“Designing a Business to Suit Your Lifestyle”

All businesses dictate your lifestyle, it’s up to you to design it.

In this episode, John has a bit of a rant about Peter Jones from Dragons Den fame, and doesn’t even mention his stupid stripy socks once (though the pinstripe suits get a bit of a bashing!)

We show you that if your small business isn’t currently giving you the lifestyle you want, that:

1. That’s YOUR fault.

2. You CAN change things.

3. We can HELP.

We look at what a lifestyle business actually is, and why it certainly doesn’t mean small or unambitious. We see why NOT shooting for the moon can mean owning a less risky business, with an almost guaranteed level of success.

And who wouldn’t want to own a business that guarantees them success, whilst also giving them the lifestyle they want?

Other than Peter Jones of course…

Transcription

Below is the transcription of our podcast for you to read through if you prefer:

John:                     Hey everybody. Welcome to Episode 15 of The Big Audio Podcast. I’m John. Joined here as always by the ever-capable Jason Brockman.

Jason:                   Ever-capable. Thank you. Very good. Nice to meet your all.

John:                     Did I say ever or never?

Jason:                   Ever.

John:                     Okay. We’ll go with that one then. Welcome to episode 15 and we are talking today about lifestyle businesses. Now as I [inaudible 00:00:24] a job here at the Big Audio Podcast is to get small businesses thinking bigger. Why are we talking lifestyle businesses if we’re talking bigger? Surely that goes against the grain, doesn’t it?

Jason:                   No. No. Of course it doesn’t. Lifestyle business is what everybody aspires to isn’t it?

John:                     Well, I certainly think so. If you think about what a lifestyle business is, it is a way that a business owner can control the lifestyle that they lead, which surely is what all business owners want. It’s the difference thinking about self-employed person versus a lifestyle business owner. The lifestyle business owner literally crafts their business around the lifestyle that they want. Self-employed person thinks, “well, I’ve got a job.” It’s that difference. I think we’ve talked about it before. I mean working on the business versus in the business. It’s going back to the e-myth again, isn’t it.

Jason:                   Yeah. Yeah.

John:                     I think lifestyle businesses get a bad rap.

Jason:                   Yeah. They don’t sound too good. It sounds kind of a little bit LMLE kind of doing kinds of things as a whole being. It’s like you’re not really playing a businessman are you? You’re kind of just playing at it.

John:                     I think there’s two elements to it. I think you’ve got the MLM brigade who have latched on to most of the business and said, “oh, fantastic. That’s what we do.”  Sell our products to your friends and family and then get them to sell it to their friends and family and you can all have this amazing lifestyle whereby you can hire a work Mercedes, you can pay for it and we’ll just pay you commission based on selling our stuff. If you don’t quite sell enough well, the lease for the Mercedes is in your name so it’s not our problem. Hey, all over social media will be pictures of your living that laptop lifestyle of the white Mercedes or I think I was in part of one that gave you … you could drive around in the Porsche. It was actually a Porsche Boxster, which is like the poor man’s Porsche, and you got it for a month, but …

Jason:                   Thought it was a Mini?

John:                     Was that? Only you can have the Mini as well.

Jason:                   Okay.

John:                     The Porsche is you get the Porsche for a month. The Mini is you get to lease the Mini.

Jason:                   Ahh, okay.

John:                     Again, it’s zero risk for the MLM company and they just use it to create this illusion of a lifestyle business owner. Again, I use the phrase business owner there because in my mind the business owner has complete control over the business. Every time I’ve looked into doing anything with any MLM companies, you don’t have any control. You’re told, “oh, you can’t do this. You can’t do that.” I mean what I was looking at last year, we’d had some success with, but like ten years prior, we’d earned some good money with them so I thought, “well, there’s an opportunity here. I’ll do some google AdWords. We’ll get working on it.”

I went through their training and they explicitly forbid you to use Google AdWords because they said that this type of transactional marketing … That’s what they call Google AdWords … Transactional marketing attracts customers who don’t pay their bills.

Jason:                   Really.

John:                     I never knew that people who use Google don’t pay their bills. I never knew that.

