Why A Lifestyle Business Beats a Startup

Why A Lifestyle Business Beats a Startup

You’ll probably think the image above is from a stock photography site. Normally I’d think so too. But in this case I actually know better. I shot it myself just a month ago, while working remotely from a sailing boat crossing the South Pacific in Micronesia. Sounds impossible, right? We somehow managed to do it anyway.

Many people dream of doing what they enjoy every day, and making a good living from it. But only a small percentage believe this is actually possible. After all, how can you have fun and work profitably at the same time, right?

The secret lies in the type of business you create. Instead of launching a startup and growing a major corporation, a lifestyle business will give you the opportunity to optimize your life for happiness.

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Benefits of a Lifestyle Business

Anyone who has successfully built a lifestyle business will vouch for the benefits of this approach, especially when compared to launching and building a startup.

Everybody knows that startups require a lot of money and an intense time investment to succeed. But having had what seems like an excellent business idea, and persuading investors to put money into a new startup, you can imagine how depressing it would be to find that the business isn’t for you. You could find yourself trapped and virtually held prisoner of your own business idea if it turns out that you don’t like it as much as you thought you would.

Mobile Jazz CEO Stefan Klumpp working remotely from a sailing boat in Micronesia

Mobile Jazz CEO Stefan Klumpp working remotely from a sailing boat in Micronesia

The reality is that in a startup you are not the boss. Even if you’re the CEO, COO, or managing director, your investors will always have the last word and their sole interest will be in maximizing their returns. In a lifestyle business, on the other hand, you remain in full control. You can regulate exactly how much time you want to focus on making money and how much you want to focus on enjoying life.

Running a Lifestyle Business Doesn’t Mean You End up Poor

Maximizing the quality of your life doesn’t mean that you cannot earn a very good living. A good lifestyle business could even be turned into a multi-million dollar company, if that’s what you want. Running a lifestyle business certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to end up being poor; it’s all about priorities.

It is a misconception that the only way to make money is to launch and then grow a startup with the aim of selling it later. While many startups do get sold for huge one-time payments, there are many sacrifices that have to be made to get there – not least of which is usually lifestyle. And what’s the point of having lots of money if you don’t have the time to enjoy it?

We decided to spend our profit on doing cool things with the team, rather than buying Ferraris for our founders.

Truth is that many profitable businesses, from large companies to small enterprises, are able to generate a very healthy monthly revenue. Our own web and mobile app development company, Mobile Jazz generates a large volume of business with high margins. We believe this is because of the quality of work we put into the business and the reputation we have built up over time. We also have no doubt that any person or business that puts a lot of work into what they are doing and builds up an excellent reputation, is going to end up drawing business to them. Make people happy and the money will follow.

Focusing on Lifestyle Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Successful

Success comes in many different ways. Selling your company for $50 million is just one sign of success, and a week later everyone has forgotten about that news headline anyway!

At Mobile Jazz we focus on small, but continuous success stories. We’re involved with many startup projects, and almost every month we announce a successful, new project with leading partners like Google, Airbus and HP. But the fact that we have built – and continue building – a lifestyle business means we can take a week off now and then and go skiing together. This, for us, is success.

Every year in winter we take a week of and go skiing together? Our clients love that we do that stuff.

Every year in winter we take a week of and go skiing together? Why? Because we can.

We don’t aim to appear in the news or on social media for selling our company. Our priorities lie with our lifestyle, and we’ve attracted quite a lot of attention both on- and off-line for the multiple retreats we offer every year for our employees in exotic places like Thailand, Bali and South Africa.

You Don’t Have to Think About Scale

When you build a startup, all that matters to you as CEO is scaling up the business as quickly as possible so you reach market dominance as soon as possible. This is also what’s important to investors. A successful CEO will achieve this goal, but reaching it is stressful for most entrepreneurs and typically leaves an emotional and physical trail on their personal health.

The Mobile Jazz team on a 2 month company retreat in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Mobile Jazz team on a company retreat in Cape Town, South Africa.

By comparison, when you build a lifestyle business, your only goal will be to ensure the business is profitable enough to sustain the salaries of yourself and your team. Any surplus money can be invested in fun things with your team of internal projects. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can decide to simply work less and enjoy your free time with family or friends, or focus on hobbies. So instead of thinking about scale, you focus on quality time doing the things you really want to do.

You Don’t Have to Deal With Bureaucracy

A startup is, by its very nature, small when it starts. But eventually most people who launch startups find that they reach the point where their schedule is packed with meetings. Sadly most of these are either unnecessary or unpleasant, often both. They find that the early pre-launch days of creativity and innovation have gone.

CEO Stefan Klumpp going offline for a month to hike up the Himalayas in Nepal. He leads a small 20 people team, which he can fully trust and has no investors that get in the way and tell him how he has to run his business.

CEO Stefan Klumpp going offline for a month to hike up the Himalayas in Nepal. He leads a small 20 people team, which he can fully trust and has no investors that get in the way and tell him how he has to run his business.

At Mobile Jazz we made a deliberate decision to remain a small, but highly skilled team that doesn’t need a hierarchy and so cannot develop into a bureaucracy. Our lifestyle-oriented approach gives us the freedom to constantly innovate, to develop new, fun ideas, and even to reinvent ourselves every now and then.

