Own a Business or Owned by a Business? The difference is everything.

I recently talked with a very well paid business analyst who works for a billion-dollar company. He makes good money and has a stable career path. But he wants more. He wants to be self-employed. 

Being self-employed is great. You only have to work half-days. You can pick whichever twelve-hours you want.

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His comfortable salary and quarterly bonuses are nice. But he wants more. He reviews financials for a living, and believes he can vet a business and make a great purchase.

He's right, but in a way that's all wrong.

You see, he keeps trending toward businesses that will own him rather than be owned by him. This is a very common mistake made by the self-employed. I can recognize this mistake because it's one I've made myself. 

The self-employed trap regularly happens to very smart people. They seek freedom. They want to be self-supporting. But they end up designing a job for themselves where they are only called "boss". THE REAL BOSS IS THE BUSINESS. And it is a vicious taskmaster. 

Self-employed and wondering if you're owned by your business? Here are some signs that you're only called boss:

  • You are the business. When customers think of your business, they think of you. And they count on you to deliver the goods.
  • You're still trading hours for dollars. When you stop, the business stops. When you're not working, the revenue stops flowing.
  • It's feast or famine. You work non-stop while contracts last and you're out of work when they end. 
  • You're scared to say no. Turning down a job or firing a customer is terrifying. You never know when the work will end.
  • You most likely do your own bookkeeping. Lack financial controls and accounting processes.
  • Cash flow feels like a roller coaster ride and it's the end of the year before you know if you've made a profit.
  • Most of your time is spent working in the business. You've got almost no energy to work on the business.

Recognize any of these symptoms of the self-employed? If you're happy with your current lot, don't change. But, if you're ready to become the real boss, use these three steps to stop being owned by your business.

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Life Plan? Why would I ever need a Life Plan?

I remember asking myself, "Why would I ever need a Life Plan?" I had lived a pretty amazing life and done many things – author, scholar, consultant, trainer, international conference speaker, seasoned observer of culture, minister and earned a PhD.

I had lived in 4 countries, worked in over 70 more, served on various boards, spoke two languages fluently and could survive in a few others. At an age when many might consider taking up new hobbies in retirement, I was looking to recharge and reengage, not retire.

As a well-accomplished man in his mid-sixties, I possessed a reasonable self-awareness, a good understanding of my strengths and talents accompanied by a humble awareness of my weaknesses.

So what was wrong? Why did I feel so stuck?

After 33 years serving as lead pastor of a large, multi-cultural, international church, I knew it was time to turn the wheel over to a new generation. 

You can imagine the emotions of turning loose of a position you’ve held for 33 years.

Additionally, I was involved in so many worthy things that I was spread thin doing good things more or less well, instead of being focused on things strategic, that would fit my skill set and energize me rather than drain me.

I felt… paralyzed, confused and not a little bit frightened for the future. Truth be told, I'd been like this for several years.

I felt stuck because I was stuck. And I didn't know what to do.

It was this confusion that led me to a two-day experience called a LifePlan. Let me tell you a bit of my story and how Life Planning affected me in ways I could never have imagined.

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Leverage Graveyard

Three Ways to Avoid the Leverage Graveyard

Leverage Graveyard Epitaph:

Here lies one Joe Schmoe
Dollars dead for stretching “dough”
Could have cashed out once or twice
Found out debt had hidden price.

This poem describes one of my closest friends. Let me tell you about him.

Just ten short years ago, he had it all. A wife of 25 years who stuck by him through thick and thin, two happy children pursuing their dreams, a dream house, nice cars, private planes, boats, global travel, and a thriving business that forced him to live on $1 million per year.

Today, his most precious assets are still in tact.  He and his wife are still in love, his kids are happily married, and he enjoys regular quality time with his grandchildren. But monetarily, he's lost it all. And with it, much of his reputation and all of his momentum.

I recently interviewed him for this post. Here are three takeaways you can use to avoid a similar fate.

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