People launch their own business for a variety of reasons, whether it’s spotting a gap in the market, moving on after redundancy or pursuing a hobby. Some motivations are better than others and it has been said by many “successful” business owners that one of the worst reasons to start a new business is just to make money – there are far less painful ways to do that! Don’t get me wrong, a business obviously has to make money but setting one up for that reason alone could be setting yourself up to fail.
Don’t Chase Money, Chase Your Dreams
Surely you have a greater goal? A goal that having the money generated by the business will enable you to achieve: retiring early so you can go travelling, spending more time with your family or making a real difference to the world in some way. Money can certainly enable you to do these things but shouldn’t be the main focus and as Colin Wright says, “Chase your passions and money will come. Chase money and you may never find your passions”
People trying to make a “quick buck” or looking for an overnight formula to get rich are missing the point. Unless you are chasing something more than just money, you will give up easily. Running your own business is one of the hardest things you can do and the road is challenging so you need to have a “mission” to guide you and get you through the tough days.
Business is a Game
Plus, you miss out on the fun of running your own business: the challenge. I see my involvement in our business like a game, a game where I am both creator and player; there are some loose rules and paths to victory but ultimately it’s fluid and up to me. This is the essence of why I love running our business: I dictate the terms. I decide who plays this game with me, how we play and how we win. And taking this concept a step further, if you lose the game (your business fails), you can start again and try another business.
Some business owners can forget why they started playing the game because they get ground down by the pressure of running their own business. It’s not difficult to lose your way and forget why you started your business, after you wade through bureaucracy, accounts, marketing and everything else in between – plus, you still need to deliver your goods and services to customers. And then there’s competitors, the economy and technological changes!
Ironically, you may have set up your own business to give you freedom and control in your life, however, the very opposite is now the case – the entity you set up to help you achieve your goals now consumes you and prevents you from doing so! Instead of spending more time with your friends and family, you see them less. Instead of travelling the world, you are unable to take even one day’s holiday. Instead of doing what you want to do, you are at the mercy of your business, which dictates your actions. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Remember why you set up your business. It may not have been obvious or explicit at the time but there will be a reason. Check in with yourself, is this still your desire? If so, figure out how to change the rules of your game to make it more fun and so you can win; if not, maybe it’s time to find a new game.
What’s Your Purpose? What’s your “WHY”?
I like hearing peoples’ stories and, more importantly, why they do what they do. Yes, I can read their website and marketing literature, but that doesn’t give me the full story – where have you been and where are you going?
You don’t need to have a “mission” per se and global domination isn’t for everyone, regardless of what the current rhetoric is on “businesses of scale” however, it is important to consider why you’re running your own business. What’s your purpose?
One of the thought-leaders in this area is Simon Sinek, author of the Book, “Start with Why”, and he argues that people buy “why” you do what you do and not necessarily “what you do”. One of the many examples Sinek cites is the Wright brothers, who successfully pioneered the first manned-flight. He argues that the odds were stacked against them: their rivals were better funded, received much more press attention and had a “better” qualified team, however, despite all of that, it was the Wright brothers who achieved their goal first. Why? Because they had a burning passion.
Sinek suggested that their better-funded competitors were only doing it “for the money” and proof of this is that they gave up the day after the Wright brothers achieved the goal, as opposed to finding out how they did it or wanting to improve on their method. He condenses a lot of these ideas into this excellent 20 minute TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” and we highly recommend it: watch it here.
We launched Startup Mzansi because we felt there was a gap in South Africa with respect to startups, a real need for a focused, intensive approach to help new businesses to grow and thrive. Almost five years on we know there is a wider need to grow South Africa’s startup business culture, both in the mainstream and in Further and Higher Education, and that’s exactly what we’re working towards every single day.
“The two most important days in your life are the day your are born…and the day you find out why. – Mark Twain.
So what about you, what game are you playing? And more importantly, why? Why did you launch your business?