“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain
I think it’s safe to say that most of us are looking for ways to live better, more balanced lives. If you own your own business, that’s probably even more important to you—but perhaps even harder to achieve. How can you make your company even more successful while also leaving time and energy for your other goals? Well, I have an answer for you.
I wrote my book, The Liberated CEO, because I wanted to share with other people what I discovered about building a successful, highly functioning business without having to sacrifice my personal life. It all started with a dream about sailing around the world.
Many business owners wouldn’t dare to leave their company in order to go on such an adventure. But I thought I could do both—run my business and take myself and my family on the adventure of a lifetime. So in 2011, my wife, Mandi, and I, along with our kids, embarked on a 2 1/2-year adventure, sailing around the world. At the same time, I continued to run my business, Navigoe, from afar. And it worked! My business hummed along nicely, even though I wasn’t physically in the office every single day.
Sound fantastic? You can do it too.
The Nine Steps to Liberation
Of course, I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to set sail. It took years of preparation. One reason it took so long was because I had to create my “liberated CEO” plan from scratch. But you don’t have to do the same. I’m going to let you in on a secret and share the nine steps to liberation that I took to achieve my personal dreams while still running a thriving business.
- Chart your rhumb line: When you sail, you don’t actually follow a straight line. Your path is affected by the curvature of the Earth. Likewise, when you’re setting a path to reach your goals, you need to account for the fact that you won’t necessarily travel in a straight line to get there.
- Know your peak zone: Everyone has a peak zone—the area where you are able to truly excel. You need to discover your personal peak zone and operate within that zone as much as possible. Then you need to find other people whose peak zone complements yours, and empower them to operate in their own peak zone so that your business can thrive.
- Smart sourcing—hire the best, outsource the rest: Make smart hires to fill key roles and take on essential responsibilities within your firm. Outsource to knowledgeable experts to fill in the gaps.
- Give your crew preflight checklists: For your team to perform at peak levels, they need the right tools. Smart processes (what I like to call “preflight checklists”) and automated workflows make everything run smoothly and free people to focus on higher-level work.
- Build a service brand: As a liberated CEO, you want your customers to look to your company for solutions, not to you personally. Build customer awareness and training into all parts of your company’s operations. Focus on empowering your employees to deliver great customer service.
- Break the service ceiling with systematic customization: Systematic customization allows you to consistently deliver world-class service to clients. Streamline and standardize client interactions when possible, which in turns creates more opportunities for customized service experiences.
- Keep a loyal crew: Manage your employees to think like owners. Employees with an ownership mindset will help sustain strong relationships with your clients and will eventually make it easier for you to sell your business and become truly liberated.
- Made to sell: You need to nail your business exit strategy. Otherwise, the wealth you’ve created could be lost if you sell your business at the wrong time or to the wrong buyer. Be prepared for a transition in ownership, perhaps to a group of internal buyers—your employees who have developed an ownership mindset over their years at your firm.
- Become an expert in your field: Building your brand as a thought leader and an expert can lead to great personal satisfaction, give you an opportunity to give back and perhaps even offer a chance at a second career after you step away from your business.
As a business owner, you have incredible freedom. You can choose how you run your business, rather than let it run you. Good luck on your journey!