"Am I My Business or My Business' Keeper?"
by Ronald C. Reece, Ph.D.

"It's 1:00 a.m. Aren't you ever coming to bed?" asked Robert's wife. Robert replied, "Yes, in a while when I get these figures straightened out."

This was probably the hundredth such exchange between Robert and his wife, Jane, in less than a year. In January last year, Robert lost his job in a merger. As a result he came face to face with the decision to "Entrepreneur or Not to Entrepreneur." Robert took stock, evaluated his entrepreneurial potential, looked in the mirror and vowed, "I'll show them." He entrepreneured!

Within three months after losing his job Robert rolled the dice. He took $50 thousand of his savings along with $50 thousand he borrowed - $25 thousand from his parents and $25 thousand from a second mortgage as start-up capital. Jane took a deep breath and said, "Go for it." They did and Keepsafe Security Systems was born.

Since then Robert has gotten home only once before 8 p.m. and has taken only two days off - Thanksgiving and Christmas. When he bumps into a friend he always ends up talking about Keepsafe. Even when he bumps into one of his children he listens while mentally reviewing his to do list.

Sound familiar? If so, pay attention. Robert is becoming his business, not unusual for someone in the business start-up phase. He is being engulfed, swallowed up by the day to day demands and the over arching business requirements. Driven by the fear of failure and the hope for a paycheck, Robert makes sales calls, installs the alarm systems, does the billing, balances the checkbook and on and on. He does like the feeling of being in charge and has strongly attached himself to what he calls, "my little business." Jane backs him up, by performing many of the necessary administrative tasks but both she and Robert know something has to change.

When Robert began he told himself that three things were especially important (1) work real hard, (2) keep costs low and (3) do it yourself if at all possible. He had no business plan but got lucky with a couple of pretty good contracts. If you notice, Robert's three rules rely on him. Also the identity and pride he is beginning to feel with Keepsafe is primarily about his emotional need to "show them." Robert's motivational drivers need objectivity. He can show them, but do they really care? No way! He can just make a living or he can build a business.

What Robert needs now is PR - not public relations but Perspective Realignment, an objective look in his mirror and a next level assessment of what his being in business is about. He clearly has tenacity, willfulness and commitment. Robert needs to arms length himself from his business, step back and address some important questions with new actions. Questions to address:

What has my business done for me thus far?

What five things do I want my business to do for me next year?

How is my business behaving?

Am I working on the business or just in the business?

How can I make my business a reflection of me without further becoming my business?

A conversation or two or three with a trusted advisor or business mentor is in order here. A coach or perhaps different coaches to challenge Robert's thinking about his own psychology, business philosophy and business know how would be extremely valuable.

I know, I know, by now you and Robert are saying, "how can anyone really find the time or money to do this stuff?" Well, Robert has worked like a whirling dervish for a year. Let's say 75 hours a week times 52 weeks equals 3,900 hours. During this next year could he not apply 75 hours, 2% of his time, toward these important issues? In doing so he could then truly develop a personal/business plan which would be aimed at business systems development. Such a plan would ultimately support his personal aims not the other way around. The choice is his. But in order to become his Business' Keeper he really has no choice.

While sorting through whether or not to begin his Perspective Realignment, Robert came across the following from a book entitled, Built to Last: "Profitability is a necessary condition for existence and a means to more important ends, but it is not the end in itself for many visionary companies.

Profit is like oxygen, food, water and blood for the body; these are not the points of life but without them there is no life."

"Profound," he thought. That night Robert couldn't sleep. Thoughts about his profit motives, his more important ends and about how entangled he was with Keepsafe rolled over and over. The Perspective Realignment had begun almost without his knowing it.

The next day a friend who had encouraged Robert to go into business dropped off a book, The E-Myth Revisited. Robert took the book to lunch. There I sat reading the same book. Coincidence? Well, maybe? We talked for quite a while. Before Robert left we agreed to meet again to develop his career and business direction plans. His new perspective was already calling out for action.

© Reece & Associates, P.A.