I’ve been working up to this post for a while. It’s part curiosity experiment, part manifesto, part kick-off for a big project I’ve had on the back burner for months, or maybe longer. I would love for you to read, respond, and if you feel so inclined, share it with your people. I’m cross-posting the introduction here, but you’ll need to click through to read the full piece on Medium.
I’ve been in business for myself a long time. But before I started my first business, I never imagined becoming an entrepreneur. It was a label that didn’t seem to fit me well. I associated “entrepreneur” with values I didn’t share, and behaviour I didn’t want to adopt.
Hustling for the sake of hustling, for example.
“Me first” self-promotion.
You know, the grossest, lowest common denominator, makes-your-skin-crawl kind of stuff.
It bothers me a lot that while there are lots (and lots and lots) of entrepreneurs doing things differently, the top ten lists for business books and podcasts are mostly unfettered, greed- and scarcity-driven bullshit all the way down.
Bothers is putting it mildly. It makes me rage. In a don’t-get-me-started-or-we’ll-be-here-all-day kind of way.
Because here’s the thing: business doesn’t have to be like that.
We don’t have to take those approaches to build successful businesses. You don’t have to prey on people’s insecurities to sell them things. You don’t have to pretend you know everything to be taken seriously. You don’t have to throw people under the bus to get ahead.
You don’t need to exploit or harm anyone (including yourself) to make your business thrive.
You know this, because the moment you think about the places and people you love to spend your money with — your favourite restaurants, service providers, grocers, artists, and so on — certain feelings come to mind: fair exchange, respect and care for customers and colleagues, devotion to quality, contribution to community. Those businesses (to borrow a favourite turn of phrase from Tim O’Reilly) contribute more value than they capture, in tangible and intangible ways.
However, there’s a whole industry, and broader cultural forces, working to make you believe that making your business successful is inevitably in tension with, you know, wacky shit like cooperation, respectful relationships, having healthy lives outside of work, shared status and power, and generally leaving the world a better place than you found it.
And so we continue to accept as a given that businesses should extract more value than they create, which quite literally impoverishes the world — while the rest of us entrepreneurs feel like weirdos for doing things differently.
But you’re not interested in building yet another extraction-oriented business, are you?
Nah. Because you know there’s another way. Or in fact, many other ways.