There's a certain type of small-business owner or small-enterprise leader who stands out among the grow-at-any-cost organizations, those "maximum profit first" organizations that dominate the headlines -- and these same small-enterprise owners are often the ones left standing after the financial boom hits bottom. They're the owners who use their vision -- not just a financial goal -- as a compass, and in the process create livable jobs, respectful work environments, and contribute to a greater quality of life in their community.

These big-vision lifestyle entrepreneurs aspire toward a more meaningful livelihood, in which success is measured by qualitative results and making a positive contribution to their community, as well as seeking financial stability; and they reap the internal and external rewards allowed by a more meaningful vision-in-action (versus just a vision-in-talk). Want to see what learnings you can put to use for your own "big-vision lifestyle" and big-vision work? Then introduce yourself to the concept of big-vision small enterprise!

You, too, can be a big-vision lifestyle entrepreneur

One of the most powerful learnings from the big-vision concept is that any individual or group (whether a business, department, club, parish or school) can model big-vision small enterprises to attain a similar level of enjoyment, positive reputation, more fulfilled experience and stronger team relations -- regardless of what's happening elsewhere in the organization or the world. These are also the traits that help maintain a healthy forward momentum, meaning, enthusiasm, idea-generation and loyalty when times are tough.

Clarify mutual benefit: Big-vision small-business owners aim to ensure that both they and those with whom they do business -- be it employees, customers or vendors -- genuinely benefit from the interaction. Have a discussion with other members of your group, as well as your group's customers, to learn how each of you can benefit from the relationship. These conversations can also unearth what needs improvement and why, and how you can refine both skillfulness and service.

Find the meaning in your work: People have the desire to do meaningful work, conducted in a mindful way, that contributes positively to the community. Yet studies show that, while someone or something else may surely inspire you, meaning can only be derived from within. To find the meaning in your work, start by creating a personal vision. Then co-create a vision for your department that you and your colleagues can use for inspiration and direction, and that further coheres your group around common interests and goals.

Build relationships: Big-vision small-business owners place a high value on relationships, not just as an image-boosting gimmick, but because of a deep respect for others, whether employees, customers, vendors or community members. These entrepreneurs work to minimize the gap between the values espoused by the organization and those experienced by the people who interact with the company. Do a " relationship-building audit" to determine whether you and your group are defaulting on your responsibility for creating good relationships, and identify opportunities where you can refine and shine, making your upgraded relationship-building process meaningful in itself.

Be a contributing member of the community: Whether mentoring colleagues, doing pro bono work, donating to local causes, providing a " safe haven" refuge from the chaos of the world, or being a positive role-model, big-vision small-enterprise leaders make a commitment to making a positive contribution to their community. As employees, you can look for news ways to define your community and how your group might better improve and support it. For example, your community might include other departments on the same floor. Your contribution might be to build better relationships with those colleagues, and ensure that your demeanor and work are of a high caliber.

Be ethical and trustworthy: Though it sounds obvious, and most people would rate themselves as ethical and trustworthy, studies show that a large number of corporate employees have observed unethical behavior at work -- and many fear reporting it. Big-vision small-business owners place a high premium on creating a business that's known as being highly ethical and trustworthy. Whether that means admitting a mistake, willingly helping colleagues, compensating employees fairly, paying your vendors on time, or speaking forthrightly about concerns and suggested courses of action, a group's reputation for its ethical nature is built on a series of consistently honest transactions. Ultimately, leaders, vendors and customers feel confident turning to people they trust.

Maintain a respectful work environment: Owners of visionary small businesses are driven to create good work environments, using past experience as a guide to what they would or would not do in their own workplace. For a department, employee retention can greatly reduce the financial and managerial requirements of hiring and training new employees, and can be crucial for consistently producing big-vision results. The positive impact of a respectful work environment are immeasurable; and the reduction in shoddy work, workplace anxiety and the possibility of lawsuits is palpable.

Promote self-responsibility: Creating meaningful work and a positive, respectful work environment isn't someone else's job. Everyone in the organization or group co-creates -- for better or worse -- that group's reality. Some big-vision small-enterprise owners advocate self-responsibility and offer information to raise awareness to that end. Ensure that you and your group-mates know and understand your job roles and others' expectations of you, and that others understand your expectations of them.

Provide a higher level of quality: Many big-vision small-business owners opt for self-employment and cap quantitative growth so they're able to do their work according to the high standard they believe they're capable of providing and they and their customers deserve. This helps to make their "livelihood journey" more meaningful. Increase the level of quality in products and services from your department, and you'll see your group shine brighter than it ever has -- with repeat customers knocking on your door, a stronger sense of accomplishment in the group and a greater sense of contribution to the company.

Jamie Walters is the founder and Chief Vision & Strategy Officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco, CA.

This information is adapted from Big Vision, Small Business: The Four Keys to Success & Satisfaction as a Lifestyle Entrepreneur by Jamie S. Walters (copyright 2001). Published by Ivy Sea Publishing, Big Vision is available through (which allows you to support your community bookseller), and quality booksellers. For more information contact Ivy Sea, Inc. at (415) 778-3910 or, or mail to 51 Federal Street, Suite 307, San Francisco, California 94107.

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