Free Event: Ten Lessons from BIG ENOUGH

Free Event: Ten Lessons from BIG ENOUGH

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I’m hosting an online event to share ten lessons from my book, Big Enough.

Now more than ever, people are reconsidering their careers and looking for options to work from home and lead saner, healthier lives.

Big Enough is full of practical tips and inspiration for building intentionally small businesses that support more than the bottom line.

  • When: Thursday, November 4th at 11am PT (2pm ET)
  • Where: Online

Event Details:

✅ What if you could build a small business that satisfies customers and promotes the lifestyle you want?

✅ What if you could work from home and earn a living without employees?

✅ What if measures of success included happiness, health, and free time, along with income?

In 2007, my wife and I set out to build a business like the one described above. We have achieved that goal and today, I’m sharing how we did it. It’s a decade-long story of hard work, ingenuity, and trusting relationships.

This 30-minute event is based on the lessons in my book, BIG ENOUGH, which tells the story of transforming our two-person company, Common Craft, into a successful business that’s built around the lives we want to lead.

It’s a story of calculated risks, business experiments, and an absolute belief that a business can be designed to promote the long-term health and happiness of its owners.

Join me in this FREE 30-minute event and I’ll walk through ten lessons we learned along the way.

What you’ll get:

  • 30-minute presentation by Lee
  • A free chapter of Big Enough (digital)
  • The chance to win a signed copy of Big Enough, plus 3 stickers, and a pair of Big Enough Socks!
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Learn more and find other resources at the book page: bigenough.life.

Thanks so much for your interest in the book!

The Entrepreneurial Imperative

The Entrepreneurial Imperative

Though it might not be obvious, we live in a world of imperatives. These are not laws, regulations, or other legally-binding rules, but expectations made by culture. We are bound by what others believe is the right path in a given situation. They are norms that, when followed, have a record of producing success.

Perhaps the most basic imperatives involve family. When people fall in love, there is a cultural expectation of marriage. If possible, the couple should raise children and send them to school. It’s a structure that has worked for generations and for good reason. It has a record of success. Because it works, those who choose to live outside it can be suspect. How dare they challenge the imperative?

A less considered imperative involves business pursuits. Here, it is assumed that businesses exist to grow and make their owners as rich as possible. Like family, this is based on a system that has worked. Growing businesses have been an engine of wealth for generations and in the case of publicly traded companies, the organization has a duty to make decisions that benefit the shareholders. But is it required for every business? Must every business person follow this path?

The entrepreneurial imperative seems to be this: Business success is based on becoming as wealthy as possible.

The danger of any imperative is it becoming so baked-in that it escapes analysis or skepticism. It becomes assumed and therefore thoughtless. I’ve heard multiple parents say, “I never knew I had a choice.” when it came to procreating. That’s what imperatives do. They reinforce an idea to a point where it’s unquestioned.

And so it is in business. From my perspective, too many entrepreneurs assume there is only one “right” way to build a business and it’s aiming to grow quickly and become the next unicorn. It seems that anyone who doesn’t take that path isn’t a serious or respectable entrepreneur.

I believe this perspective is changing as people begin to understand the personal costs that come with this kind of entrepreneurship. Yes, building a billion-dollar business is an incredible accomplishment that deserves respect. But it’s also incredibly rare and the path to it is frequently littered with those who tried, but were left with massive debt, broken relationships, and unhappiness. The romantic notion that appeals to so many conveniently leaves out the realities.

For some, it’s worth the cost. These entrepreneurs are willing to trade it all for a shot at the big time. But is it the only way?

We need entrepreneurs who aim for the stars. But, I also want entrepreneurs to see that, despite the weight of the imperative, they have a choice. They can choose a different path with different goals and different outcomes. There are still trade-offs and it’s not easy, but there is a respectable version of entrepreneurship that’s decidedly smaller and more manageable.

Money is often seen as the only true metric of success. The person who dies with the biggest bank account is the winner, right? For some, that’s the goal, but more people are starting to discover that their success isn’t so one-dimensional.

I believe, for example, that having control of my time is an important part of success. In order to achieve that control, I may have to make sacrifices, like taking on fewer projects and/or making less money. In this way, time is a part of my calculus of success. The same is true with the success that comes with independence or location. I want to be independent and work from anywhere and to do that, I have to consider the trade-offs. What I trade in terms of income may come back to me in the form of a healthier lifestyle. Success isn’t a single note. It’s a song.