Jason:                   Is is like [inaudible 00:04:06]

John:                     It was. I tell you these MLM companies they’ve opened my eyes. The other type of person who give lifestyle businesses a bad name are the suited-and-booted, every-has-got-to-be-a multi-millionaire type, and the famous example I’ll use of this is Peter Jones from Dragon’s Den. I haven’t watched Dragon’s Den for several series now because Sarah tells me off because I start shouting at the television whenever it’s on, but anyway. The amount of times that I’d watch it and Peter Jones would … Someone would come on and they’d have a decent business. It’s not ever going to be huge but … He would just shoot it down, “oh, you’re a lifestyle business. You haven’t even worn a suit and tie to this presentation.” What the frig has that got to do with anything, the fact that they’re not wearing a pin-striped-2000-dollar suit like you are.

I remember we had a bit of a conversation with Dough Richard at one point didn’t we. Just after he’d left Dragon’s Den. I think he and Peter Jones had a little bit of a falling out because Doug was very much on the lifestyle business, I was going to say, bandwagon, but I can’t think of a better word so that …

Jason:                   It’s the start-ups I think, wasn’t it? Was that him?

John:                     Yeah. Literally, this economy is driven by lifestyle business owners. Not everyone who sets out in business wants to be a multimillionaire and nor should everyone attempt to be. I think they have a little bit of a “conflab” between the two of them and I think they didn’t necessarily meet eye to eye which is ironic because obviously they’re on the same TV show. They did some investments together, but yeah, as far as Peter Jones is concerned, if you’ve not got ambitions to float for ten million quid, you’re not a real business owner. I think there is a lot off this … You get a lot of people who they look down their nose at small business owners at lifestyle business owners and say, “oh yeah, you’re just a lifestyle business. This will only ever be a hobby business.” That’s that kind of pigeonholing, isn’t it?

Jason:                   I didn’t say anything because I think everybody who’s in business is therefore a lifestyle, a lifestyle may be as you said, the Mercedes, the boat, the holidays abroad and sitting on the beach with the laptop, that’s in some people’s ideas. Their idea of a lifestyle and able to do that with their business which is great. Then other people enjoy doing lots of other things, just being time with the family and watching the children grow up. There’s another lifestyle that you kind of run your business to be able to do that. I think that’s the key element really.

John:                     Yeah. To me, lifestyle doesn’t mean small. It doesn’t mean unambitious. You’re not necessarily shooting for the moon. You’re not going to, as Steve Jobs would say, “ding in the universe with a lifestyle business, but you can put a hell of a dent in your family’s universe. You can make a huge difference to a small number of people with a lifestyle business.” You’ve got a lot less risk because you don’t need to go out there and write the … The aim of my startup is to get my first two-million pounds worth of seed investment money so that I can then make it to the second round of funding where we’re going to get five-million pounds and eventually we’re going to end up with 20-million pounds worth of debt so that we then … but it’s okay because we’re going to flip and we’re going to sell for 50 million. I was like, “that’s great. What if you don’t? You’re still saddled with 20-million worth of deb.”

If all you do as a startup is borrow money to … So you’re using some else’s money and that’s all you learn how to do is how to borrow money and how to spend other people’s money. When you bootstrap a business, when you’ve got a small lifestyle business, you learn how to make money. You learn how to sell. I think a lot of these startups, ambition startups, yeah, they are ambitious, no doubt about it. They are shooting for the moon, but they have very high failure rate. Lifestyle businesses don’t. There is a much higher chance of success so why wouldn’t you want that? You can retain control of your company. You won’t end up saying “well, I’m [inaudible 00:09:02] for this 15-million pounds that I’ve borrowed” and I now actually only own 17% of my company. How did that happen? Also, I’ve got these institutional investors telling me how to run my business.

You can have less debt in the company. A lot less stress. You get to choose it. You touched on it earlier. All businesses are lifestyle businesses because if you control the business, then you dictate the lifestyle that you get. Yeah, if you control the business and you want to go out there and take two-million dollars off someone, then you are choosing that lifestyle of well I’m going to work 16-hour days. I’m going to work 100-hour weeks, I’m going to travel the remote ways of the country. I’m going to jet over to America every month. I’m going to be unanswerable to institution investors.

