I come from what I call the “Entitlement Generation”. We’re a group of people who operate under the pretence that we should be able to have everything we want and desire, right now. That dream house our parents worked a career for, fully furnished of course, that car only made possible through a 10 year loan, an “activities” lifestyle for our kids, etc. And of course, no financial worries. We can argue that it’s subconscious or that it was instilled by our parents, but the reality of the existence of entitlement mentality, and its effects, is no less. Now before I get into a rant, let me take it to the business arena. As a business owner I intuitively know that my partners and I are constantly balancing some intangible equation that includes wants, desires, opportunities, requirements, resources, etc. There are many variables and we work almost more as conductors than mathematicians to orchestrate a balanced equation.
Recently my two partners and I sat down to discuss the state of our business, our plans, finances, and future. We’ve come through many challenges over the last three or four years and have found ourselves with an eCommerce company that is steaming along. As the variables in our equation grow in complexity and number I come to wonder if we are entitled to everything we are pushing so hard to make balance. I suggested we go through an exercise, a super simple one, to try to get a grasp of the key variables we are trying to orchestrate into some sort of balance. We sat in front of a whiteboard and wrote down everything we wanted for our business in green and everything we didn’t want for our business in red. Some items were practical and operational, some were philosophical or spiritual.
Here are a few examples of the items we included:
- We want no inventory.
- We want negligible debt.
- We want strong enough cash flow and reserves to support working capital, superb growth, consistent income, and no sleepless nights.
- We want “fresh out of college” employees with super potential and motivation so they can grow with and propel the company.
- We want our employees to produce the results of seasoned professionals.
- We want to assume that we, the partners, are not also entry level employees who are growing with the company. After all, we’re owners, there’s a blue pill we take that provides a couple extra decades of experience.
- We want to remain wholly owned by the partners.
- We want to pay well with Google-esq perks and benefits.
- We want an exciting, entrepreneurial, challenging, and fun work environment.
- We want to fight on all fronts and capture all the available opportunity, all the time.
- We want to roll everything we do out in an easy, scalable, error free way. 100% quality, 100% of the time, done by 3:00PM today. Quality and quantity.
There were several more and with the board full we sat back and stared for a minute. It didn’t take long to spot the inconsistencies. Entitlement had certainly crept in somewhere along the way. Do we want experienced employees or college grads? There are pros and cons to both and maybe a mix is best. Do we want to provide time to be entrepreneurial or do we want it done by 3:00PM? How are we going to fund either or all in a stable way? These questions get us back to this philosophical equation and the concept of entitlement. It may sound uber-simple but I recommend any small business owner take a little time to go through this exercise, particularly if there are partners who may have differing opinions, priorities, etc. It may provide an epiphany, and it may simply create more questions, but in any case you will end up with a better picture of the variables you are working with. And then the really scary exercise; take this to your personal life. What are you assuming you are entitled to?