Always a bride’s maid, never a bride…

A reflection on my relationship with entrepreneurship

A friend recently asked me point blank “why haven’t you started your own thing yet?” To be honest, that’s not something I’d spent much time pondering until that point. Oddly now I can’t get the question out of my head. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got plenty of interesting side projects. I’m in the process of writing a book. I do a lot of speaking. I’m even building tools that I wish existed.

Now there’s a chance that any one of those could potentially become a real “thing”. You know the kind with employees, bank accounts, taxes and the stress of chasing capitol. Basically, I’m describing the startup culture dream. But is that really my dream? I’m not so sure. I do “side projects” as a way to learn and grow. I like that they move at my pace and evolve as I do. I enjoy changing the way I think about things and teaching others what I know. Would my approach be different if my side projects suddenly became responsible to investors or even my family as a means of income?

I’m perfectly capable of branching out to create my own destiny, but I realized something; I don’t mind working for “the man”. Sure I could do without the frequently archaic processes, politics and egotism that inhabit many business environments (including startups). But at the same time, I’m also happy to leave the stress of running a business to someone else. Trust me. Performance reviews aren’t fun. Accounting and forecasting are painful at best. And, to be blatantly honest, I don’t enjoy business development. All things a founder with any hope of success must figure out how to get done. And that doesn’t even include chasing investors or the headaches that come with scaling fast.

At the end of the day, I’m happiest when I make stuff. I really love to shepherd fragile ideas into amazing things that people love to use. I’m perfectly happy being a product designer, even if what I make is based on someone else’s idea. I’d even go so far as saying, I’ll care for those ideas as if they were my own with my full energy and respect.

Entrepreneurship is no longer enough to satisfy our culture. We’re now at a point where having multiple businesses, with successful exits, under one’s belt is a point of honor. But here’s the thing. Every one of those successful businesses have had other people, often outside the limelight, who contributed to making the idea into a real valuable product or service. These early employees, partners and friends rarely receive congratulations but they’re responsible for crafting a solution that would have been out of reach for the founder(s) on their own.

Maybe when the right idea comes along, I’ll pounce, take if off the market and make things official. But until then, I’ve realized I’m perfectly happy in the role of maker, coach or friend. I’m writing this because you might be in the same position and I think thats perfectly fine. You don’t need to be a founder to enjoy a job well done. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So if you’re looking for someone to help grow your idea let me know. I make prototypes. I guide organizations to understand problems. I suggest solutions and even help achieve validation or critique all with the goal of your idea living happily ever after.

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By day, I’m a product designer currently working to improve healthcare communication. By night I’m a Google Expert, a product mentor and writing a book about getting started in UX. Follow me on Twitter @howitson.