In the entrepreneurial community, most everyone loves to celebrate a good exit--that acquisition or IPO that turns a team's dream and hard work into a truly impressive payday. And why not? We all enjoy the vicarious thrill of imagining what it must be like to suddenly have a bank balance with a whole lot more zeroes after it.
But over on the Pastry Box Project recently, Natasha Lampard, a New Zealand native and the co-founder of Webstock, ponders whether we should be celebrating a different kind of success and valuing continuity over cash outs.
52 Generations, One Business
Her post begins by describing a company that can only be described as an icon of continuity: Japanese hot spring hotel Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, which has been run by the same family since the year 705.
Yes, you heard that right, 7-0-5.
For 52 generations, a single family has passed down the small, immaculately kept inn, making it the longest running business in the world. What can Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan teach the average entrepreneur? Lampard suggests that the values that drive its owners might serve us much better than our current focus on growing big and growing fast.
Exist, Don't Exit
She questions the "widely accepted attitude that to be an entrepreneur, one must have an exit strategy. To focus on it as their end goal. Encouraged by investors to build towards the big pay out--even if that means abandoning their customers, who helped them achieve that which made them attractive to the investor in the first place."
Instead, she asks, should we approach our endeavors more like the stewards of this incredibly durable Japanese small business? Should we, like them, be "longpreneurs" who are "focused, not on an exit strategy, but on an exist strategy, a strategy built on sticking around; a strategy not for a buy-out, but for a handing down, a passing along."
"I wonder what decisions we would make differently if we inherited the work we do? I wonder what decisions we would make differently if our duty was to pass on the work we do?" she asks, continuing, "What if our 'exits' were bestowing upon someone you love the thing you have created and crafted with love? What if, instead of focusing on exits, we focused on sticking around? What if the focus wasn't on selling up and moving on, but instead was on handing down and passing on? I wonder what our decisions would look like if that were the ultimate goal? What would our businesses be like? What would our communities be like?"
Do you agree with Lampard that many entrepreneurs are too focused on a quick and lucrative exit? Let us know in the comments.