Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sparkle and Fade...

By Krista Chapman

It is the middle of wedding season... weeks of tireless work awaits you.  Are you feeling tired, overwhelmed and look forward with dread?  Has your giddy fervor been replaced by a need to just push through to the other side of October?  Where's this elusive freedom, personally and financially, that was waiting for you on the other side of creating a business?  Passionless and surrounded... Have you lost your spark? 

Once upon a time, a bright, dedicated worker, full of zeal and ideas decided to start their own business.  Successfully escaping the corporate grind, this was to be your first step to leaving behind the world of bosses, pointless policies and TPS cover reports.  Starting your business was the first step to living your life on your terms!

Charge ahead a few years... how's your new life?  When was the last time you took a vacation (without your Blackberry)?  How many hours are spent on the busy work of running a business... bank deposits, employee drama, relentless emails, phone calls and paperwork?   Is your day run by not-yet-done lists?  Are you really listening when your spouse tells you about his day?  Do you have any hobbies that are not somehow tied to your business? 

Am I telling your story?  Because it was mine...

Having not owned a business, per se, my story is one of dogged ladder climbing and career goals.  Rising to second in command at an event venue, success was mine and I was being worked to the bone.  Like a busy business owner, employee problems, emails, deadlines, linen orders, invoices, deposits, china patterns, broken copiers and board reports chipped away at the precious minutes, hours, weeks...  I regularly work late nights, trying to get ahead but never took the time to stop to check my map and make sure I was on the right path.  Instead, I worked and worked... and worked.  My personal life fell apart, my live-in-lover was a stranger and there was always an event, a client that kept me from friends, birthdays, my family... my life.  I was so busy with being busy, that I completely lost sight of why?  Why was I working so hard?  But I didn't have time to dwell... there's a bride on Line One.

Am I telling your story?

But this is what I set out to do.  What I wanted, had to do, to be successful... work a bit harder.  So, why wasn't I having any fun?  Where was that thing called fulfillment... had I taken a wrong turn?  For many of us in the event and wedding industry, our work is thoroughly personal, all-consuming and never relents.  Why?  Because the vast majority of us goes into business for ourselves, rather than the purpose of serving potential customers.  Without realizing, you are essentially building the business that will become your prison.

But, that's not true, you argue.  I love my job... my business is my life and I am totally dedicated to my clients.  Everything I do is for them.

Exactly.  How many times do you talk about yourself, when talking about your business?  Smashingly successful practice... if you're the one buying the product.   To be truly successful (and by successful, I mean free to partake in the pleasures of life), one must create a business that runs without them.  Be honest...  After all your countless hours and dedication, what more do you have than more work?  How much time do you spend keeping all your plates spinning, rather than wondering why you're spinning them in the first place?  Is the shine and excitement, the sparkle, now fading?

So what can you do?  How do you possibly have time to fit in more work and escape your hamster wheel?  Like an addict, the first step is making the decision to leave what you know, your comfort zone.  Hi, my name is small business owner and I have lost my spark. 

It is time to get help.

It is time to find purpose...  Why did you start your own business in the first place?  Did you take the time to figure any of this out before you opened for business or rushed headlong into your career?  It is not too late!  Ask yourself... is your business serving your greater life or using it up?  Crucial for your long-term success is to find your authentic purpose and the function of your business.  Here's a hint... your purpose is greater than you and so is your business.  Otherwise you have simply created a job for yourself that without you would not otherwise exist.  A job that serves you and not your purpose.  There will never be freedom in that.  I found my freedom with a stack of books and a complete disconnection to my current life in favor of my past life by way of a road trip and mini-crisis.  Most importantly, I asked myself the icky questions ... What matters most to you in life and how does your current path make this a priority?  What is you secret dream job and what are you waiting for?  Are you really happy? 

It is time to let go...  While you may be whole-heartedly convinced that you are the only person that can correctly and completely bring your bride's vision to life, I am betting that this is not entirely truthful.  Let's rephrase this to say that you are the only person that can bring your version of her vision to life.  See where we are?  Back to serving yourself and not your client.  And this is where I lived for years.   Successful (and long-term) business owners instead communicate and train others to replicate their work and purpose.  I doubt that Martha Stewart pours over every detailed decision of her empire.  No more that Bobby Flay is slaving over a blistering stove at Mesa Grill.  They, like other small business owners grew into mega business owners by embracing the power of delegation.  This is mostly about knowing your strengths and limitations and then delegating to others.  Yes, this costs money... but so is your time.  Time away from your family, kids, self... can you put a price on that?  How much time do you have to waste?

 It is time to be brave...  It was through a very painful process over a few months of realizing that staying the course, while beneficial to those directly supported by me, would be the end of me.  I had to save myself because no one else would.  I had to let go of the prestige, hefty paycheck and fancy title because I took a wrong turn.  While I had lost my spark, I was not meant to go down with the ship.  One must shelve their personal pride and obligation and be brave enough to walk towards your purpose because you only have this one short life.  For a business owner, this may mean taking break and closing your doors, doors you may never reopen.  Even if your path turns into a detour bringing you back to where you started, you will be awarded the necessary time to evaluate the pieces of your life and find your best life, your spark.  Find your freedom and fulfillment that I promise is out their waiting for you.  But first, you have to be brave.

It is time to change the story and write your happy ending.

Images Courtesy of Getty Images.

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