#142: Five Non-Negotiables for Your Business (and Your Life)

Many of us spend time at the end of the year setting goals for the months and year ahead.

But have you ever sat down to figure out what you value most in your business and personal life?

And more specifically, the values, criteria or rules that will guide most of your decisions?

I think about those things occasionally. But until I talked with my guest for this episode, I’d never considered formalizing this process in order to end up with a clear set of “non-negotiables” for my business and personal life.

Today, you’re going to hear from Trevor Mauch, a very successful entrepreneur who started just a few years ago like many of us did: as a freelancer.

He eventually founded a software company that’s grown into a multi-million dollar business. Along the way he had a series of challenges and epiphanies that changed the course of his life. And in this episode, he’ll explain how clarifying his own set of non-negotiables made all the difference in the world.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Trevor Mauch grew up and continues to live in Oregon. After graduating college, he worked as a freelance marketing consultant in Portland, not knowing what he was doing.

Today, he runs a multi-million dollar SaaS business with 16 fulltime employees.

In the process of developing this business, he’s learned how to grow businesses in ways that support your goals and passions.

What led you to the idea of setting non-negotiable items for yourself?

In his first year as a freelancer, Trevor failed more than he succeeded. He was working through the basics: How do you provide value to clients? How do you market yourself?

About eight to twelve months in, he decided to find a couple of ideal clients and work for them for free to get experience.

This experiment led him to shift his value equation from “How can I sell to clients?” to “How can I help clients get value from my services?”

By 2010, he had launched an online publishing business while continuing to do marketing consulting on the side. His income continued in a “boom or bust” cycle.

He found himself waking up in the morning and not wanting to face the day. He was good at his job. But he wasn’t excited about it. He was spending 95% of his day on implementation, when what energized him was teaching and strategy.

In 2012, a friend of his brother passed away suddenly. It hit him hard. Trevor had two kids, was making decent money, but he wasn’t passionate about what he was doing.

He decided to change things. And part of that change was to create a list of non-negotiable items for his life.

Non-negotiable #1: Singular focus on ONE big thing

As entrepreneurs, we see opportunities everywhere. But that’s a blessing and a curse.

At one time, Trevor was running two software companies and a publishing company while also managing real estate investments, coaching entrepreneurs and working with four to five consulting clients. It was a nightmare. He wasn’t performing at his best in any of these things.

This is a common trap for entrepreneurs. When you’re good at something, people reach out to you for your services.

With a scarcity mindset, you feel you have to take on new projects—even if they make you miserable.

As part of his non-negotiable list, he gave himself permission to focus on just ONE big thing and perform at his very best.

He was inspired by The Pumpkin Plan. This book uses the process of growing oversized pumpkins as a metaphor for growing a great business.

Trevor’s “pumpkin” became InvestorCarrot, which he continues to run today. It has been his primary focus for the past three years.

Non-negotiable #2: Have fun and a mission you believe at your core

After three or four years, Trevor was doing good work, but he wasn’t having much fun.

As a freelancer, you have to find ways to bake fun into what you’re doing. You can make almost any job fun.

At the same time, you need a mission. You need to feel like you’re making a difference.

For a while, Trevor beat himself up about not having an identifiable purpose. He couldn’t figure out what it truly was. When he gave himself permission to not search for it constantly, it came to him organically. He realized he had been subconsciously baking it into everything he was doing.

Non-negotiable #3: Be consistent and predictable

This non-negotiable is about getting out of the boom/bust cycle. You need to find ways to

create consistency in your income. For example, at Carrot, the shortest contract they sell is 12 months.

This length of contract may scare off some potential clients. But it’s worth it because it allows Trevor to better predict the company’s income and plan for the future.

Non-negotiable #4: Build a long-term valuable asset

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get caught up in the transactional side of business. You can put five years into your business and have nothing of value to show for it other than the contracts you hold.

You need to build something that has its own value. Something where you can bring in other team members or even sell some day.

Non-negotiable #5: Find your purpose. Live and work with your unique abilities

Wake up every day knowing that what you do that day matters—to your clients and to the world.

This doesn’t have to be something grandiose. It can be something as simple as spreading kindness.

At the same time, you want to work with your unique abilities. And part of that is understanding what gives you energy and what saps your energy.

You can use Trevor’s energy audit to explore this idea. You can then follow his plan for adding more energy-giving tasks to your day and remove some energy-sapping tasks.

Trevor’s energy audit: https://oncarrot.com/energy

Ideally, you want to spend at least 60% of your time on things that give you energy.

How can listeners learn more about you?

Website: Oncarrot.com

Podcast: thecarrotcast.com