Purpose with Profit: How Small Business Owners Win or Lose.

I believe in the power of small business entrepreneurship to change lives. Owning a business can be a remarkable way to live and work for anyone who craves the freedom to prioritize who and what matters to them.

But not just any business will do. Even if we pick one that makes a profit, that alone is not enough for most of us.

The keystone supporting my work is that a purpose-driven business that is the right fit for its owner while being financially proven is most likely to succeed in the short and long term.  

I learned this from personal experience when I bootstrapped my first business 30 years ago. When you become a business owner, your mindset becomes either an asset or a liability to your business.

No saboteur is more lethal to a small, independently owned business than a disengaged, disgruntled, unhappy owner-operator. Hence, identifying and choosing a business that aligns with your values and purpose and supports you psychologically and emotionally is not just nice. It should be factored into your business model.

It began when I realized my first business had lost meaning to me.

I had started it more for survival than by design. At 25 years old, I picked an idea vaguely aligned with my skills and presented a market opportunity. 

And it worked, up to a point. But once the business was successful financially, my troubles began. 

I lost sleep, gained weight, and became easily irritated. I didn’t realize it then, but I was lost. I had lost my oomph, the kind that propels you forward against all odds, the kind that fuels a mission.

It was not a bad business; to the contrary. But I came to hate my role and day-to-day life as its owner. I could name a dozen reasons why I resented it. But these same excuses would have been irrelevant if the business had been meaningful to me. 

Most entrepreneurs become bored or disgruntled with their profitable business not because they are a fickle, restless bunch attracted to new and shiny objects. 

Entrepreneurs burn out when they lose motivation for their work. When the goal is only to make money, most business owners realize it’s not enough.

Investing in a business that aligns with your values and actualizes your life purpose is vital to long-lasting success and happiness. It is achieved with early-stage research, introspection, and unbiased validation. 

What are the warning signs that a business may not be a good fit for its owner?

For a new owner, misalignment with the business they pick (creating or buying one) can manifest in many ways, for example:

  • Pursuing a business idea only because it seems lucrative – as I did. 
  • Jumping on a hot trend without genuine interest – yep, that too.
  • Turning a hobby or vague interest into a business – also guilty there.
  • Starting a business only because you know its industry, have a degree in it, or are an employee in the same type of business. Ditto.
  • Confusing a great product with a great business model.
  • Buying a business or franchise just because others allegedly succeeded with it.
  • Launching a business without understanding what profoundly motivates you, as I did. 
  • Sometimes, having easy access to money to invest (with cash or debt) leads to skipping or skimming early-stage impartial research and due diligence. 

These scenarios often result in burnout. Burnout means ruining our physical and mental health to make money, and it is never worth it. 

So, how do you ensure you and your business won’t be another cautionary tale? 

I struggled with this question for years while running my successful but exhausting business. It drove me to mental and emotional burnout. Until an unexpected, incurable health diagnosis forced me to reevaluate my career and life choices. 

After I exited my first business, I went on a quest to create a framework for small business entrepreneurs who wanted both success and long-term fulfillment.

It led me to develop the Right Business Right Life Formula. From my struggles and from interviewing the happy and unhappy business owners I coached, I discovered the answer to our shared outcry: 

“There’s got to be more to this!”

This formula is not just about avoiding financial failure; it’s about creating a thriving life as a business owner because it is fueled by our deepest values.

The formula includes four key activities. To identify the right purpose-driven business or verify that your idea is the right one for you and the life you envision:

1 – Uncover your life purpose. 

Before you consider what business to start, begin by understanding what drives you. What are your passion topics, and how do you envision your ideal life? Most of us only have a vague idea of why we do the things we do. This step is about connecting with your inner self and identifying what truly matters to you. Even if you decide not to start a business after all, this exercise helps you make the right decisions about any career.

2 – Identify a problem related to your life purpose and values and one you are passionate about solving.

With your life purpose as a guiding star, seek out a problem that exists in the world or in a local area and that resonates with you. This problem, annoyance, or inconvenience should be one that you’re passionate about and, ideally, one that can align one or several of these:

  • Your muse: what inspires so much that you lose track of time when you engage in it.  
  • Your skills: you have accumulated a certain amount of career capital in activities (paid or unpaid) that you have learned. Which one can and should be leveraged with your future business?
  • Your genius zone: What do you do better than most people? Friends and family will often recognize it before you do.

3 – Design a business model around the solution.

Once you’ve identified a problem, the next step is to develop a business model that offers a viable solution and product. This model should leverage your strengths and be scalable, sustainable, and fulfilling. Equally important, it also involves ensuring that this business model can deliver the lifestyle you envision.

4 – Vet and plan your business with clarity and objectivity.

After drafting a business model, implement it with a clear and objective mindset. This means rigorously vetting its product against the needs and means of your ideal customers to ensure that it can succeed financially in its environment: the market.

The Right Business Right Life Formula guides you through investing your time, money, and energy in a business that can succeed financially and bring personal fulfillment to your life’s purpose.

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