The Business of Living

I really tried with the title but this is as exciting as I could get about the subject. Really, how do you define this exciting life we live as “being a business?” I also know you’re thinking that anyone who starts to give a definition of life is usually some Aristotle “wanna-be”. I agree with you, completely!

We make choices every day. Everything we think, say or do is the result of choice.

This leads to the question: “How different would our choices be if we thought of our lives as a business?”

A business has several departments/core functions. To keep this short, I’ll list 3 broad categories. I also agree with you that there are way more but we’re keeping it simple today. The 3 broad headings are:

  • Finance/Accounts
  • Sales/Marketing
  • Human Resources


I start with finance because….I like money. How different would it be if we lived like the finance department? We are no different from a business. We earn revenues (salaries & wages) and we accumulate expenses. The difference between revenues and expenses (profit for a company) represents our surplus. We buy assets and sometimes we fund them with liabilities. Other times we merely accumulate liabilities (Consumer Purchases) with no matching asset. That picture represents our individual balance sheet. We grow our wealth by increasing our surpluses and growing our assets ahead of liabilities. Here is the challenge; a lot of us have a non-functional finance department.

Today I’ll use John as an example.

He currently earns Jamaican Two (2) million annually (Approximately JA$125,000 monthly after tax) as a marketing executive. He’s 28 years old, pays rent of $30,000 monthly and owns his motor car financed by the bank. He finds it tight living on his own as his expenses pretty much equates to his income. When things get tight he uses his credit card to get by. His expenses as well as their weighting on his salary are tabled below.

John admittedly doesn’t even have this table drawn up. He receives the money in his account each month and spends as he “needs to”. As such, some months are better than others without truly understanding why. A finance department has “budgets” and analyses expenses against income in a very granular way. If John does an analysis, he quickly sees his expenses amounts to almost 99% of his income every month. Unless a business quickly gets on top of its expenses, it will find itself suffering from anemic growth without a true understanding of the cause. John will need to either reduce his expenses or increase his revenue to truly be able to grow his organization.

Here is part two (2) to the story.

John received good news today. He has been promoted to assistant marketing manager for his stellar performance and will now receive a salary of JA$2.5 million per annum (App. JA$156,000 after taxes).

Immediately John thinks to himself I can get a bigger place or finally change my car!

Let’s think like an organization. Businesses use ratios to analyze their performance. If all stayed flat, and John did nothing new, his expenses would represent 80% of his salary vs. previous 99%. His income has improved by 25% and he is free to indulge in improving his lifestyle, but he should be entirely cognizant of his ratios as would a business. Many times, we increase expenses at a faster pace than our income, which results in continued anemic growth. Sometimes by understanding ratios we would delay added expenses until we can truly, from a business perspective, afford to do so. As with a business, our aim should always be to increase revenue at a faster pace than our expenses. Should John stay satisfied with his lifestyle, he can truly add money to his bottom line that can later be converted to assets such as real estate, stock/bond purchases etc. after accumulation. John’s new financial position holding all expenses flat is tabled below.


That money bit was heavy, I admit. So let’s get to the exciting part, our sales/marketing department.

Businesses are built around brands and truthfully we are no different. We are a brand. We require investment in the form of marketing, research and development etc. Just as with a business, it takes years to build our brand and days to destroy it. How we conduct ourselves, how we educate ourselves and most importantly how we sell ourselves plays a large part in our overall marketing strategy. It’s why our Facebook and Twitter feeds are our daily campaigns. Just as with a business, we can also “invest ahead”. That comes in the form of education, training, development etc. It’s also important to understand where we are as a brand and be careful not to overinvest. It is possible to invest too much in our brand at a particular time and not be in the right position of our brand life cycle to recoup. Prime example is doing a PHD with no work experience. Often times also, we hear of persons buying expensive homes or driving expensive cars to impress others when we can’t afford it, because “looks are everything”. It is important to market and sell ourselves but as with any business, we have to ensure it fits within the agenda of our brand.

Human Resources:

What does human resources have to do with my life? The answer is….lots. The process of human resourcing involves hiring and keeping good talent on our team. We keep high school friends, college buddies and the likes in our camp but the real question is, were you running a business, how much of them would you have fired already? Our success depends a lot on the team we surround ourselves with and the team we choose to recruit going forward. We also want to be poised as a viable entity that good talent want to be a part of.

That’s my 2 piece for today regarding this whole perspective of living as a business. As much as we separate work from everyday living, if we thought like business owners through and through, I strongly believe we would make choices differently. I Hope I didn’t sound like Aristotle after-all.

Signed: Steven