Everyone is tempted at one time or another to be unfaithful. Those who run their own businesses are especially prone. We work long hours, oftentimes alone at the office with staff members of the opposite sex.
I got home after one particularly harrowing day, kissed my wife, hugged my kids and was met with the question, “Hey, who’s your girlfriend?” Yeah right… the only girlfriend I’d been seeing that day was my business! And you know what? Some days she isn’t that pretty… in fact she is a petulant teenager most days and acts more like my child. But it got me thinking.
Treating your business like a person can be very helpful. If you can conceive of her or him as a separate person, then she/he takes on certain characteristics, and you will handle decisions related to her/him a little differently. I’ll try to give you takeaways on the way through.
Birth and naming ceremony
So far I have started five businesses. We throw a party and celebrate as they come into this world, and then we name them. It’s quite sad how some people really have no flair for naming businesses. My vote for worst business name goes to Boring Business Systems (boring.com), followed by viruswoman.com! (I think she does computers?).
Legal status and money
Yes this “person” can own land, buy and sell goods, occupy offices, hire and fire people and have money in its bank. Unfortunately, she/he doesn’t have much of a head for numbers, so you’re going to need to do the budgeting for her/him. And she/he likes to spend! A good rule of thumb is going to be double whatever you think the cost will be, and double the time you think it’s going to take. (Editor’s note: Carol actually has her “Rule of Three.” It will take three times as long and cost three times as much!)
Nurture and care
Without love she/he will grow sick. The business always needs your attention and resources, will wake you in the middle of the night with its problems and give you nightmares. Take up journaling – write down any and all ideas that come to you for her/him… it’s a bit like writing poetry for your beloved.
Businesses often get into close and committed relationships with suppliers (sometimes called being “in bed” with them), may marry other businesses (cleverly called “merging”) and “parent” companies may even have children. It’s smart for you to do some family planning.
We can’t talk about having a girlfriend/boyfriend without the thought of a break-up (or “conscious uncoupling,” thanks Gwyneth & Chris) taking place. Companies break up at about the same rate as divorce in the normal population. Most of us hate the thought of break-ups, but they happen, we just don’t think they’re going to happen to us. They are very costly. Avoid wherever possible!
The list wouldn’t be complete without thinking of deaths, which run at about 50% every five years. Someone you know has just gone through the death of their company – or will next year. Bringing a business into the world will ultimately result in burying one, and ending well is really important. Here’s a great podcast on how to end well.
Caring is sharing
My current business is a partnership. My business partner and I often talk of the business as a third member in our triangle. When it comes to profit sharing there is mine, his and hers. She needs money to go out, spurge on herself and have fun. She also needs resources to grow and develop. So there are actually three of us.
As you can see, there are many benefits to looking at your business as a living entity for the purposes of planning and managing. And you can have some fun with this as well.
If you think of it this way… if your business were a person, what would it need to be healthy and happy and independent? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.