Since I opened my first cafe in the up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, things have been challenging, to say the least. There are highs and lows, excitement and disappointment, riches and crunch moments when everything had to be done and paid yesterday. The lifestyle is part of what makes being an entrepreneur exciting. But amid the constant chaos, it can be hard to find a groove, where work and play are balanced.
The intermingling of work and play can be extremely satisfying or create unwanted stress. I live above my coffee shop and there is something luxurious in not having to step outside to open and operate my coffee shop. On the other hand, when I find myself carrying crates of milk on my day off -- simply because I just so happened to be around -- can be extremely frustrating. Sometimes I feel like I'm living with my customers, and it's a delicate, but lovely arrangement.
It's hard to see people almost always on their terms and not my own, an issue I am getting better at every day. Imagine. Many of the people that come into Little Skips on a regular basis are friends primarily, and customers secondary. There is a near total overlap between my work environment and my playground, but I still have to operate a profitable business, otherwise both worlds crash. This 24/7 experience of living in your business environment is, of course, part of what defines being a lifestyle entrepreneur.
Struggling to keep sanity with the blurred boundaries between work and pleasure, is a step-by-step process, and typical challenge of the lifestyle entrepreneur. Dealing with problems, and learning from the mistakes that may have caused them, helps develop sharper problem solving skills, gradually teaching you to become a better person. Understanding the elements that caused my friend, roommate and employee to seek employment elsewhere, or even fixing a fridge, fuels a can-do mind set and the ability to cope with challenges that are professional and personal at the same time.
During my entrepreneurial adventures I have found that doing as many activities whether going out with friends to art shows or rooftop gardening, help me maintain my sanity and keep me ambitious. Everyone has that one thing that helps them feel balanced: It might be a massage or a trip outside the city. Regardless, of your preferences, I believe there are a few general principles that can help lifestyle entrepreneurs be successful and enjoy life.
- Don't get too a head of yourself. Take things step-by-step and create clear goals with timelines. As elementary as this sounds, it is imperative to getting where ever "there" may be. Projects that do not have adequate time and task management are more likely to be inefficient and/or fail. It is also key to managing your most precious resource: time. I had never worked in the service industry, so when the idea of getting involved in building, launching and running the operations of a cafe, I needed to create precise tasks to avoid getting overwhelmed. It is also gratifying that you can get major tasks done within a set time frame.
- Plan D. Without being overly cynical, I will say that things do not always go according to exact plans, thus the need to constantly prepare for backup plans to the backup plan and knowing how to quickly act on the unpredictable. Having such an approach leads to being able to come up with more outside the box solutions to problems on the spot.
- Make sure you have moments for relaxation. Escape your world. However short, even a couple deep breaths of fresh air can make a difference. I am thankful to have a car in Brooklyn and am able to escape the city on my rare days off. The beach, park, orchards, country houses are never to far away. It's just really important to schedule the time for these outings.
- Smile. It was an important lesson for me early in life, to understand that the very fact that you smile, even forcefully, will make you happier. Positive energy is important to your success. When I am in a bad mood, I can easily spread it to everyone in my vicinity and I know how counterproductive it can become. Thus the joy of being able to motivate people, make them feel good when they are down and genuinely care for others.
- Keep those dancing shoes on. Lastly, but far from least. When boundaries between work and play are so intertwined, you need to be consistent with your character. I learned my lesson quite a few times, but do specifically remember when I called a customer who was not a friend "dude," or when I texted a beverage sales rep a message intended for someone else... Needless to say I waited a couple weeks before calling in the next order.