Joseph has loved his work of caring for homeless donkeys for the last 30 years. He’s cared and tended those beasts of burden, who have been carelessly slung on to the scrap heap of donkey retirement, with diligence and affection: he’s gotten to know their families, their memories and lost loves, and has listened to them with endless patience about their future anxieties of loneliness, impending immobility and fear of being left alone in a wet English field on a miserable November afternoon.
Joseph is great at his job -and now, due to his own employers desire to dump their elderly employees into their own empty fields, Joseph is now considering setting up a business of his own which will allow him to continue to care for future generations of expendable donkeys. He’s looked into the legislation and practicalities of setting up his own mobile care service, and he’s looked hard at the financial aspects of his proposal. He’s going into this with his eyes wide open in both senses – alert to the possibilities around him but also aware of the very real difficulties he faces in the venture.
The trouble is, the numbers don’t add up. Joseph can’t continue to offer 1:1 customised service to his donkeys and earn any money at it. This is not even about making a profit: there’s just not enough cash in the system to pay him to do what he loves on a regular, ongoing and dependable manner. He might be able to support his donkeys if he worked 16 hours a day… But he knows enough about himself to acknowledge that this won’t work for him in the long run.
What might work however is the option where Joseph focuses more on training up staff to provide the care, marketing the business to a wider range of retired domesticated animals and stepping out of the work he loves to stepping into the business of providing a viable service. He can make it work if he moves himself from working in the business, to working on the business.
This shift – from ‘in’ to ‘on’ the business is perhaps one of the most difficult transitions that new business start ups face: you’re drawn into a business activity by your love for that activity and then realise sooner or later that you’re going to have to be focus on activity which is one step removed from the work you love. This doesn’t work for everyone: and if it feels that losing your love for your work cannot be replaced by gaining a mind for your business, then you might be best off retiring that business idea of your own into that wet English field and letting it graze out its days in the coldness of winter.