THE INVISIBLE ENTREPRENEUR
Making A Commitment
No-one Else Can Create Your Future But You
After returning from our three months off we began working with our clients to do the same, and it wasn’t long before people began hearing about the success of our journey. Louise was a keynote speaker at a seminar organised by the regional business association about what it takes to become an Invisible Entrepreneur.
It was just after the seminar finished that we were approached by one of the attendees who introduced herself and wanted to take the opportunity to find out whether this really was possible. Or at least possible for her! Her name was Sophie, and she was in business with her husband Bob. They had an office furniture manufacturing business and had been in this business for approximately 10 years.
“Do you really believe this is possible for any type of business?” asked Sophie, with a slight disbelief in her voice.
Louise nodded confidently and said: “Absolutely, no matter what size, and no matter what industry.”
Sophie looked at us smiling, however, did not appear totally convinced. Her husband Bob joined her and she continued her questioning. “My husband and I just can’t imagine it. We have a manufacturing business and we’re involved in every single aspect of it,” said Sophie. “Even though I can see how we might restructure what I do in the business, my husband Bob thinks he’s the glue that holds it together. And in most cases, he is. He can barely leave it for a few days without someone from the office calling him to deal with something. If this really works, it could be exactly what we need.”
Sophie took our business card and a month later she called to arrange a meeting and dragged Bob along with her. He certainly did not arrive with an open mind, but clearly knew better than to not come along with Sophie and at least confirm that this wouldn’t work for their business.
How Bob And Sophie Got Started In Business
During the initial meeting, we were keen to explore how Bob and Sophie had started their business and the journey that they’d been on for the last 10 years.
Bob had worked for a furniture company for 23 years of his life and had a successful career in sales. He stated that he was a master at cold calling and instinctively knew how to push people’s buttons and get them to a “yes”. According to Sophie, Bob was so comfortable talking to customers that it was hard to wrench him off the phone.
That was until the furniture company made him redundant. Suddenly, the salary, the bonuses, the company car were all gone. Just like that, and life’s reality check presented itself. At the time, their children were young and Bob was the only income earner and they had bills to pay.
Bob knew that he could go and work for another company however, with every second organisation undergoing similar redundancies and restructures; he knew he could just be buying time until the axe fell again. Therefore he felt the need to be in control of his own future. So he talked to Sophie about starting up their own business.
For Sophie, it seemed like the right choice. In fact, founding a business would hopefully give them a stable income. More importantly, it would give Bob a goal, a project, something he could immerse himself in, instead of feeling bitter about the way his company had rewarded his 23 years of loyalty – with nothing.
However, little did Sophie realise that this small business would turn into Bob’s obsession. It certainly provided them with a comfortable income but it also took over their lives. Whilst Bob was busy being the rainmaker, Sophie had come on board to run the business. Together, they were a great team. Sophie was the supreme multi-tasker. She had taken on being the bookkeeper, the human resources manager, the office manager as well as Bob’s personal assistant. And, while many of these tasks were not her strength, she felt a duty to do them to support her husband and to ensure their business was a success.
But a decade later, she was done! She was on the lookout for something different, a way out of the existence she was living. Thankfully the promotional email for our seminar showed up, just at the right time and she had taken this as a sign and had booked her and Bob into the event. She was now ready to learn how they could become an Invisible Entrepreneur in their business.
A Moment Of Truth
“Louise while I enjoyed your talk, I can’t see how it could work,” said Bob, his arms folded. “I can’t imagine how our business would function without us being there. I think the idea is insane.”
“Bob, I totally appreciate that you would feel this way. At one level it is an insane idea. However, it is possible for a business to function without the owner,” replied Louise.
“Bob, I’ll tell you what’s insane,” said Sophie. “Working ourselves into the ground. We both work 70 hours a week. We’re always in the office or in the warehouse. You haven’t had a day off in who knows how many years. We really haven’t had a proper vacation since our honeymoon. This is so not what I signed up for!”
Bob turned to his wife. “I know,” he said softly. “But what are we supposed to do? That’s what running a business is about. We have a team to support, bills to pay … I wish it could be different … but it can’t …” there was a hint of sadness in his voice.
“Maybe it can be different, Bob,” said Sophie. “That’s why we’re having this meeting with Louise and William. I want us to have the choice that Louise spoke about at the seminar. I’d love to be able to walk away from this business, even if it was only for three months and do whatever I wanted to. I want us to have a break from the business. The kids are grown up and all we have left … is work. This is no longer enough for me.”
Bob looked helpless but stoic. It was obvious he didn’t want his wife to feel this way, but he didn’t know what to do about it. And he didn’t know what else to say.
Sophie stood up. “I have to get some air,” she said. “I’ll be back.”
Sophie left the room and Bob looked at us, feeling somewhat embarrassed. He took a sip of water.
“It’s not the business that’s doing this,” he said, waving his hand as if to indicate their relationship. “I’m sorry if we are wasting your time. Maybe we should have seen a marriage counsellor instead.” Bob forced half a smile, trying to make half a joke.
