Moving Beyond the Exit Mentality: The Power of Purpose

American business at this point is really about developing an idea, making it profitable, selling it while it’s profitable and then getting out or diversifying. It’s just about sucking everything up. My idea was: Enjoy baking, sell your bread, people like it, sell more. Keep the bakery going because you’re making good food and people are happy.

— Ian MacKaye
Photo by Mae Mu

In today's fast-paced world, the ultimate goal for many businesses is to achieve the famous "exit" - to sell the company as quickly as possible and move on to the next venture. This approach to entrepreneurship is driven by the illusion of quick financial gain and the belief that success is only measured by the size of the payout.

A Different Perspective on Business Success.

I have a different perspective on what makes a business successful. Rather than focusing solely on the exit strategy, there is a growing movement toward building something for the long term. The focus is shifting to creating a valuable product, making a healthy profit, and keeping the business going indefinitely. Similar to Ians’ bakery.

It's not just about making money, either. When a business is built with the goal of providing value to its customers instead of providing a return for investors, it is a lot easier to create a truly fulfilling and satisfying experience for its team members. Employees passionate about their work and the product they're building are more likely to be engaged and motivated. In contrast, aiming for an exit creates an uncertain future for your everyone. No matter how extraordinary the result of their hard work is, there is no way for them to know what a new business owner will do with it when the day of the sale inevitably comes.

The Importance of Knowing Your Definition of Success.

There are a lot more ways to define “success” than what the cut-throat world of exits and quick profits suggests. I’m not saying that my definition is the right one, either.

It's a very personal question that only a handful of people actively ask themselves in their entrepreneurial journey. Is it financial success? Customer satisfaction? Employee engagement? Freedom to do whatever you want? A combination of all of these?

While the idea of an exit may be tempting, knowing and learning about the many different paths you can take is essential. Especially for young entrepreneurs, who are heavily influenced by the startup media bubble and the glorification of absurd funding rounds, it’s often hard to even see them.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, business owner, or an individual contributor. I urge you to take some time to think about what success means to you and if your current trajectory aligns with it.

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