The Startup Cult is Redefining Success (And Not in a Good Way)

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I often joke about the “startup cult” spreading across the world.

The coolness of entrepreneurship is on the rise, but so much of it is compartmentalized into just raising capital, getting some PR and having “founder” as your job title. Not he true nature of being a business owner, leader, and innovative thinker that is required to be truly successful.

While there are amazing organizations all over the world helping startups, sometimes is seems like many of them exist to salve egos, take advantage of wantrapreneurs, and look good on paper from an economic development perspective.

Accelerators and incubators are popping up everywhere, but with so many of the hardships of launching a company accounted for – seed capital, office space, mentors, business networks etc – why is the success rate of these companies not significantly higher than those bootstrapping? What truly is success?

Enter Startup Cult

The vast majority of businesses will never exceed $1 million in yearly revenue, and most currently operating were started with $5,000 or less.

The startup cult I’m talking about encourages and teaches entrepreneurs to raise capital and chase the billion dollar unicorn, but much less attention is spent on how to actually operate a business. Few people want to learn about how to deal with cash flow issues, employee politics, horrible clients, partnership conflict and so on.

Looking back at a decade of serial entrepreneurship, the hardships, rewards and disappointments, it disturbs me to see so many founders obsessed with, and feeling euphoric when, they raise capital. Not getting clients, not achieving growth goals or even making a profit, but getting investors to write them a check.

While a select few will become founders of legend, most will fail and some will become successful on a smaller scale.

What Is Success?

Don’t for a second think I’m saying you don’t have a billion dollar idea, or not to chase the dream. What I’m saying is there are tons of great small business ideas, and just because you “only” turn it into a million dollar company doesn’t mean you failed.

In reality the average household in America makes $54,000 a year with two incomes. Make $100,000 and you’re in the top 10%.

While in the short term it might not be as cool as chasing a billion dollar idea, in reality you have much greater probability of building a $1, 2, 3 million dollar company in a fraction of the time needed to raise capital, get to market, grow, and maybe have an IPO. Is the potential ROI massive, of course it is, but is it smarter to go for the single or double versus a home run?

This goes back to what truly is success? Is it making enough money you’re not worried about paying bills, having freedom to make your own schedule, spend time with family and friends, watch your children grow up, see the world, make a difference?

Or is it being one of the few with more money than you know what to do with, and going down as the Steve Jobs of your era?

What Does Success Mean To You?

It may seem like I’m saying you shouldn’t apply to an accelerator, that entrepreneur centers are a waste of time, not to raise capital or swing for the fences. Nothing could be further from the truth. The point of this article is to inspire entrepreneurs to look at life from a different perspective, and define what success means to them.

This is something you need to think about and let it become a serious foundation of your life. There are many ways to make a difference and to become successful.

Happiness and satisfaction with life is controlled by your own personal definition of success. What is yours?

3 Ways Business Success Requires Being Human

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Let’s face it. In the world of technology we’ve become so obsessed with the latest innovative way to solve a problem and lower human demand, we’ve forgotten these tools are all invented to help benefit our fellow humans.

This has led to significant issues in customer service, company culture, employee loyalty, and company growth. These factors combine to create failures which seem outlandish, but when looked at in depth clearly reveal a lack of baseline humanity.

In an attempt to streamline productivity, we have begun to view these tools as the most essential part of success and not the people behind them. Employees are treated as disposable cogs and not vital pieces of what the company is and strives to become.

So how can we counter this problem and leverage the amazing advancements at our fingertips without ultimately destroying our society?

1. Remember Innovation Requires Imagination

While there is hope that someday artificial intelligence will enable us to be taken care of without having to work, and all issues will be solved without requiring human focus, that day isn’t here yet.

In the meantime, it is essential for us to remember on a daily basis that everything around us in the modern world is a result of human imagination and hard work. From the dawn of time, everything developed has required a reason which benefits mankind. Without creative thought we would still be living in the stone age.

So while we are rapidly creating things which remove the need for human sweat in many areas, we must not forget the new opportunities becoming available just open doors to leveraging the power of our minds. In reality, the demand for creativity may be greater than ever.

Without business leaders creating environments to help spark creativity, the ability to achieve long term success is drastically reduced.

2. Creating A Positive Work Environment

So many people think it’s just about how much you can pay in salary and benefits which controls how productive your company can become. While being able to remove employee financial stress is extremely important, most people will tell you when looking back on life that it wasn’t “the best paying job” which correlated with their happiness and productivity.

It was a sense of belonging. Being valued for what they brought to the table and accepted for who they are as a human being, not just viewed as an easily replaceable tool. Their favorite managers were the ones who listened and weren’t consumed by personal power and ego.

It’s actually quite simple to create this kind of workplace. First as a leader, subjugate your ego. Listen to others and admit you don’t know everything. Second, make sure those in positions of authority below you understand and follow this mindset. Third, reward those with initiative and ambition. While monetary reward is appreciated, in truth that appreciation is short lived. A kind word has more power than what can be bought.

3. Help Others Achieve Their Dreams

So often managers view productive employees as threats to their position. Business owners often fear losing a great employee to competition or entrepreneurship.

These things are just the reality of life and cannot be avoided, but if you have built amazing relationships on a human level, going separate ways can be less painful, partnerships can be created to benefit all parties, or even new avenues to greater success can be revealed.

What if that person comes to you with an idea that could change your business model or provide a new revenue stream? Should you be greedy and implement that idea without reward? While it may pay off in the short term, the next person with an idea will surely hide it from you. By default you have just limited your own success and likely created competition for yourself.

What if they get an offer they can’t refuse and move onto another company? Fast forward 5 years. They are now CEO and want to buy you out. That human relationship you built makes them want to make a fair deal rather than rip you off in desire for revenge.

What if hard times come and you can’t meet payroll, or need your team to rise to the occasion beyond just being a 9-5 employees? If you have created the type of human-to-human relationships and environments discussed, you will be amazed at how they will be there for you when it counts.

Failure and success have very thin margins of separation. Don’t forget this when you find yourself becoming consumed with ways to reduce the need of human capital. Find ways to maximize it instead!

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How One Phrase Can Change Your Business Completely

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My first job out of college was an inside sales associate position, in which I was tasked with cold-calling busy professionals all day and kindly explaining to them why they

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should spend their company’s money on a service they truly didn’t need.

To say I was unqualified was a gross understatement (and should have been evident in my interview, when I casually mentioned I enjoyed ordering food online because I’m scared of the phone).

For those who don’t know, sales is a sink or swim position. You either hit your quota and keep your job, or you don’t. For me, not even the Coast Guard could have kept me afloat in my first couple months on the job. I sucked. While the cohort I was hired with excelled, I floundered. I couldn’t keep someone on the phone for more than 15 seconds.

Knowing the end was near, I asked (well, begged) our top performing sales guy for help. I probably looked pathetic enough that he said okay. And it was then that he explained to me a secret to business that totally changed my career (not to mention saved my job).

Read More: How to Get Anything You Want In Business (And Maybe Life)

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