The Joy Factor: Six ways owning your own business can offer more rewards than just money

Remember why you started your small business in the first place? If you’re like most entrepreneurs, it was because you wanted freedom – to be the master of your own time and most likely to make more money. You wanted to be happier and to do work that you loved.

But once a small business takes off, that joy factor often gets shoved to the back burner. We work longer and longer hours, become increasingly intense about our company and expect a commitment from our employees as consuming as any corporate giant. Our spouses and children start complaining. In short, we lose sight of our real purpose, which is to create joy in ourselves and those around us.

Although people have been looking for a magic formula for finding joy since the beginning of time, here are a few ideas that you can put to use right away.

1. Be radiant with your clients. Odds are that many of your competitors offer the same quality of service that you do. The only things that truly sets you apart is the after-feeling you leave with clients – whether they feel uplifted after talking or being with you. Although an intangible, this is no trivial matter.

People in corporate jobs these days tend to be seriously overworked by “right-sizing.” They desperately need that vision of spunk and creativity that they get from consultants and vendors. We represent “the edge,” and they count on us for a glimpse of an expanded world of possibilities that they suspect is beyond the horizon.

The overwhelming reason given by Americans for working for oil companies in Saudi Arabia, often under extreme hardship conditions for themselves and their families, is to salt away enough to finance their own business back home.

During bleaker moments, like when a major client hasn’t paid, I try to remember this – to maintain a sense of gratitude for being my own boss.

2. Nurture the human connections in your business. When you sense the slightest opportunity, find out about your clients as people, and learn what makes them tick. In essence, this is an attempt to discover their individual joy factors. Work may indeed be their overriding passion. But do they also wait for 5p.m so they can watch their daughter’s T-ball game? Do they constantly reminisce about their last trek in Thailand?

Spending even a few moments discussing the real lives of your business contacts transforms the energy in any encounter. Often, a genuine friendship develops. These friendships, not the bottom line, make it all worthwhile.

3. Treasure simplicity. You can’t spread joy if you don’t have it yourself. The fastest way to lose your zest for living is through over complication. We tend to think that success necessarily implies growth. Nonsense. Success is determined by attaining your goals, not those set for large corporations by financial pundits or Wall Street analysts.

What were your goals when you stated your own business? Mine now seem embarrassingly modest. Still, reviewing them helps me discern between meaningful or necessary change and growth for its own sake.

Slow down a little. Place a value on simplicity itself and the mental and emotional ease that simplicity brings and you will feel more centered and purposeful when making major business decisions.

4. Appreciate people. Notice the things others do to make the world a better place, however small, and say something. It’s amazing how the simplest compliment will make a person’s day, or perhaps even their week, and how the briefest thank-you note is often treasured for years.

One of my colleagues sends her associate a token gift every now and again, with congratulations naming her “employee of the month.” The whole thing is a joke, because there are only two of them in the company, and neither is technically an employee of the other. Still, the expression of gratitude is an important one.

5. Give. Our businesses do not thrive merely by our own efforts. They succeed when our communities are vibrant, a sense of togetherness exists in our neighborhoods, our local economy is strong and our environment is healthy. All of these depend not on government policy or hand-out programs, but on ordinary citizen involvement. That means you and me – giving time, money and expertise as best we can to the causes that touch our hearts.

Sometimes family responsibilities make it difficult to volunteer as much time as we would like. Other times it’s all too easy to forget the giving-back portion of the financial equation. So consider pledging a small percentage of your gross receivables every month. You’ll actually look forward to writing a check to the group of project of your choice, plus you’ll quickly develop a sense of being “blessed” by the revenue that comes in (and goes out) through you.

6. Acknowledge joy. The best way to heighten and maintain the joy factor in your business is to become aware of it. Think about joy, in yourself, your colleagues and your clients. Notice it when it bubbles up in a meeting. Be thankful for it when you notice yourself smiling. By making joy a priority, you draw more of it to yourself – and therefore have more to pass along to others.


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