Why Ask Why
I have to admit a bias in favor of any book that grows out of a letter to the editor, especially when I happen to be the editor in question. Even so, I have no qualms about urging every businessperson to read Our Wildest Dreams: Women Making Money, Having Fun, Doing Good (HarperBusiness, 1992), by Joline Godfrey, whose letter in 1989 led first to an interview in our January 1990 issue, then to an Inc.-sponsored research project, and finally to this book. I say "every businessperson" because I believe men need Our Wildest Dreams as much as women do.
The book's real contribution is to focus attention on the process required to build a business that is as fulfilling spiritually and psychologically as it is successful financially. You begin that process by asking yourself the right questions before you go into business. Here are some of the questions that successful woman business owners told Godfrey they had pondered: "Do I want meaning? What meaning? Do I want to grow, explore, discover? Do I want to devote all, some, or most of my life to this effort? Do I want to have fun? Do I want to create an environment within which others can have fun too? Do I want to work with a few or a lot of people? Do I want to make a difference? Do I want to do this alone? Do I wish to be richer than Midas? Do I want to have balance, time with family and friends? Do I want to make a contribution to the war on environmental degradation, the well-being of indigenous populations, the education of the young?"
Most men, I suspect, skip this part of the process. Instead of asking themselves what they want out of the business, they adopt the conventional measures of commercial success -- making a profit, maximizing shareholder value, growing fast. Then they wonder why they're not satisfied with what they achieve. After 10 years of meeting successful entrepreneurs, I am still struck by how few of them really love the businesses they have created. Too bad they didn't have this book to guide them when they were starting out.* * *