“So you run a lifestyle business?”

Why I hate this incredibly patronising question


Yesterday while talking to someone about the size of our company and current plans I was asked this question and my immediate thoughts were “don’t be so f@cking patronising!”. I hate this question and what it implies. Needless to say I left the office that evening smouldering…

Driving into work this morning I was listening to the last episode of Startup, an amazing podcast about Alex Blumberg’s journey to launching his startup. In this final episode of season 1 he talks to Chris Sacca (investor in @Twitter,@Uber, @Instagram, @kickstarter) who gives him his definition of a lifestyle business? According to Chris it’s a business that “is likely not growing or growing at a really modest clip, and it’s making money such that the people working there are living comfortably, they’re drawing reasonable salaries for their time, the pace is reasonable enough such that they get to go on vacation…”. Most people wouldn’t see anything too wrong with running such a business

Essentially it sounds like a “lifestyle business” is one that isn’t growing by 5 times a year. But what does it take to generate that kind of year on year growth?


I run a business and have a life.


I work because it supports my life I don’t live to support my work. I love what I do. There are bits of it I hate but there are many many other aspects of it that energise and inspire me. We’ve been around for 10 years now and we’ve not been growing by 5x a year. But then we’re not Uber. And we’re not in a position to sacrifice everything just for the job.

I believe in a balanced life. For me this means continuously learning, fostering strong relationships and where possible helping others. These are my fundamental values. So where does making loads of money come into it? Well it doesn’t. It isn’t that I’m not ambitious but making money should be a side effect of doing what I believe in. For me the Happy Startup School and Spook Studio are ventures that help me live my values. Their success is tied to me living my values to the fullest. And so if they grow and create impact then my values should in turn be strengthened and deepened.

It truly depresses me when I hear the words “so you run a lifestyle business”. Because what this says to me is that running any other type of business means you have no life. What I’m doing is running a business that supports my lifestyle. But if my lifestyle was to work 18 hour days, never see my family and be in it only for my own personal gain then I would run a business that perpetuated that lifestyle. Wouldn’t that be a lifestyle business too?

There’s a myth that being an entrepreneur requires you to sacrifice other aspects of life. That’s all it is — a myth.
Martin Bjergegaard

Success doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your soul in search of fame and fortune. Martin Bjergegaard, author of Winning Without Losing, also believes that “it is possible to balance a successful and fulfilling career with a meaningful and happy personal life”. He talked at our Summer Camp (another venture that was born out of our values rather than a profit motive) and what he talks about reinforces my beliefs.

I believe in hard work. I believe in sacrifice. But I also believe in having a very clear sense of perspective. Ultimately I have to think about what is my end goal. What’s my definition of ultimate success? I ask myself this question regularly. Because the choices I make today will dictate whether I achieve that goal. I want my kids to have the best start in life. I want to have a deep loving relationship with my wife for the rest of our days. I want to make a positive impact in the small world around me.

They say if you don’t aim high then you’ll never achieve anything significant. Well to me that’s aiming pretty high because how I achieve these things while building a business is a pretty big challenge in itself.


Choose your lifestyle


I say “choose your lifestyle”. And then run a business that supports that lifestyle. Because in the end we’re all running lifestyle businesses. It’s just that some of us haven’t made a choice.

*We’re launching an online program for purpose-driven startup founders from around the globe. If you’d like to build a business, and make it a happy one with 100 other likeminded people, visit The Happy Startup Home School.

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