Monday, September 10, 2012

Thine own self

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!"

- Polonius, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3.

The meaning of the words above, written 400 years ago, have been studied, debated and written about almost from the time they were penned.  Here's one take that I find satisfying:
By "false" Polonius seems to mean "disadvantageous" or "detrimental to your image"; by "true" he means "loyal to your own best interests." Take care of yourself first, he counsels, and that way you'll be in a position to take care of others.
For business owners, to be honest in your dealings with others is fairly intrinsic:  you won't get far in deceiving your business' stakeholders.

Take care of yourself first, now there's the rub.  As we have written about before, many business owners choose to do without, to sacrifice for the greater good of their businesses, often at their own expense.  Right or wrong, I don't know too many business owners who are in it solely for the money. 

Is that wise?  From a financial standpoint, no it is not.  As my colleague John Dini eloquently and correctly argues, businesses owners have a right to (all of the) profits.  Profits are a result, not a goal, however.

When financial considerations alone drive decisions, poor choices and outcomes often follow.

Here's an exercise: Look at the opportunities that you see for your business and the issues that you face in capturing those opportunities.  Before you do the financial calculations to determine the return needed to justify the capital investment, ask yourself the following "soft" questions:
  • Space: "Do I have sufficient time and mental energy to devote to leading this?"
  • Skills: "Do I have the right skills to lead this?"
  • Desire: "Can I lead with commitment and passion?"
  • Outcome: "Will it allow me to devote more time to growing my business?"
The difference between running a business and having a job is one of control over your finances for sure, but also over your life.  You get to choose how to balance the two.  In the weeks ahead, we will examine how to make better choices, achieve better balance, and how to be true to thine own vision of yourself at work.

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