Is a lifestyle business a bad thing?
Simon Swan is the founder and CEO of recruitment agency marketplace Hiring-Hub.
As well as being the North West’s best groomed entrepreneur (my description, not his!) he’s created a business that is ranked among the UK’s top 10 recruitment companies by independent review site Trustpilot and is used by over 500 employers.
The 38-year-old uses social media really well and a recent post on LinkedIn – accompanied by a holiday photo of Swan in a wetsuit on a paddle board - got me thinking about lifestyle businesses.
He wrote: “I always work on holiday. I find it MORE stressful if I don’t keep on top of my inbox and diary, than complete detachment. I don’t mind it, either. Sure I don’t fully switch off. Ever. But I’m comfortable with that because I made my bed. So I lie in it. My wife is cool with it too (mostly).
"Hiring-Hub was never meant to be a lifestyle business. We’re all-in. Until one day I check out. Fully. And then I’ll relax. What about you - keep on top of work while you’re away to reduce anxiety or fully switch off? (Photo to prove I do put my phone/laptop down occasionally.)”
I meet so many entrepreneurs who talk about running a ‘lifestyle business’ I decided to check the precise definition.
“A lifestyle business is a business set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle,” read the description on one particular website.
There’s almost a tacit admission that a lifestyle business lacks ambition and the ability to scale. You certainly won’t see a queue of investors willing to part with their cash!
Swan’s venture before Hiring-Hub - Bespoke Media Solutions – was set up in 2008 as a lifestyle business after moving in Manchester.
“I was the managing director of nothing,” he joked. “I was in control of my own destiny. My income fitted around my life.
“I had three or four clients on a monthly retainer, including my previous employer, but I was able to work from home or anywhere in the world.
“Although I was working quite hard I was able to get to the gym every lunch time. My monthly income was between £4k-£5k. The thing with a lifestyle business was I wasn’t creating anything of any value that I could eventually sell.
“I always wanted to build a company that I could sell one day so Bespoke Media Solutions was a stepping stone to where I wanted to be.”
Swan was interviewed on a recent episode of BusinessCloud's Demystfying Tech podcast (8:45)
Rather than dismiss the idea of a lifestyle business, Swan said the experience was crucial when it came to launching Hiring-Hub with co-founder Sara Jones in 2010.
“We didn’t draw an income from Hiring-Hub for the first two years,” he said. “I would work for Hiring-Hub for five days a week and then for Bespoke Media Solutions at the weekend to bring in some income. It was vital.
“One of the things it taught me was to be super disciplined with my time but less precious of where I’m working. At Hiring-Hub I come in the office almost every day but I do work on holidays.
“The other thing I do is diarise everything from thinking time to time with my kids and exercise. There’s a purity of time these days.”
Chris Maguire is the Executive Editor of BusinessCloud. He can be contacted on Twitter @editor_maguire or LinkedIn.