I was talking to a mentee this weekend, and he made reference to the lifestyle entrepreneur vs. the growth entrepreneur. He believes he’s a growth-type of entrepreneur, or at least, he’s growth-oriented. This led to friction when he was working with a friend who was more lifestyle-oriented. He pointed out how the business could have done more. He came into his friend’s company with suggestions on where and how to grow. The business owner, however, was less than interested. They eventually went separate ways.
There’s an important realization here– we have different aspirations. As much as everyone wants wealth, we should recognize that wealth comes in many forms. To that, folks have varying views on what their purpose and drives are. Where do they want to go? Why?
Yes, lots of folks these days look at successful entrepreneurship as billion-dollar exits. That’s extremely, extremely rare. Getting to millions in revenue is difficult. It requires lots of work to build a sustainable business.
Instead, many entrepreneurs may find happiness as lifestyle entrepreneurs – those looking to grow organically (if expansion is even a top priority) and one that maintains a small infrastructure. Here, the pressures of board members, high infrastructure costs, growing payroll, etc. are limited. Instead, lifestyle entrepreneurs are building a business that maintains a way of life. They want to achieve and maintain a level of living and business.
Most businesses in America are lifestyle – making up a large chunk of small businesses (those with 500 or less employees). In fact, small businesses also make up 99.7% of all U.S. firms. (SBA)
Also, the type of entrepreneur can shift depending on situation. I’ve watched many entrepreneurs shift from growth-oriented to lifestyle-oriented. There’s nothing wrong with being one way or another. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with notwanting to be an entrepreneur. In today’s age of glorifying entrepreneurship, there’s little recognition of the difficulties of entrepreneurship. This causes many to plunge into entrepreneurship ill-prepared and not recognizing their WHY and PURPOSE. Why are they interested in this direction?
When considering any venture, be it growth-oriented entrepreneurship, lifestyle oriented, or even a new job change with a big corporate, think more about WHY. How does this new focus align to the why?
I had a lunch with an entrepreneur recently talking about his experiences in startups in growth-mode and those in early-stage (pre-product-market fit). The most interesting wrinkle in our talk was having a young child while at these startups. I’m at the age where many people around me are having multiple kids. So, as I look around at possible co-founders, I must consider their personal lives – priorities.
My friend shared how having a young child meant he was much more cognizant of the time he spent working on the business. As one of the co-founders of his current company and having been a part of several successful (and some unsuccessful) ventures in the past, he’s building into the company’s culture strong balance.
He is also a lot more cognizant of his time. He focuses on efforts that will materially move the needle for the company. That can mean delaying certain bug fixes or existing customer complaints. His focus now reduces the number of “experimental” efforts without strong indications of traction.
A common aspect of startups and the corporate world is that life still goes on. Priorities do shift. The difference is that at a startup, sometimes experiments are the best way of finding the right thread to pull on. The balancing act, then, is the right experiments with the right lifestyle.