Saturday, November 01, 2014

Why We're Really Going to Australia: Business is Personal

Sometimes Business Isn't About Business

I have often said that all business is personal. All small business is personal. But so are large businesses.

We do business with people we know, like, and trust. And in the end, we gather about us friends from all over the place. Friends in our own company. Friends at vendors. Friends among our clients. Friends among our so-called competitors.

. . .

I have been meaning to go to Australia for many years. There's a huge I.T. community there and we sell lots of products in the Australian market. In fact, some products sell better there than in the U.S. or U.K.

I also have many friends from Australia. Most I met online first. And some I have met many, many times in person. I generally see Robert Crane and Wayne Small at least once a year, for example. I've shared many a meal (and many a beer) with my friends from down under. But it was always in the U.S. or U.K.

Now I get to see everyone on their home territory.

But why now? That's a very personal piece of the story.

Goodbye to Simon

Many of you have met or talked to Monica Caraway, the Marketing Manager at Small Biz Thoughts. Monica came to us in 2010. She and her son Simon had been living in Australia. She came to work for us full time. And Simon even did some work for us, manning the phones.

At that time, I owned two businesses (the MSP and the book business). We operated out of one office and shared several employees across both businesses. We were honestly a big group of friends. It was a very close group. We socialized together in addition to working together.

Sadly, Simon died almost two years ago, shortly after graduating from high school.

Monica tried various ways to figure out how to get Simon's ashes back to Australia so that his friends could say goodbye and she could spread his ashes in the land he loved so much. But she just couldn't figure out how to make it happen.

One day she asked me in frustration how she was going to get Simon back to Australia. And I said, "Let's make an excuse to get you there." So that's what we did.

We started planning dates and places and how to put on shows in Australia and New Zealand. It definitely IS a business trip. And it IS intended to make a profit. And we definitely ARE providing a great four-hour seminar in four different cities.

But the "why now" question comes down to a very personal reason. My friend Monica needed this to happen.

. . .

Having made that commitment, I'm grateful that we have good sign-ups down-under. We might even sell out the Sydney show!

If nothing else, I'll get to meet a lot of old friends I've only known online. And of course we'll make a bunch of new friends as well.

How Personal is Your Business?

I have worked very hard to make my life and my business completely consistent with one another. My business supports my life in its entirely, not just my lifestyle. I work very hard. But my life and work are thoroughly intertwined. I want to work with vendors I like, clients I like, and employees I like.

One of my friends in the I.T. business is always questioning whether I really don't answer my phone, have a 100% managed service business, and only work with people I like. One day he said to me: "You just make up your own world and then you go live there." 

Yes. We all do. If you make up a world where you have to work with jerks, you'll put up with that. If you make up a world where you are tied to your desk until ten o'clock at night, you'll make that reality come true. If you make up a world where clients don't have to treat your employees with respect, that's the world you'll be in.

You can build any business/life "balance" you want. I encourage you to do so with intention and not just let it emerge on its own. Mold your future or someone else will.

Sometimes we get caught up in the stereotypes of businesses. "Businesses" are evil. Or "businesses" don't care about people. One of the worst things I've heard this year is a new managed service provider who said that he doesn't need to get to know his new clients. After all, it's business. Guess what? Several of those clients have moved on. They don't know him. And he's made no effort to get to know them.

We should all acknowledge that the personal side of the business is not a weakness. In fact, building strong personal relationships - and friendships - within your business is one of the best things you can do. Personally, it will make your life better. Working with people you like makes everything easier. On the business side, it will strengthen your business. Even very large businesses make decisions based on who is good to work with and who is not.

Always remember that we deal with real people in business. Every person you meet has a story.

. . .

And if you're joining us in Australia, be sure to introduce yourself to Monica. She's like the sister I never had.


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