Is Your Business Giving You Two Paychecks?
Astute business owners are carefully attuned to the unique value which they provide for their customers. We usually call this their value proposition.
But what value proposition does the business have for the owner? It obviously provides the owner with a livelihood. But what other value does the owner derive from being an entrepreneur?
The Most Important Paycheck
I like to think of the non-monetary benefits of ownership as the owner's second paycheck. The monetary paycheck goes into a bank account. The non-monetary paycheck is deposited to the owner's sense of personal fulfillment.
This second paycheck is essential for employees and owners alike. But it's particularly vital for owners. They quickly find that building a successful business is hard, demanding work. It requires long hours, lost weekends, and around-the-clock problem solving.
When this reality sets in, many would-be entrepreneurs lose heart and close their business. They don't view their compensation as adequate to offset the personal grind required to produce it.
But this disillusionment can be held at bay if owners feel a genuine sense of fulfillment from their business. In many ways the non-monetary paycheck is more important than the monetary one, because fulfillment will keep us energized even when our monetary remuneration is falling short.
The Key to Fulfillment
For encore entrepreneurs its especially important to find personal fulfillment in their business. That's because of a natural process which was noted a century ago by the Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Karl Jung.
Jung gave us the term "mid-life" as the name for a transition period from younger adulthood to later adulthood. He observed that prior to mid-life we are given to achievement — making a mark with our career, starting a family, buying a home, etc. Beyond mid-ife, most people transition from preoccupation with achievement to preoccupation with finding significance in what they do and what they will leave behind.
At any stage of life we are left unfulfilled if we fail to find significance. And this is doubly the case for those of us who are older adults. Since significance is such an elevated value at our stage of life, we are super-sensitized to its absence.
Consequently, as encore entrepreneurs we have an urgent need to feel significance in what we do both with our business and in our business. Notice that there are two considerations here. We must see significance both in what our business does and in what we do in the business.
Which then begs this quesstion: significant by whose standard? The obvious answer is, significant in my own eyes.
Since I'm the final arbiter of what constitutes significance for me, significance is inseparably tied to my highest values. To the degree that you and I differ in our most cherished values, we will also differ in our concept of pefsonal significance.
Finding Your Highest Values
If our business is to afford us true fulfillment — fulfillment grounded in a deep sense of significance — we must begin by being clear about our highest values. Then we must structure the business and our role within it to serve those values.
Our values are arranged in a hierarchy. Some are more important to us than others. At the very top of this hierarchy are the values which give us the greatest fulfillment. These are the values whose very pursuit energizes us and makes us feel significant.
Most people, I find, have never taken the time to thoroughly ferret out their hierarchy of values. They can quickly name things that are important to them. But they have no distinct image of which values have the most energizing potential for them.
And notice that I'm speaking in terms of values that energize us, not values that we espouse. Social, family, and religious conventions press us to identify certain values as important to us. Thus, when asked to identify our highest values, we typically regurgitate some externally imposed list. But unless the pursuit of a value actually energizes us, it doesn't qualify as one of our highest values.
So one way to get in touch with your highest values is to ask questions like these:
- What kinds of things am I doing when I feel most alive?
- When I'm so engaged that time just seems to evaporate, what types of activities am I likely to be involved in?
- When I'm in conversation, what topics do I talk about with the greatest enthusiasm? With more animated gestures? With a greater level of excitement in my voice?
By going through a personal self-assessment like this years ago, I got in touch with my highest motivaton for what I do professionally. Looking back over my career, I found that what gave me the greatest satisfaction was providing clarity and insight to help people succeed.
Once I realized how important this was to me, I started looking for ways to create a business that would optimize the opportunities to enjoy that fulfillment. Since then I've gone on to launch several businesses, including Startups After 50, all of them built around giving insight and clarity to help people succeed.
Saying "Yes" to What Truly Counts
By identifying your highest values, then constructing your business around them, you not only bring fresh energy to your entrepreneurship, you also give yourself a crisp sense of focus. You have a distinct picture of the kinds of options to which you should say "yes" and the ones which you should ignore.
Frequently, as part of a coaching engagement, I lead clients through this kind of values clarification exercise. If you want to do it on your own, without the assistance of a coach, I would recommend Dr. John Demartini's book The Values Factor. It contains chapter after chapter of step-by-step guidance on isolating the values which give you the most fulfillment.
Be forewarned, most of the exercises in his book are not quick, five-minute assessments. They will take some time. But the potential rewards are immense — not the least of which is a second paycheck that is invaluable.
This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on March 12, 2015.