Pursuing a 'New' Bottom Line

Pursuing a 'New' Bottom Line

January is traditionally a time for new beginnings. It's a time where we make New Year's resolutions, both personal and professional, to improve the quality of our lives, our health, our work, our finances and our relationships. This year, we'll lose the fat from our businesses and our bodies, we vow. This year, we'll take more joy from our work, spend more time with families, enhance our skills. We're going to make changes, we promise, changes that will make us not only more successful, but happier.

As September 11th has etched so indelibly in our minds, life is about far more than just making money. And, that elusive thing called happiness in our work, in our leisure, and in our lives is, in the end, what many of us value most.

Yet, unlike concrete business plans with quantifiable financial goals, planning to boost something as intangible as happiness can be difficult. If you want to increase your profits, there are a host of by the-book formulas you can apply, from cutting overhead or raising prices to investing in new marketing strategies. Unfortunately, there is no similar mathematical formula that can be used to increase one's happiness bottom line.

And yet, our happiness with what we do  or lack thereof  may be the key factor in determining our overall success.

That's because our field is uniquely tied into the emotional center of the people who make or break our bottom lines. The place most people go to escape their workis our workand because of that, taking a strictly business approach to the home even other people's homes just won't cut it. 

That's not to say what we do isn't a business, and shouldn't be handled professionally as such; however, we need to recognize that what we do is far more than just business. We're not just building a bottom line; we're helping to create the heart of people's homes, and frequently the emotional cornerstone of their happiness.

And, perhaps because of that, just as our bottom line can impact our happiness, so, too, can our happiness impact our bottom line. 

It's a little-known truth that's easy to miss when business is good. After all, it's not hard to feel happy with our jobs during boom times. Customers are easy to come by, money is flowing in, we get to cherry pick the projects that appeal to us most. And, even if we're not happy, we're mostly too busy to notice. 

But the market is changing. Economic projections for 2002, while more positive than many initially believed, are still not expected to come close to the boom of years past (see related story, Page 46). Even if we don't see a full-blown recession, some slowdown is probably inevitable.

While that may not seem like good news on the face of it, though, it does create a host of new opportunities for utilizing our creativity. Without the frenetic pace and pressures of the "bang it out, get it done" push many of us have been working under for the past few years, it's easier to reconnect to the simple joy of designing which is, of course, what brought so many of us to the field in the first place. 

Without customers lined up through the next century, we may find ourselves able to even challenged to broaden our horizons, explore new niches, test out untried ground, conceive and employ new marketing strategies, or even make major business changes. 

Even better, a slowdown in business can give us time to think, to plan and to refocus on our passion which tends to be the root of not only our business success (because, really, how good can you be at something if you don't truly care about it?) but our personal happiness, as well.

Most of us started in this business because we had a passion for it. We wanted to create something beautiful, we enjoyed helping people realize their dreams, we had a passion for colors, textures, shapes, or just creating fabulous designs that work just as fabulously.

We all start with that passion. Yet somehow, in the day-to-day dealings, we lose some of that. And, in doing so, we lose touch with our greatest strength.

Too many people believe that the pursuit of happiness has nothing to do with business. But the truth is, it has everything to do with business. Creatively, our best efforts tend to come from a place of passion. Likewise, excitement and passion for our work can make the difference between mediocre sales and superior ones.

In 2001, many of us made a a painful, yet much-needed discovery: When all is said and done, happiness really is our personal bottom line. What we need to learn in 2002 is how to apply our personal bottom line to our professional one, maximizing our happiness which will, in turn maximize our success.

To all of our readers, best wishes for 2002!