That is the lifestyle you’ve chosen because and I’m not totally dissing it saying, “that’s not for anybody. You shouldn’t do that. If that is the lifestyle you want and you want to have that lifestyle of well I’ve got 20-million quid in the bank, that’s a path you can go down.” If the path you want is to spend more time with the family, to travel the world, to work part-time to care for a disabled relative, to retire, to retire early, then you can do that. You can design that lifestyle as a lifestyle business owner.

We’ve had elements where we’ve done this because when I first started the business back in 2000, it was completely a lifestyle business. It had one aim and that was to remove me from the civil service, to provide me with a wage, and for me to be my own boss. I think we’ve touched on it in previous episodes, round about 2004/ 2005 we completely lost our way and we started following someone else’s plan, someone else’s lifestyle design for our business. Initially, we had some success. We made very, very good money, but it still wasn’t … I was in there working 100-hour weeks. You were in the office, non-stop, cracking the whip with all sorts of crap going on.

Jason:                   It wasn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination.

John:                     No, but it wasn’t the lifestyle we wanted, was it?

Jason:                   No.

John:                     We probably muddled on for a good … I would estimate five years that we were all …

Jason:                   Someone said, extra care of yourself in the business completely because it wasn’t really what you wanted at all was it at that stage.

John:                     Absolutely not what I wanted.

Jason:                   Kind of retired. Wasn’t it? Kind of left the business and yeah, because it just wasn’t what you were after.

John:                     Yeah. Certainly. You’d go to networking events and you’d mingle with these people who were saying, “I’ve got a 5-million pound business now and I’ve got 25 staff and we’re moving into our bigger offices and have you seen my Porsche 911 that’s outside. Oh, that’s nice.” Little things you’d say to them, your Ford Plymouth. Right. Oh yeah. Have you got a yacht yet? No, I haven’t got a yacht yet. Just little things like that that we just ended up … and it was almost like a woody-waving competition. You just end up competing with other people and you end up on this conveyor belt whereby you’re living the lifestyle they want and not the lifestyle you want.

It took that big jolt, sat in the MLT, Garrett reading, Alan [inaudible 00:12:56] with a three-month old baby where he said, “I never really saw my kids when they were growing up” and that was just that light bolt moment for me. That was like, “I need to run my business the way I want my lifestyle. I can design this business to give me the lifestyle that I want.” I thought I had the lifestyle I want because I’ve got a decent car, nice house, but when I’m sat there thinking, “I’m still doing 100-hour weeks and I’ve got a baby at home who I’m not seeing.” That’s not the lifestyle I want.

It was that realisation. I think we kind of touched on this briefly last week which was that if you are not currently getting … If your small business is not giving you the lifestyle that you want then, number one, that’s your fault. We went off track for five years.

Jason:                   Yeah. Yeah.

John:                     That was our fault. Why is our fault? It’s our fault because we are in control of the business. We call all the shots. We decide what we do. We say yes to opportunities. We say no to opportunities. We decide how many people we employ. We decide how many offices we got. What square footage that is. What business we have. That is all our decision. Number one, it’s your fault.

Jason:                   Yeah.

John:                     Not just your fault.

Jason:                   No. I’m happy to take the blame. You’ve thrown it my way. That’s certainly fine. Someone has got to take it and it might as well be me. No, it is. Absolutely. Your fault, your destiny. You’re in control of it and that’s the think which you really do need to step up to really. If it’s not giving you what you like.

John:                     It is because to say you’re in control. Number two, you can change things. It’s to say, you’re in complete control of your company then you’re in complete control of your destiny. You can make changes.

We meet so many people. We had a conversation with a guy the other week. I said to him, what’s the big plan. What do you actually want to achieve? What’s the five-year plan? I want to retire. Cool. How are you going to do that? Oh, I don’t know. Well, you’re not going to achieve what you want, retirement, that’s the lifestyle that you want. I want to retire. You’re not going to achieve that without changing what you’re doing now because what you’re doing now is giving you what you’ve got. It’s the, I think, the Einstein quote that …

Jason:                   Oh yeah.

John:                     “Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” You need to change things. Number three, we can help you do that. That is what we’re here for. We’ve even gone so far as renaming our Facebook group, haven’t we.

Jason:                   We have absolutely done that. Yes, (laughter) several times.

