Book Buzz:  Small Business Big Life

Cindi Filer's review of Small Business Big Life, by Louis Barajas

MY STORY:  The title intrigued me - based on how I started my own business.  How do you maintain a Big Life when you own a small business?  

Many of you know my story.  I came out of corporate America in 1993 to raise my first son and be a Mom (at-home).  I quickly realized that for some people, laying down a career is difficult and I wanted to do some "business" while staying home with Matt.  I found out there were a lot of other people like me out there - and that there were businesses that would eagerly pay for part time talent which meant they could get a high level person for a little money.  

Soon after I started working for some businesses from my home, I felt the nudge to start Innovative Outsourcing - as a ministry of sorts - with a purpose of finding part time work for people so they could stay home with their kids, if that is the life they desired.  As I decided to start a small business, I had some non-negotiables. One was that I would not let starting this business (to help people be home with their kids) cause me to miss mine growing up.  So, I had to put in place systems and processes and people that would allow me to run/grow a small business while working few hours.  I worked only around 5 hours a week at first while Matt was napping.  It increased to 10 hours a week during preschool years and 20 hours a week during school years.  I always felt that 20 hours/week was my cap while the kids lived at home because I determined that although I could work more hours, when I worked more than 20, my emotional capacity to be there when the kids returned from school was not there.  So, I created a boundary of the time I would work each week to ensure that I would not (in the end) end up with a great big business and having missed my kids growing up.  So, I get odd looks all the time about being a CEO who only works 20 hours a week.  But, it can be done - and I was hoping this book would give some concrete help I could point to when people want to know how to do it.  

THE BOOK:  Louis put a lot of information in this book - perhaps too much for anyone to read and digest. Although I thought the book was for business owners, it is clear that although he addresses both audiences, he really wrote it for people who are thinking about owning a business and not for those with mature businesses.  It is broken up in several parts:

1.  Your life blueprint

2.  Your vision

3.  Your business blueprint

4.  Your business systems

5.  Your team

This is a great exercise for someone who is just thinking of business ownership.  Oddly, he tells you to start a business a little like I did.  My life blueprint was that my husband and kids came first, and this business came second.  Period.  That has been my filter for almost every decision I have made.  My vision was to help people achieve a work/life balance in a world where (at that time) you had to choose home vs. career.  The blueprint, systems and team have been ever evolving and something we all have to constantly think about.  If you are a business owner already - you know the things he is laying out.  You have lived them.  Maybe the one thing he points out that I don't see new business owners do is the life blueprint step.  He suggests that prior to opening a business - you determine in advance what type of life you will have and what will be the order of importance of the things in your life.  I too often see business owners sacrificing so much in their personal lives to build their business.  He makes a couple of points.

  • The divorce rate in America is 54% overall. The divorce rate among business owners in a survey he conducted is 74%.
  • 4 out of 100 businesses survive 10 years.  His point here is not to sacrifice your family for odds like this.

He spends the book talking about all these issues - and doing a good, however wordy, job of explaining things to novices.  

The greatest information I got as a long time business owner was in the Appendix.  He lists and explains the 22 temptations of a small business owner.  I echo these seeing many businesses each year! Here are a few that I think are important.

  1. Tempted not to begin with the end in mind
  2. Tempted to work longer and harder because of business challenges
  3. Tempted to hire people who you like and who are exactly like you
  4. Tempted to control everything
  5. Tempted to promote employees to levels of incompetence - just because someone is a good employee, it does not mean she should manage people
  6. Tempted to try to do everything yourself
  7. Tempted to buy the best equipment and hire more staff than you need
  8. Tempted to hire people who will tell you what you want to hear
  9. Tempted not to spend money on appropriate counsel 
  10. Tempted to give your best employees more responsibilities than they can or should handle - This is HUGE.  If you have a great employee, don't overload them with so many things that they feel totally overburdened.  I see this all the time in the businesses I consult with.  This will burn out your best people FAST. 

So my application questions for my business are:

  • Have I thought through how my business has impacted my life?  Have I disproportionately placed my heart and my time in my business and neglected other areas of importance and if so, how do I fix that?
  • Am I doing any of the temptations above - and if I am, how do I fix that? 

I recommend this book only to people looking to start a business and then, only as a second or third tier book.  The temptations in the appendix are interesting - but I just gave them to you - so no need to to purchase."

This book will take 8 hours to read - most of which you will skip because it is stuff you already know."

 If you know of someone that is thinking about starting a company - this is a good read and should be read maybe one chapter per sitting while note taking since it kind of jumps all over several concepts and is difficult to follow.