Business by the decade

October 3, 2012

Earlier this week, I met with a group of fellow business people — both business owners and employees of larger companies — and we were discussing what business looks like through the natural phases of life.

Our group leader shared something with us that his mentor shared with him many years ago. It went something like this:

In your 20s and 30s, you’re focused primarily on building and accumulating. But as you approach and enter your 40s and 50s, you find yourself wanting to simplify and clear out. You’re confronted with all this stuff, and you don’t want to be worried about it all anymore. And then, as you get into your late 50s, your 60s, and beyond, all you care about is relationships, because you realize that that’s what truly matters.

As a group composed almost exclusively of people in their 20s and 30s, we were unable to speak to the truth of this. But I think there’s a lot of wisdom here. And it hit me on several levels.

I see myself in this.

Most of the examples given for these phases had to do with physical possessions — houses, cars, art, and so forth — and when looked at solely from that angle, it may be harder to relate. But there are many things we can accumulate — both tangible and intangible. You may not care about driving a German-made automobile or having jewelry that needs its own insurance policy, but what about accumulating degrees, skills, knowledge, and resources? If you were to ask me, I would say that relationships are my first priority, with simplicity — a “small but valuable life” — not far behind. But if I look at how I use my time, does it tell a different story?

This analysis isn’t a value judgment, but it does give some perspective.

The point is not that accumulating and building are bad. The point is that relationships are of greater value, and they persist. Whether you’re accumulating property and furniture or expertise and skills, you will ultimately feel rich or poor based not on your physical or intellectual wealth but on your relational economy. It’s about connection and the impact you had on others.

By this model, we spend upwards of 40 years focused on two versions of the same thing.

Let’s assume that this model is true — your 20s and 30s are about accumulation, and your 40s and 50s are about simplifying. Here’s the thing: Both are focused on the stuff in your life rather than the people. That’s four decades of thinking that stuff is the answer — that you either need more of it or less of it. In reality, neither are true. Neither gaining it nor getting rid of it is the answer. The stuff needs to move out of the center altogether.

Where’s the fourth quadrant?

As I listened to this, a diagram started to form in my mind.

Perhaps it’s the naïveté of my 20s, but shouldn’t we be able to hold these things in tension?

Where we go astray is starting with the stuff, as the model predicts we will. When we start with people instead — how to serve them, how to connect with them, how to create abundance and value for them — it’s easier to see what really needs building and what’s truly of value and worth keeping around.

Where do you see yourself in this?

What do you think of this model? Is this our natural inclination? Where do you see yourself in it? Do you think it’s possible to hold these things in tension?

On consolidation, and taking my own advice

October 1, 2012

My clients ask lots of questions about blogging — and one of the most common ones is whether their blog should be part of their regular website.

With very few exceptions, I always answer with an enthusiastic yes. Staying within the same design and hierarchy is ideal for usability and clarity. You don’t have to keep two things up to date when everything is consolidated. And yes, you absolutely can write in a personal way on your blog, even when it’s part of your business website; when you’re in business online, your customers want to connect with you personally.

But for the past several years, I haven’t been taking my own advice. I always felt like an Allie Creative blog had to be solely about design and creativity — and while those are things I am absolutely passionate about, I didn’t feel like a blog about only those things would be sustainable for me. I wanted to have a space where I could write about intentionality and gratitude and connection and time management, so I created that space elsewhere.

What I’ve found out, though, is that my business people are engaging with that space. I get emails from prospective clients and they talk about what they read on my blog. I meet colleagues for coffee and they ask questions prompted by my latest writings.

This tells me two things.

One, I’m doing my audience a disservice by creating a divide between these spaces. If the same people are going to both places, shouldn’t I make it into one shared space?

Two, my brand needs to be bigger. If I’m passionate about these things, and other people are finding value in them, shouldn’t they be part of the work I’m doing?

An Allie Creative relaunch.

Today, I’m relaunching my brand. There’s a visual component, as you can see, but there’s also a lot under the hood. A new coaching program for people in the business of creating. Simplified design packages, carefully crafted to meet the needs of the creative entrepreneurs I talk to every day. And three new things that I hope you’ll join me for this fall:

  • 30 Days of Instagratitude — posting thankfulness on Instagram, November 1-30.
  • Book Club — a virtual gathering place where we can read together and meet for weekly discussion.
  • Work Party Wednesdays — a low-key monthly get-together where entrepreneurs can connect and get inspired.

In this blog space and through my newsletter, I’ll be exploring the things that are close to my heart: design as storytelling, being intentional with your time and relationships, creating space in your business. If you go back into the archives, you can still find all of my past blog posts about delighting in the everyday — through things like cooking, faith, books, and fashion — and I’ll still occasionally post new entries on these topics going forward.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I’m already looking forward to all of the new conversations we’ll have.