Are You in Business to Make Money? Or Do You Need to Make Money to Stay in Business?
Here’s a question that I love to ask any private sector client: Which of the following two statements best describes you? I am in business to make money. Or I need to make money to stay in business. Personally, I think the way you answer that question is very important, because understanding why you do something helps clarify the way you should do it.
Suppose your answer to the question is “I am in business to make money.” If that is true, then making money is your primary motivation and every action should move you towards that ultimate goal. As such your approach may be to start up a new enterprise with great potential to prosper and grow. Or invent something unique that everyone will need or want. Companies like Microsoft, or Apple, or Facebook, that came from ‘nothing’ but have become part of the everyday lives of many humans. Then once you create your business and grown it to a level of value, you should sell it for great profit, take some of that money, and do it again with some different venture. And again and again.
It really doesn’t matter what each business is, as long as you make money, because typically this type of entrepreneur is not interested in being in any one business long term. They enjoy the start up and the excitement of rapid growth, but after that business is simply the means to the end they seek. With that end being the accumulation of wealth. And if that all sounds “right” to you, then the first statement probably really is your answer to the question and making money is what truly motivates you.
But I’ll bet that some of you at first said “Of course I am in business to make money…” only to question that answer after reading the scenario I described above. Because maybe you don’t see yourself starting business after business and selling each one.
And for some others, there is no question. Their perspective and their actions may be very different. For them money is instead the means to the end. They will clearly say “My driving motivation in business is not to make money. But I do need money to be in business”. Someone doing what they do because they love doing it, will often define their business that way.
The best personal example I can offer is when I was helping our team at TWM, Inc. to define why we existed as a firm. We kept brainstorming and drilling down through layers of rote answers as we worked our way closer and closer to the truth. And when that truth was spoken – that we did what we did because “solving problems is our passion” – everyone said “yes, that’s it!” That phase became part of the firm’s Core Purpose statement. Because if clearly conveyed why these engineers and surveyors chose their career in the first place. Within each of them was the desire – the need – to solve problems. That was what they loved. That’s what motivated them.
Yes, like any private enterprise, they needed to make money to stay in business. But it was not simply making money that drove them. Instead, making money gave them the ability to do what they loved to do. Seeing it from that perspective put “work” in a whole new light.
I’d encourage everyone to stop and assess your own business. Ask yourself the above question. And see what you might discover about your own core purpose – the core reason your business exists.
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Vertical Performance, Inc.
15 N. 1st Street, Suite 202
Belleville, IL 62220
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