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The Bottom Line

There’s an irony about entrepreneurship or starting a business and it’s this. When you begin you’re obsessed with the starting part. Just starting it seems is enough. You may have a vision for what could be, but there is not so much pressure to get there in the beginning. Once you’ve succeeded a little it is expected that you will find ways to scale.

When people ask you how business is going they generally want to know if your bottom line is heading in the right direction. Are profits up? Are you expanding or growing? And so business success is defined by one bottom line. A single metric.

It turns out though that many successful entrepreneurs don’t begin by focusing on just one bottom line. Visionary leaders, who build lasting brands don’t simply concentrate on revenues and profits. They begin with the ideal. They start with a problem they are itching to solve, or with the will to change something and the desire to make a difference.

If money is your only metric then you lose sight of the reason you’re in business in the first place. If you have one way of measuring your success then those numbers are what you focus on, and while your attention is there you forget what made your business successful in the first place.

The words of Neil Gaiman is his commencement address apply to entrepreneurs, creatives, freelancers, aspirational startups and MBAs alike.

“I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.
Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don’t know that it’s an issue for anybody but me, but it’s true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn’t wind up getting the money, either. The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them.”

—Neil Gaiman

Pay attention to the bottom line. Just don’t put your whole focus there.

Image by Becky McCray.