John:                     Yeah. The latest iteration of our Facebook group is called Ambitious Lifestyle Business. To give you a little bit of a background about that again, I think we’ve talked about this before haven’t we?

Jason:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative)

John:                     in one or two episodes but it’s a term, Ambitious Lifestyle Business, that we’ve used internally within our own company for I would say the better part of five years now.

Jason:                   Yeah.

John:                     It’s in all our staff contracts. Basically we are … We now had that lightning bolt back in 2009 and it realised now actually I need to restructure my business around my family. That’s what I wanted to do. Family, travel, lots of free time, lots of me time, lots of health stuff. I wanted to restructure the business around that. I knew that I needed to stop being this “we’re going to be a huge company. We’re going to have skyscrapers, helicopters, 100-million pound turnover, 150 staff.” It was, right, we are a lifestyle business. That is what we do. That the business exists to fund and allow the lifestyle. That’s it. I had this little voice in the back of my head going, “well, that’s not very ambitious, is it?” (laughter)

Jason:                   (laughter) You’re just going to do what?

John:                     Yeah. Exactly. Just a lifestyle business. Oh, it’s only a lifestyle business. I still have that voice in my head going, “you’re giving up and you’re just having a lifestyle business.” I thought, “no, we’re not. We’re an ambitious lifestyle business.” Actually, I like that. We put it in the contracts and the three words have to be there because otherwise if you have the lifestyle, that’s great, but sooner or later you’ve got to earn some money. We are a business. I’ve said to all the staff. We are an ambitious lifestyle business so we do have ambition. We want to grow. We want to get bigger. We don’t have moonshot ambitions. We are not looking to change the world. We’re not looking to completely disrupt and industry and take on. We’re not studying Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson. We’re not studying the billionaires and saying “let’s emulate these people.”

We are a lifestyle business so all of our members of staff can work from home. Literally, everyone works from home. They choose their own hours, within reason. I’ll see there are certain things need doing at certain times of the day but we set forth a code that works better working nine at night till three in the morning, crack on. That’s what you do. As long as the work gets done. As long as the tasks get met, we are happy. That is the lifestyle. If you want to be there to pick your kids up from school. You want to do the school runs. Crack on. Yeah. We’re flexible. We’ll do that. If you’re just feeling a bit under the weather. You want to have a day off. Go do it, you know, but we’re a business so for example we run a sports betting business and next week is the Charlton Festival.

Right now it’s payback time, isn’t it, Rob.

Rob:                       Yup.

John:                     (laughter)

Jason:                   (laughter)

John:                     Rob. Rob does most of our marketing now and it’s pretty much hundred-mile and hour for you this week, the last couple of weeks and this week and next we’ll be hundred-miles and hour just juggling 25 different things, but that’s payback time because three weeks before that it was, “well, there’s not that much going on. Rob’s learning to drive at the moment so you want to take an hour off for driving lesson? Go for it. Yup. No worries. Want to go the gym. Go to the gym. You want to play golf. Go play golf.” We’re a business. We’re an ambitious lifestyle business and the three go together for me.

That’s what we’ve renamed our Facebook group so I think a lot of people have reacted well to the name change.

Jason:                   Yeah.

John:                     There was some initial reticence of “oh, I don’t like the name.”

Jason:                   (laughter) doesn’t sound like it’s got a character.

John:                     I think it clarifies, really clarifies what we do and what we stand for. I think in any business that’s really, really important, to stand for something and say, “well, actually, I’ve got very, very strong beliefs on this and this is … I’m drawing a line in the sand. We’re on this side of it. This is what we believe in.” If you want to. If you’re a tech startup and you want to raise two-million quid and you’re planning a float in five years time or you’re planning a ten-million pound exit. Yeah there’s plenty of other groups for you. This is not the group for you. If you run a … I don’t know, a crochet business or something, decorating cupcakes and it is a hobby and you’re just perfectly happy, ticking along, as long as I can make my crochet or decorate my cupcakes, I’m happy. Yeah. It’s probably not the business for you because we’ve got ambition people in the group and so we are ambitious lifestyle business owners. All people who want to design ambitious lifestyle businesses.

Jason:                   Yeah. Absolutely. Some of the people who’ve got goals and ideas of where they’d like to be in three years, five years, ten years, where their retirement looks like. What they need to [inaudible 00:21:21]. For people who are kind of stuck not really knowing how to get to those goals that they want to have. That’s the sort of thing which we’re helping out with in our group, isn’t it.

