Let me start by saying that I have a deep respect for entrepreneurs because they put it all on the line to make their dreams happen. But what I often wonder about is the underlying reason for why people want to become entrepreneurs in the first place. I’m sure there are many reasons, but I’ve narrowed it down to the three reasons that I believe are the main drivers for why people choose the entrepreneurship path: First, someone has a great idea and they simply want to turn it into a business because it’s something they’re passionate about. Second, they have no other option but to start their own company because they can’t find a job. Or third, they don’t want to (or don’t like to) work for anyone else because they hate the corporate rat race and they view running their own company as their way of controlling their own destiny.
On a number of occasions I have heard all three of these reasons from countless entrepreneurs. But it’s the third reason that comes up the most. For the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with, they view working for someone else as a drawback and that it stifles their personal and professional growth.
While I greatly appreciate entrepreneurs, it sometimes confuses me when I encounter entrepreneurs who look down on people who have no desire to work for themselves and instead choose to be employed somewhere (say in a corporate environment). I’ve heard some entrepreneurs tell me how much they hate the corporate environment and how it holds people back. But when I sit down with them to learn about the type of company they want to build, it seems they themselves want to build the same type of company that will likely be just like the companies they say they hate.
There is so much to ponder here because its such a strange paradox to think about. It seems people who think this way think it is okay to create a company that stifles and limits a person’s personal and professional growth, but it’s not okay to work for one indefinitely. I understand that some newer, progressive companies are creating work environments that foster innovation and provide great opportunities for employees to flourish both personally and professionally. I believe these types of companies and the leaders behind them are bucking the norm and proving that just because a company is big it doesn’t have to feel “corporate.”
But another question one could ask is “if the traditional corporate culture is broken, then why does it seem to work so well?” Is it possible for certain types (and sizes) of companies the traditional corporate structure is the only structure possible? I’m not sure I have a definitive answer to this question, but I do think that once a company reaches a certain size it becomes unmanageable without some sort of (corporate) structure and board oversight. And usually once a (large) company has a full board of directors the entrepreneur /founder usually loses some say in what ultimately happens with the company (unless, in some stroke of luck, she still owns the majority shares in the company). Take Jack Dorsey and Steve Jobs for example. Both of these founders were forced out of their companies by their own boards for a variety of different (legitimate) reasons. I think the learning from this is just because you are the founder of your company, it by no means suggest that you are no longer working for anyone anymore. They way I see it, if you want to build a great company you will have to have a strong board of directors and you will have to answer to them. For the many entrepreneurs I meet who despise corporations and hate this type of structure, I have news for you: this type of structure and oversight might be unavoidable.
There are thousands of profitable, private companies in the world where the founders are the majority owners of their business and they don’t have to answer to anyone. I rarely work with entrepreneurs like this because everyone I meet is raising capital in exchange for equity. Therefore, it puzzles me (a little) when I hear some entrepreneurs talk about not wanting to work for anyone anymore. The moment an entrepreneur takes investment capital from an investor they are in essence working to produce a return for their shareholders. I’m certainly not their boss, but like most investors, I want to feel like the company is working hard (for me) to create a profitable outcome. Call it what you want, but you’re kind of working for me, right?
I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is, we are all working for somebody (or something) and I just find it a little confusing and contradictory when I hear otherwise. If you don’t like the corporate world, but are seeking to build a corporation, then you might re-examine what you’re doing. Don’t build what you say you despise; build something great that can impact peoples lives in a positive way. I think most successful entrepreneurs would agree that this is a better mindset to keep. Cheers – KM