Everybody talks about the three P’s of marketing, and lately four P’s and even five in some lists. They have to work a bit to maintain the theme: Channels of distribution becomes price, for example, and marketing becomes promotion. Still, it’s nice and easy to remember. Or is that product, price and promotion with distribution becoming place?

I started out to write this post about taking care of yourself as you go about getting your business up and running. And as I wrote the first lead for it, I was talking about three P’s: passion, perseverance and priorities. Or four, adding people. And then persistence is a good word, too.

This comes up because I worry about how much we in the startup world go on about passion and perseverance, as if we are nothing but focused, build-my-business-no-matter-what entrepreneurship machines. It’s part of the mystique, the mythology of entrepreneurship: Stick to it, work harder, stay focused, make it happen.

Except that we don’t talk enough about the real priorities in life. Do you live to build your business or do you build your business to live? Are you following that passion so obsessively that you’re forgetting the people you live with? Do your kids know your name?

Quick reminder: Nobody’s last wish is to have spent more time at the office.

I may be guilty of one of those do-as-I-say-not-as-I-did moments with this post, but I’d like to think, as I look back on 30 years with startups and in startups, that I was at times motivated by wanting to have the freedom to coach the kids’ soccer team or to post on my blogs and to write an occasional book; and this just doesn’t happen without keeping track of your real priorities.

This reminds me of a small but delightful surprise I registered the first time I looked at one of Jane Applegate’s books on small business. I worked with her as a business ally for a while in the 1990s. The happy surprise was picking up her book on small business success and seeing that she started out, the first chapter, with a reminder about taking care of yourself, getting enough sleep and spending enough time with your loved ones.

More recently, I noted that John Jantsch has a short piece about exercise on his main blog. Jantsch is somebody I respect and admire, so I was happy to see him sharing some practical advice on this point, even though it had nothing to do with marketing (or very little). In The Math of Exercise he wrote:

That’s the number one complaint I hear from small businesses–I just don’t have enough time to do it all.

Well, I’ve found a magic way to get some time back each day. It’s not a marketing tip, but since I’m thinking it might help free up some time to do more marketing, it’s fair game.

The secret to getting more time each day is to invest some in exercise. I know you know that and don’t need me to tell you how to live, I just know that every single day I get some exercise I get more done. Mind you, I don’t do it enough, but I can tell you that investing 30 of the 1440 minutes I have in a day in exercise always doubles up and pays off.

So that’s priorities. Keep your priorities straight. Keep your people, preserve your life (hey, there are two more P’s), and remember that those priorities are as important as your passion and perseverance.

The fourth P? That’s your planning. Planning keeps you sane. It starts with defining success, then goes on to steps to make that happen and, we hope, a good planning process means you keep your eyes on the long-term goals while managing all the short-term stuff at the same time.

So darn, I’m getting all wrapped up in P’s now. Let’s summarize:

  • Priorities: Define your success first. What do you want from your business? Don’t get lost in the business unless you really, really want to. (Tangent: Some people do want to get lost in the business; they’re in the office because they don’t want to be at home. Is that you?)
  • People: Do you care about your people? If you’re going to take yourself away from them to build a business, give them a choice. Don’t tell them you did it for them.
  • Passion: Yeah, it’s important, because you can’t do a business right without believing in it.
  • Perseverance: Sigh … yeah. Tough, but, oh well.
  • Persistence: OK, now I’m just doing P words for no good reason. Popcorn? Pantaloons? I’ve always kind of liked paraphernalia, because it’s so hard to spell.

And then there’s point. In this case, the point is take care of yourself first. You can’t build a business right if you get lost in it and lose the rest of your life. You’re not what your business card says you are.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.