If anything was learned from leading a class on entrepreneurship last year it is that business ownership is a complex endeavor. One size does not fit all! Business owners have different styles, dreams, motives and drivers. Some are more “principled” than others. This post is focused on two approaches: Builders and Flippers. At the risk of over simplifying, builders are in for the long haul and flippers are driven by the fastest prize possible.What makes a “business builder” tick? Purpose. To a builder, the business is not about fame, riches or recognition. It is about changing the world; a higher purpose that drives him/her causing them to spring out of bed each day and hit the ground running. There is passion behind the dream of seeing the fruition to make a difference. In the book “Mark Whitacre, Against All Odds” by Stevin Hoover (check back there will be a blog on this story in the near future) there is an ancient quote at the beginning by Martin Luther, one of the founders of the Protestant Reformation (yes there are more than one) that really caught my attention. Here it is:
“I do not fear failure, but rather I fear succeeding at something that does not really matter”.Builders don’t have to be concerned about hollow success. They know the impact to others and perhaps the world. They won’t quit and they won’t sell out regardless of the size of the bill waived under their nose. Jake Lodwick, Co-founder of Vimeo says it this way, “If you truly believe in the potential of your company to change the world for the better, there’s no excuse for settling for an acquisition. An acquisition is the end of a dream”. There is little room for an exit strategy with true builders.
Here’s the rub: Flippers own their companies (if even for a short time) and builders don’t. Builders see themselves as stewards extending ownership to a higher power rather than themselves. Builders therefore weigh all decisions in light of principles, ethics, and fairness to all constituents rather than simply doing what they want; stewards manage for a higher authority than themselves.What about staff? For builders it is all about staff. The staff are partners for success and the “Scotty in the engine room” that make it happen. It is important for them to grow and be successful along with the company. At a recent Inc Magazine Leadership Conference, we were challenged to make all employees “entrepreneur thinkers” and then figure out ways to keep them. At Edoc Service, our Vice President of Operations is leaving after 16-plus years of service to start her own company. Now that is success! We are all celebrating in view of the loss we know is coming, it is exciting to see someone grow that much. Builders don’t consider themselves true owners of the business and they surely don’t own employees. An important aspect for keeping a highly motivated and engaging staff is a safe work environment and stability at the top. If the staff thinks the CEO is going to bolt at the first opportunity instability prevails. Only in a safe and stable culture can a true team environment thrive and drive growth.
A year or two after starting Edoc Service, Inc, I received a call from my former employer offering a position to head up a new division there and turned it down without a second thought (don’t tell my wife!). Why? In spite of the early years living life as the “working poor”, there was a purpose to make this work. There simply are not enough resources anywhere to move from that track. Our purpose today is the same as it was 16 years ago (with a little more polished wording):Now, what is your dream and what is your passion? Are you ready to start living and stop working? Consider joining the “Builders Club”. ]]>