Be Good, Have Fun, Make Money: When Two Out of Three IS Bad

Originally posted on the Bound blog on May 15, 2012 while I was CEO.

It Takes All Three.

I tend to be introspective to a fault. There are at almost all times two parallel processes for me: the event, action, decision, what have you AND my reflection on it. Let me just say what you’re thinking, “this guy must be difficult to live with.” Affirmative.

“Bound” — as short-hand for launching a company, pursuing a dream, working with partners internal and external partners, producing a physical good, and on and on — has been a major activity in my life to say the least. In parallel with that activity I have the requisite reflection on the activity. Six months in, I have gained a deep respect for any company that has been in business for more than 5 years. That is a tremendous feat. I’m flat out in awe of the likes of GE. 100+ years?

In my reflection I have consistently circled back again and again to answering the question, “What is the point of all this?” I guess you could also categorize this as me wanting to articulate a mission statement.

Well, I am happy to report that I have it, for now. Any entrepreneurial endeavor, in my opinion and certainly any that I want to be a part of, must achieve all three of the following for long-term success:

  • BE GOOD
  • HAVE FUN
  • MAKE MONEY

None of this “two out of three ain’t bad” business here. Here are the “two out of three” outcomes:

  • BE GOOD + HAVE FUN = An awesome time you’ll never forget but had to end because you needed to pay rent
  • BE GOOD + MAKE MONEY = A positive time in which you made a difference but ended because you felt bored and unfulfilled
  • HAVE FUN + MAKE MONEY = A lucrative, exciting time that eventually ended either due to the weight of your own conscience or because your selfishness caused the ground to erode out from under you.

It is my goal for Bound now and always to achieve all three. We won’t last otherwise.

BE GOOD This means being a positive presence in the world; having the world be better for your existence than without it. I don’t just mean stuff like Toms’ one-for-one shenanigans. Being good includes but is more than doing good. It means being firmly committed to win-win agreements, cultivating healthy relationships with partners, vendors, co-workers in addition to environmentally sustainable business practices and social responsible decision making. Telogical Systems is an excellent example of this. A company from which I have learned a great deal about being good in business, not just being good at business.

HAVE FUN I don’t really need to spend a lot of time elaborating here. Work needs to be interesting and enjoyable, not as some sort of inalienable right, but only so far as that work needs to be sustainable.

I’ve done a lot of things for employment that were neither interesting nor enjoyable but that’s just it: they are discreet periods in the past. It doesn’t last. Low engagement = high turnover. I would also say that low engagement = low productivity = low revenue, but that’s another post.

MAKE MONEY If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? So it is for a good, fun project that does not produce value capable of propagating itself. If you go out of business, it doesn’t matter how good or fun it was. It’s over.

Ironically, if “making money” becomes your top priority the the other two almost invariably suffer to the point that ultimately you do not make money. As a confession, I’ve had to confront this myself over the course of Bound’s pregnancy and life to date. When you isolate just the making money component, many companies qualify as good examples. I was going to cite Apple ($560/share? ridiculous) but I’m going with GE. Seriously, surviving for 100 years through every up and down you can imagine is just astonishing.

So that’s it. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo: Be Good, Have Fun, Make Money.