Why I Hate the Term “Lifestyle Business” & Why It Should Die : Under30CEO Why I Hate the Term “Lifestyle Business” & Why It Should Die : Under30CEO
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Why I Hate the Term “Lifestyle Business” & Why It Should Die

| January 17, 2013 | 24 Comments

Richard Branson
I’m sick of it.  The term “Lifestyle Business”.

From 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.

Right, I get it, most people who live on the beach and teach surf lessons have a “lifestyle business”.  They have an awesome, simple life, and don’t desire any more income than they need to sustain their lifestyle.

Then came Tim Ferriss.  The Four Hour Work Week introduced the concept of “lifestyle design”, and said that we should build a business that gives us what we want out of life.  Tim said that everyone should take the time to consider why they do what they do, and find out a way to support those dreams.

Tim never said there was a limit!

Want a private jet? Okay, cool, build a business that provides you that particular level of income.  But why does the definition of “lifestyle business” say you can’t make any more?!  Shouldn’t everyone have a business that provides them what they want out of life?!

The real problem I have with this definition can be summed up in one word:


I’d like this article to prove that having a business that supports your lifestyle and making a sh*tload of cash don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  Why do people think that just because your business is built around your life, and not the other way around, that you are some broke hippie?!

Everyone should consider their lifestyle when building a business!

Let’s take a super down to earth guy like Joe from Witch’s Rock Surf Camp who we visited on our Under30Experience: GREEN Business Tour Costa Rica.  He drove a school bus from San Diego to Costa Rica, landed on the beach and called it a surf camp.  (Hippie).  But wait, now he has two hotels, three restaurants, a surf shop, a clothing line, makes surf boards with world famous Robert August, and started a micro-brewery.  Men’s Journal said he has the second coolest job in the world next to Tom Brady.

Joe will be the first one to tell you he isn’t in it for the money.  He simply likes doing cool sh*t.  Joe literally told us, “Man, what would make this place awesome right now?  A micro-brew.” So, he started a micro-brewery.  Pretty nice “foundation to enjoy a particular lifestyle”.  But, nope, I can’t call it a lifestyle business.

Make That Money

Of course Joe wants his businesses income to grow.  It means he can do more cool sh*t.  You think Mark Zuckerberg wants more money in the bank?  Last I heard he drives a crappy Acura TL because it was safe.  Zucks wants more income so that he can build a better Facebook and change the way that the world interacts with each other.  That’s what he wants out of life.

The point here is that the lines between “lifestyle businesses”, “startups”, and “small to medium sized enterprises” are bluring.  Our generation demands more out of our lives than your typical 9 to 5 job can provide.  The rules are changing.  Because of technology I can be sitting here in Costa Rica, work remotely, living an awesome lifestyle, and still strive to build a business that makes millions and makes the world a better place.

Just because you are working on a “startup” that could get sold to Google, doesn’t mean you can’t live how you want.  Be innovative, find a way to lead your team, and execute.  Why sacrafice your lifestyle?

The world would be a better place if we would simply consider ourselves, our situation, and what we want out life, and build our business around that.

I want to be remembered for living on my own terms, having a ton of fun, and making a positive impact on people.  Hopefully, our Under30Experiences events like the Microfinance Surf Camp to Nicaragua will do just that.  But please, don’t call it a lifestyle business.  We’re more ambitious than that.

If you’re interested in meeting people with this type of mindset, gaining a new perspective on life, and living different, join us on our Microfinance Surf Camp to Nicaragua.  Join the list for the trip April 17-21, 2013.

Matt Wilson is Co-founder of Under30Media.

About the Author: Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is co-founder of Under30CEO. After two years traveling and working from his laptop, Matt's official title became Adventurer in Residence, heading up Under30Media's travel company Under30Experiences. If Matt is around he will be easy to spot as his long luxurious hair is generally flowing freely in the breeze.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • rob

    i’m afraid you don’t get it. the definition of a lifestyle business is that it’s meant to generate income, while another business has the purpose to create value. one is not better than the other, it’s just a different approach by the founder. a business can be sold for a value, a lifestyle business can not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.rodriques Phil Rodriques

    Thanks for the article. Now you’ve made me take a step back to really look at my business and how to grow it going forward.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Hey Rob, all business have the purpose of creating value… that’s what money represents! and why can’t someone sell their lifestyle business if it has value? If it has value then it can be sold.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Thanks Phil, glad you liked. Don’t get so busy that you forget to observe yourself in your situation!

  • Aimee

    I think this article generates an interesting point with regards to the society we live in today.That being successful revolves around being consistently wanting more and so called ‘ambition’ the mere pursuit of money. I think one of the points of a lifestyle business is getting on and enjoying life and what you do, free to do it without the main focus revolving on how you are going to squeeze more profits out of the business. Of course lifestyle businesses and big profits shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, but I also think that not everyone’s idea of a great life includes accumulating sh*t loads of cash and that some people are living their ideal life already without an insatiable need for more. Great article!

