08 Feb The truth about a lifestyle business
Although Black Mountain has been alive for a few years now, it’s only recently that we’ve realised what we really are: we’re a “lifestyle business”. Contrary to what many people believe, this doesn’t mean we’re lazy or unambitious compared to the business owners who employ hundreds of people, with a head office and branches and middle managers. Like them, we work hard and we take pride in what we do. And, like them, profit is a driving factor for us (otherwise what’s the point of being in business?). To us though, the major difference between a lifestyle business and building a huge empire is a slightly different measure of success: how well it gels with our chosen lifestyles.
Here’s the reality. We’re both working moms, each with two young children. That in itself means a whole lot of things: we want to be able to pick our kids up from school in the middle of the day if we choose, and to take them to swimming or ballet or the doctor if they’re sick. We want to be home at a reasonable hour to be with them, and to do the bath-supper-bedtime run (even though for me that’s a much more exhausting job than being at my desk!).
We also like exercising, and going away for weekends with our families, and taking complete breaks in December. So we make those things a priority. In return, all the negatives that go along with being a business owner, such as the financial uncertainty, not being able to switch off as soon as you leave the office and having to work when you’re sick, feel like a fairer trade.
But to me, one of the biggest differences between us and a “conventional” business is that we’ve made the conscious choice to stay small and nimble. In most cases, this means that we do the work ourselves. This benefits our clients, as they’re getting senior copywriters on their projects rather than us delegating the work to a junior as is so often the case in a large agency. If there’s an overflow of work and we need extra resources, we’ll outsource some of it to a few trusted souls, but we’re still very involved with it – and we get to avoid the pressure of a huge monthly staff salary bill at the same time.
More than all these reasons though, staying small and doing the writing/consulting work ourselves means we get to go to work everyday and do the writing work we really enjoy, rather than spending our daylight hours managing people (which is very much less enjoyable for me). I truly believe that having passion for what you do is the “x factor” that elevates your work from being simply average to being really good. If we can manage to do this in our company while also making money and enjoying our lives at the same time, this is as good a measure of business success as I could ever hope for.