Why Are We Doing This?
At a recent gathering with some of my founder colleagues, we were discussing where we are with our businesses. We were all on a rollercoaster!
Of the five of us, three were in the middle of/just been though a seriously stressful period of financial issues, shareholder problems, losing key staff members. (all of us had experienced each of these issues, not spread out between us). The fourth of the group was early days in the funding cycle and had it all ahead of him. The fifth was at the top of the rollercoaster cycle. He had just closed a very stressful round. He had lost key staff in the process, had many sleepless nights, had been on the road and missing his family life, was under personal financial pressure, but had come through it. The funding was in the bank, staff had been replaced and they had landed some key projects.
Being at the top of the cycle and already wondering when the next sudden dip in the rollercoaster would come, he posed the question – ‘why do we do this?’
Everyone one of us had made more money when we had jobs (even as self-employed consultants, so not just those in the corporate world) we worked less hours and had less stress. So why leave that comfort to be a Founder?
Was it the appeal of the big exit? The answer to that was categorically ‘no’ from everyone present.
Initially several answers came out, innovating – creating something genuinely new and with meaning for people – not just widgets to be sold for a profit
Being a leader
Taking up a challenge
Freedom?! Really! Even though we worked harder for longer hours and less pay than we ever did when we had ‘jobs’, there was still a feeling of freedom as we are in charge of our own destiny. (As the joke goes, a Founder is someone who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 9-5)
However, as the conversation deepened, we realised it is more ingrained than all of this.
It’s about meaning.
For me (and my co-founders in PiP iT) it has been about the Social Impact. (We are a Financial Inclusion company who help migrants support their families at home – cheaper and safer) It was the thought that we can make a real difference in people’s lives that drove us on when through the bootstrapping years. It was the potential scale of the difference we could make if we could successfully scale our company that keeps us on the rollercoaster.
If you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur for all the money you will make, you need to reconsider. All going well you will make money, hopefully lots of it. However, that potential future income, won’t get you through the days when you find out you didn’t get the funding you hoped for or didn’t get that contract you thought you would get.
It is the meaning behind what you are doing and why that keeps us going.
The other founders in our conversation had very different business to mine, but they all derived meaning from it.
That’s why we do it.