Many of us are living through changes of all kinds. Now is a time to think more critically about the entrepreneurial imperative and what assumptions you’re making about success. Money matters, but is it everything? If you can break out of the imperative, you might find that building a business that’s Big Enough is the song that’s been playing in the back of your mind for too long.

How BIG ENOUGH Made the Front Page of Google

How BIG ENOUGH Made the Front Page of Google

At the beginning of 2020, the internet didn’t know about a book called Big Enough. Further, my personal website, the future home of the book, had been dormant for years. To prepare for the book’s release, I designed and built leelefever.com on WordPress with a long term plan to establish it as the new home of my books and other writing.

Today, a Google search for “Big Enough” shows two links to the book on the first page of results. I’m both excited and surprised.

I’m no SEO pro, but I did a number of things to help achieve this ranking.

Links – One of my favorite methods for promoting the book is through appearances on podcasts. For the most part, podcast hosts will link to the guest’s websites when they publish the show. I also link to the podcast when I write about the interview. This has helped me earn a number of high-quality links to the Big Enough page on my website and the Amazon page.

Keyword Density – When I designed the website, selling copies of Big Enough was the motivation, so the entire site was focused on the book page. Headings, internal links, blog posts, etc. Google surely saw that my website was all about the term “big enough”. Secondarily, I focused on words likely to be used by the people I am trying to reach. These are words like entrepreneurship, business, scalability, residual income, lifestyle, happiness, etc.

Engaging Content – I created multiple videos to promote the book and embedded them on the book page for easy viewing. I also provide downloadable PDFs, pre-written tweets, and more. My goal was to keep people on the page, which shows Google that they were engaged.

Load Times – I struggled with this. When I initially designed the site, I wasn’t thinking about load times and it was frustratingly slow. A friend suggested using this GTMetrics tool to figure out what was causing the slowdown. I used ImageOptim to decrease the size of my images on the site and that made load times much faster.

Blogging – I’ve been a blogger since 2003 and it’s an important part of my professional life. I knew that the book page and my website would benefit from regular updates that focus on the book and my writing. As soon as the website went up, I blogged consistently, just as I am now. I share the blog posts on social media, often with the JetPack plug-in, which makes publishing easier, among other things.

Mobile-Friendliness – I’m not a programmer and only know the basics of html/CSS. A friend introduced me to the DIVI WordPress theme and I was blown away by the Visual Page Builder. For the first time, I had complete control over the design and didn’t have to learn how to make it responsive to screen size. DIVI did the heavy lifting.

SEO Tools – I use the RankMath WordPress plug-in to help me understand how my site’s content relates to SEO. I use it to optimize my focus keywords, content length, titles, etc.

Open Graph – You’ve probably seen how social media platforms display a little preview or “snippet” when a link is shared. That preview is also related to meta-data about the page that relates what the page is about (book vs. restaurant, for example). For the first few months, my previews looked like crap and my metadata was not accurate. My friend, Robby, suggested learning about Open Graph and optimizing the metadata and how those previews display. Now I have complete control of the previews on a post-by-post basis. This page helped me get started, but what really helped was testing the links for each platform:

This is my default open graph preview:

Competition – I didn’t do keyword research when I chose the title “Big Enough”, and think I got lucky. The biggest competition for a top-ranking is a hilarious video that features a screaming cowboy. The song is “Big Enough” by Kirin J. Callinan.

Quality – I am a firm believer that there is no SEO trick that can replace the value of quality content. It takes time and effort, but the results are clear. My company, Common Craft, became successful because we earned traffic and rankings the old-fashioned way.

Before You Go: Watch the video below to have a laugh (give it some time), then consider grabbing a copy of Big Enough.

Podcast Interview: Fearless Business with Robin Waite

Podcast Interview: Fearless Business with Robin Waite

From the moment I connected with Robin, it felt like we were friends. He’s in the west of England and I’m in the Pacific Northwest of the US. We’re thousands of miles apart but have similar interests and weather. Thankfully, we also share a fascination with business and entrepreneurship. I sincerely enjoyed our discussion.

Listen to the Episode “Small Business is the new Big Business” on Apple Podcasts.

Here are a few 30 second clips:

Learn more about BIG ENOUGH and find more interviews.

