Serving a Purpose: The Meaning of Life for a Small Business Owner.
If you are considering quitting having job after job to start a business, my guess is that you seek the freedoms a job can’t give you. You probably got to a point where you’re really, really fed up with the daily grind of soul-sucking work that doesn’t compensate nearly enough for your precious time and life and for the compromises you need to make as an employee. If you dream of becoming the captain of your own ship, welcome to the adventurous tribe of small business entrepreneurs. Across the globe, there are 582 million of us entrepreneurs. In the United States, at the last census by the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are 30.2 million small businesses, comprising 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses that create jobs for nearly half of the working population.
As small business entrepreneurs owning our means of livelihood, a business affords us the freedom to choose:
- What we do.
- How we work.
- Whom we work with.
- Where we work.
- When we work.
- How much we earn.
It’s a whole lot of “freedoms,” isn’t it?
Yet, there is one other freedom missing in this list, and it might be the most impactful to you and your business’s success.
Can you guess what it might be?
Here is a hint.
When you own the right business for you, you get to make decisions according to your values, your priorities, and your goals.
If you guessed the freedom to live with purpose, you are right. All of these: values, priorities, and goals are encompassed in your life purpose: your big “why.”
That is the most significant of all freedoms because it gives the most meaning to your life. That’s what the jobs you have held most likely lacked, which makes you question if there is more to life than a daily toil that only pays the bills.
So, you might wonder, why is the freedom to live our life purpose impactful on a business? There is an economic reason for this, and I’ll get to this in a minute. But first, allow me to share my personal experience with the meaning of a life purpose as a business owner.
When I started my first business at 25 years old, I struggled with that concept. I wanted to keep my business and my personal life completely separated from each other. I thought this was the most rational way to approach business ownership; personal stuff in one box, business stuff in the other. And they should never, ever mingle.
But it didn’t work.
I realized that I was treating my business like a job, and it was exhausting. It’s when I began to understand that my life was my business, and my business was my life. Both became more enjoyable. Both got better results because I became aware that one of the reasons I had started a business was to make a difference in other people’s life: my clients, my employees, my child, my family, and even for people whom I didn’t know.
When I understood this, I was able to clarify my business’ mission statement as my personal purpose. Here it is:
“Making the World Feel Good.”
Wow! You might think this is a pretty lofty mission for a small business. But that turned out to be both my business’ mission and my “raison d’être.” Forgive me for flaunting French here (no glory, it’s my native language), it’s the best word to express this dictionary definition:
“The most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.”
On the surface, this brick and mortar small business was just:
- An award-winning 4,000 square foot spa providing relaxation with therapeutic spa treatments to stressed-out Silicon Valley clients with a team of 40 employees.
But beyond this, it was also:
- A company providing a career to treatment providers who loved what they did for a living. Many of them even started their own spa business.
- A fun part-time spa concierge job for students who were working towards an academic degree for another career.
- A for-profit organization that donated to charitable causes like local schools, women’s shelters, and communities in developing countries needing access to clean water.
- A career that gave me the flexibility and the income to raise my child and be there for my family on my own terms.
After my purpose became clear to me, every decision became more straightforward. I had discovered my true North, and my business was the instrument to it.
Simon Sinek author of “Start with Why” places our “Why” at the center of what he calls the “Golden Circle.”
Our deep purpose, our big “why,” is that inner force that inspires all of our decisions, conscious or unconscious.
That’s the answer to that other freedom: With the right business for you, one that you own, you get to make all the decisions, including having the freedom to serve your big life purpose.
The business then is an instrument that allows you to pursue your “why.” In other words, your business becomes the “how” to your “why.”
Certainly, let’s not forget the money. Most of us want to own a business to make money, but money is an outcome, albeit an important one both for ourselves and our company.
But what’s even more spectacular about aligning your business with your life purpose is that it will also make your business economically stronger and more prosperous. Here is how:
- When your business is aligned with your purpose, you create a unique brand identity. A distinctive and well-loved brand identity is not stealable.
- A purpose-driven business attracts the right customers who share your beliefs and values and are not tempted by discounted copies of your products.
- It makes you resilient when challenges and obstacles show up because your purpose as a business owner is more significant than these obstacles, fueling your drive to succeed.
- It will attract the right employees who will stick with you through thick and thin because they are inspired by the purpose, likely the main reason they wanted to work for your company in the first place.
I admit I did smirk a little when I first heard of “The Great Resignation” resulting from millions of employees quitting their jobs and how it puzzles company leaders, politicians, and social scientists.
The reason is painfully obvious to me. For the past 10 years, research has already shown that 70% of employees are at least disengaged, if not consciously sabotaging both job and company.
After going through the pandemic’s upheaval and disruption, these employees realize that they have had enough with spending their precious life in a work that has scant meaning beyond a limited paycheck for companies that care little about them and prioritize shareholders’ value above all.
Meaning and purpose are missing in 70% of employees’ daily grind. A job can be quit anytime. Conversely, a purpose cannot be quit that easily. This is why they say “hasta la vista” in droves.
Meanwhile, through my business, OPEN FOR BUSINESS, I help them, and maybe you, find meaning in something better and bigger than a job: a business that serves you and your life’s purpose.
Cheers to living a life you love!
PS: If you wonder what happened to my purpose and mission with my third business, my purpose is still the same. Our purpose is unique to who we are and doesn’t change. It just changes its vehicle. Through my company OPEN FOR BUSINESS, I still seek to make the world feel good by helping people start “the right business for the right life,” a life of their own design, a life they, and their family, love.
If you would like to explore having the right business as a vehicle for a life that fits you, consider investing in this mini-course that I created as a first step for aspiring small business owners: