won’t ever quote specific clients here, but I have met many business owners who were keen to discuss the functional or financial problems of their business, and how these might be solved.
In many cases though, it is only when you are in company with them and their partners that personal goals come to the fore. That might be anything from simply repaying the re-mortgage that financed the business in the first place, to wanting to retire at 50 and travel around the world together.
The thing is, you really need to know what those personal goals involve before you can address issues with the business.
In very simplistic terms, if your home life is dominated by worries about the mortgage, then you might want to make your business goals involve generating and releasing some capital rather than constantly chasing heavily leveraged growth.
I know that’s an incredibly simplistic example. Honestly. But the problem for many business owners is that as demands on the company change, business priorities can often shift to take you further and further away from your personal goals.
Worse, when you’re caught up in doing what’s best for the business, it can be almost impossible to spot the massive gap that is appearing; and even if you do, you may believe that it’s unavoidable.
Putting Business Objectives Into Perspective
I know that for some business owners, the thought of talking to a business coach or mentor sounds a bit alien. After all, business-smart people should be able to spot these gaps appearing, shouldn’t they?
Well, the fact is that bringing these problems into focus for yourself can at times be next to impossible. I’m a trained business coach, but I still need an anchor in my life to help me put problems and opportunities into their proper perspective.
For some people that anchor might be their life partner, for others it might just be a favourite place that they go to think. Personally, I’m lucky to have colleagues like Irene and Alan who can remind me of what’s important when I lose perspective for one reason or another.
That’s why, while our work has a clear framework, it’s mainly there to enable the ‘whole person perspective’ we believe is fundamental to helping business owners. After all, the more we know, the more support we can provide.
Self-awareness is an elusive but valuable commodity, and it generally needs someone else to help you achieve it. Just like me, every business owner has gaps between where they are, what they believe and how they behave.
The trick is to be able to understand these gaps and put them into context. Once you’ve done that, closing the gap between your personal and business goals becomes so much easier.