Why a ‘big enough’ business is the key to designing a life you love

As an entrepreneur who teaches other entrepreneurs how to design a lifestyle business, I see lot of hype. Not a day goes by when my Facebook news feed doesn’t include some variation of:

“Reach and make millions!”

“Don’t let your small business make you small minded!”

“How I made 6-figures in just 60 days… and you can too!”

As someone behind the scenes with my own clients and business BFFs… I know we’re only seeing part of the picture. We talk about the end results (all those dolla dolla bills) and we might get a glimpse into their lifestyle (complete with lavish vacations and fancy cars).

It’s so easy to believe that bigger is better… that a 6- or 7- or 8-figure business equals finally having that FREEDOM we are all seeking.

When money is the only yardstick of success, it’s easy to get caught up in the myth that more money = more happiness.

Yet, the conversations between myself and my business BFFs has shared a completely different perspective. For those who are dreaming of a lifestyle business (ie a business designed 100% around supporting your desired lifestyle), there seems to be a point where there’s some truth to the saying mo’ money, mo’ problems.

As you cross into the territory of six- and seven- figure businesses, suddenly your business is no longer only about you just doing what you love. Your focus shifts to growing a team, customer service demands, scaling your business to you can reach and make more.

It makes me wonder…

[clickToTweet tweet=”Does bigger mean better? Or is big enough? enough?” quote=”Does bigger mean better? Or is big enough? enough?” theme=”style2″]

The Parable of The CEO + The Fisherman

A successful CEO on vacation was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The CEO complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman proudly replied, “Every morning, I go out in my boat for 30 minutes to fish. I’m the best fisherman in the village.”

The CEO, perplexed, then asks the fisherman, “If you’re the best, why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish? What do you do the rest of the day?

The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, spend quality time with my wife, and every evening we stroll into the village to drink wine and play guitar with our friends. I have a full and happy life.

The CEO scoffed, “I am successful CEO and have a talent for spotting business opportunities. I can help you be more successful. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats with many fisherman. Instead of selling your catch to just your friends, you can scale to sell fish to thousands. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the big city, where you can oversee your growing empire.

The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?

To which the CEO replied, “15 – 20 years.”

But what then?” Asked the fisherman.

The CEO laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

Millions? Then what?”

The CEO said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, spend time with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”

I first heard a version of this story when I was at a crossroads in my own life. I had realized that following the MBA career track meant putting the next 10 – 20 – 30 years of my life on hold until I was successful enough to scale back on my 60+ hour work weeks and enjoy, as the fisherman shared, a full and happy life.

What if you want to live a full and happy life you love, right now?

What if this season of your life is one you want to truly savor and enjoy?

What would it look like if we took the pressure off and stopped focusing on the only measure of success to be the bottom line?

I’m a fan of the big-enough business.

The goal of business and lifestyle design is to create a business you love & that loves you back. A business that loves you back, naturally, provides for you by helping you do what you love for those who love what you do.

But even more important to me, a business that loves you back creates space for what matters most, to you.

Over and over again, I hear from women who start their businesses to create FREEDOM for themselves and their families, but somewhere along the entrepreneurial journey, they realize they don’t feel free.

When they’ve modeled their business based on someone else’s version of success, at some point they realize that one size does not fit all.

In fact, I was recently I was interviewed by an extremely successful entrepreneur who crossed the 7- figure mark in just a couple of short years, John Lee Dumas over at Entrepreneur on Fire (Listen in to our interview here). This is truly a man with a mission who is up to big things in the world. I admire the transparency of his journey as he publishes his income reports on his website for the world to see.

What I really love about his income reports is that not only does he share where his seven figure business is coming from, he shares how much TIME he’s investing into his business each and every month.

Last month alone, John worked 219 hours and his significant other + business partner Kate worked 207. If you spread that 400 hours a month out over 4 weeks, that means that together, they are working 100 combined hours a week and individually at least 50.

Those hours aren’t an unusually busy month for them because of a launch or something big they were working on, it was actually LESS BUSY than the previous months. As you flip through the last few months of income reports, you can see that the team at Entrepreneur On Fire is hustling with 50-60 hour weeks to hit that 7-figure income.

It’s a reality check, right?

When you get to peek under the hood of that successful business you want to model, suddenly you get a clearer picture of what really goes into that measure of success and can decide if that version of success fits YOU.

When I speak with entrepreneurs like John Lee Dumas, I think what they’ve accomplished is inspiring, but it’s not for me in this season of my life.

My business is big enough.

It’s big enough to support my desired lifestyle for myself and my family. We live in a modest and cozy home we adore. Our kids have incredible amounts of fun in preschool, soccer, and ballet. And we get to take 3-4 family vacations a year to enjoy a week or so playing on the beach or exploring a new city.

And the best part, to me, is that we don’t have to put off those dreams of enjoying our life and family until someday. We have plenty of space to enjoy every minute of our days. We don’t live just for the weekends or vacations. Each and every day, we’re living in alignment with our greatest values.

Our business is big enough because my husband and I can each invest 20-25 hours a week into it and our return is what we need for a comfortable, beautiful, fulfilling lifestyle we adore.

Don’t get me wrong, a big-enough business doesn’t mean that I’m not always coming up with a million new ideas or that we’re just being lazy. Far from it! We’re just intentional about growing slowly and ensuring that each idea we pursue is truly in alignment with our version of success.

Running a big enough business allows you to create sustainable growth. Instead of finding yourself in emergency mode or constantly putting out fires, you can take your time to find the right people for your team who will help you to design the systems and structure to deliver an incredible experience to your community.

Running a big enough business gives you permission to live in your business sweet spot, that magical intersection between your passion, your purpose, and your perfect-for-you people where you truly love every moment of the work that you’re doing in the world.

Running a big enough business means that occasionally, you’ll have to make hard decisions about where you focus your time and energy. This year, I decided to press pause on one of my most lucrative income streams – private mentorship and consulting – to make space for writing a book. I could added an extra 2-3 hours into my work day for writing this book, but spending more time working means less time living. It would mean less quality time with my youngest son in the afternoons or with my husband in the evenings.

If you find yourself getting caught up in the hype of bigger is better, stop and remember the parable of the CEO and the fisherman. What matters most, to you, right now? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.