The Difference Between Product and Service Businesses

The Difference Between Product and Service Businesses

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If you’ve ever considered starting a business, you’ve thought about business models and how you’d make money. Most entrepreneurial people start by putting their expertise to work in the form of freelancing or consulting. They have an hourly rate and the more hours they work, the more money they make. Whether it’s lawn care or a global consulting company, the business’s income is connected to hours worked. More hours, more money. This is a service business.

Service businesses, and especially small ones, are often an expression of someone’s passion or expertise. They are good at something and see an opportunity to earn a living doing that thing. For some, the business is simply the vehicle for managing the transactions; a detail. Think of a hairstylist, architect, or graphic designer. Their expertise isn’t necessarily running the business, but doing the work.

Product businesses, on the other hand, break the connection between hours and income. Instead of earning income from an hourly rate, humans work to create a product that earns money for the business. These businesses have the potential to earn income far and above the hours that humans put into it. Because income is not tied directly to hours worked, they can scale.

Product businesses are riskier because they often require an upfront investment. A firm might spend a year designing a product only to discover no one wants it. They also require a skill set that’s different from the domain expertise or passion that goes into a service business. The leaders of product businesses often have to be passionate about the product as well as the overall business, which might include engineering, industrial design, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, support, and more.

I think this distinction is both important and useful because it offers entrepreneurs a choice, or a path to follow. Understanding the fundamental differences between the two models can help you consider what business is right for you.

Here’s how I put it in the book:

A service business ties human labor to income. Humans embody the value. More haircuts, more money. A product business breaks that connection. Human labor is still necessary, but it is not tied directly to income. Instead, people work to create a product that becomes the business’s source of income. The product embodies the value and is often regarded as intellectual property (IP). And unlike consulting hours, a product can scale. It helps, too, that products don’t take vacations.

BIG ENOUGH, Chapter 1: More Money, More Hours

Later in chapter 1, I dive deeper into scalability, the realities of product businesses, why they are attractive to entrepreneurs, and what skills are helpful in making them successful.

Learn more about BIG ENOUGH.

If this message resonates with you, please consider liking or retweeting the message below:

Podcast Interview: The Louis and Kyle Show

Podcast Interview: The Louis and Kyle Show

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I learned about Louis and Kyle through a mutual connection and did a bit of research. Their show is new-ish and they are both college students. In terms of the podcasts that might move the needle in terms of book sales, this didn’t seem like a huge opportunity. But that didn’t matter. I was intrigued by two college students doing a podcast and looked forward to the conversation.

Here’s how they describe their show:

Sharing tools for success in entrepreneurship, investing, self-education, and fitness through interviews with inspiring mentors.

The interview ended up being one of my favorites, in part, because Louis had read the book and they were both full of observations and great questions. They showed a genuine interest and fascination with BIG ENOUGH and that made all the difference. They were also kind and engaged. I don’t have many college students close to me, so it was great to hear their perspectives.

Listen to the episode here or below:

Learn more about the Louis and Kyle Show.

12 Years of the BIG ENOUGH Perspective

12 Years of the BIG ENOUGH Perspective

In Big Enough, I tell the story of reaching a breaking point in 2008. Sachi and I were burned out and tired of ambiguity about where Common Craft was headed.

It was time to make a decision and start putting a plan into action. The path we chose that day was to focus all our efforts on building Common Craft around our original videos and phase out custom videos. Starting then, we placed a long- term bet that we could make Common Craft a company of our own design. We would be in the product business and earn a living based on our intellectual property.

Big Enough Chapter 6 – Designing for the Future

At the same time, I was writing a series of blog posts called “Being Lightweight” where I explained how we were thinking about Common Craft. In a post called Being Lightweight – Business Design, I shared 13 points related to a business that I would now call Big Enough. Here are a handful of those points:

Two People – We are dedicated to being a two-person company without employees. This is a fundamental constraint that guides nearly every decision. By making our size the priority, we have been forced to think hard about what is possible for two people and be prepared to focus on opportunities that work within this constraint.

Balance – We don’t believe in working 80 hours a week, 51 weeks a year so that you can vacation when you’re old.  We work more hours than most, but we’re not bashful about making sure that we live a fun, interesting, and balanced life. Lightweight businesses make this easier.

Limited Layers – Each person who handles a product on the way to the consumer adds weight and removes reward.  We look for the best ways to get our product from an idea to the customer as directly as possible.  Outside of us, Common Craft doesn’t have salespeople, distributors, marketers, or support reps.  We do it all, A-to-Z.

