Hands making a heart
There can be success drivers of all types. The desire to have more money or to be your own boss is a big one for a lot of would-be entrepreneurs. Some happened to just get lucky, falling into something that turned out to be incredibly lucrative. Others want to impress people at their high school reunion or become well-known enough that anyone would recognize them. All are valid forms of success.
But I’ve also developed different definitions of success over the years as I’ve grown up and had a wider variety of experiences in the business world. Having a family, being responsible for others’ livelihoods, and pinpointing the things that will genuinely make me proud have taken the place of money and notoriety. Getting to know some of the happiest entrepreneurs and employees at companies around the world has reinforced for me that success and happiness can happen simultaneously.
Let me define success in terms of business: It’s not just money. It’s building a company with a strong mission, with good people, that thrives financially. To say success is just financial is missing the point. You may not love what you do, as a career coach would recommend, but you can do what you do because of love. As cheesy as it sounds, I see a mission driven by a love for something or someone as one of the fiercest forces of success.
Love for the Company
One of the common trends I’ve seen among companies with skyrocketing growth isn’t necessarily leadership-oriented. In each case, an employee who truly cared deeply about the company saw an opportunity to innovate and make things better. Founders are only one or two people establishing a vision — the people who carry it out and love the mission can make the biggest difference.
One example of a company taking this seriously is Adobe. To encourage engaged employees to get their innovative juices flowing, Adobe launched its KickStart innovation program, giving employees $1,000 to develop a prototype. Not only does the initiative reward people for getting creative — rather than restrict them — but it also takes traditional roadblocks out of their way. I’d bet money that inspires even more love for the company.
My friend, Gene Hammett, studies high-growth companies and has collected a lot of data showing that an employee-first mentality helps companies perform better than their customer-focused competitors. I understand this — if you get employees to love your company and what it stands for, they’ll innovate and strive to succeed for your customers.
Love for People
Recently, I’ve been developing a business park for the companies my partner and I have invested in, and we’ve recruited some other fun companies to share the space with us. During a talk with Jesse Walters, one of the founders of Camacho Coffee, a new tenant, he explained that a doctor told his wife, Megan, to stop drinking coffee to see if it would help with a health problem.
He was determined to help his wife — she wanted to both resolve her health problems and drink delicious coffee. It motivated him to innovate his way to a method of roasting coffee that would bring its acidity levels down so his wife could drink one of her favorite treats. This new type of coffee ended up helping others with acid reflux, stomach issues, and other health problems. Walters’ love for a person fueled an entirely new business that found success.
When asked in an interview how he determines which businesses to invest in, Warren Buffett mentioned financial analysis and the strength of the leadership team. But he went beyond that to say that he looks into the founders’ eyes to see whether they love the money or the business itself: “Everybody likes money. If they don’t love the business, I can’t put that into them.” As an investor, his job is “to make sure that I don’t do anything that, in effect, kills that love of the business.” The point: People love people, and they love working toward something with people who spread that love to others.
Love of Efficiency and Ease
Even in my own entrepreneurial experience, I’ve seen love spark some of the ideas that attracted me the most. When my co-founder at Calendar mentioned that he wanted to develop a tool that would help him truly understand how he spent his time, there was a real business purpose: How efficient and focused was he being? How intentionally was he spending his time?
But his drive for efficiency had a twofold payoff: He simply wanted to be more efficient with his team at work so he could spend more deliberate time with his family. It’s what attracted me to the idea of working on how we spend our most valuable commodity: time. Future iterations of our product will heighten this focus on spending time wisely, making it easier for people to invest in relationships and growth.
Think of the dozens of companies that have revolutionized our lives and made things easier. Electronic signature companies. Cloud service providers. Ride- and property-sharing apps. Even social media could be included in this category, making it easier to know what your best friend from seventh grade is doing without picking up the phone. Companies built on making things easier so that more important things — the things we truly love — can take center stage are positioned for success.
“Do what you love” is questionable career advice. It’s too easy to turn the thing you enjoy doing into something you hate; pressure to make millions can quickly take the fun out of things. But funneling your love for your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your free time into your business can absolutely set you up for success — and keep your love intact.