What's Wrong with Having a Lifestyle Business? | Mark MacLeod

October 26, 2020 - Mark MacLeod

What’s Wrong with Having a Lifestyle Business?

In the startup world, the term “lifestyle business” is used to dismiss a business where the founders don’t want to “go for it” and pursue growth at all costs. People say, ‘Oh that’s JUST a lifestyle business’.

In the real world, people might rightly wonder, what is wrong with having a lifestyle? Is having a lifestyle inconsistent with achieving success in business? Good questions!

Our dismissal of these so-called lifestyle businesses, like many things that we take as a given in the startup world, comes from investors. Venture capital seeks outlier outcomes. Home runs. The thinking is that in order to achieve that outlier outcome you must work 80 hours/ week and therefore do nothing but work. Hence, no lifestyle.

Lessons from Lifestyle Businesses

Here’s the thing: good things take time. Great things take even longer. Can you sustain having no life for years? At what cost to your health? Your most precious relationships?

It doesn’t have to be that way…

I often reference Tobi from Shopify as a benchmark in my discussions with CEOs. If you want to get a sense of his balance, look no further than his Twitter bio.

CEO. Dad. Hacker. Likes video games.

Despite running one of the most valuable tech companies out there, Tobi makes time for his passions. For the things that feed him.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: It’s different for him. He runs a BIG company so he has more help.

In 2012, Shopify did $ 23M in revenue. Last year it did ~ $1.5B in revenue. Tobi transformed himself and his company many times over in that time. He went through the growth that founders and investors dream of. And he did it while maintaining this balance.

You can too.

Lifestyle Business vs Growth Business: Striking a Balance

The odds are stacked against you. Play to have no regret…

Most startups fail. Especially VC-backed ones. Venture capital is an amazing and powerful force. When it works, it works brilliantly. But… by using capital to accelerate growth you increase your risk of failure.

If you put everything on hold, sacrifice your health, spend less time with family and friends, will you have regret if your company fails?

My firm belief is that a happy, healthy, fulfilled, balanced leader will bring more energy, passion and creativity to the role than a stressed out, under-slept, always-on leader will.

You are not just a CEO. You wear many hats. Strive to maintain balance across your various roles so that you will have no regrets should your startup fail.

Who knows? Maybe having a sustainable lifestyle might actually might give you the drive and energy to keep building an enduring market leader. What a crazy thought!

So, What’s Wrong with Having a Lifestyle Company?

Questions to consider:

Am I truly happy as a human being? If not, what is missing? What changes are needed?

Am I prioritizing and giving presence and attention to all the most important aspects of my life?

What am I doing to emphasize physical fitness, sleep, nutrition & fun?

Can I maintain my current work pace for years to come? Will I maintain my health and most important personal relationships if I do so?

If my company were to fail, would I look back on how I lived and how I allocated my time with regret? If so, what changes do I need to make so that I have no regret?

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

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