A very brief post by Marissa Mayer about How to Avoid Burnout got me thinking about the different types of entrepreneurs and the associated different definitions of entrepreneurial success.
Some people start companies because they want to be billionaires, others are forced into it by layoffs, others seek autonomy and independence, others just want to be able to make it to their kid’s soccer game. These different types of entrepreneurs have very different goals and, therefore, very different definitions of success. A lifestyle entrepreneur, the type of entrepreneur whose primary motivation for starting a business is the desire for a particular lifestyle, not necessarily the desire to be a billionaire, can’t measure him/herself against the same ruler as the person who wants to be the next Bill Gates or he/she will always feel like a failure and be unhappy. By the same token, the entrepreneur who is willing to sacrifice everything else to make billions can’t measure him/herself against the lifestyle entrepreneur’s ruler or he/she too will always feel like a failure and be unhappy.
Mayer suggests choosing the thing that “matters to you so much that when you miss it you’re resentful of your work.” My guess is that this key thing was a big part of the reason you decided to be an entrepreneur in the first place, so don’t lose sight of it.
If your deal-breaker item is being at your daugter’s ballet recitals, don’t get so caught up in making money that you miss one. This sounds so simple, but many entrepreneurs get so caught up in running the business and trying to be “successful” by someone else’s definition of success that they often lose sight of what their goals were to begin with. In order to be happy with your choice to be an entrepreneur, you need to constantly remind yourself of what your deal-breaker item is and then let that inform your company’s strategy. Entrepreneurship is too challenging and comes with too many headaches to be an entrepreneur and not get out of it what you’d planned to.
If you want to be a billionaire you need to seize every opportunity that comes your way, work long hours, be at all of the networking events, and basically do everything in your power to make your business grow. If that means missing birthday parties and college reunions, you’ll be able to deal because you know you’re focused on your true goals. However, if you want control of your work/life balance and the ability to spend time with family, you shouldn’t create a strategy for your company that creates exponential growth because that strategy requires your undivided attention – undivided, as in your family comes second, always.
Most entrepreneurs actually fall into the lifestyle entrepreneur category, so its important for the entrepreneurial community to remember that success isn’t always defined by a 10-digit valuation. More often than not, it’s defined by the ability to turn off the smart phone during a weekend away and enjoy the time with friends and family.
There is no right or wrong goal for your company’s growth. The important thing is to be honest with yourself about whether your company’s goals and strategies both align with your deal-breakers.
I know that this post was a little lighter than usual, but I think it’s so important for entrepreneurs to stay focused on what they set out to achieve and run their companies, not be run by their companies. As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly remind yourself that you are in control. You choose what to do when. So decide what you want, set goals that will get you there, and constantly re-evaluate your progress to make sure you’re always moving toward what you want.