Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids
There’s an attitude that business is about money. It’s not. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. The thing that business does is to exchange goods and services for money; but at the core, it’s not about money, and it’s not driven by money.
If it was about money, you’d take any customer that waived a fistful of notes in your face. Even if they weren’t a good fit. Even if your product wasn’t going to help them succeed. You’d avoid paying your suppliers for as long as possible, just to hold on the cash for a little longer. You’d hire cheap interns to do the work, without doing anything that an internship should provide. You’d pay your employees the lowest wages that you could get away with. You’d rent the cheapest offices, buy the cheapest equipment and snag whatever you could for free. Why spend a few € on a box of biros when you can cadge one from someone else?
If you think that sounds familiar, you’re right — lots of people think that business should work that way. Most will even deny that they believe this. They will tell you that they believe in customer success, and employee happiness, and all those things. But their actions betray them.
When you pay people shit wages, you don’t get the best out of your employees. They’re stressed about paying the bills, or commuting from a cheaper neighbourhood. Living cheap is stressful and stress isn’t usually the best trigger for creativity & productivity. Give them shit equipment and now they’re frustrated. Make them fend off suppliers who are seeking unpaid invoices and now they feel like shit. And when you’re staff are stressed, frustrated, and feel like shit, you can bet that your product and customer service is going to suffer. Now you have unhappy customers, who will leave. So now you have more money worries.
This is some cycle of fucked-up-ed-ness. A negative feedback loop of penny-pinching and unhappiness.
Real business makes money but it does so by first creating happiness. It makes it’s customers happy by making them successful. That means you’ll have to turn away customers who won’t be successful with your product, who you product isn’t suitable for, even if they have wads of cash.
It has happy employees who feel valued and enabled to do their best work. And those happy employees create the product that makes the customers happy. Those happy employees support those happy customers.
When you treat your suppliers with respect, and pay their invoice on-time, or even early to help them out of a tight spot, then they’ll be happy. And when your suppliers are happy, they’ll want to work with you again and your business get the best goods, or the priority delivery. They’ll help you out when you need it. And that makes your customers happy.
And you know what? You’ll be happier.