The 21st Century Business Model

The 21st Century Business Model

I’m going to give you a fair warning, I’ve spent a lot of hours writing up stuff about how to start and scale a lifestyle business.

I do it because it’s the answer to the #1 question people have: how to pay for it all?

To have a cool life, a life that you’re proud of and one that excites you every day, you need a way to pay for it.

And that does NOT come from a job (except for the .02% of people out there who like their jobs and bosses).

So, you need to start a business. And there’s no easier and more effective model than a lifestyle business. You may have seen some of this stuff before but in this article, I’m going to cover how:

  • a lifestyle business is a legally structured business you create that solves a real need in a paying market that provides near-immediate cash flow with the ability to scale quickly using systems and a team and its primary purpose is to pay for your desired lifestyle
  • a lifestyle business is not a traditional business or startup – it’s much leaner and more instantly profitable
  • a lifestyle business benefits all who are involved – the owner, the clients or customers, the team or contractors, suppliers and vendors, etc
  • with a lifestyle business, you can stair-step your way up into whatever size business you wish – start small and grow from there
  • a lifestyle business is NOT about finding your life purpose or living your passion – it’s about creating a viable income source based on a real market need that you can use to then do whatever you want

The Accidental Lifestyle Entrepreneur

On this blog, I’ve already discussed some of the challenges we’re facing as a society when it comes to education, jobs, and even happiness.

Now I want to get to the good stuff – the solution!

In fact, I stumbled onto the solution myself somewhat accidentally.

Back in 2010, I met with an old buddy from high school. David Nilssen is the Co-Founder and CEO of Guidant Financial based in Bellevue, Washington. In a nutshell, David has been hugely successful with his company and I was grateful to grab an hour of his time.

We met up at a Starbucks and had a lot to catch up on. Eventually we talked about the business I started and our goals to take off and live abroad and so forth. David asked a few more questions about the business and then said, “OK, so you’ve got yourself a lifestyle business.”

Honestly, at that moment, I had no clue what he was talking about! I’d never even heard the term before! But I quickly put it together – a lifestyle that works with a business and a business that pays for a lifestyle…

Then I just nodded and said, “Yep! You’ve got it. A lifestyle business. Yes sir, that’s what I’m doing!”

David not only built his own successful company but his business actively funds other small businesses. From his viewpoint, what I was doing was not a traditional brick-and-mortar business but rather a lifestyle business.

He knew I set it up with the goal to pretty much finance my own dream lifestyle. From his point of view, I was building a business to pay for what I wanted to do.

It turns out he was exactly right.

Work to live instead of living to work

What is a Lifestyle Business?

For the average person, doing anything besides a job might seem crazy. After all, not everyone is an entrepreneurial superstar like my friend David.

I’m certainly not!

However, I can tell you that I seemed to have cracked the code on how the average schmuck like me can make it happen. In fact, I can honestly tell you I’ve never had more freedom in my entire life. And when I say freedom, I’m talking about time, income, and just plain options – I do what I want whenever I want.

This is something for which I’m incredibly grateful for every single day.

With that in mind, I proudly present the solution for the everyday person wanting something more. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the lifestyle business.

What is a lifestyle business? Let’s slap a definition on there shall we? According to our friends at Wikipedia, a lifestyle business is:

“A business that is set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more; or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle.”


That’s not bad but the “and no more” part rubs me the wrong way.

I think you can make as much as you want to in a lifestyle business. You don’t have to put a limit on how much your business makes if you don’t want to.

In fact, when you structure it the right way, there’s really no limit to the amount you make and it doesn’t affect your daily work load. Coming up, I’ll show you exactly what I mean by that.

I wanted to throw my own definition into the ring. How about something like this?

Lifestyle Business

It’s a touch longer than Wikipedia’s definition but it’s more accurate in my experience.

Bottom line, it’s about designing a highly scalable income around your desired lifestyle. Once it’s going, your actual workload is up to you. You can put in as many hours as you wish but it’s all optional due to the systems and team you’ve put in place.

In upcoming posts, I’ll break down the actual process to creating your own lifestyle business (complete with actual examples) but here’s how it looks from a high level:

  1. Take an inventory of your skills
  2. Come up with an idea & find a model
  3. Create a business plan and revenue model
  4. Generate sales
  5. Create a system
  6. Build a team
  7. Scale up while reducing your workload

Pretty straightforward, right?


A Lifestyle Business is Different from a Traditional Business or Startup

To be clear, a lifestyle business is really set up to first and foremost provide the kind of life you want. It’s something that will generate cash flow quickly and that you can start with relatively little startup capital, if any.

In fact, let me break it down a bit further.

