in Journal

Notes: Running a Lifestyle Business

Thom Chambers' latest magazine, How to Run a Lifestyle Business, is a goldmine of motivational and thought-provoking ideas from many different leaders. I've highlighted my favorite parts below:

As Simon Sinek explains, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. It's not the new features or the best-in-class that gets us, it's the story we tell ourselves when we buy or use a product or service. Sinek uses the launch of the iPod by way of example; while other mp3 players were there sooner and cheaper, they were focused on 'what' the product was: a 5GB mp3 player. Apple, meanwhile, sold the 'why': 1,000 songs in your pocket.

'What' is all about reason, about rationale. It's the classic nice-guy-finishes-last syndrome: he can display to the girl all the logical reasons that she should date him, from his good job to his nice house, but nobody ever fell in love based on a list of features and benefits. Rather than coming from this place of practicality, 'why' connects to emotion.

Starting with why means saying, "I believe this", then creating products and services that make that belief a reality. Those products and services are the 'what' of your business. They're the physical manifestations of your beliefs, nothing more.

When you start with why, suddenly everything changes. It's no longer about trying to pack more features into your product or to offer your services at a lower price than your competition. It's about stating your beliefs loudly and proudly, then acting on them. Do this well enough for long enough, and people who believe the same things will align themselves with you and your business by becoming customers and fans.

Simon's TED talk, How great leaders inspire action, is a must-watch.

Professionals, as Steven Pressfield notes in The War of Art, are those who turn up every day, no matter what. They do the work, relentlessly, knowing that each day is a battle against the Resistance that tries to get you to procrastinate, avoid the hard work, and settle for less than you desire.

When things gets tough, it's easy to look for excuses not to work. Isn't this meant to be my lifestyle business, my utopia? Surely it should always be fun?

As Pressfield explains, "the more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it". Building a successful lifestyle business is one of the biggest evolutions you can undertake, so you can be damn sure that you'll encounter plenty of Resistance along the way. Fight it. Do the work.

Or as Julien Smith would say, don't flinch.

In the following section, Thom is talking about Seth Godin's concept of finding just ten people to share your idea/message/product with and how those ten people will be enough to determine if what you have will succeed.

Perhaps the best way to look at it is this: you're replacing promotion with creation. Leo Babauta has written about this on Google+, calling for a less in-your-face approach to selling work. Make it, make it available, and let the fans decide if it's worth spreading. Then get on with creating what's next.

The idea of 'first, ten' means that, in Seth's words, "the idea of a 'launch' and press releases and the big unveiling is nuts. Instead, plan on the gradual build that turns into a tidal wave". He also acknowledges that this might mean your growth ends up being "not as fast as you want". But if you're in this for the long run rather than just the big show that tries to make-it-big-quickly, then you'll certainly grow fast enough to succeed.

What I got out of this is the need for focus. I seem to have a hard time focusing on something long enough to turn it "into a tidal wave". But that just tells me I need to decide what's worth focusing on and then make a commitment to seeing it through.

It's about having the attitude of an artisan instead of an amateur, as Thom explains in the next bit.

When it doesn't require a huge financial or time investment to get started, it's easy to be less committed to a project - "this website only cost me a few bucks, so it's not the end of the world if it goes wrong. I'll give it a shot and see how things turn out".

This is where your attitude comes into play. You can have this attitude, the attitude of the amateur - or you can have the attitude of the artisan.

The artisan doesn't have much money, but is still relentless about quality. The artisan sees her small size as a phase, a stepping stone towards success, and acts accordingly. Even when she's starting out, she's conducting herself as she would if this were a fully-grown business.

You're always told to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. In the same way, you need to write and create for the business you want one day, rather than the business you have today.

When you hear about a startup that sold for a hundred million after six months, remember: you're not playing that game. When you have the chance to spam your list to make a few affiliate sales from someone else's new product, remember: you're not playing that game.

Which leads us to a simple question: what game are you playing? The answer is found in one of the great overlooked conflicts in every lifestyle business: the conflict between the artisan and the accountant. The artisan creates work that brings satisfaction and pleasure, with no concern for money. The accountant creates work that brings money, with no concern for satisfaction or pleasure.

In most traditional businesses, to a greater or lesser extent, the accountant is king. Money matters most. When you choose to start a lifestyle business, though, you embrace your inner artisan. You see that money isn't everything, that lifestyle, happiness, and satisfaction are just as important.

For some, starting a lifestyle business is the start and end of their inner artisan. They focus entirely on building their business in a way that best pleases the market, or brings the owner the easiest life. The extreme of this are niche site owners, who find profitable markets and run affiliate or AdSense campaigns. They 'set it and forget it'.

For others, the artisan takes over and they focus on doing work they love without worrying about the market. The extreme of this is the blogger who gives everything away without any business model in place, hoping to make money somehow, someday.

The artisan refuses to compromise; the accountant will do anything for the sale. The artisan wants a headline that reflects the mood of the work; the accountant wants a headline that goes viral.

Both are valid in their own way; it's up to you to choose the point at which you're happiest between the extremes of pure integrity and pure income.

Write a Comment

Comment