My wife and I went out for her 30th birthday. It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve managed to get some time alone (albeit only for a few hours).
We were able to talk at length about where we’re up to in life, where we want to be, and what we want to achieve. It sounds like an odd conversation to have for a night out, but anyone with children will understand how this sort of conversation usually flows.
You talk about your children, and how you hope that they’re doing well in school, what new things they’ve done, and how well your day went with them and so on, and then you start to talk about how you’re going to get that “ideal lifestyle” that you’ve always dreamed of.
We talked about holidays, when we were going to take them, and where we’d like to go.
I suggested that we go away for every school holiday possible- 13 weeks per year (give or take Christmas, as that’s a totally separate holiday), to which my wife agreed that it’d be a great idea. Obviously, there are some logistical mechanisms behind it- where? When? How? Do we rent? Do we go for a hotel? Do we spend all of our time in one destination, or do we travel around? And so on.
We then talked about how we’ve got 3 kids and a 3-bedroom house, so the conversation naturally progressed to us needing a bigger house as our children grow. My daughter in almost 11 so she’s at the phase where she wants to spend more time in her room on her phone to her friends, but she’s in the box room so there isn’t a great deal of space for her. My eldest son has his own room, and the youngest is still in our room in his cot, but sooner or later, we’re going to need the extra space.
My wife then asked the question; which one do we go for? The constant holidays whilst living in a house that’s too small for us, or get the house that we need whilst taking fewer holidays? Do we sacrifice having time off to get the “better” house, or do we have more holidays and go for a smaller house?
My answer was, “why can’t we have both?”. My wife told me to be realistic. And that’s when it hit me- I’d heard a quote recently from a guy called Daniel Priestley along the lines of “if you do what other people do, you’ll get what other people get”.
We’re taught from an early age that if you get a good job and work hard, you’ll be rewarded and you might be able to go on a holiday or two each year, or save up for a house deposit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this life, but it isn’t for everyone.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re a business owner, or aspiring to be one. And as a business owner, you tend to start out with these amazing ideas of how running your own business is going to be the best thing for you and your family- you’re going to have independence, financial freedom, not be answerable to anyone, and have an amazing work-life balance.
Then you open your business and you have to do a lot of the work yourself until you can build a team. Then you build a team and have to work on training them. Once you’ve trained your team you need to look at building the business, paying for advertising, thinking of new concepts, planning, looking after finances and so on. You tell yourself that you’ll pay yourself more next month, or you’ll book that holiday soon, you just need to build the business a little more first. Unfortunately, this cycle perpetuates itself and you find that your salary doesn’t increase, the hours that you work don’t decrease, and the business doesn’t grow in the way that you wish it would.
Most other people work their 9–5, or their regular job (whatever those hours may be) and they aspire to receive a better wage for the hours they work, but a business owner shouldn’t think this way.
Owning a business is about the journey as well as the result, not just about how much you’re earning per hour/ day/ month/ year. You’ve got to enjoy the work that you do, and you’ve got to be rewarded for it too. Rewards aren’t purely financial. I don’t pay myself a huge wage, I pay myself a comfortable wage. I have a great team that deals with the brunt of the workload for me, which affords me time with my family. As I’m writing this, I’m having a 4-day weekend in Shrewsbury with friends and family- having the time to do this is worth more to me than paying myself more, working longer hours and removing a member of my team to afford a higher wage for myself.
At every substantial point of growth in my business, I’ve taken on extra staff. Don’t get me wrong, I still work to a budget and targets, but my targets are very different from that of most other accountants, who would rather do the brunt of the work themselves, have a smaller team, and work more hours for a higher wage. I choose to have a bigger team and focus on customer care rather than a higher profit %. It means my profit margins are smaller, but my business’s client retention rate is higher than most other accountancy businesses (98%). I know all of my clients, and I speak to all of my clients personally.
I can do this because I have a productive team- some of whom have far more experience and knowledge than I do. For some reason, a lot of business owners (especially hospitality) don’t like employing people that are better than them- they seem to think that their hierarchical structure (chain of command) has to flow in the same direction of experience, when in fact it doesn’t. Two of my team members that report directly to me have far more experience than I do, and they’re far more qualified than I am. I don’t hide it; I relish in it. In fact, I even bring it up with potential clients when I have an initial meeting as one of the more frequent questions I’m asked is if I’ll be looking after them personally or if I’m going to ‘farm it out’. I always answer this with the same question- if I come into your place and order food, are you going to cook it? The predominant response is a resounding “no, that’s why I have a head chef”. It’s no different in my business- I own it, I run it, and I generate sales, but the more qualified people actually look after it. After all, that’s what people want isn’t it? To know that their food, their accounts, or their project is being looked after by the person most qualified. And because of that, I’m able to reduce my working hours.
I appreciate that this was a fairly long-winded message that kind of snowballed from taking extra holidays to a rant about working hours, but the original message still stands; “if you do what others do, you’ll get what others get”. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to, and replicating other restaurants, bars, or hotels, then you’re going to get exactly what they get, which more often than not isn’t very much. If you’re going copy someone else in your industry, then pick someone that you’d consider to be out of your league, someone that is currently smashing it out of the park, and try to emulate their success. I don’t mean steal all of their ideas as that’d be a dick move. Look at what they’re doing and make it your own- if you can do this, then you’ll get what they get.
P.S. Fran is not a huge fan of this photo, but it's one of my favourites.