When I work with the employees inside of a company, I’m often asked, "So, Cali, what’s your work and life fit?" I’m more than happy to explain that, "I’m a mother of two, a wife and I work full-time for myself primarily out of my home office unless I’m at a client site like today." Someone in the crowd will inevitability shout out, "What do you know about conflict between your work and life? You have the perfect situation." I respectfully reply with a smile, "It may look perfect to you, but working for yourself isn’t always the work and life fit nirvana you might imagine."
I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I never imagined that I would work for myself. I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, but I made the decision to strike out on my own in 1998 and start my consulting firm because I wanted to:
- Develop and implement corporate work+life flexibility strategies in the way I wanted to.
- Have the ability to write my first book, and
- Have control over my schedule to also take care of my new daughter (who is now 13 years old, yikes!).
I did achieve all three goals but I also learned a hard lesson. As an entrepreneur, I had to be even more vigilant and rigorous about when, how and where I worked or I wouldn’t have time and energy left over for the other important parts of my life. Work could easily consume me because there are no boundaries unless you set them.
While I fumbled and stumbled my way to creating a business that "fit" my unique professional and personal goals, the good news is that you don’t have to follow a path of trial and error. Now there’s a new road map, The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business That Works for You (Portfolio, 2011) by Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams (Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the authors because I’d given it a blurb—see the back cover—that’s how much I like it!)
Lancaster and Abrams are the founders of In Good Company, a community business learning center, and workspace for women in New York City. They also consult and advise entrepreneurs who want to create and succeed in a business that is just right for their goals—from the sole proprietor to the venture-funded start-up.
Their message is clear: One size does not fit all.
The book starts by visualizing what you want your company to achieve for you with questions like, "What motivated you to strike out on your own?" and "What must your business afford you in order to be worth it?" For many people that I meet the answer to the first question is, "I want to strike out on my own because I want a better work and life fit than the one I have now working for someone else." Okay, valid motivation.
But the answer to the second question is trickier. The decision to work on your own will only be worth it if you find that "fit" you envisioned. For example, if that means having complete control over your schedule and large chunks of time to focus on the other parts of your life outside of work, then you’re going to have to really take charge and make consistent, deliberate choice to ensure that happens. In The Big Enough Company, Lancaster and Abrams lay out a step-by-step implementation process that includes advice on how to set up the business that works for you, conduct periodic reviews of your goals, and reset priorities. Their "how to" wisdom is supported by the compelling stories of the many successful entrepreneurs they’ve worked with over the years.
To understand the passion and insight that Lancaster and Abrams bring to their work helping people build "big enough" companies, check out a recent blog post that outlines their "I believe…" philosophy. Powerful.
In a world that seems to judge the validity of your entrepreneurial business by the amount of venture capital it receives, The Big Enough Company is a breath of fresh air. If fast-growth, venture-backed is what you want, great. But if you envision something much smaller, that’s fine too. Either way, Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams will help you find it.
For more, connect with Adelaide Lancaster, Amy Abrams and In Good Company: