I definitely agree with this. And just like there are many ways to be a successful and happy person, I believe there are many valid ways to be a successful entrepreneur, too.
Not every entrepreneurial venture has to be a VC-funded, growth-oriented, midnight-oil-burning rocket ship. Those are the kind that get the most attention, but I think that’s probably because they make good spectacle, not because they are the best way — or even a good way — to run a business.
I’ve started several businesses in my life, and all of them have been “small businesses” in the classic sense. I’ve never had a billion dollar IPO, but I’ve also never taken outside money, done questionable things in the name of shareholder value, or been more concerned about growth hacking than personal growth.
Entrepreneurship is deeply important to me, but that’s because it’s been a wonderful tool for shaping the direction of my life and giving me more control over how I spend each day than because of fame or fortune. For me, entrepreneurial success has as much to do with alignment and freedom to choose activities that fit my values as it does financial rewards.
And even though I’m not trying to build the Next Great Multisided Marketplace, I still work very hard. I often work late at night, and sometimes on the weekends, too. But I generally put in these extra hours out of a love for my work, a desire to do things to the best of my ability, and to make sure I’m always growing and challenging myself to improve.
I also know that no matter how hard I may work, no business can succeed long-term on its founders alone.
Before long, my business partner and I will need employees of our own. When we do hire, we will want those people to have a work experience that’s as enriching and fulfilling as it can possibly be.
We’ll do everything we can to find people with values similar to ours, who believe in our mission and who want to fight for it like we do. We will need talented people who want to align with something they believe in and put their abilities to good use, but not necessarily steer that ship themselves — because steering that ship is exhausting, and scary, and dangerous… and it most definitely isn’t for everybody.
I guess it all comes down to knowing what you really want out of life, and taking (or creating) a job that facilitates that. I hope your article inspires some folks to think carefully about what really matters to them and what type of work environment/position might be the best way to achieve that.