Tell me what you want. What you really, really want!!
In this first instalment, we’re jumping into the debate that revolves around the pros and cons of each model. While we understand that there are strong opinions about the perceived merits of both, we thought it would be helpful to first explore the differences between the two.
Part 1: Tell me what you want – what you really, really, want!I don’t know about you, but when I conjure up an image to go along with the term ‘lifestyle’ practice I often land on the ‘mom and pop’ stereotype. You know what I’m talking about – the small operation in which both partners (usually) work – often from a home office. One partner performs the sales (client-facing) function and the other partner perform the administrative function (behind the scenes). They often don’t embrace the most current technology (they may actually still keep some hand-written records) and often have very few systems that allow the practice to run without their direct intervention. They earn a somewhat comfortable income that allows them to take holidays (shutting the office when they do so) and go to the kids’ rugby games and piano recitals.
By definition, the ultimate purpose of a lifestyle practice is to earn just enough income to sustain a desired lifestyle.
For some people, this is the perfect arrangement. As a matter of fact, I know several people in this position. For the most part, they’re perfectly happy with their level of income and the amount of hours they need to work to earn that income. The flip side that I hear over a social glass of wine is how they worry that not much money is coming in if they’re not ‘working’. So, while they have the flexibility to take holidays and work 4-day weeks, there is always the worrisome knowledge that their income will take a dip after they take time off because they haven’t been ‘seeing enough people.’
Lifestyle practices tend to be self-limiting in their ability to expand and grow due to the fact that systems and processes often are not put in place from the beginning to allow them to scale up their efforts without a big investment in either more people or more sophisticated technology. When push comes to shove, these steps are often filed in the ‘too hard’ basket for many practitioners and they never expand. On top of that, most lifestyle practices have great difficulty surviving their original owners/founders. This is because they have been built on the model of customers/clients having direct interaction (and therefore building strong relationships) with the owner. 
Over our almost-60 combined years in business, we here at JFDI have run across hundreds of lifestyle entrepreneurs who are deluding themselves into believing they have a growth-oriented business simply because they receive a regular stream of referrals from their existing clients.
Simply getting a steady flow of people through the door by word of mouth doesn’t mean you have a growing business. It means you have a secure job.
Having a secure job means you can buy all the fun things in life – the boat, the bach, the nice house, private school for your kids, the nice car or the cruise holiday. But those are just THINGS. They’re trappings of a decent income. If you’re not also INVESTING IN YOURSELF or your practice, it’s highly unlikely you will ever build a sustainable business that has the chance to outlive you and continue to add value to the world long after you’re gone.
In my view, ‘investing’ means things like:
- constantly upskilling and learning new things that you can introduce to further add value to your clients
- accessing outside help like professional coaching to support you to be your personal best and to support your business to become the best in your market
- deferring a portion of your commission income so that it can sustain you in the form of ‘trail’ income in later years. (Getting out of the habit of taking every penny up-front and then spending it all to sustain your lifestyle is a step forward in your business maturity!)
- valuing yourself and your time enough to innovate and implement new procedures and systems that will allow you to operate in your ‘sweet spot’ of ONLY seeing clients you want to see and leading a team of others who take excellent care of all of your clients
That’s MY reason for developing a proper business. It may not be yours. If you’re happy with the fact that you’ve created a job for yourself that will last as long as you are able to physically turn up each day, stop reading. If, on the other hand, you feel there could be something more out there for you and your small business – that you can make an even greater impact and create something that outlives you – read on.
It’s only when you create processes and systems that allow you to turn on and off the stream of new clients at will, that systematise how you do what you do that you will experience the freedom that comes with NOT needing to be hands-on in your business.
And therein lies the rub. Many folks who have the desire to grow their lifestyle business actually experience a disconnect between what they WANT and what they’re prepared to CHANGE to move to a new level of growth. Owning a lifestyle practice lends itself to a certain level of ‘comfort’ that many find hard to break out of. If this is you, you’ve ‘practiced’ long enough! It’s time to stop practicing and start taking control! It can be done, and YOU can do it.
In the next instalment, we’ll look at the various ways you can go about growing your lifestyle practice into a sustainable business.