How Do You Define "Freedom" as a Business Owner?
May 10, 2022
In the summer of 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were tasked by the Continental Congress with not only crafting a "Declaration of Independence" from England, but also with designing an emblem or national coat of arms for the new nation.
While the Congress accepted and finalized their Declaration, the proposed seal was ultimately tabled without further consideration. (1)
What the design lacked was the most symbolic representation of the United States of America, its strength, sovereignty as a nation, and the freedom of its people... the eagle.
The eagle would not be added until a third draft of the seal was proposed, and ultimately turned into an American Bald Eagle in the fourth and final design by the Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, which was approved by Congress on June 20, 1782. (2)
It's not clear if an eagle, or bird for that matter, was universally accepted in the eighteenth century as a symbol of freedom, but a Google search today of the words "freedom symbol" makes it obvious that our feathered friends definitely are a symbol of freedom in our current time.
Birds capture our imagination of "being free" and have become the very definition of "freedom", as represented in the popular idiom "as free as a bird".
Why? Perhaps because birds are not tied to the ground as the rest of the animal kingdom is. They travel wherever their wings will carry them, with physical boundaries or obstacles mostly a non-issue.
With freedom the very bedrock of the United States of America and our culture, the symbol of the eagle has become the embodiment of that freedom, and all that the word implies.
freedom [ free-duhm ]
- the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.
- exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
- the power to determine action without restraint.
- exemption from the presence of anything specified; e.g. freedom from fear.
While the dictionary definition of freedom serves to establish a common understanding of the word, at the end of the day, you have your own personal definition of what freedom truly means to you, both personally and professionally.
There are, however, a few common characteristics of what professional freedom looks like to most small business owners. Let's consider what these might be.
Small Business Owner Freedom
Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach program for entrepreneurs, postulates that freedom for small business owners falls into four categories: freedom of time, freedom of money, freedom of relationship, and freedom of purpose.
Freedom of Time
According to a study by small business lender Credibly, the number one reason given by small business owners for starting their business is the "ability to choose my own lifestyle and manage my own time."
Owning your own business, and being able to call your own shots, means you get to decide how you spend your time, including what you spend your time on and how much time you spend working in your business versus time away from your business doing other non-work-related activities.
Importantly, freedom of time means time for rejuvenation, of your mind and body, so that you can be the happiest, healthiest leader for your organization as well as father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, son or daughter for your family.
Freedom of Money
Perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom, research conducted by the eMyth organization, and corroborated by my own survey of small business owners, shows that entrepreneurs rank "making money" relatively low on the hierarchy of reasons for starting their business.
Nonetheless, as pointed out by Dan Sullivan, "to do what you love doing, you must have the money to pay for it."
Freedom of money means, first and foremost, having enough to pay for the people necessary to do the work of your business so you're not doing everything.
It also means having enough money to, among other things, take advantage of opportunities that allow your business to grow and prosper, reward your team for meeting goals and doing excellent work, and having enough resources to weather the inevitable ups and downs of your specific market and the economy in general.
Lastly, freedom of money means being able to do the special things with your family and friends that fulfill your dreams and/or sharing the wealth of your success with others through charitable giving.
Freedom of Relationship
Maximizing freedom as a small business owner means choosing who you work with, and not settling for relationships that drain energy away from you as the owner, and the rest of your team.
Unfortunately, all businesses have stories of employees who fit the team and culture like a square peg in a round hole, yet for one reason or another, they remain part of the team for much longer than anyone would like.
The best way to avoid this problem is to not hire the wrong person in the first place. Easier said than done? Not really.
Foundational to building a Freedom Focused business is a hiring process based on your company's core values, what you stand for and believe in.
Using your core values to "separate the wheat from the chaff", as it were, in search of great people, leads to a dream team of employees who are all highly aligned, engaged, and excited to take your business to a very high level of performance.
Of course, when everyone's core values are in alignment, your team will also love working together, playing together, and taking care of one another.
Freedom of relationship applies not just to the people you choose to join your team; it also applies to the clients and customers you choose to work with.
From my experience, the 80/20 rule applies, where 20% of your clients take up 80% of your resources. A closer look at the twenty percent often reveals that they aren’t aligned with your core values.
Choosing to only work with clients and employees who are aligned with your core values will maximize your "freedom of relationship."
Freedom of Purpose
The previously mentioned Credibly study of small business owner's reasons for starting their business found that the second most highly rated reason is, "to do the work I love."
The eMyth study and my own survey of small business owners found that entrepreneurs rank "following your personal passion" at or near the very top of the list of reasons they started their business.
The necessary ingredients for freedom of purpose, which allow a small business owner to actually do the work they love and that fulfills their personal passion, are freedom of time, money and relationship.
You must have time to devote to your purpose, which is created when you have the money to hire a team of employees that are highly aligned by shared core values.
A team aligned in this way loves working together to fulfill the purpose of the business, which mirrors your personal purpose in life.
Creating a Freedom Focused business will allow you to maximize the freedom of time, money, relationship, and purpose for your business.
Start with a crystal clear vision of the future for your business that everyone can rally around.
Discover what the core values are for your business, then make them an integral part of your hiring process, employee review process, and reinforced in regular company meetings.
To make your vision a reality, clearly defined three-year, annual, and quarterly goals that establish how you will get to the vision.
Measure your progress towards achieving the goals by tracking the key performance indicators of success for your business.
Lastly, automate your business with written processes that ensure consistent, efficient and predictable results for the product or service you deliver to customers and clients.
With freedom of time, freedom of money, freedom of relationship, and freedom of purpose firmly established for your business when it's Freedom Focused, you may not grow wings and be able to fly "as free as a bird", or soar above mountain tops like an eagle, but as a small business owner, you will be able to maximize your level of personal and professional freedom, on the ground and in life.
To determine how much personal freedom you have, I encourage you to take my Personal Freedom Survey.
To determine the level of freedom your small business is operating at, you can also take my Four Levels of Freedom Survey.
To learn how to make your small business Freedom Focused, visit my website DaranWastchak.com.
In doing all of the above, you will be staying...
Focused on your freedom!
Listen to the podcast episode: #024 The #1 Reason Why Employees Become Business Owners