Why Building a Lifestyle Business Will Not Bring You Joy

Lifestyle businesses tend to dominate our lives and make us feel helpless

Wouldn’t it be great to build a Lifestyle Business? It sounds alluring.

The term conjures images of exotic travel, trendy restaurants, nightlife, fashion, and luxury. Instagram is full of accounts of people and businesses who would have us believe that this is their reality.

Here’s how Merriam-Webster breaks down the terms Lifestyle and Business:

Lifestyle, adjective : associated with, reflecting, or promoting an enhanced or more desirable lifestyle//lifestyle magazines

Business, noun : a usually commercial or mercantile activity engaged in as a means of livelihood//in the restaurant business

It sounds pretty good. Making a living promoting a desirable lifestyle.

You can do it too if you follow these “5 Hacks to Quit Your Job and Make $4,000 a Day”.

Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t mean that kind of lifestyle business (if that kind even exists).

Lifestyle Business is a pejorative in the world of business valuation. It means that the business owner runs the business exclusively to achieve enough income to support his lifestyle and no more. It has very little to no value as a business enterprise.

At best, you will get peanuts for this type of business when you want to get out of it.

I’m going to give you the steps to have a true Lifestyle Business. Think of it as:

How to Build a True Lifestyle Business! (don’t really do this)

This process will work for virtually any business. But we’ll use an architectural design firm as a case study in making a business a Lifestyle Business.

1. Keep all of the business processes in your head.

Do not document how you do what you do. Don’t communicate with anyone on your team how your design process works. Keep it all up in your head. They might steal your ideas anyway.

Definitely don’t share your company objectives with your team. Who are they to ask questions anyway? They need to just do what they’re told.

Actually, don’t document anything you don’t have to. You’re an architectural firm, not an accounting firm, right? Nobody looks at business plans and other documents anyway. What a waste of time.

2. Don’t develop your team.

If you develop an actual management team, they might start giving you their opinions about things. That seems like such a pain. And then they’ll want more money from you. You know best. It’s your company. Only hire worker bees.

Investing in training and skills development is not smart. It takes them away from the work you need them to be doing and it costs money! Besides, you could be training your future competition. We live in a world of scarcity.

Only give them what they need to do the job and no more.

3. Customize everything for your clients.

This is the way to stand out. So what if it feels like groveling? You are delivering customized service to your clients in a way that none of your competition will. If there is a particular design function or service that falls outside of your process, all that matters is catering to the client and what they want. Make sure to be flexible about your process because the ‘customer is always right’…right?

Since we’re on the topic of clients, make sure that you and only you are the point of contact for all of the client relationships. You don’t want one of your team members to get to close and then leave. They might take the client with them.

No. You are the point of contact for all of them. At least the biggest ones.

You are the face of the company after all.

4. Don’t worry about the way your company is perceived by employees or the public.

People should be able to manage their feelings better. Work is work. Work-life balance? This is a business. Grow up. If you start giving in to these kinds of touchy-feely sensibilities, you’ll end up with a foosball table in the office. This is not Google. This is not Facebook or Apple. People just need to mind their business and do their jobs.

Communication is about just getting to the point. If people’s feelings get hurt over that stuff, they should learn to have thicker skin. You don’t need to worry about ‘tone’ in communication. Just get to the point already.

And as for the public image, what does that matter? Your clients know that the work is of high quality. You don’t need to kiss anyone’s butt or project to the community that you care about. You do great work. That should be enough.

Taking the steps above will virtually guarantee you a Lifestyle Business. It doesn’t need to be an architectural firm. It can work in almost any category. There are some downsides though.

You will not be able to harvest any value (or very little) when it is time for you to move on. You’ll be stressed out because all of the heavy lifting and responsibility will fall on you.

You’ll feel pushed around and unappreciated by your clients because you have trained them to do that!

Sound good to have a Lifestyle Business?

Focus on building an actual business instead. If you have a real, functioning business that doesn’t depend on you, you can have a lifestyle.

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©2020 by Brent Rupnow, CEPA, CFP, CLU, ChFC