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How to Live Heart-to-Heart in a Dog-Eat-Dog World

It’s All About the Money

When I started my first company, I was focused on the success of it .¨ the financial success of it.
I knew I also wanted to provide a great place for employees to work and a trustworthy business clients could count on. But, my eyes had dollar signs in them thinking of the growth and eventual profit a successful company would produce. After all, why start a company if it isn’t going to make money?
There certainly are enough sacrifices to warrant a big payback and although there is no guarantee, I set my sights on that goal.

The first year I started the company, I remember sitting in a small group called The Entrepreneur’s Exchange put together by the local Chamber of Commerce. I listened intently as each Chief Executive Officer, President and Owner took turns describing the motivation for starting their company and the main benefit that came about by having it. Finally, it was the gentleman’s turn who was seated next to me. He said, “I started my company to meet a need in the association accounting software arena. The biggest benefit for having the company is that my wife and I get to take Fridays off and spend the day with our kids.” WHAT? Is he nuts? Who starts a company and thinks the benefit is “time with the kids’? “What a loser”, I thought to myself. You have to keep your eye on the money ball. That’s the benefit of having a company.

For two years prior to sitting in front of this group, I spent every spare moment planning the company on paper. I worked the numbers from all angles and determined everything from the company name and logo to all of the marketing that was necessary to attract business. Once I started the company, it took another five years to make it remotely profitable. This is not unlike the life story of many start-ups. In those first five years, I rarely slept, I had a lot of personal financial stress and I became unhealthy. I weighed a little over 100 pounds, which for a height of 5’6″ isn’t nearly enough. The money I saved to pay company bills for the first six months was gone in two months. With all of these challenges staring me in the face, I never lost sight of the financial pay off of owning your own company. I knew that this is a Dog-Eat-Dog world. I had to do whatever it took to make my way in it, even if it killed me.

The Game Changer

Five years after starting my company, I took a day off from working on the weekend and went with a dear friend to an ancient Native American mound in central Ohio called Tarlton Cross Mound. The day began sunny and warm, but quickly turned dark and cold as sheets of rain poured over the area. We ventured out anyway and made the one hour drive to the small town where the mound was located. As we made our way into the forest, the rain felt fresh and crisp against our faces. After walking a short distance, we made one right turn up the hill and saw the mound staring us in the face. It was a .≤four corners’ cross that faced true north on the top end and had a round depression in the center, like a bowl. I walked around the mound for a few moments and then decided to stand smack dab in the middle of it. I waited for a few moments to feel something amazing .¨ anything at all, but I felt nothing. No energy, no great epiphany, nothing but wet and cold.
It was time to head home to dry clothes, hot chocolate and a cozy fire.

We were about 25 paces from the car when I just feel to my knees in the wet leaves and start to cry – a deep heavy sobbing kind of cry.
My friend was shocked and turned back to ask me what was wrong. When I was finally able to form a sentence and with tears streaming down my face, I said, “I can’t take the pressure anymore. I don’t want to be responsible for more profits, keeping people in jobs and making certain clients are happy all the time. I’m exhausted. I can’t do it the way I have been doing it. I need to find a different way!” Hmm, a delayed epiphany perhaps?

Fast forward to today where I am able to reflect on 15 years in business – the trials and tribulations, as well as the experiences and lessons. In those five years following the Native American Mound breakdown, I changed my perspective drastically. I started taking more time away from work – the company didn’t occupy all of my time anymore. Instead, I began letting go of the reins a bit and giving more responsibility to employees. I reduced my own client load and spent more time working with special requests from existing clients. I stopped chasing the money. I started to be able to breathe. My stress was reduced and I started to gain weight.

Heart Healthy Living

These healthy changes have come about by living what I call a Heart-to-Heart existence. This isn’t just aligning your heart with the dedicated, hard-working employees in the company or with the clients who continue to call on us for consulting assistance; it’s also aligning with what’s in your heart and what’s good for your heart.

I decided that worrying about profits wasn’t going to help me make more profit; it only took away from my focus and made me tired. I decided the best way to be competitive was to make certain we took extremely good care of our existing clients. I developed a training program for employees so we were all on the same page.
I stopped taking work home with me 7 days a week and limited it to 4 days a week. I made a promise to myself never to skip any meal while at work just because “I was so busy I forgot to eat.” I did what was best for my heart. Today, there is less worry, less competitiveness and less stress and yet the company is more profitable than ever. This is the benefit of alignment with the heart rather than with profit.

We can all make similar changes in each of our jobs or at home to live life in a way that is good for our hearts. We can reduce stress by letting go of patterns of thinking that don’t work in our favor. Instead of giving your allegiance to the clock or the bank account, give your allegiance to your heart. Eat more plant based foods and don’t skip meals. You might also consider meditation or yoga to reduce stress and clear your mind. Make changes that allow you to sleep better, eat better and take a deep breath once in awhile.

What would I say today sitting around that Entrepreneur’s Exchange table answering the same question posed all those years ago? I would say, “I started my company to meet a need in the risk consulting arena. The benefit of having the company is that I get to take Fridays off to spend time doing whatever I want to do.” Oh, and I apologize for calling my colleague a loser all those years ago. He knew something I hadn’t discovered yet. Thanks, Tom!

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