I spoke to an old friend of mine the other day, and she reminded me of my first business attempt. It was a home health care business where six older adults would live together in a shared, single-family home with a live-in carer. This was essentially the middle ground alternative to the cheaper aged-care facilities and the most expensive, full-time, in-home support.
At the time I was living in Los Angeles where the regulations and experiences around these models were proven, but still new to the rest of the country (and world). Now they are very popular.
My friend asked what happened to that business idea, and I told her the truth. I couldn’t find the balance of purpose and financial sustainability. In that particular market, the majority of existing owners had overseas workers (likely family) acting as caregivers. When I ran the numbers with paying staff fair wages, I couldn’t get the numbers to work unless we could buy the houses for a steal. This was completely impractical during the real estate boom of the early 2000s before the GFC. And so I abandoned the idea after getting licensed because the P&L didn’t make sense.
I’m glad I didn’t press go as it had a lot of financial risk, but I also regret setting up a company structure and investing in the creatives before I had all the numbers as it was a complete waste of time and money.
I did end up pivoting to a different business idea that had a better balance of purpose and financial sustainability, but I had to go through a formal business name change. And all the creatives I had developed including logos for the health care business were useless.
Did I learn my lesson from this business mistake? Honestly, no!
I’m the kind of person that loves the creative part of a start-up. So, I still tend to overthink the branding at the beginning. Then, I get bored with the day to day operations once the real creative part is done. This impacts the potential for real growth because I’m not motivated enough to push through the more financially difficult times.
The only time I’ve been able to get the balance of purpose and financial sustainability right for my own businesses has been when I’ve done consulting work. That’s because every project is so different and it requires creative problem solving. It’s incredibly challenging and mentally stimulating which makes it fun for me (yes, I know I’m weird!).
So, hopefully after my many attempts to create other businesses in the past, I’ve finally learned my lesson and know that consulting is my thing. Any endeavor I do outside of that (like my podcast) has to be related to this work.
Lessons to take from my story:
If you want to start a business, especially one with a strong social mission – don’t be like me! Get the balance of purpose and financial sustainability right from the beginning and know what kind of work motivates you out of bed each day.