GROWING YOUR ONLINE BUSINESS PART 8

Lifestyle or Wealth Creation? Becoming Dispensable.

If you are the owner- manager of any business but particularly if you are the owner of an e-commerce business, then you probably have some entrepreneurial genes. Which means you may enjoy working in your business so much that it becomes an integral part of all aspects of your life.

Lifestyle Business

People start and then subsequently run businesses for many different reasons. Some do so out of necessity - because perhaps they lost their job and needed to earn a living whereas many do so out of choice. Whatever your reason, though, an online business is one that allows an enormous amount of flexibility and with relatively low barriers to entry, it’s also easy to start a business while staying employed elsewhere initially. Buying a Shopify theme is incredibly simple and cost effective and means that if you have your products sorted, you can be up and running in a matter of days if you wish.

It always helps if you have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve personally with your business. If you’ve drifted into e-commerce and suddenly find you have success on your hands, then it’s helpful to decide on your medium and long term goals. Are you happy to run a ‘lifestyle’ business with a good income and plenty of time to do other things or is your aim to build an operation that can eventually be sold for squillions? In some cases, it’s possible to do both – and if that turns out to be your situation, you’ll be very fortunate.

A lifestyle business also suggests that you don’t see your e-commerce operation as ‘work’ but that you have woven its operation into your life with the attendant financial rewards. That’s not to say that you don’t make sacrifices in other areas - just that you don’t mind making them so much.

The truth is, though, even if you start a lifestyle business, you may have to change many things if you want to exit at some point. So best you think about this stuff early! Creating something that can be easily sold or run without you so that you can walk off into the sunset, takes some planning.

The two main areas you will need to think about are operations and finance. Here we’ll look at the operational differences and in the next article we’ll consider how the financial arrangements may differ.

In the early days of any business, the owner tends to be everywhere and across all parts of the firm. Your daily life revolves around the tasks needed for the business to flourish with the proprietor’s personality felt throughout. Product development, website management, finance, HR and operations need constant attention – but you don’t mind because you love it!

Maybe you are working long hours in the early days, but once it’s running smoothly, you can start taking the time to see more of your family and friends and also start indulging in the perks of the position. Perhaps the success of the business now allows you to afford a lovely home and acquire some of the material things that come with more disposable income.

But, the chances are, you’ll still be time-poor, and your employees will still act like baby birds that regularly need feeding!

So when the time comes that the ‘lifestyle’ no longer suits, and you want to think about an exit, you will need to make yourself dispensable. If there is more than one of you wanting to exit then, that applies to all the owners. That means putting in place systems and processes that can be followed by others in your team without your daily supervision. So for example, if you can’t take a two-week vacation without being on call, then you’ve probably not done enough in that department!

It means promoting people into roles and trusting them with your ‘baby’. It means handing over some of the financial reigns to others. It means allowing people to make mistakes and learn the hard way – just like you did! It means trying to eliminate all the single points of potential failure in your business. The thing is, doing all this may take longer than you think.

Sometimes, making yourself dispensable can take long as two to three years in the planning, and you still need to be financially successful while you are doing it.

Only when you’ve successfully managed to achieve your 'dispensability' will you be able to make choices about your personal exit. Whether you sell the operation or leave it running while you take the monthly cheques, will be your decision. But either way, it will no longer dictate your lifestyle when you do!

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We hope that you enjoyed this post and that you found it informative. Please feel free to comment below.

Also, did we mention our extremely popular responsive Shopify themes? Your shop has to look good when visitors come around :)

Richard Bairstow is the founder and CEO of We are Underground and is recognised as a leading authority in the Shopify Theme marketplace with 5 of the best selling published themes within the Shopify theme store and over 20,000 active Shopify customers.

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