Imagine you are taking a long drive to an important meeting with a colleague. They begin driving, making various turns as they go, and kind of shrugging their shoulders each time they do so. 

“You know where you’re going?”, you inquire with gentle suspicion.

“No worries, I have GPS.”

They point to the map on the screen in their car, but you notice there is no highlighted route. Sure, the map is showing where the car is, but without a destination identified, the driver may be just as lost as if it didn’t exist.

And that’s how a lot of owners approach their businesses… and their lives.

It’s been said “Aim at nothing, and you’ll hit it every time.” If you don’t identify what you are trying to accomplish, your accomplishments will be greatly diminished, and you may look back at the things you managed to achieve and say, “Those are not really things I cared about.”

It may seem a little weird to start a business blog with such a philosophical post. We got into the business of guiding MSP owners to success for a reason. We want to see them run profitably and get past the speed bumps every entrepreneurial business inevitably comes to. We desire that they experience significant growth and healthy scaling of their operations, and eventually exit in a highly satisfactory manner. That could mean a sale or simply retirement with a succession plan in place. 

Sure, we want to make money along the way, but we want to make it doing this kind of work because we love doing it. We were both happily sharing our experiences and coaching burgeoning entrepreneurs for free long before we turned it into a business. We love teaching and helping, but we really get a rush when something clicks for someone we are coaching and it changes their life significantly for the better. It’s like we get a “joy commission” when someone’s life is transformed because their business has been transformed.

And that is ultimately the goal: not merely business success, but life success. Many people go through life with only a rough idea of what they are trying to accomplish, and they have no real end game in mind. That is something they mistakenly think is for “later”. For some, life is so challenging that it’s never occurred to them to ask “Where am I trying to get to? What destination should be plugged into my ‘Life GPS’? They are understandably too busy trying to make rent, or survive a difficult family situation, or keep some demanding person in their life happy.

So we pose the question to you, Ms. or Mr. Business Owner: Where are you trying to get to? What is your definition of entrepreneurial success?

Here is ours: Prospering to the point where you have control over your time and are in a position to give back.

This simple definition entails a lot. 

It does mean that you have been financially successful. It means that money has gone from being something to legitimately worry about, to a tool in your arsenal to be utilized. You’ve gotten long past the days or worrying about making rent, or a mortgage or tuition payment, or making a payroll. Your approach to money most of the time is now playing offense, not defense. How do I do good things with my money? That can mean investments, enjoyment of a nice home, adventurous or relaxing vacations, or making a difference through philanthropy.

It also means you have built a solid teamSomebody still has to do the work! If you achieve financial success, but sacrifice your health, any sense of balance in your life, and the overwhelming majority of your time to do so, is that winning? In order for you to have control over your time, you must oversee a team of great people. This means a healthy, functional staff structure, the right people in the right seats, and continually maturing processes to ensure an efficient, consistent client experience. Without a solid team that is functioning well, you might say you own the business, but in reality, the business probably owns you.

And lastly, it means that you have not lost sight of what is really important to you over the years you have run your company. A wise man once said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?” He also said, “It is better to give than receive.” We’ve thought on that second one a lot. Until you’ve known the unbridled joy of giving to someone or something you care about with no strings attached, that’s a hard one to believe. We’ve come to believe it is literally true. Giving back creates purpose. We’re wired to experience deep satisfaction by helping others. Whether you’re giving money, time, wisdom, or a combination thereof is completely up to you. When you have truly achieved entrepreneurial success, you have the freedom to decide. You have money, and your time is yours.

Your business doesn’t just need to make life good for you, it needs to make a good life for those you care about most, too. That doesn’t just mean having money to give your family nice things, or to be able to pick up the check when you are out with your friends. It also means you have time for them, and when you are with them, you are truly present. True fulfillment comes in the context of relationships. If your business success damages or destroys your relationships with friends and family, is thatwinning?

One of my favorite quotes is from… wait for it… LL Cool J. At some point, I stumbled onto the self-proclaimed G.O.A.T of rap music interviewing Diontae Wilder, who was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world at the time. Mr. Cool J was running through all of Wilder’s many accomplishments, hyping him up and congratulating him. Then he paused, got dead serious, and said this: “Diontae, land the plane.” LL went on to explain that at some point he figured out that if he couldn’t trust anyone around him, his wife hated him, his kids wouldn’t talk to him, and he was reliant on foreign substances just to through every day, all the success he had achieved would be for naught. We would have won at rap, and lost at life.

“Diontae, it’s like you’ve taken off and achieved heights few people ever will. You’re on top of the world. Now land the plane.”

You may not be on top of the world yet. You may be far from it and unable to conceive of reaching such heights. But now is the time to think about what landing the plane looks like for you. Now is the time to get the right destination plugged into that GPS. If you never pause to do so, the chances of ever getting to the place where you can look back without many regrets gets pretty slim.

Your business is a means, not an end. It can be the vehicle to a wonderful life, filled with purpose and satisfaction. Or your business can be a cruel mistress who steals your time and decimates your health, your family, and your dreams. The dirty little secret is that it can even do all that damage while making you a lot of money. Ebenezer Scrooge was not a happy man.

So really this particular blog is about context. We won’t be waxing philosophical a whole lot from here on. Promise. There are other blogs out there for that. We’re here to help you increase profit, grow your business, and have a great exit. 

Just keep the big picture in mind while you do.