John:                     Yeah. I think some of the members in the group it’s this whole idea of just actually being able to be in control of their lifestyle and actually design it and say, “well, I want to travel the world. I want four foreign whole days a year.” If they’ve been in an employee scenario, well that’s not possible because you only get four weeks paid leave per year. Now you’re a business own. Alright, hang on a minute. I’m not tied to four. I could have forty weeks paid leave if I wanted to because I could structure the business such. If I could structure the business, I can run it from an I-phone, I can permanently be on holiday.

Jason:                   That’s another thing we can help with as well, isn’t it. In terms of seeking your goals and finding ways of doing it. Put in the systems and processes in place in order for you to be able to take yourself out of the business when you need to be out of the business so you can these extra things you want to do.

John:                     Yeah.

Jason:                   As well as making sure that obviously still the business runs and the work is done.

John:                     Yeah. No, definitely. Yeah. I’m going to Florida in a few weeks and I’ve made a plan. We’re go from there. This is what I’m going to do. This is how I’m going to continue to move the business forward. I’m writing the book on it so I’m going to be proofreading the book whilst I’m away. I’m going to be recording some videos for the Facebook group. I’m still going to be recording some podcast episodes either whilst there or stacking them up before I go. I can design the business around that. I can take two, two and half weeks out of the business effectively to go ride roller coasters and eat a load of crap food whilst the business still grows. The business doesn’t shut down for a fortnight just because the MD’s gone away on holiday. We keep things going. We keep things moving because we’re ambitious, because we’ve designed the lifestyle around the business. We’ve designed the business around the lifestyle.

Jason:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative)

John:                     Yeah, so if you want to come into the Facebook group, the website address is still the same as it’s always been, which is bigidea.co.uk/facebook/ facebook. Got it right this week. If you come in there you will get direct access to both of us. We’re al in there throughout the week so you get to ask some question. It’s a really good community there now. I think lots of experts in different fields.

Jason:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative) Absolutely. Yeah, you can ask pretty much any question and if we’re not there first there to answer it for you, there will be somebody else who is. It’s really good, really supportive. A good community.

John:                     Certainly. Yeah, also usually staff so obviously you get live recordings of the podcast so every Monday lunch time we are live on the Facebook group. We do an exclusive Q&A afterwards. If you’re listening to us on itunes, Stitcher, YouTube, et cetera, we’re going to cut off in a few minutes and you won’t hear from us until next week, whereas if you’re in the Facebook group, literally we hang around for a few minutes after the recording and we do a little bit of Q&A with members and literally we’re there throughout the week to answer any questions you’ve got, literally help you with your business.

Jason:                   Do a little bite size “in-betweensodes.”

John:                     Yeah. Do a little “in-betweensodes” just sort of simple, practical, just have a voice to help your business grow really. Yeah. I’ll be interested to know, to say if you do come into the Facebook group, how are you designing your business around your lifestyle? If to say, you’re not currently getting the lifestyle you want. If your small business does not provide you with the lifestyle that you want, come on in the group. Tell us about it. Tell us how would you change it. What needs to change? What needs to happen? What do you actually want out of your life because if you’re running a small business, and you control that business you have the power to design the business around your lifestyle. No more excuses. I don’t want to be hearing anything about twelve months time saying, “oh, I’m working really hard on the business and it’s really tough. It’s really hard. I don’t get any time off. I don’t get an hour to myself.” That’s your fault. Not your fault, that’s your fault.

Jason:                   That’s not my fault this time isn’t it.

John:                     I’m going to start pointing at the microphone. It’s your fault. (laughter)

Jason:                   (laughter) that’s it for this week, isn’t it?

John:                     We’re wrapped up. Yeah.

Jason:                   That brilliant. I hope you’ve enjoyed that. A little bit of insight into our business a little bit. A little bit of insight into what we think about how you should be running your business or how you could be running your business in a way to get more from it.

John:                     We will see you next week. As always, stuff gets show notes are up on the website. Bigidea.co.uk/podcast. We’ll see you next week for episode 16. Bye bye.

Jason:   Have a fantastic week