Personal experience: hobby = business?
I would like to share my experience of reaching the balance between professional and personal affairs. And I have to tell you how important it is to demarcate them.
I am sure that love to your own business is a direct and the shortest way to happiness. Histories of many successful companies just confirm that fact. Large corporations and world brands take their beginnings from like-minded team members enthusiastic about their work, who worked not for the sake of financial reports and market shares, but because they took pleasure of the work process itself. And we can say that a hobby is a correct starting capital for business which has all chances for success.
And company Promwad developed just in accordance with such a scenario: we, technical college graduates, a group of friends, founded the company in 2004. All began with children’s interests in physics and with a programmable engineering calculator. After that I studied at the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics and then – work in the field of electronics design.
In 2002 I took part in a development project of a new platform for fiber-optic communication lines measurement. Some of the best specialists in Belarusian system-on-chip (SoC) and Embedded Linux operating system gathered around this ambitious and complex project.
For a product development company, where within its walls a new device was created, it would not be profitable keeping so much personnel with deep specializations in staff. But later on we were developed independently, we gathered a team of engineers who wanted to experiment and test their ideas in the field of development of new devices.
Promwad: from a hobby to a business
We gradually came to the border, where a hobby ends and a business starts. Of course, we could just stay as a friendly team of developers. But we clearly defined our priorities and decided to organize a company. Then we made our first conscious steps; and our goals emerged.
In 2007 we consciously captured a broad niche in the field of electronics development and practically captured all types of consumer devices. For designing devices estimated for large batches, it took a lot of experts, including single-disciplined ones.
In total, for 11 years, Promwad grew into one of the largest independent electronics design houses in Eastern Europe. Our team consists of about 100 people, and the organizational structure consists of more than 10 departments.
ARF: from a hobby to a business and back
Along with developing my business in electronics I was busy with projects in the field of active leisure. Since 2002, together with other people fond of mountain biking and hiking, I opened bike seasons, organized festivals and cycle races.
In 2007 we established Promwad Tour Adventure Races Cup, which includes a series of multi-sport competitions: running, biking, skiing, orienteering etc. Hundreds of people became participants of those competitions. We indeed were keen on our project and decided to put it on commercial rails. We worked out a strategy.
In 2008, they founded the Adventure Races Federation of Belarus (ARF). The plan was the following: we come out to the market with an advertisement of sports events under the Federation’s brand, then gain experience at free mass events and along with that we would develop a commercial sector – organizing team buildings, corporate leisure activities and mini expeditions – and all that with very high quality and in a high price category.
All this was done not for the sake of commerce as such, we needed funds for development of the best athletes and mountain biking in general. We planned to reinvest profits in non-profit projects.
When such plans appeared, my hobby turned into business again. However, this time our strategy led us to the dead end. Most members of our team, multi-sport athletes and travelers, continued taking our project as their hobby and that’s why they did not use new business rules in practice. The strategy remained unrealized.
It was a useful experience. I saw that not all projects need in long-term planning and financial measurements. Adventure races moved into the category of hobby again, and that decision gave us a new charge of energy. An entire community formed around our project, new leaders, who work just for fun, have appeared there, on their own pure initiative.
The organizers were free to create, generate ideas, without limiting themselves by severe strategy frames. We saw more openness and less competition among team members. And self-supporting environment formed there. From the side of Promwad company as the titled sponsor of Promwad Tour and ARF events only legal, financial and ideological support needed.
The project returned back on non-profit rails, we began to openly share our experience with like-minded people and we had a real pleasure in that. Our races lost some quality, but their warm atmosphere returned. And for the sake of that freedom and friendly attitude at Promwad Tour events, professional teams from Russia where adventure races are held at a very high level and as a hard and highly competitive sport, come here.
Eventually we were able to preserve the project based on the values shared by all participants: respectful attitude to the nature and to competitors during races, development of spirit strength, a healthy lifestyle and thinking philosophy. We created a natural environment that gives additional energy to many people.
Conclusions: the difference between a hobby and a business
It is very important to make a timely choice: work or hobby. Balancing on the brink is difficult, and you don’t have to, otherwise you risk to shut down the oxygen to your entertainments and you will not be able to go far in business.
It is a fundamental truth, but strangely enough, my personal experience is not uncommon. I witnessed how prospective development teams faced problems because they mixed two different approaches. They stay at start-up level for too long and cannot reach a new level of development.
I will try to make parallels and highlight the distinctive features of a hobby and a business:
– Material and collective interest
– Significant planning horizons which depend on the size of the business
– Constant involvement in the activities and development
– Responsibility before the staff, customers and business partners
– Business relationships
– Creative and own interest
– Floating planning horizons depending on participation
– A possibility to stay away for a while
– Responsibility for your own time only
– Friendly relationships
Human life is the desire for harmony, and a businessman’s life is the desire for a balance between personal and professional matters. Therefore in my schedule I find time not only for work, but for personal hobbies as well. The hobby became a source of renewable energy that I use for business development.
And how do find your own balance between work and hobbies?