I recently invited several successful tech-entrepreneurs to a workshop to critique a business I’ve been working with as an investor. The day was full of insightful feedback and heated discussion, as you’d hope for when bringing together strong-minded business people with a record of success. One comment, made early in the day, stuck with me.
Dean McEvoy is one of the Australian startup scene’s success stories. He was a driving force behind the growth of the group buying industry in Australia and, more specifically, Spreets (spreets.com.au). His advice is relevant to anyone seeking not just financial success, but a deeper enjoyment of their business or career.
His advice was simply; find the reason why you are passionate about what you’ve chosen to do, and make that reason something bigger than yourself.
Case in point. At a cursory glance, Spreets might appear simply to sell goods and services to deal-loving consumers at volume discounts. However, that wasn’t what inspired Dean to commit the time, money and faith into building a business that he later sold for $40m.
The reason he found to be passionate about what he was doing was: to inspire people to try new and interesting things in their city.
It’s so simple, yet so compelling and easy to get behind. No doubt a reason why people loved and hugely supported what he was doing.
So, what has this got to do with advice businesses? Well, I meet a lot of business owners who are not happy in their business. I meet a lot of employees that are demotivated, underutilized and occasionally deliberately counter-productive. The common thread in many cases is a focus on objectives that fall low on Maslow’s hierarchy; pure profit, greater revenue, getting more clients in the door, working fewer hours or even the meaningless “being the best”.
Targets are important. Without them, you’re leaving much of success to chance. With them you can wilfully build a better business. However, what Dean highlighted to me is to build an extraordinary business (if that’s what you want to do), and to generate the kind of team performance that most only read about in magazines, you need to find your reason.
If you are in the business of advice, it could be a myriad of reasons bigger than simply “build a profitable business” or “help people”, such as:
• Assemble a team of financial advice experts who understand what it takes to create the financial basis for a happy life, and equip them to turn that knowledge into outcomes for clients a hundred times over.
• Help create happier relationships and closer families by removing the burden of financial stress and uncertainty from the lives of hundreds of Australians.
• Ensure that the hard work of a generation provides the basis for an enduring legacy that benefits a family for generations to come.
• Empower those who don’t come from wealth to provide their children and their children’s‘ children advantages not bestowed upon them by society.
• Support ambitious small business owners who support their local communities reverse the unacceptable trend of business failure.
Or it might be something completely different, unique to you.
This all might at first seem hugely simplistic, possibly even “fluffy”, advice. As a natural born pragmatist, I often feel the same way when I read articles imploring us to “believe in ourselves” or “dream the dream” (drink the kool aid…). However, having sat in a room full of people who have achieved business success, watching them nod in agreement and express clearly and compellingly their own reasons, it’s impossible to dismiss this out of hand.
In an industry that continues to be weighed down with enforced complexity and uncertainty turmoil, maybe it’s simple ideas like this that will enable more of us to reconnect with the enjoyment of a business or career with more purpose.
This post was authored by Stewart Bell who was a coach with Elixir Consulting between 2010 and 2014.