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Hey Aimee, there is nothing wrong with squeezing profits out of the business, as long as you enjoy your work, and you get to spend your time doing something you are passionate about. I agree that some people don’t need lots of money to be happy. The funny part is that the people who do, have never even considered why they want lots of money, or ask themselves why they live like they do. Thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/rasmusl Rasmus Lindgren

    I have an AMBITION to be able to spend more time more time with my kids while they are young. I have an AMBITION to travel more. I have an AMBITION to do stuff I’m passionate about with me having to trade my time for money.

    So last year I only worked three months out of the year, and my family and I are currently spending a couple of months in our second home in Thailand while it’s piss poor weather back in Denmark.

    Oh, and I’ve also had time to write on a book that’s about to come out and enjoy inspiring other people to build lifestyle businesses just like I have.

    So I don’t totally agree with you on this one ;)

    I’ve tried to attach a picture of me and my AMBITIOUS life (not sure if it get’s uploaded with the comment)

  • Guest

    Sorry, the image was apparently too big so let me just try that again.

  • http://twitter.com/rasmusl Rasmus Lindgren

    Let me just try that again – not quite friends with the upload (if it still doesn’t work, just delete these follow up comments)

  • eduardo Paiz

    I see you are always going to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, you have Guatemala right around the corner guys, let me help you out to set up your boot camps here, i will be delighted to help out, my name is Eduardo Paiz and you can contact me at edpaiz@gmail.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.rodriques Phil Rodriques

    Words to live by! Thanks man.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Hey Eduardo– really interesting. Would love to get up your way sometime this spring. Lets talk. Will send you an email right now!

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Hey Rasmus–I have the same sentiment about the term “lifestyle business”, that it categorizes these business owners as people who aren’t ambitious, when that isn’t true at all. Writing a book, traveling, spending time with your family, and having a well balanced life that you live is VERY ambitious. Really glad to hear your perspective on what business means to you, and why you do what you do. Thanks for dropping a comment. Great stuff.

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  • rob

    No, value and income are different things! There are a lot of businessess who dont generate any money but who have been creating value through brand, mailing list,.. Freelance writers generate income but don’t create any value. When they stop writing, there is no business left to sell, even if they have been earning a lot of money. So you can say they have created value for themselves – and dont misunderstand me,i think freelancing is great – but here we are talking about the business, not the owner. So a lifestyle business is a business which aims to provide income for the owner. The moment he decides to make the business ‘bigger than himself’ it’s not a lifestyle business anymore. This comes with a big responsibility cause missmanagement can cause the value in the business to be destroyed. In a lifestyle business only the income stream for the owner dries up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1245660065 Matt Goldenberg

    Rob, this actually seems to reverse the concept of a lifestyle business as originally proposed by Tim Ferris. In his model, you had to be able to remove yourself as a bottleneck in your business in order for it to be a lifestyle business

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  • rob

    As far as i know the story of Tim Ferriss is about recurring “income”, not about value – that said, i agree with you in the sense that there is a lot of nonsense in the concept of lifestyle business. i’ve even seen some bloggers lately admitting that they don’t make the money they pretend to make. Even with notorious bloggers like Yaro Starak the numbers just don’t add up. If you want to make a lot of money, the proper way to do it, is by creating real value (value for customers to create income for the business – damn those words keep confusing (;

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  • http://twitter.com/heyLaurlu Lauren Lund

    I really appreciated this post, especially the last part! I noticed a few months back that “lifestyle business” was defined that way on wiki and I was really turned off. I agree, ambition is EVERYTHING! We don’t need all the money in the world to be happy, but for god’s sake don’t put a lid on it :)

  • unaldny

    I like your blog post so much.. Thanks for such a nice blog.

    computer and network

  • http://mygreatonlinebusiness.com/ Jan Koch

    That article is awesome!
    I can definitely find myself in it, just building a lifestyle business won’t fulfill my purpose. I want to enrich lives!

  • http://www.viajeroemprendedor.com/ Viajero Emprendedor

    Just read this !! it is amazing amigo!! I am at campus party a start up, technology event and I was having the same doubt, why people want to divide every kind of business? And of course if I want more money is to improve my lifestyle and to be able to keep growing Viajero Emprendedor and helping more people!! thanks for this!!

  • http://www.viajeroemprendedor.com/ Viajero Emprendedor

    eduardo! que bien encontrar gente de latinoamérica! espero podamos hablar pronto! ¿a qué te dedicas? yo tengo un podcast viajero emprendedor y busco promover esta tendencia en Latinoamérica un abrazo!