The Four Circles – You

Posted by The Icehouse on 17/10/2023 12:00:00 AM

The Four Circles are the all-important overlapping elements which work together to contribute to a stimulating, successful and satisfying life as an owner manager. 

The Four Circles – You

Created by Darl Kolb, David Irving, Deb Shepherd and Chris Woods in the landmark publication ‘Changing Gears: how to take your Kiwi business from the kitchen table to the board room’ by Auckland University Press, 2009, The Four Circles concept also forms the backbone of The Icehouse’s flagship Owner Manager Programme (OMP).

The four circles are:

  • The Business – Its purpose, values, competitive advantages, core competency, strategy, business model, assets and liabilities

  • You In The Business – How owner managers direct, manage and lead the business

  • You in the Community – The community and global context within which small and medium-sized business are situated and the ways they can lead change

  • You – The owner manager should have a life that includes good health and a happy fulfilling relationship with their life partner, children and friends 
As Changing Gears explains, ‘The ‘you’ circle is about just that, you yourself, a person who happens to own a business, but who also may want to make a life, not just a living. 

‘If you are in good personal health and a strong state of mind you are better able to contribute to your business… especially as an owner-manager, your health and well-being is pivotal for the [four] circles to work together as a whole. And when they all work together, life is invigorating and fun.’

Problems arise when you find yourself too focused on the business, to a point where it is all-consuming, thus limiting your capacity to manage the business effectively.

Simply put, in our experience, a healthy and happy owner is a high-functioning owner. A high-functioning owner contributes significantly to a high-functioning business. 

However, the life of an owner manager is always in a state of ebb and flow and recent global events have undoubtedly created even greater pressures, which is why The Icehouse places such a huge emphasis on owner wellbeing and ‘You’.

“We were probably a bit ahead of our time on this,” says Liz Wotherspoon, Chief Executive at The Icehouse. “We’ve always known how important it is. Owner wellbeing is a challenge because what we don't want is for those negative things to be a consequence of running and growing a profitable and sustainable business. 

“When we first set off on our journey, we couldn’t ignore the personal, or the ‘you’. So we don’t hide from it. We hold that mirror up, and we challenge them. When we ask owners to set their goals at the end of OMP, we also ask them to set goals in that ‘you’ circle, not just in the business circle. Moreover, for many of our alumni, the OMP wellbeing and resilience sessions are the most rewarding.”

Our alumni feedback to us how much of this pressure they’re under; how they have to deal with imposter syndrome, overwork, wearing too many hats, consolidating a livelihood for themselves and the people they employ. Often the only option is just sucking it up and getting on with things. 

This is why ‘grit’, ‘resilience’ and ‘wellbeing’ are such important entries in The Icehouse lexicon. With guidance, it’s possible to develop these entrepreneurial superpowers. But how to get there?

OMP’s wellbeing sessions, for example, include priceless speaker advice and expert information from The Resilience Institute.

“Some of the workshops we did with the likes of Sven Hansen (founder of The Resilience Institute) on resilience, from a personal perspective, really stand out,” says Kurt Sandtmann, Managing Director of TRACTA and another OMP alumni.

“Pre-Icehouse… I took liberties on myself. I would work a lot harder, I would put myself second… Some of the disciplines that were learned from The Icehouse have been really valuable through this next phase of life,” says Alex Haden, Managing Director of Preston Rowe Paterson and an OMP alumni.  

“OMP has changed me hugely, in every aspect of my life. I'm a lot healthier – the sessions with Sven Hansen, I thought, ‘This guy's too good to be true, it can't be legit!’  But there's a whole lot of disciplines that can come with that, so getting up nice and early in the morning, exercising regularly. I drink a lot less than I used to, so my physical self is better, and I've got a lot more resilience as a result.”

We know that spending more time with friends and whānau, dedicating ourselves to exercise and getting more sleep contributes to a better ‘us’, but taking that first step to wellness is easier said than done, especially when there’s a business to run.

“Dr Sven Hansen’s resilience app has taught me how to sleep! And now, because of the techniques I learned, I can actually get to sleep in under five minutes, and have a more restful sleep. As an adult, learning how to sleep sounds weird, but it's changed my life!” says Kylie Bosanac, Business Manager and co-owner of Bosanac Builders. 

Looking for wellbeing assistance but not sure where to start? There are numerous excellent government-backed organisations and independent agencies offering practical advice around workplace resilience for business owners and their teams. 

Let’s get your circles working for you. Contact us if you require more information about what The Icehouse, the Owner Manager Programme and the Leadership Development Programme can do for you and your teams in this space.


For information on programmes, workshops and business coaching services from The Icehouse, click here.

For more business ownership and leadership advice, check out more of our resources.

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