ANNETTE AND PATRICK ARCHAMBEAU have a neat little window-washing business here in northern Colorado. They’re focused, professional, and dedicated to building their loyal client base.
But they’re also quite clear that this company isn’t the purpose of their lives. That honor falls to the dear horses they serve.
Back in the mid 1990s they formed a non-profit, now Archway Foal and Rescue Training. This is their deep passion, helping foals needing medical and social assistance. They typically work with an animal for 3 to 4 years, sometimes saving them from slaughter.
It’s not that uncommon for a company to be structured as a for-profit arm and a non-profit arm, but usually the two are more closely linked than this example. Patrick and Annette are clear on why they’re doing both.
Washing windows is something they’re good at, and have been doing for almost their entire married life, since 1987. They understand that this is a service with low barriers to entry, so less-than-professional upstarts will be churning through the market. They don’t really worry about those competitors, though, because they’ve established their particular niche and have developed a strong following.
Quite simply, they stick to what they’re good at, and don’t attempt to go after contracts where they won’t be able to deliver great service.
The foals, on the other hand, are their heart and passion. It’s their life purpose, bonding them and their family together into an activity which makes a difference.
One of the downsides of doing work like this is that they realize they can’t possibly help even a significant proportion of the animals in need. It could be incredibly depressing, just a drop in the ocean.
But they focus instead on the animals they do help, affecting the quality of their lives and those who interact with them. Even just two new horses a year makes a difference.
I appreciate that Annette and Patrick offer some valuable advice for those looking to create a values based business. First, start with something you love and aligns with your purpose. “How can we not be helping these horses?”
I realize that figuring out your purpose or passion is much harder than it sounds. I’ve worked with many clients who flit around between advice from parents and well-meaning friends, engaging in fun activities, and making a living – without ever converging on something approaching that Reason For My Life. Sometimes it can take 30 or 50 or more years to emerge, especially if you’re not asking yourself the deep questions.
This brings up their second piece of advice: To grow, learn, and be flexible. Shortly after getting married, these two started the window-washing company. Originally they weren’t that inspired about it, but then discovered that they loved the freedom it gave them.
Then they got into wildlife rescue, wilderness tracking, and finally ended up working with horses. Through this they’ve connected with great people, explored a range of passions, and ended up with something they find deep and important. Worth dedicating their lives to.
Patrick was clear on his third piece of advice: “Don’t do it the way society tells you, that sets you up for failure.” This is a couple who are highly independent and self-sufficient, but I agree that this has value for almost everyone.
Our society is set up to make things average. We’d like to think we celebrate extraordinary achievement, but in fact we have envy and even awe, but rarely strive for being extraordinary at the personal level.
You can’t be extraordinary at everything; you have to focus on a niche. But the Archambeaus have shown us that if you dedicate your life to a particular passion, and get very good at it, that you can make a huge difference. Not with fame and fortune, perhaps, but is that really what life’s about?