Being an entrepreneur is not just about making your own hours, being your own boss, or someday making millions of dollars. It is much more than that. Entrepreneurship is an opportunity to make the world a better place.
I don't mean this in a hokey, over-the-top, or feel-good kind of way. I mean it in an honest, down-to-earth, practical kind of way. As an entrepreneur, I get to shape the way things work within my company's walls in any way I see fit. My choices as a business owner may only make small ripples in the universe at large, but they make a huge impact on my world, on my employees' worlds, and on my customers' worlds.
Hooked on a Feeling
When my business, Metal Mafia, opened more than nine years ago, there were a lot of things I wasn't sure of--whether our investors would ever see their money again, whether we would make it to the end of our three-year office lease, whether I was a good enough leader to carry us through even the most treacherous challenges. One thing I believed for certain was that it was possible to do business while doing right by those around me.
I wanted to come to work every day with people who inspired me, and I wanted them to see my company not just as a place to get a paycheck, but a place where what people do matters. I wanted to work in a place that put people--employees and customers alike--ahead of greed. I wanted to make great products that would make our customers' businesses run smoother, that would be made well at a price that was affordable, and that pushed the envelope in terms of imagination. Nothing has changed about that choice. I reaffirm every day that making money does not have to be done at the expense of my staff's well-being, the quality of our products or the trust of my customers, and I feel good about that.
As an entrepreneur, I have the extraordinary luck to live in a world I like, every day, all day. This makes the idea of being my own boss seem small in comparison to the team I get to be a part of.
My employees love this world as well. It’s one that places high value on them as individuals and on their contributions. Metal Mafia employees get a living wage, not a minimum one, and they not only have access to, but are provided with top-flight health coverage completely at no charge. They almost never are called on to work beyond their scheduled hours, and because of that, they lead rich lives outside of the office as well. They make it home in time to help their children with homework and have vacation time on a European scale. They never have to request salary reviews, because as soon as I see they are contributing more, they are compensated more in turn. As an entrepreneur, I can provide this kind of opportunity and lifestyle, even when the bigger world does not. This alone is worth more than all the money in the world.
Finally, as an entrepreneur, I have both the privilege and the right to say how my customers will be treated. We have a nice message on our phone system that our customers almost never hear--because a live person answers every call. Our orders ship the same day, and no customer receives his box more than two days after he orders, shipping time included, no matter how far away from us he really is. Our orders arrive 99% complete, and our products are exactly what we promise--from the catalogue to the customer's shelves.
While these things always seem so simple and straightforward to me, a lot of companies can't deliver on them the way mine can. This makes my customers happy, and me as well. There is really no greater satisfaction than a job well done.
If you are an entrepreneur, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you are thinking about becoming one, this is the powerful motivation at the core of the entrepreneurial calling. It may be hard to make changes in the outside world, but in the business world, where there is a will, there's a way.