Dear Jayme,

I keep reading that it’s possible to own a business and not be stressed out, work long hours and fight fires all day, but I don't see how that’s possible. I’ve been running my business for twenty years. It’s always been one headache after another, and it seems like it will always be. How can it really be different?          

Dear Trent:
We’re a country that believes suffering and sacrifice are required for success. We’re very proud of our sacrifices: “I had to blow off our twenty-fifth anniversary,” “I missed my kid’s graduation,” etc. We’re even trained to think that success without misery is somehow decadent and wrong.

“But,” you say, “look where this sacrifice has brought us. We’re the envy of the world.” Perhaps, but the data proves people who are happy and unstressed are more productive than their long-suffering peers. They’re willing to show up regularly, work harder, be team players and stay around longer. And the same thing applies to the boss.

Don’t get me wrong. A successful business that provides abundance and fulfillment doesn’t happen without effort. The key is how and where you apply that effort. But that isn’t the secret to a prosperous business that provides you with abundance and leisure.

The first step is to truly believe that you can build it and deserve it. New Age woo-woo? No. I guarantee that Bill Gates didn’t think himself incapable of building and running a gazillion dollar business, and I can’t imagine a less woo-woo guy.

On the other hand, you’d probably agree that you won’t achieve something you truly believe yourself incapable of. Right? Why even bother to try? So, you pretty much must accept that your beliefs drive or limit your actions. If it’s all the same, you might as well believe that you can achieve greatness without killing yourself.

If you can let yourself think bigger thoughts, here’s a new approach:

  •     Find a model and copy shamelessly—Hang around with owners who live the life you want. Find out how they do it. Copy them.
  •     Talk to the experts—There are pros who teach owners this stuff for a living, and yes, my clients do live the lives they’ve dreamt of. Owners use coaches because we know the best path and practices, and we keep them on track. Find someone you’re comfortable with (and with a proven record), and let them guide you.
  •     Expect it to be uncomfortable—Your old beliefs are firmly entrenched, and they like it that way. They won’t appreciate being tossed out and replaced.
  •     Be patient—You’ve been thinking the old way for a long time, and you won’t change overnight. Give it time, learn and change gradually.
  •     Don’t mistake data gathering for real change—It’s much easier to read lots of books, listen to tapes and go to seminars and trade shows than it is to look inside and do the tough work of changing your skills and focus. Going to the doctor doesn’t make you better—following his directions faithfully after you leave is what helps.

I know the phrase, “You’ve got to visualize your success and believe it,” has been beaten to death and makes a lot of eyes roll, but the truth is, it’s true. The data is in, case closed: Owners with a vision of where they’re going and a belief that it’s inevitable get it done far more often than those who don’t.

It’s a new year. Take some time to create a plan for yourself and your business and know that almost anything is possible. (I mean, really…look around at the people living great lives. Some of them can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to succeed and did it anyway. No reason you can’t, too.)



(By the way, Bill Gates never worked any harder than most small business owners: There are no more hours in his week than yours. He just used his time to work on building his business instead of working in the daily operation of it.)

Construction Business Owner, January 2008