I'll explain in a second, but let's start with the fact that I'm a long-time admirer of Mark Bittman, the food journalist who recently left The New York Times. I bought all his books. I avidly read every column. I even downloaded his app.
So when Bittman announced he was leaving journalism to work for a meal kit startup, I was sad. I would miss him.
But the other day when I read the "first installment" of his entrepreneurial journey in Fast Company, my sadness turned to anger.
It's true that Bittman admitted that starting a company is "harder than I thought." (No kidding.) But, even though his new venture has a wonderful mission ("encouraging part-time veganism, supporting sustainable agriculture and, in general, helping build the good food movement"), Bittman is ambivalent about entrepreneurship.
Here's what he wrote: "In my heart, I don't believe making money is an honorable goal, even if it's ostensibly linked to doing good things." And when he had decided to join the startup: "Was this an obvious sellout? If so, could I justify it, or was I just fooling myself?"
Wait, what? As a long-time entrepreneur, I get very cranky when someone suggests that creating and building a business is anything less than a noble endeavor. Even if you're making widgets, you're still adding economic and social value. And if you've got higher aspirations (my firm helps our clients reach, engage and motivate employees), all the better.
Here are the 7 reasons entrepreneurs are awesome. We:
- Dream big. We aspire to solve problems, make people's lives better, make a difference.
- Fail hard. Buy me a beer and I'll tell you about the time my firm lost our biggest client and as a result my (then) partner quit. Failing is so painful while you're going through it and so valuable later. And it may sound cheesy, but it's the circle of life--somebody loses and someone else goes on to change the world.
- Claw back from adversity. We fight our way out of economic downturns, natural disasters, acts of violence--and, by doing so, demonstrate courage and perseverance.
- Build something meaningful. For most of us, we're not just creating a company. We're contributing to society. Making an economic difference. Helping the community.
- Create good jobs. Even if this were the only good thing entrepreneurs do, it would be a big one. (You remember the facts, of course: In the United States, small businesses created 2 million of the 3 million private-sector jobs in 2014.)
- Nurture people. A majority of us are committed to growing our employees along with our companies. I hate it when an employee leaves my firm, but I understand that people have to leave the nest.
- Live free. Every entrepreneur knows that we're not in complete control of our lives. In fact, we acutely feel the pressure of employees, clients, suppliers and everyone else we're dependent on. But we know that the buck stops with us and we can shape our own destiny. (How cool is that?)
By the way, in addition to all of the above, entrepreneurs also make money. And we're proud of that, too.