Thursday, October 14, 2010

Op Jim.

As you'll probably figure out by the tone of this and likely the next few blog posts, my interview with Mike Sjostedt last week has put me in a bit of an egocentric mood. The interview went well I think. After all, who doesn't like to talk about themselves for an hour. He wanted to know all about how I started. What drove me to leave the 'comforts' of cubicle life. Why ice cream. Hurdles, were you scared, etc. I won't give away too much of our conversation here just yet. We'll let Mike have the first crack at it. I expect he'll be posting our interview on his quitter-to-winner site any day now.

But in the meantime, there were a few questions he posed that got me thinking a bit deeper than my usual rants about those early days of Mt. Tom's when she was just a pup. One of those questions was 'Are you happier now than you were in engineering?' To which I answered, without hesitation, absolutely. Are there things I miss about having a 'normal' 9 to 5 job? Sure.

Like the 9 to 5 part.

I must say it's a very good thing it rarely feels like work, because I'm living proof that you never work as hard for someone else as you do for yourself. That's why I always describe owning your own business as a 'lifestyle'. It's great that I don't start my workday (at least the being the shop part) until 11 am, but I'm also usually here at 9 pm on a Tuesday night, among most others.

So herein lies the next big challenge in the life cycle of the small business owner, how to work 'on your business' more and 'in your business' less. The age old work/life balance thing. As the slower seasons start to settle in, I'm able to find a bit more time to step away from my batch freezer and do some of the 'non-dairy' things I like to do - photography, run, bike, eat, write. So just how does one keep a business running successfully while simultaneously managing to have a life?

Great question.

And one I've decided to make my primary project for the off-season.

Operation Jim.

I'm still sketching out the foundation of a plan to solve this worklife riddle. I've enlisted Michael Gerber, Bill Collier, and Timothy Ferriss via their bestselling books for some guidance. And although I'm pretty sure I won't end up with a 4 hour workweek or a franchise model that looks like McDonald's, I know I don't want to work as long and as hard as I have this summer.

If I were my Dad, I'd probably be saying, 'I miss fishing'.

So to answer one of Mike's probing questions, yes, I am happier than I was in engineering but I plan to be even happier, with the help of a few ideas I have for improving that work/life balance, not the least of which being, of course, empowering my great crew...

So I know it's a bit of a slippery slope. Let's face it, people like to see the owner around. I had someone the other day ask me if everything was o.k., because she hadn't seen me in the shop the last one or two times she'd been in for a cone. My simple response was, 'I wasn't here because things were going well actually'. As I'm sure any biz owner will concur, I didn't need to feel a twinge of guilt or defensiveness at that comment, but I couldn't help it.

Another unexpected challenge in the life of a small biz owner. Still beats TPR reports.

Thanks for listening, and feel free to offer any suggestions you might have.

Good ones will be rewarded handsomely. Well, icecreamly anyway.

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