Kiss Serial Entrepreneurship Goodbye

Starting business after business lacks intimacy, say the Boss Ladies in their inaugural post. Your business can have a deeper personal payoff.

boss ladies

Starting business after business lacks intimacy, say the Boss Ladies in their inaugural post. Your business can have a deeper personal payoff.

“If you’re not willing to sell your business, it’s a hobby,” said Rob, a friend of mine who owns a small web development firm just upstairs from me. There were four of us around the table, all small business owners and all game to trade ideas and new realizations while munching crispy cauliflower at our favourite Lebanese place. “I mean, that’s what they say, right?” He looked around the table to gauge our reactions.

A lively discussion ensued about whether we’d be willing to walk away from the companies we’d founded and lovingly nurtured – or rather, what it would take to convince us to let go. Was it just a matter of the price tag being high enough, or were there other factors binding us to our businesses?

Building a Sustainable Business

I myself find it hard to imagine selling my company and moving on. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve read The E-Myth and I understand the value of building a business that’s saleable. But for the foreseeable future, I simply can’t envision a job I’d enjoy more. Over the ten years we’ve been in business, my partner and I have built a company that not only sustains six employees, but is part of a community that includes our clients, our vendors, and our colleagues. I love coming to work, and I love the people I work with. We’ve built more than a commodity we can sell; we’ve built ourselves a pretty fantastic life.

We started small – it was just the two of us for the first five years – and we’ve grown slowly, one step at a time, keeping an eye on profitability but also on maintaining reasonable hours, working with great clients, and doing work that challenges and excites our team. In many ways, our story is typical of small businesses; it’s not a glamorous story, and you’re unlikely to see it splashed across the business pages of a major daily anytime soon, but it’s a story we wrote and we’re proud of it.

Finding the Real Value Proposition

There are plenty of entrepreneurs who love business qua business, particularly the ones who proudly dub themselves “serial entrepreneurs”; they’re the ones who start businesses to sell them, and they tend to grow them as quickly as they can in that pursuit before handing them off to the new owners and moving on to their next venture. I’m often amazed at the rate of growth they can achieve, and growth for the sake of growth is a valid model, but it’s only one model. We’ve chosen slow and sustainable growth, and we’ve found it to be rewarding not only on a financial level, but on other levels as well.

And I don’t think it’s just me. Most of the business owners I know started their businesses at the intersection of a personal passion and market opportunity, and are looking at more than the financial bottom line (or what people usually mean when they say “the business side of things”). Whether they’re selling software as a service, like Rob, or taboulleh and falafel (like our host Victor), they love their work, and money’s just the stuff that helps them keep their passion alive.

Are we fools to want to keep hold of our businesses, and continue growing only as when it feels right to do so? Are we too risk-averse, or too emotionally attached? Maybe. But maybe the business world has room for monogamous entrepreneurs, too – bosses who intend to stick around for the long haul.