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The Happiness Threshold

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11 January 2018

Entrepreneur and Colony regular Fabio Mikleo offers advice on running a happier business.

Do you, like me, feel a constant urge of doing something different and unique? Imagine this: you have a fantastic group of people around you that listen to your problems, give advice and never take you for granted. Also, imagine that your current skillset allows you to be in a comfortable position, you can produce good work, clients are happy, and you keep up with your timelines. Money is good, bills are up to date, and nothing is worrying you right now, but for some reason, you’re unhappy, you feel a void inside, you want to grow and achieve a lot more.

To fill that void, for many years I tried to take in as many clients as possible. After all, running a business requires a steady stream of income clearing in your account as quickly and as frequently as possible.

The more significant and wealthier the client, the better! Or so I naively thought to myself, trying to juggle too many plates which came crashing down in a heap of broken dreams and tears.

Happiness is unquantifiable and subjective, yet for me, it was impossible to pinpoint what it was that I wanted to achieve. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I wanted to go to happiness peak.

Business venture after business venture proved me wrong. I had to adhere to some made up rules that others had set for me and what I initially thought it was going to be a pursuit of enjoyment with a revenue attached, it quickly became a job from hell.

At this point, you might be wondering if I reached the happiness threshold, and my answer would be an outstanding YES.

There are days when I felt more productive and driven than others; this is one of those days.

I have refined my formula over the years and what I found works best for me was to remove any external factors that muddled with my happiness:
- Self-made “busy” anxiety. Life’s too short to let other people tell you how to behave. Don’t fancy showing up at the office today? Don’t show up and don’t give out excuses! Don’t like talking to clients in the morning? Advise the client you only accept calls only between 3 and 4 pm.
- Fear of loss and financial worry — reduce your monthly expenses and be pragmatic on how you budget your lifestyle
- Weighty responsibilities — only focus on what matters to you the most. The more significant your business grows, the more prominent are your responsibilities.

I always question myself if more means better.
More customers mean more income, more exposure, more wins, more responsibilities.

More customers mean also more customer support. More revenue is not an indication of a happier lifestyle either. It means that you’d have to take in more risks, higher investments and expenses which in turn would net you fewer profits.

If I have enough customers to support myself and I can handle them on my own, why would I want to hire people and then spend more time managing them?

Running a leaner business also means that you have to be very selective of the potential customers you say yes! You want to create more value for yourself and your existing customers, more work ≠ quality work.

A lean business also requires experimentation and hard work. You have to be open to changes. I know I will be more selective of the people I’ll hire in the future because I wasted a lot of good money and resources in the past working with the wrong people. But I tried, failed and learnt so much no to — hopefully — commit the same mistakes.

Keep it small and keep it fun. I know exactly how much I need to earn to pay my bills every month and to save a little bit on the side.

Keep on learning and experimenting. Set yourself some goals and work out how to reach those goals. Maybe it’s a new design technique or that cool new functional programming language one day you’d like to use for your projects.
Whatever it might be, set yourself a path and follow it as closely as possible.

The pursuit of a happier life and business is a mind-set and not a purge. A happier business doesn’t mean you need to stay small for the sake of staying small. It means staying small only when it makes sense to be small and focused. Sometimes you’re better off sticking to what you already got, but without experimenting, you’ll never know if the grass is in fact greener on the other side.

You can read more from Fabio on his newsletter page:

Illustration by Sébastien Plassard

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