A lifestyle business is different from a traditional business or startup because it DOES NOT:

  • require large sums of capital to get started (a.k.a – no investors or bank loans needed)
  • require time for product development
  • need to do extensive market research
  • require employees initially, if ever
  • need to spend much, if anything, on brand awareness or marketing
  • over-inflate its value to attract investors or to go public
  • start with an exit in mind – no big sellout needed
  • need a dedicated plot of land or industrial or office space
  • require any special kind of expensive equipment

When you look at the above list, in my mind, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would try to do any other kind of business! There are so many challenges to “regular businesses.”

Why not just set up a stream of income that provides you with all you need from the start?

In the first year of my own business, I used to drive past a vacant office in the heart of a small city named Kirkland which is located just east of Seattle.

I even got out one day and looked through the windows and envisioned having a “real” office space. I imagined a cool workspace with 30 or so twenty-something’s all clicking away on their Macbooks handling all of the online work for my clients.

In fact, I even told a good friend and fellow lifestyle entrepreneur about this. He listened to my little dream intently before asking me some questions. I said, “I want to be that owner that comes out of his office on a Friday afternoon and tells everyone it’s time for a pizza party…”

And before I could finish relating my dream he cut me off, “Why?”

“Huh?” I said.

“Why do you want that Sean?” he said.

“I don’t know. I just think it would be cool.”

“That’s just ego man. Your goal isn’t to be the coolest boss on the planet. Your goal is to make money and take off and go see other countries. I know, you tell me like every day.”

“Yeah, but still…”

“But still what?” he said. “Listen, the Friday afternoon pizza party sounds fun. What about when your employees call in sick or miss deadlines or any other shenanigans that employees pull every day? You want money. I mean, let’s get totally clear on this. You’re providing a valuable service to business owners who are paying you to make it happen. Everybody wins. There’s no downside. You wanting to be the coolest boss in the world is based on an old-school version of business. You’re not in that business. This is a new model. You need to get your head right. You need to go back to your vision and why you started this thing in the first place.”

He was completely right.

A lifestyle business is a new, refined, modern way of doing business that benefits everyone involved. In fact, with all of the advantages of a lifestyle business, I wonder why more people haven’t considered starting one.

Imagine a business that:

  • provides a real solution to real paying clients or customers
  • you can start quickly, like today
  • you can start with little to no startup capital (no bank loans or investors needed)
  • is profitable quickly – making money within 30 days or less
  • is infinitely scalable – it doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 1000 clients/customers, the work to you is the same
  • has a high profit margin
  • has very little risk or downside
  • is easily outsourced – you get a team to do the actual work for you
  • is potentially mobile-friendly – even if travel doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to be bound to commuting to the same location everyday
  • has little to no overhead
  • can be as big or as small as you want it
  • allows you to take as much time off as you want – you never have to retire
  • is easy to start while you still have a full time job
  • lines up with your own personal values

I’ll elaborate a bit on the above list in the next chapter but basically, a lifestyle business is just the solution that many people need.

The Perfect Business Model?

With what I’ve listed above, it almost seems too good to be true, right?

Well, before we took off to live in Cozumel, we spent a year in the San Francisco Bay Area. It seems that everyone there is involved in a startup of some kind. I’m not kidding.

I met people who were literally working 80 hour weeks while living off of savings because they believed if they could just work hard enough, then they’d catch their big break – Google or Facebook would come in and buy their startup for 5 billion bucks and they’d live happily ever after.

I personally don’t have anything against anybody who wants to build this kind of business. I just don’t understand why they would… at least not if their #1 goal is to make money.

I think what I did instead was much simpler. I created a service-based business and got real paying clients who gave me real money. I then put systems in place and hired a team to get the work done.

I was profitable in my very first month in the business.

Let me just repeat that because it’s something most businesses can’t say – I was profitable in my very first month in business.

I then simultaneously scaled my business while reducing my own hours and personal involvement.

Then, as you know already, I spent over 4 1/2 years living in Cozumel, Mexico and “summered” in Europe with my wife and kids. We’re currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland. And yes, all just for fun…

I’m not saying that to brag – just to state that you don’t have to slave away for 80 hours a week for 5 years to hopefully sell out to Google and then live your dream lifestyle.

If your goal is to create the next Instagram because of ego or a sense of accomplishment, cool. Do it. But if your goal is to make money, there’s a much more immediate way of doing it.

When I spoke with people in the Bay Area about my business, they thought it was cool but they didn’t consider it a “real business”. Somehow, they thought what they were doing was somehow a real business.

I suppose we could look past the fact that of all the people I met, none of their businesses were yet profitable. Many of the company officers didn’t even take a paycheck!

