Build for the love of building
I recently visited my close friend’s parents for Christmas. I’ve been going to their house for over 20 years. We’ve partied hard, shared some of the deepest conversations, and blasted music that scared the neighbors in that house. Over a drink and some sumptuous cake, they told me they are planning to sell the house and move into an apartment. As they’re growing older, maintaining an independent house is becoming harder by the day. Also, they have family on the other side of town and want to be closer to them. The pandemic has made everyone realize the importance of family and close ties and the fact that we can’t put things off for a future that is growing more uncertain by the day.
The news took me by surprise. Of course, it made sense but the fact that that they didn’t plan to stay in that house forever caught me off guard.
For our parents’ generation, building and owning a house was a big deal. They spent decades working and saving so they could have a house they called their own. Sure enough, times change. Children grow up and move on. Cities are getting overcrowded and people are looking to move to quieter places.
Unless you are a real estate overlord, you don’t build a house with the intention of selling it one day for 100 times the current value. You build a house because you want to provide security for your family and create happy memories.
After I switched paths from advertising to startups, one thing which I constantly hear is about an exit strategy. There is a lot of talk about selling something off for an astronomical price and walking away with millions.
Yes, there is a difference between a business and a house. Businesses get bought, sold, and merged all the time, and there are business compulsions that call for this. There is nothing wrong with selling a business — in many ways, it’s rites of passage. Yet, this obsession with building something with the sole intention to sell off at a future date can lead to less than optimal decisions.
If your only aim is to sell what you’re building, the growth at all costs mindset comes into play and so does the tendency to run roughshod on people. You’re not building, you’re just rushing to create something that can be sold. It’s like the real estate mafia who miss the trees (literally) and only see how much value a piece of land has. With this kind of approach, what do you think will happen? If you see people as cost centers, you will do anything to maximize your profits. If you see them as human beings with dreams and fears, you’ll give them space to spread their wings. Ironically, this is more profitable, but surprisingly, harder to see. While the news is abuzz of entrepreneurs who have sold their startups, what I am more interested in is this — if you take the money out of the equation, what did you build?
Did you build a space where people could thrive?
Did you create a space where people went back home to their families proud of the work they had done?
Did you create a space where people were treated as human beings?
We haven’t bought our daughter her first Lego set, yet. And when we do, we’ll tell her to build from her imagination, to bring something to life for the love of it.
The world needs more people who build something because they want to serve people and leave behind something better than they found it.
Till next time,
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