Soulful work, EMMA, and the Boston Consulting Group business strategy

A few days ago I posted this on facebook: 

I think the whole cultural phenomenon of "you have to be 100% aligned with your work IN YOUR SOUL" in order to take a project, client or job is doing a lot of folks a disservice. Sometimes you do work that might not be your dream so that it can fund the other stuff and that is ok!

And clearly it struck a chord with people because 94 likes and 21 comments later it got me thinking about my own approach to my work and business and my life...

Here's what I came up with.

We live in a unique time in history when we have the opportunity to create whatever work we desire in most locations/cultures around the world. The internet has given us near infinite possibilities for learning and then finding a market for our particular area of expertise. 

That embarrassment of opportunity means that often we can choose work that makes our hearts sing. 

And in general I think that we should choose work that lights us up (most days). I imagine that when we are fully engaged with our work (the activities that bring us money to take care of our needs), then it is in the greatest good for all. For those we serve, for those who manage us, for our families and for ourselves. 

My dad and I each have our own business. We don't have employees. We set our schedules. We have flexibility in when and where and how much we work and with whom we do that work. We are living the dream. 

And our work still feels like WORK sometimes. Like anyone else in business, we have annoying clients, boring tasks, heavy lifting (actual and metaphorical), and things we'd just rather not do. 

In a word, work. 

But years ago my dad and I coined a new phrase to approach our day jobs in a more positive light. We felt that the word work had negative associations and felt icky to say. So we started calling our daily tasks "Enjoyable Money Making Activities." It's not a great acronym (EMMA), but when I started running around saying Enjoyable Money Making Activities I felt sooooo much better about them. 

My perspective about my tasks shifted with a mere renaming. 

And while I think the world at large would benefit from a wholesale appropriation of EMMA, I think most people who are holding out for the Right Work (or complaining that their current gigs are NOT the Right Work) really just need a reality check. 

Doing purpose-driven work is a wonderful goal and I believe that many more of us will be able to do such gratifying work as the years progress. 

But what about work that isn't so fun? What about clients who feel like drains on our energy? What about stultifying routines and straight up tedious, painful, joyless tasks? 

People: It is ok to do work that doesn't make your heart sing! Your heart will not break. The Universe will not weep. The birds will not stop coming to dress you in the morning. 

Instead, your bank account will thank you and you will be building your discipline muscle. 

My mom recently told me about her friend who is building her business back up and simultaneously working at a local restaurant as a waitress. 

This woman has her Soul Work figured out but right now needs to supplement it with plain old work in order to make ends meet. 

Does that make her any less a business owner or entrepreneur or follower of her heart's desire? 

NO! If anything she's showing the world that she is committed to her vision for herself, her business and her family. 

In service based businesses, your equivalent of taking a waitressing gig might be working with a client who isn't into your woowoo stuff. That client pays really well and on time. It's a struggle because you don't feel like you get to bring 100% of yourself to the work. 

Does that mean you should not serve said client and ignore other potential clients like that? Absolutely not. 

It is ok to do work that is not 100% in alignment with your soul if it is satisfying other very relevant needs related to your life and business goals. Like paying rent. 

Which brings me to a business strategy that more of us could benefit from. It comes from Boston Consulting Group and makes sense if you're ever struggling with taking on a not 100% in alignment piece of work/client/job. 

It looks like this: 

This is my oh-so-pro matrix from BCG. 

This is my oh-so-pro matrix from BCG. 

Ok, so what do you need to know here? 

Well, this little matrix has four quadrants. 

Dogs are the low market share, low growth products. You must defund them if you can't ensure their cash flow. 

Questions are the low market share but high growth products. You don't really know about these so you must decide to invest heavily in order to increase market share OR liquidate them.

Cash cows are the foundation of your business. You have robust market share and a low growth market so these are steady, stable and profitable but in a market without exponential growth opportunities. 

Stars make your business shine. They are high growth and high market share. They represent opportunity and potential but might need investment to get there.  

So let's say you're a holistic web designer (haha I don't know what that means but you can sure as heck bet someone out there is marketing their services this way) and that your fave soul aligned peeps are a little few and far between but when you do work with them they and you are just delighted. 

Those are your stars! 

And let's say that you have a very steady gig doing the graphic and web design for a local restauranteur. It's not glamorous. It's not soulful. Heck, the restauranteur doesn't know what holistic means. But he's happy and you're happy. That's your cash cow. 

Would you kill your cash cow just because it's not soul-full? 

I think not (or hope not). So even though it sometimes feels like work and not EMMA, it still helps you do your other stars. And that's ok. 

So with that- do you have a new perspective on any of your clients, business units? 

I hope so! 



Lauren FritschComment