Sophie returned to the room. “Okay, Bob, if you’re not going to be open to taking some time off, well … let’s not waste any more of William and Louise’s time.” Sophie was ready to leave.
However, we weren’t put off by this or taken aback. We’ve seen it before and have personally experienced how trapped you can feel in your business, especially when you believe there is no other way to be running a business.
Louise broke the silence and asked Bob whether or not he was open to at least exploring how he might learn how to free himself from his business. And, after experiencing Sophie’s upset, he was a little more willing to continue with the discussion.
The Person Who Holds The Key To Your Freedom
“Bob and Sophie, as I discussed in the seminar, if you feel chained to your business, then remember that you are the only one who has the key, and you can set yourself free,” said Louise. “We hear your doubts: ‘How can we take three months off?’ ‘Could our business really operate without us.’ ‘It might be good in theory, but would it really work?’
“And, we understand your concerns and acknowledge that business owners have very different pressures compared to, say, a corporate executive who can take a three-month sabbatical or go on long service leave. However, it is also interesting to note that providing three months long service leave for a long-term employee is simply an expected entitlement. It’s just not typically part of the plan for a small business entrepreneur,” Louise continued.
It’s also quite normal and expected that people in their twenties often take off and travel the world, carefree, for months on end. But life’s just not like that for small business entrepreneurs. The irony is, that many small business entrepreneurs start their businesses because they want the flexibility that a corporate job can’t offer. Or they want to create a business that fits around their interests or lifestyle.
But the reality is vastly different. Many people think they are creating a business that can be moulded to their needs. After all, they’re the boss and they can shape their business any way they want! But the business often turns into, dare we say it, a job – a prison sentence rather than a vehicle for the freedom, achievement and independence that was in the business owner’s original vision.
So you make a decision to set yourself free. You buy books; you go to seminars. Experts tell you that you need to create the right systems. And you run back and do exactly that. Things definitely run more efficiently, however, you still aren’t truly free. You still can’t walk away from your business, not for any extended length of time. Your shackles have been loosened a little and you have a tiny taste of freedom. But you still can’t spread your wings and fly.
“Bob and Sophie, we want you to have the opportunity to soar. And we know you can make it happen. What you need to do is to develop a new relationship with your business. And that’s why a key focus for us in working with our clients is to make you the priority, not the business,” Louise stated.
Although listening, Bob and Sophie remained quiet.
“Another key factor to consider is that if you’ve been in business for a few years, let’s say longer than two to five years, and you haven’t had a decent break (and we mean something along the lines of three months), then you’re setting the foundation for burnout. It’s only a matter of time,” said Louise.
Having been in business for the past 14 years, we believe the key to all small business success is to have business owners who are fresh, invigorated and passionate about their businesses and their futures.
If you’re just turning up and doing the same old repetitive job, then you’re not moving forward. You’re just working your business for the sake of it, and it is time to take stock.
It is vital for a business owner to take a decent break from their business for both their mental and physical health. Running on adrenalin will eventually catch up with you. But more importantly, you need to stop and evaluate where you’re at and, much more importantly, where you’re going. When there is no room or time in your life, then there is no possibility for new ideas and innovations to be generated. You will manage the business with the same old ideas and get the same old results.
Putting Our Butts On The Line
“Louise, can you tell us a little more about how you came to free yourselves from your business?” asked Bob.
“I’d love to Bob,” Louise seizing the opportunity. “The idea of taking 3 months off came about because for 10 years we had coached, mentored and enrolled business owners in the philosophy of setting up their businesses to function without them. And, because we felt that our business had enough structure we never had any qualms about leaving it for two to three weeks at a time. But we had never set the goal to take, let’s say, three months off. It was always just an idea. I feel we were no different to our clients in believing that we had a choice to do whatever we wanted, when we desired to do so!” said Louise.
“However, our wake up call arrived, similar to what Sophie is currently experiencing. While we did have a successful business with plenty of clients, we needed to confront the fact that after 10 years of running our business, we were not only burnt out and had lost some of the passion with which we had started the business, we also felt trapped. Our clients relied on our advice and we knew we were vital players in any new business pitch.
“Therefore, we needed to stop and question whether in fact we did have a business. If we went away for three months, with no contact with the business, we could come back to a disaster. Our systems, even though they were robust and well thought out, potentially weren’t enough.
“So, it was time for us to put our own butts on the line. We decided we had to walk the talk. We had to evolve our own business so we could take 3 months off. And, that’s exactly what we did. However, we’re the first to admit it wasn’t easy. We made mistakes and not everything went to plan. But it worked. We went away for 3 months and, yes, it was a success. And, we certainly learnt some invaluable lessons which have significantly altered the way we operate in our business today.”
Get Off The Treadmill And Take A Good Look At Your Life
By taking 3 months off you’ll give yourself the opportunity to stop, breathe, and reflect. It will also give you a chance to explore new goals that would otherwise be impossible to tap into during a typical two-week holiday with your family or friends.
Time is our most precious commodity. We all have only 24 hours per day. This book may well be the wake up call you’ve been looking for to get your business and your life back on track – the way you wanted it to be when you first started your new and exciting enterprise. Of course, we can’t make you do this. However, we at least want you to know that something like this is possible and possible for you and your business.
