I heard someone read the below this weekend.
says the Teacher.
Everything is vanity."*
"That's when I called it quits, gave up on anything that could be hoped for on this earth. What's the point of working your fingers to the bone if you hand over what you worked for to someone who never lifted a finger for it? Smoke, that's what it is. A bad business from start to finish. So what do you get from a life of hard labor? Pain and grief from dawn to dusk. Never a decent night's rest. Nothing but smoke."*
One thing I know for sure. One day you won't work at your company. You won't work in your company. Heck, you may not have anything to do with your company other than it's on your LinkedIn profile as something you owned and managed.
What's it all for? You are building something that someone else will eventually own. Is it all really meaningless?
Yes! If you aren't intentional about why you are here right now.
So, let's begin with the end in mind.
If you left your company today because someone walked up with a big fat check or it's feeling like it's time to go, what would you say about yourself the day after? Who are you? What would you do?
Seriously, is your worth and ego tied to the business?
Do you know what happens the day after you leave? The business goes on without you. It feels like it can't and that you are critical, but you're mistaken.
We're all dispensable (trust me – first-hand experience here).
If you aren't indispensable, you have some work to do to get your company to the right spot so that you are dispensable. You'll get a bigger pile of money that way too. (but it's all meaningless, right?)
OK, why Debbie Downer today?
In the last three months, we've had partners sell their companies and go through the mental gymnastics of figuring out what's next, who am I really, what's important to me now, and if I don't want to play golf and travel all year how can I stay engaged?
One of these partners weaved his way through the psychological turmoil by writing a eulogy for his company. Seriously, in order to say goodbye, he literally had to say goodbye to turn the page.
I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't wrapped up in Acumen in some way. My ego is tied to its success and failures. Our impact fills my heart, and it's what I spend my "off hours" thinking about.
"...Pain and grief from dawn to dusk. Never a decent night's rest."*
When we get too tied into our business, we can lose our spouses, kids, health, and even ourselves if we don't have a framework where who we are is not what we do.
Acumen is about approaching business ownership and entrepreneurship holistically – ALL the pieces of your life matter and impact how you show up and lead your company.
So how do you know if you are on or off track?
1. Start with the end in mind:
Do the eulogy exercise. Take a moment and write a eulogy for your business in the future state of selling or exiting. Include all accomplishments, ups, downs, impact, good and bad. What happened? How did it end? Like all funerals, you take stock differently at the end than you do at the start or the middle. So start with the end – are you on the right track? Are you making an impact and influencing in the way that you want? Are you the leader you envision? Where's the gap? What can you do today to get closer to that vision in your eulogy?
2. Ask Outside
You don't know how tied you are to the business because you can't look in the mirror and see clearly. Your spouse can. Your kids can. Who do you need to ask about your relationship with your business and how it affects them? What team members can you ask some of those fuzzy questions from your eulogy?
3. Ask Inside
Why are you here on earth? Why do you exist? I'm pretty sure it's not to be the best…(insert what you do for a living).
A few years back, I went through a process to discover my one-liner of why I'm here on the planet. Here it is.
I exist to come alongside others to help them grow.
Nothing fancy. What I love about it is that it's not about me. It's about others. "Grow" is also an important word. I help others grow in some way: business, transition, marriage, family, faith. Growing others is a core part of me.
It's funny, I got extreme clarity when I started applying this one line as a filter to what I do, where I spend time, volunteer, the types of opportunities to chase, and when to SAY NO.
Why are you here?
Who are you here for?
Your roles in life also give you clarity into what and how to go about it.
I'm a Christ follower, husband, father, son, brother, CEO, and friend – in that order. This helps me prioritize. What's your order of priority?
Um…OK touchy feely guy – how is this supposed to help my business?
I wish I had someone tell me this when I had a company. I would have done things differently. Isn't that wisdom? Knowing how to and not to do and experience life through your experiences. So, we've seen this experience enough to know that you should think about this right now.
It will thrive when you aren't the most important person in your business. I know it's counterintuitive, but when you are not required to operate your business, it's worth more, your people are growing and engaged, and you have the freedom to be the visionary which is where you want to be.
The end is near. Why are you here?
Acumen: A Short Eulogy, by Dan Cooper
[note: this is a short version of the exercise from #1 above]
I can't believe all the people we've impacted: Business owners, entrepreneurs, leaders, managers, employees, marriages, kids, faith, generosity…too much to name, and so many rich stories. Who was I to get the chance to impact, influence, and lead leaders? You gave me that opportunity, and I'll never forget it. I'm grateful, and my cup is full.
Our community brought a portion of our country through its hardest times: socially and economically. I'm proud to have been a catalyst for a small percentage of that. I'm also confident in the next generation taking over Acumen. Who knew that those we served – our clients and partners - became the next crop of Growth Catalysts and ownership?
I'll enjoy mentoring Acumen's next gen (if they want it – I'm dispensable after all). My wife and I have several ideas for businesses we'd like to get into together. We'll finally get a chance to see if we can work side by side in business. Can I be the Integrator this time? I'll still be a coach to individuals in transition and come alongside others to help them grow. It's why I'm here.
Acumen, you mean so much to me. You've set me up for my next season. I love you. Goodbye.
*Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23
August 18, 2022