Supporting Two People – At the end of the day, we remember that we are two people.  Sure, our model may not enable us to dominate markets or become a Fortune 500 company, but that’s not our goal.  We need our business to support us and the life we want to live.  

Common Craft Blog: Being Lightweight – Business Design, July 2008

I provide these points as evidence that Big Enough isn’t a brainstorm, or a trend that we recently noticed. We’ve been at it for over 12 years and have stuck to the same constraints we agreed upon back then. Being lightweight and Big Enough is who we are.

Learn more about Big Enough.

Common Craft and Camping on Tuesdays

Common Craft and Camping on Tuesdays

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

Maybe and Sachi in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Maybe and Sachi in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Camping on Tuesdays is a kind of philosophy for Sachi and me that came from running our company Common Craft. It represents how we look at our time, our lifestyle and the sources of our happiness. It’s a recognition that we can choose to live by slightly different rules and expectations.

The idea that became Camping on Tuesdays started around a campfire on a busy Saturday night many years ago. As we settled in for an evening of car camping, we surveyed our surroundings. We were enjoying the great outdoors, but we had little in the way of privacy. With kids out of school for the weekend, whole families were out walking dogs, riding bicycles, and peering into our campsite. At night, we heard waves of laughter and music from sites near and far. It was camping in public, and for a while, we never thought it could be very different.

Eventually, we started backpacking and found that miles of hiking tended to weed out most campers and allow us a bit of the privacy and quiet we so desired. But even long, steep trails could get crowded on weekends in the Seattle area. We knew our perfect camping scenario must be out there, somewhere.

Alongside this search for camping nirvana, we were running Common Craft. To our surprise, videos we started making in 2007 became viral hits and made us, to a small and fleeting degree, internet famous. The attention from these videos led us to opportunities we could never have imagined. We were hired to make custom videos for companies like LEGO, Google, Intel, Dropbox, and Ford. Our original videos were viewed tens of millions of times. I wrote a book and became a keynote speaker. It was a stroke of luck that changed our lives and we’ve been working to build onto that luck ever since.

And through it all, Common Craft always felt like an experiment. It was our laboratory and we were testing what was possible. We decided Common Craft would not grow in traditional terms or pursue traditional opportunities. Despite a lot of demand, we wouldn’t hire a team, find conventional office space and take on more custom projects. Instead, the company would remain intentionally small, home-based, and with low overhead.

At heart, we decided to design Common Craft around our time and independence. We hoped for two things: (1) enough income to support us and (2) a lifestyle that promoted our long term happiness. This decision meant we’d never have employees, investors or an HR department. We’d also never sell the company for a life-changing sum. Whatever Common Craft could become, it would be fit for two people.

Over time, we started selling video files from our website so educators could use them in presentations. This kind of licensing meant we could earn a living, however small, in our sleep. And it was small. But over time, we put everything into making this part of the business grow because it fit so perfectly with what we dreamed Common Craft could become. It took many years and a lot of doubt, but the plan started to work.

As the company changed, so did our perception of time. The 9-to-5 schedule, five days a week, seemed to no longer apply. We worked as much or more than anyone, but that work could happen on a schedule of our choosing. We could take off Wednesday and work on Saturday. We could play in the morning and work at night. We could optimize errands for avoiding traffic or long lines at Costco.

Honestly, I didn’t take to this new schedule as easily as I thought I would. As much as I wanted to live unconcerned about conventional workday schedules, I found myself drawn to it. I discovered a part of me that wants that structure. Sachi was the opposite and became our lifestyle champion. She would say, “We worked so hard to get here, why would we waste it?”

She was right and I slowly transitioned to seeing the beauty in living outside of normal workday hours.

One of the sure-fire ways we could celebrate this new independence was camping. We could camp on Tuesdays, instead of weekends. We could arrive at virtually any campground and find it nearly empty, as if we were lone survivors of a plague. For us, camping on Tuesdays became a symbol of choosing the unconventional route and making our lifestyle a priority.

Today, we’re still camping on Tuesdays and Common Craft is operating in a similar fashion. In fact, it feels like our lives and Common Craft are intertwined more than ever before. It’s the motor that runs in the background, creating space for us to continue experimenting with the business and our personal lives. One day, we’ll get it right.