I’m having a lot of fun again. For a little while I had stopped following my own advice – the advice I always give about staying true to and clear about your business strategy and your own path. Oh, I was having fun at first when I went off my path. I was indulging my personal passion for learning new things and learning them very deeply. When I stumble onto something that requires deep, deep investigation to learn, I find that very stimulating.
In this particular case, I was able to (sort of) rationalize that it was beneficial to my customers and my business to dig into it.
But the whole adventure was (very) peripheral to my own business strategy. This happens fairly often to entrepreneurs. We are interested in many things, and we can get a little ADHD about our varied interests and passions. We can fall off our path. Often, falling off our path involves falling onto – or in the way of – someone else’s path. For instance, a designer may change her design aesthetic to satisfy the pricing concerns of the ‘wrong’ group of customers. At first, coming up with new designs is a lot of fun, until you realize that you’re gradually not appealing to the customers that really matter to you. A jewelry retailer may get caught up in the fun and excitement of event planning or social media, only to realize months later that she stopped paying the kind of attention needed to her nuts-and-bolts merchandising strategy.
Luckily, we do get clues that we are off track. For me, the clue is when the fun of the diversion is no longer fun. You see, my long-term path and strategy are based on my deepest convictions and life-time goals. Your strategy should be based on those things as well. Whether you want to sell your business for a lot of money, build a brilliant brand with staying power, or create a business that your family can inherit and run, matching your life goals to your business strategy will keep the business satisfying – fun – for you.
Diversions from your strategy are like vacations. It’s fun to go new places and see new things, but typically the vacations we take are a refreshing break from what should be a deeply satisfying life. When we lose sight of that and move to the beach and start sleeping in a tent, we quickly realize that the vacation is not the real thing.
Are You Having Fun?
Sometimes the clue is that you realize you are engaged daily with people you don’t want to be working with, or you find your ethics compromised or at risk of being compromised. Sometimes the clue is that whatever you are off-track on is not working, or the initial excitement of it can’t be sustained and now it’s a slog, or you suddenly find yourself with customers who don’t get you, that you wouldn’t have chosen if you hadn’t gotten off track.
Some people argue with my idea that work is supposed to be fun. But this isn’t some fluffy girl thing, an emotional thing. It’s a real thing. We do our best work when we’re having fun. We blow our competitors out of the water when we are having fun. When we are having fun, we are fun to work with, and that means our customer relationships are infused with our energy and our customers have fun. I have always found the money just flows when I am having fun. So the question “are you having fun” is a strategic question. I am dead serious about having fun.
Once I realized I was off-track, I did take some time to review my original strategy and make sure I was still happy with it. I recommend that anyone who has experienced a temporary diversion do the same, just in case there is an opportunity waiting in the wings that you hadn’t considered. I asked:
- Is my original strategy still the key to my lifetime goals?
- Do I see more potential in this diversion than I see in my strategy?
- Do I want to serve the customers I would serve if I pursued this diversion?
- Do I want to do the work I would have to do – long term – if I pursued this diversion?
In some cases, you may realize that you want to go a new direction. You’ll know it when you see it. In most cases – and at least this time, in my case – you can use the diversion as a powerful reminder of how important your own strategy is to you, and you get back on track.
One of the keys to staying on your strategy is to keep it front-and-center in your daily business life. My visual strategic plan (goals, objectives, timelines, all on one page) is once again taped to the top of my desk, reminding me every step of the way of what I want to accomplish in the long term. But the emotional cue is definitely most powerful. I am having a lot of fun again, and it feels right. That is a good place to be.