A few years ago, as our business grew by leaps and bounds and I got to know more entrepreneurs, I realized I was approaching our farm business (and entrepreneurship in general) very differently from the people around me.
Without even realizing it, I was applying Slow Values to my business
Now, I’ve studied marketing and I’ve read allll the business books – and a lot of what I was doing here on the farm not only wasn’t in the books, it often flew in the face of what I’d learned at school.
And it was working.
Together with my hubby, in just a few short years we took our tiny (very run down) five acre “hobby farm” from selling a handful of eggs to friends and family to a full-fledged business.
Other than the year my Mom was ill, our revenue has grown by 50% year-over-year each and every year. We now serve a tribe of thousands of local food heroes as well as local restaurants and butcher shops.
The best part?
I did it from home, in my slippers, while a full-time stay-at-home-mom to two young kids. And I did it by playing by my own rules.
I did it by practicing Slow Business.
Kinda cool, amIright? Have I got you curious?
So WTH is Slow Business all about??
In a nutshell, Slow Business applies the values of the Slow Movement to work. Slow Work is actually a thing. Yes, really. Sounds delicious, right?
- Slow Business values Quality over Quantity. Less, but Better is your mantra.
- Slow Business focuses on Maximizing Purpose over Profits.
- Slow Business believes People Matter.
- Slow Business allows you to place your values front and centre.
- Slow Business, done well, folds seamlessly into your overall Slow Lifestyle.
Here’s how I implemented Slow Values in my business
1) I rooted out my WHY
WHY do I want to do this work is the most important question in Slow Business. More important than financial analysis, profit and loss, market viability. THE most important.
And guess what – “making money” is the wroooong answer. You’ll never uncover your life’s work if money is your only or even primary goal. That isn’t the Slow Business way.
For me, my WHY is twofold.
- First of all, I want to demonstrate for my kids that committing your life to a purpose above money and greed is possible. Being of service is a key family value for us, and it’s important to me that my kids see me live that value daily, not just talk about it.
- Second, I view my life’s work as activism. I vote, protest, write my elected officials and all that good stuff. But my true activism lies in how I live my day-to-day life.
Orientating your approach to your business with this type of WHY as your compass instead of “maximizing profits” drastically changes . . . well, everything.
2) I approached goal setting differently
Instead of starting my business plan with monetary goals, sales targets and whatnot, I asked that lovely question Wendell Berry answers so well . . . What are people for? More specifically, What am I for? What is my highest point of contribution? If I am living my life according to my values, what does my day look like?
I’d already done the 9 to 5 “successful” career thing. It made me miserable.
So instead, my goals for my business became things like :
- I work from home in my slippers
- I am home and available when my kids are done with their school day
- My work does not contribute to more “stuff” in the world – I only produce things that people truly NEED
- I never grow for growth’s sake. I only seek to grow if growth makes sense for my business, family and my land and can be achieved in a healthy manner. My goals for my family and lifestyle take priority over my business goals.
- My business is of a size and shape that fits within the overall framework of my life.
- I apply the Hell-Yeah! test to all major decisions. If a particular opportunity is not a HELL-Yah!, it’s a hard NO.
3) I say NO. A lot.
I say no to customers, opportunity, growth . . . I say NO way more than I say yes.
I say no to people who aren’t my tribe. I fire customers. I refuse to add products or services if I know I won’t enjoy making / serving them or if they conflict with my core values, no matter how much my customers want them. I change my business to suit my family’s needs, not the other way around.
I’m not afraid to sell out. I’ve allowed the carrying capacity of both my land and my heart to dictate the size of my business, not customer demand.
I refuse to be available to my customers 24/7. I don’t respond to every email within an hour or less. I am upfront about the fact that my kids, not my business, are my priority.
Recently that meant completely closing my profitable brick and mortar farm store in favour of Saturday afternoons with my kids. Crazy from a traditional business point of view, but completely in line with Slow Business values.
NO is hard, but one of my guideposts in my Slow Life is the maxim :
Never let that which matters most be at the mercy of that which matters least. – Gothe
4) I have faith that by living my values, the right people will find me
In marketing we talk a lot about attracting and repelling, about not trying to be everything to everyone, about finding your ideal “customer avatar” or that perfect target market.
My conventional marketing education taught me I needed to do a ton of research on that market and then mould my business, and myself, to meet it’s needs. We’re not even talking real people here. We’re talking some amorphous, imagined group and MY LIFE is supposed to be bent into the form I’ve told myself they expect.
This is completely ass-backwards if you ask me.
I serve the most amazing tribe of humans. Honestly.
They became my tribe not because I sought them out, but because I simply did the work I was called to do as authentically and honestly as possible.
And if we’re being honest – I’m an odd duck. I am quirky and overly-passionate and earnest in a way that made me completely unsuitable for a “normal” career.
But my people? They get me. Cause they’re quirky and earnest, too.
It is scary to be yourself, to stand for something. But the stronger you can stand in your truth, the stronger your business will be.
You just have to have faith that by turning off or passing by what isn’t meant for you, you’ll make room in your life for all the joy and abundance that IS.