I ran a workshop recently in which I used one of my favourite tools for assessing business health and sustainability. Afterwards one of the participants came up to me and said the last thing you want to hear after a presentation: That made me depressed!
When we sat down to review what she meant, it became clear that the tool had helped this normally gregarious person to identify how poor her social life had been, and what impact that might be having on her business. She had been so busy lately that she’d neglected her social life when typically she was gregarious and bubbly. Fortunately, our review turned her depression into action. She left the workshop determined to get her social life back on track, and to restore the balance of her life.
Now, you might be thinking, what has a healthy social life got to do with the success of a business? And it’s a great question.
The tool I unpacked in the workshop is called the Bike of Life, and it’s a tool that looks at your domestic wellbeing as much as it does your productivity in business. I’m convinced that the one isn’t possible without the other. Too many business owners believe the key to operating a successful business is to pedal harder and harder on a bike that looks something like an old penny farthing—a massive wheel up front (representing the business) and a tiny wheel on the back (representing home and family life, and personal development). This is a recipe for futility and burnout.
Driving any successful small business (the front wheel) is the wheel at the back, what I call your personal life balance. If you have a reasonable personal life balance, and you have a well-balanced business wheel, then life is going to go well. At the very least, you’re going to have a better chance of moving forward and making progress. An unbalanced back wheel will result in a loss of traction, a work-life experience that feels tougher and harder to maintain. And when I’ve applied this tool to my clients’ businesses, that’s exactly the story that I hear.
The tool is simple. In each spoke of both wheels, rate out of 10 how well you think you’re doing in that area. Optimally you want to be close to 10 out of 10 in each area. That’s probably unrealistic, so you at least want to be balanced—8 out of 10s in each. Fill in the personal life wheel first, and then fill in the business wheel. How well are you doing in marketing or HR, for example? My assumption is that if you rate low on the back wheel, or if your back wheel is obviously out of balance, your front wheel will be struggling too.
It’s no surprise that having good tools like the Bike of Life can lead to better results in business. A builder doesn’t try to build a house out of timber and nails without a hammer. I haven’t tried it, but I imagine driving nails into timber is pretty hard using only your thumb. It’s no different in other forms of business. Having good tools gives leverage and generates better results. The Bike of Life is a favourite of mine because experience has shown me that the success or otherwise of a business is a reflection of the person running the business—if the business owner is struggling a few simple tools may be all they need to get back on track.
Back to the Bike of Life. The more time you spend on the back wheel, the healthier your life is. Life is out of balance when your front wheel is doing okay but you’ve completely neglected the wheel at the back. For example, the areas of spirituality and philosophy, and relations, are vital for the health of my business. It’s so important to live a life that is congruent with your philosophy of life. And for that to happen, you need to be open to learning, and to stay ahead of life’s changes. I’ve said it before—it’s difficult to give your customers what they need if your own tank is empty.
Other areas of your life are just as vital. In the area of health, you need to have a physical body that’s as healthy as it can be. The cream-filled pancake at breakfast time feels great as it’s going down, but how is that going to impact you at 1pm?
Similarly, how good are your support networks? If I have a good relationship with my wife and kids, I’m going to feel better about myself. That enables me to function well. In terms of my social life, hanging out with mates after a bike ride or going for a sail with friends or sitting around and having some wine and cheese—that all stokes the fire and builds into my performance at work.
The message is this—achieving your business goals is as much about paying attention to the key areas of life as it is to working on your business. If the back wheel is unbalanced, the front wheel will be harder to drive, until ultimately you’re wiped out—exhausted and burnt out. That happens to many business owners, and tends to sneak up on them before they realize it. The key is to pay attention to the back wheel now, before the imbalance becomes a problem.
As always, we’re only happy to help.