For some business owners, becoming an Invisible Entrepreneur is considered a stretch – something beyond their current reality or ability. However, it is an audacious goal worth striving for. For others this is the next step in their journey, something they are more than ready to make happen. Therefore, if you decide to take 3 months off, we know that this will be your precursor to becoming the Invisible Entrepreneur.
After reading this book, you may decide to only take one month or two months off. And that’s fine too. You might take the family on a long summer vacation. You might go trekking in Nepal. You might do volunteer work for an aid organisation. You might stay at home and rebuild that vintage car that’s been sitting in the garage for the past 15 years.
The important thing to remember is that no matter what length of time you commit to taking off, or what you do during this time out, your business can be set up to function without depending on you. It’s just a matter of being willing to cut the umbilical cord! It’s about believing that this is a possibility.
Systems Alone Do Not Provide Freedom
“Louise, is this all about systemising our business, because we have systems in place and clearly we are not free enough,” questioned Sophie, whose instinct told her there must be more.
You see, more than a decade ago we all thought that systematising our businesses was the way to go. It was deemed to be our ticket to freedom. But a business isn’t just a well-oiled machine. For many small business entrepreneurs it’s also the manifestation of your dream, your hard work – your blood, sweat and tears.
And, whilst it’s possible to break your business down into a series of processes and to make those processes run wonderfully, it’s not the starting point. Although it is hard to believe, systems are not the priority.
“The real key to this freedom is the mindset of the business owner,” said Louise. “Followed by, getting the right team in place who work together effectively. Because if you don’t have the right mindset, then everything else – no matter how good your systems and processes are – could just turn into wishful thinking.”
Also, our experience is that if the systems and processes are not set up so you are able to operate as the Invisible Entrepreneur, then you will never be free. You’ll just keep recreating the current reality in one form or another and remain stuck in a rut. Of course, you could settle for taking the odd three to four weeks break, when it’s convenient. But, this isn’t what you signed up for – is it?
Why Do You Do What You Do?
“Bob and Sophie, a significant outcome for us in taking 3 months off was that we got the time and space to get reconnected and remember what drove our passion for small business in the first place. We discovered that it’s about the realisation of dreams. It’s the fulfilment of a long-held goal – the nervous excitement you get when you’re starting up, the exhilaration of your first successes, and the achievement of creating a business of which you are proud,” said Louise reflecting on their journey.
“Therefore, having reclaimed our passion, we had a new lease on life, both personally and professionally. We knew then and there that despite running on empty for so long, we wanted to continue our work, and we wanted to help other small business entrepreneurs understand that:
- It’s no longer about working in your business.
- It’s not even about working on your business.
- It’s about being able to live your life away from your business.
“But don’t get the wrong idea,” Louise paused. “This is no easy ride. You don’t just magically turn your business on to autopilot and walk away. There’s some thorough planning and action required before you get there. But when you do, the rewards are more than worth it.”
It Adds To Your Bottom Line
Another reason for considering becoming an Invisible Entrepreneur is very exciting. It adds to your bottom line. You see, in order for you to do this, you need to shape your business in such a way that it can survive – no, make that thrive – without you. If you do this, then you will really have a business in the true sense of the word, because the other alternative is to continue to have a “glorified” job.
And if you’ve actually demonstrated that your business can function perfectly well without you, that’s an attractive business to a potential buyer, because you’re offering them a turnkey solution – a business that is not dependent on the owner working 60 to 70 hours per week over six or seven days per week. If they know it can function without you, they know it can function without them, too.
Since returning from our three months away, we have worked with other small business entrepreneurs to allow them to take time out. Initially, many of them thought they were engaging us to implement the appropriate systems into their workplace. However, the key to success in becoming the Invisible Entrepreneur, is the business owner’s mindset, and every business owner is different.
Therefore, in developing our consulting program, we have worked closely with psychologists to understand the psyche of business owners, because they are either the biggest champion of their business – or the biggest obstacle. This book is the result of 30 years combined experience in consulting to small business entrepreneurs. And it’s the outcome of five years of intense research. We’ve studied many business models and strategies, worked closely with clients who have embraced the program and, most importantly, we’ve seen enterprises flourish and business owners be transformed right before our eyes.
This Book Is Your Blueprint For Your Future
Bob looked at Sophie and said “Okay, I get that we need to do something different. I’m not ready to totally step away from our business, but I’m keen to look at how we might take 3 months off as our starting point.”
Sophie was beside herself. She couldn’t believe the turnaround in such a short period of time. She was excited, overwhelmed and knew that once Bob had made the commitment, anything was possible for them, their business and their future.
- Truly successful business owners are fresh, invigorated and passionate about their business.
- Taking 3 months off is important for your physical and mental health.
- When your business can function without you, you are truly free – you have choice.
- A business that survives and prospers in your absence is an attractive proposition for buyers.
- Systems don’t set you free. Rather it’s having the right mindset and the right team in place.
- Consider looking at the opportunity to become an Invisible Entrepreneur.
- It doesn’t matter what size the business is – it’s all about your mindset.