lifestyle or legacy 3

A lot of people I work with can’t wait to have a business where they don’t have to go in on a Friday. “At what point can I start to ease off?” they ask. My heart sinks: recruiters with this mentality are never going to move beyond a lifestyle business. 

Building a legacy gets harder, not easier. But it should also get more rewarding at every milestone. After all, if you don’t enjoy your business more than everyone else put together, why on earth would people come and work for you?

So, let me dedicate the final part of my Lifestyle or Legacy trilogy to the importance of keeping up momentum, and why you’ll reap the rewards if you remain passionate and committed to the vision you started out with…

Leading by example

In recruitment, if you’re not moving forwards, you’re going backwards. You simply can’t afford to cruise when things are heading in the right direction. As a leader, you have to set the tone: be thoroughly immersed in the business, enjoy it, and work just as hard as everyone else.

Bosses that put in half the hours and earn five times more than their team quickly begin to see cracks in the infrastructure – loss of loyalty, higher churn rates, and a culture that moves away from the brand values the company started out with. 

The best bosses are the first amongst equals. They sit amongst everyone, not locked away in a glass room. When the going gets tough, they are prepared to muck in. Most of all, they remain accountable, not pinning the success and failure of the business on others within it.

If you start coming into work at 10am and leaving at 4pm, others will quickly follow suit. Or worse – you’ll be exited from your own business. You have to be a role model, always leading by example. And the further up the food chain you get, the harder this is.

Working on (not in) the business

I don’t know any CEOs of FTSE 100 companies who don’t work 7 days a week, thrive on 4-5 hours sleep, and travel around the planet to be everywhere they need to be. That’s the gig. You can’t just expect it to happen. 

But what about Richard Branson, you say? Sure, he may be sat in a hammock, but don’t tell me the guy isn’t still working ridiculously hard. The difference is that your role changes as your business grows. Instead of being the main breadwinner, you become the spiritual leader of the brand – working on the business instead of in it.

In time your responsibility should shift to learning (and eventually outsourcing) other areas of your business that require just as must focus as the day to day. Finance, marketing, HR… in order to keep the business going, you have to have your fingers in a thousand pies.

Building something you’re proud of

This might sound like a lot of hard work, but the truth is that if you’re doing something you love, and building something you’re proud of, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s far easier to keep momentum going in a business than building one from scratch.

Watching a company with your name on it make you more money, year on year, is incredibly rewarding. Especially when you’ve created an environment where other people share your passion and work equally hard.

The day we floated I made 27 millionnaires. It’s hard to put that feeling into words. But even before that point, the satisfaction of hearing people use your lines, share your mantra and talk in your tone of voice is insurmountable. 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, and it’s a glorious thing if you get it right. It also leaves you in a difficult position – if you build a business that you love and are proud of, you probably won’t want to say goodbye. That’s when you know you’ve created a buyable business.

So, in answer to the question “when can I start to ease off?”, you’re asking the wrong thing. Financial freedom and a perfect lifestyle start with understanding what gets you out of bed in a morning. Then use your business as a tool to create a legacy you’ll never want to let go of.