They all worked ridiculous hours. And they all talked about customer acquisition instead of actually getting real customers. I mean, if that’s a real business, cool. But I personally want nothing to do with it!

According to the ‘ol dictionary, business is defined as:

“The activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money.”

With my own business, I was active in selling services which I got a lot of money for. Come to think of it, by this definition, I am the one with the real business – not just creating some cool new app, software plug-in, or the next social network and not getting paid for it!

In fact, a lifestyle business is a fully legitimate business entity that’s structured so that you could sell it… if you ever want to. Once you’re making money with a repeatable process in place, you’ve got a really cool asset that you can do whatever you want with.

If you’ve ever watched The Profit or Shark Tank, it’s fun to see the business owner standing there with all of his or her employees saying they’re making money and growing the business to new record levels. You always see them all clap and cheer and it looks like fun.

What you don’t see are those same employees calling in sick, missing deadlines, or quitting. You don’t see the owner dipping into his/her savings just to make payroll. You don’t see all of the stress and sleepless nights the owner goes through.

And that’s not even a startup! That’s just a traditional business. Startups have even more challenges!

A lifestyle business just doesn’t have many of the same challenges that a startup does.

You may think I’m selfish but I didn’t start my business to create jobs or to help put food on other people’s table. I created it to put food on my own family’s table.

That’s not to say I don’t care about my business or my clients in any way. I love my business! I love the services we offer our clients. The clients love the services! I love my team that completes all of the work for our clients.

My business actually has a lot of people involved and because of the way I’ve structured it, every single person involved with my business benefits.

Our clients benefit from our services. My team members benefit from their employment. And I benefit from a successful business. It’s a win for everyone involved! There are absolutely no downsides.

If you want to create a platform that’s going to change the world, that’s great. A startup might be for you.

If you want to provide jobs in your local community, cool! A traditional brick & mortar might be for you.

If you want to make money quickly, scale it, and then do whatever you want, then a lifestyle business is the solution for you!

Stair-step Your Way Up

With a lifestyle business, you can stair-step your way up to the exact size business you want to.

For example, let’s say software is your thing. You could start with a simple ebook or e-course that explains everything you do. Then create a single piece of software that does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

Then go bigger, if you wish, once that’s successful. It’s so much easier to make a series of small wins than to shoot too high.

In fact, by making a bunch of small wins, you increase the likelihood of your overall success.

As my friend Pawel says:

“It’s so important for people to realize that ultimate success is a series of really small in-between successes. So start really small and build from there.”

One of the reasons why I love the lifestyle business model is because it’s so accessible. You can start small and immediately and grow from there.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a single mom or a baby boomer looking to retire or a busy family man with a mortgage and a ton of monthly expenses. You can get started right where you are and grow to whatever size business you wish.

It’s NOT About Your Life Purpose

I need to make one key distinction here – I’m not trying to help you discover your life purpose.

My goal isn’t to help you find out what you were put on this planet to do or even to find your dream career. My goal is to help you create a business that you can scale and free up your time.

Once you’re making $40K a month while only working 5 hours a month, you can go on as many spirit quests as you want!

You can literally afford to live your passion or figure out your life purpose.

I want to help you make money quickly with a fully functioning business. Then, once it’s going, you can scale it and buy your freedom. If you chose to make your lifestyle business your career, and it brings you tons of happiness, awesome. But the core focus now is to help you build a lifestyle.

This is a business model that’s designed to make you, the business owner, an additional $100k to $500k a year in net income. It could even be more! There’s no limit.

Heck, even an extra $50K a year is life-changing for most people.

There’s a whole lot of talk lately by so-called “business gurus” talking about how you can make money by living your passion. I’ve seen things like, “do what you love and get paid” or “when you live your purpose you will attract money” or “get paid to be you.”

And don’t even get me started on predatory MLM’s.

It’s this kind of mindset that gets desperate employees into trouble when they try to start their own businesses. They launch their own cupcake shop or sell overpriced protein shakes or life coaching business or whatever.

They do something they love without even seeing if there’s a need or want for it in the market.

It’s not about what you want. It’s about what the market wants!

Your job as a lifestyle business owner will be to assess what’s happening in the market, spot an opportunity, find a working model, and then go for it. At the same time, you’ll also be able to line that up with what you personally want. That’s the beauty of a lifestyle business!

In fact, while it may not be about your passion, it’s all about your values and even your happiness. I’ll talk more about this later.

For now, it’s your job, right now, to decide if a lifestyle business is for you or not.


This is part of an ongoing series of posts all pulled from the book: The 60-Day Entrepreneur – Create Your Own Lifestyle Business, Scale Your Income, & Live Life on Your Terms

For your own free e-version of this book, click on the image below60 Day Entrepreneur