You Can Have It Your Way

A client of mine said, “I feel like a fraud. Like what right do I have to build a business around my needs and my desires? ‘Real businesses’ don’t get to do that. What right do I have to build a business my way and ignore what everyone else is telling me to do?”

What do you think?

Does someone have the right to ignore standard convention and build a business the way they want? Can someone simply decide to work three weeks a month or only four days a week? Is it okay for someone to say NO to a certain type of client even if she is more than capable of helping him? Don’t you have to play by the rules of “real” businesses?

What about those “real” businesses? What rules do they follow?

I spent fifteen years working on Wall Street. I worked for the New York Stock Exchange for ten years and Datek Online (a major brokerage firm) for three You would think that both businesses would have similar environments; after all, they were both Wall Street institutions and had to follow the same rules.

The New York Stock Exchange was exactly what you’d expect. The buildings were covered in marble from floor to ceiling. Boardrooms were big and imposing. Everyone wore suits and dressed “professionally”. There was a clearly defined chain of command. There were rules to follow. There was an image to uphold.

Datek Online was another story. I worked there from 1999 until Ameritrade bought it for $1.3 billion dollars in late 2002. At Datek we wore jeans and t-shirts. We had scooters we rode around the perimeter of the floor on rubber mats (like in a playground). Our conference rooms were open and airy. We had toys on our desks and were encouraged to take risks. We had an image to uphold too. The theme of our advertising was The Rules are Changing.

Two “real” businesses, two very different ways of running a business.

Think about a local restaurant in your town. Does it serve only organic food? Why or why not? Who made that decision?

What about Toms shoes? Did you know that every time they sell a pair of shoes they donate a pair? Do all shoe retailers do that?

Do you get it yet?

“Real” businesses do get to design how their business works. They get to decide how their employees behave and who their customers are. In fact, the more specific they are, the better their business tends to be. Sure their decisions may anger some people yet, those that agree with them become raving fans.

So yes, I believe that you, as a business owner, absolutely do have the right to decide how your business will run and what your business stands for.

Here’s my wish for you. Stop spending your time and energy worrying about what everyone else is doing or trying to play by their rules. Instead, decide what makes the most sense for you. Go ahead and set your own rules. Then commit to YOUR rules and follow them to the letter.

What can you take a stand for today?

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