You’ve Got The Freedom to Change Your Mind at Any Time

The simple fact that you’re in control of your lifestyle business, and not your investors, you have the freedom to do whatever you choose to do.

For example, after four years of pure consulting at Mobile Jazz, we decided to bootstrap Bugfender, one of our internal tools, as a product-generating asset that would bring in additional revenue for the company.

One of our cool experiments: the fully automatic Nespresso Ordering Machine.

One of our cool experiments: the fully automatic Nespresso Ordering Machine.

Optimizing For Happiness is an initiative, more like an experiment. So by using the O4H philosophy within Mobile Jazz we were able to make this bold move. If we had been working within the confines of a startup business that had clear goals and expectations, this kind of move would never have been approved.

It’s All About the People

While startups are initially fun for most people, especially when there are three founders who are forced to spend day and night in a small room together, surviving on pizza (which might be fun but isn’t healthy), these days don’t last forever. To make any startup succeed, you need to be totally focused on your business objectives towards the goal of making money and ultimately returning it to your investors.

Mobile Jazz, on the other hand, is all about the people. Everyone can work remotely from wherever they want and you choose how much you want to work. Maybe you want to study philosophy part time? That’s cool with us. Also we want to treat our employees fairly. We do not only pay top industry salaries, but we also share the company’s profits through our bonus program.

Even though we’re colleagues, we see each other as friends, and we spend a lot of time out of work together. This may be at BBQs, going on kitesurfing or skiing holidays, or just getting together when our children play together.

Sometimes we just rent a villa for a weekend and hang out together with our families. Sharing the good life.

Sometimes we just rent a villa for a weekend and hang out together with our families. Sharing the good life and enjoying the company of our friends, partners and children.

At the end of the day it’s not just up to you, but rather up to all your employees to make your lifestyle business a success. The happier and more engaged they are, the better for everyone.

Remember, life is all about experiences and the people you share them with. And work is a big part of everyone’s life. So don’t take it lightly and make sure you get the most out of it.

If you want to learn more about how to start a lifestyle business, grow your company culture and make your business more successful, visit Optimizing for Happiness.

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  • sgwealti

    What do you mean by “Lifestyle Business”? I’m not familiar with that term.

    • It’s a business designed to improve your lifestyle, on your own terms, rather than a business that takes over your life. Read the article for all the benefits 🙂

    • Agree, and overall somewhat weird article. Not at all a common enough term that the first thing I need is something about how vaguely awesome it is. How do you get this set up? How much time DO you work typically, etc etc?

      Me, I work for myself consulting and have a lot of free time, so maybe I have one despite not being on a sailboat. But not clear from this article.

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  • Thomas Joosten

    What a great article and I must say it is very inspiring to learn and set up a business for happiness. This is a side remark related and inspired to share my experiences.

    So widely related to the article, I have tried to set up a start up company whilst working remotely and travelling. I must say it takes enormous energy dedication and time to get a start up to take off. My experience is that, when you travel around, a lot of time goes in to planning for the a new destination, organising, traveling, getting settled, packing and traveling again.E.g. when you arrive, where is the bakery? What are the new routines, getting used to the new working space, the post, how to get sim cards with local internet fees and setting up a system of getting in to stuff, dealing with it and getting things done. Especially the planning and decision making of the new destination, getting there and getting used to a new location, sort of competes for time, which could be used for calling prospects, connecting to relations, networking events etc in order to get the business going. Hence the more respect I have now for what Stefan has achieved. My conclusion, setting up a serious start-up is already hard and doing that remotely and whilst travelling, is just putting up unnecessary barriers and makes the traveling also frustrating. You want to enjoy but have constant pressure of thinking you could spend more time to make the start up work. What is the fun of having a great destination, if you have, these latent obligations in the back of your head. So, as a conclusion I do agree say thinking of working remotely and setting up a serious start-up is a no-go. This is also something Stefan said, so this is my contribution to say I tried it, been there and can confirm do not try a start up and be a digital nomad. My conclusion is, yes optimising for happiness can be done in jobs as a consultant or freelancers with well defined tasks/projects, that do not create stress with heavy deadlines.

    In addition of setting up a start-up, I also have a second observation. I experience happiness when I know that for a certain period of time I have “NOTHING” on my plate. No calls to answer, no emails to get back to, no Facebook messages with endless possibilities which gives you the idea to have to do things. The holiday feeling comes partly when you book a ticket and get out of the work-life, and have a specific period of time where you can do what you want. So part of the happiness comes from being away from you home environment with post-its, and many different triggers that make you think you have to do something. By taking those things with you, you also put a strain on the pleasure of being in a location where you want to enjoy your life rather then work.

    I am very curious if other people experience this too? How do you deal with the constant constraint in time where you want to do and experience loads and work to pay for the bills. How do you reduce the amount of work to a level where you can enjoy life, and is that not by itself the road to happiness?

    Many greetings, from a student of life, work and happiness.

    Thomas Joosten

    • Thanks for that awesome long-form comment Thomas! Very much appreciated 🙂