Why are you in business?

I posted a quote to social media which caused a bit of a stir:

“If you take a lot of time to ask, ‘how will this pay off’, you’re probably asking the wrong question. When you are trusted because you care, it’s quite likely the revenue will take care of itself.” – Seth Godin

The stir came from people wondering whether I was actually saying we’re not in business to make money and that this says caring should be ranked higher than making money. A bit of a debate then ensued about why you’re in business and that surely it’s to make money.

I have to admit … personally, I’m not. Sure making money is a bonus but I did not start my practice primarily to make money. I didn’t get a business idea, leave my job and throw everything into it. This business plan naturally requires you to make money – or within a very short time if you’re not, you’re very quickly out of business! It’s also a business plan that sees more than 80% of new businesses in Australia fail within the first five years. If you’re all about the money, IMHO you’re bound to fail.

Of course we all need to make a living – that goes without saying. But personally I feel that focusing too much on that one aspect of business – the need/desire/expectation of making money – loses sight of so many other brilliant things about working for yourself! For me those include:

  • freedom to be my own boss, to call the shots, dictate my life, my day and not account for every minute of it to a third person;
  • not being tied to a dead-end job because I need the money (trust me, I did that for a loooooong time and know how soul-destroying it is);
  • freedom to take a day off when I choose;
  • freedom to be available for my family;
  • the pleasure I get from helping other people (my clients) achieve their goals (even if for them that goal is making money!).

Funny that a recurring theme there is ‘freedom’. For me THAT is what being in business affords me.

I didn’t go into this lightly – I had a plan before I started my business (though not a ‘business plan’ in the true sense of the concept) and that plan was not to send my family bankrupt. (And this is not the same as a goal to make money.) I didn’t give up my day job – but got part-time work so the pressure wasn’t solely on my husband. (For how I got started see Episodes 4 to 7 inclusive of The Virtual Business Show Podcast!)

For me, in my practice, it’s all about what drives ME to keep going. I’m not talking lofty ideals! See the above dot points – these are WHY I started my practice and if things I’m doing in it are not meeting those then I change or get rid of them. Notice that ‘making money’ isn’t on that list. I did not start my practice to have “enough” money to meet mortgage payments, “enough” money to take holidays, pay bills or whatever. (In fact, those reasons were why I stayed in part-time employment!) I did not start my practice to be “rich”. I did not start my practice to have a 6 figure (or more) income as promised by some industry “trainers”. I started my practice because I wanted to be available for my daughter – that’s it.  Full stop. Nothing ‘lofty’ about that. It was a fairly basic, primal desire. And since February 2000, I have done just that.

Now if your primary driver for getting into business IS to make money then that’s terrific! Provided you know that is what you’re in business to do. Don’t make up other, loftier reasons why – be true to yourself and everyone else and say you’re in it for profit.

In another blog, Seth Godin says:

“And of course, when the only rudder you have is ‘profit now,’ expect that your long-term prospects are in doubt, threatened by those with a different goal, one more congruent with their customer’s needs. … Being clear about what we’re doing and why is the first step in doing it better. If you’re not happy about the honest answer to this question, make substantial changes until you are.”

Seth Godin

I couldn’t agree more.

© Lyn Prowse-Bishop