Ten years after I started my company Intrinium, the business was generating a consistent profit. I was able to pay off debts and was living comfortably. With a good amount of discretionary income, I couldn’t help but think, “What should I do with my money?”
When I started Intrinium and thought about what success would look like, all I could picture were material things: a million dollars in the bank, a big house on a hill, and a four-car garage filled with Ferraris.
As I became able to afford some expensive things, I came to the realization that owning things doesn’t always make you happy, and owning too many things can make you very unhappy. The stuff you buy owns you, not the other way around. That’s not where your potential for real joy lies.
It’s hard to start and run a business. At times, you feel like yelling, “Why am I even bothering?!” For a long time, I didn’t know the answer to that question, but I finally figured it out. Success has huge rewards beyond the obvious ones and far beyond what you can imagine.
#1: Set Your Own Schedule
One thing that success brought me is a lifestyle that lets me set my own schedule. How many hours I work is separate from how much revenue the business earns.
Because my company is stable and has great leadership from my executive and management teams, I can say, “I’m going to spend next week in the mountains doing whatever the heck I want to do. Outside of driving into town to make a few calls, I’m not going to work.” I’m confident that when I come back to the office, I won’t be walking into chaos.
Taking the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, instead of constantly laboring in your business, frees your mind to discover what else success can do. It allows you to improve your quality of life in many ways, but only if you take the initiative to do so.
#2: Meet People Who Interest You
Being a successful business owner gives you access to people you would never have met in any other position. I can pick up the phone and call the mayor or the CEO of one of the biggest consulting firms in town and they take my call. I can ask them to lunch and they accept.
When you run a company, people notice. They see you differently. Sometimes they see you for the first time. These connections can present other opportunities, such as investing in other businesses and participating in charity events.
You start to see yourself differently, too. That, in turn, empowers you to do more in the world than you ever could as an employee.
#3: Help Your Community, Your Industry, the World
The credibility you enjoy as a successful business owner empowers you to affect positive change. You can leverage your success for the good of yourself, your family, your colleagues and employees, your customers, your vendors, your community, and the world.
People who become successful have an obligation to show gratitude to the community and use their money for good. That includes helping out your family and friends in need, lifting up struggling businesses, donating to social or political causes, and giving your staff fair market wages and high-quality benefits.
Beyond mentoring, I don’t do a lot of hands-on charitable work at this point. Someday I’ll find the right cause to dedicate some time to, but for now, I’m happy to write checks for those causes I want to support.
Once you and I make the commitment to do more, and you’ve freed up the time, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities. Do whatever moves you the most. That’s one of the benefits of being a business owner.
#4: Lift Up Other Start-Ups
At a certain point in your career, you’ve gained skills and valuable experience that you can pass on to others just starting the journey. The credibility that came along with your success means they’ll listen to you.
I consider it my responsibility to help out with business incubators and people who are working on their own start-ups. Because I’m earning enough in my business, I can afford to give this help on a pro-bono basis.
In mastermind groups, I like to identify the members who are at the early stages of their business. Maybe they have ten people and a million dollars in revenue, but the revenue isn’t consistent, and they aren’t scaling.
I ask these young business leaders about their mission, vision, and values. I also work with them on their long-term growth plan, always asking “What do you want to get out of this business?” To coach and support them, I give them my cell phone number and invite them to contact me with questions or to just bounce an idea off me.
#5: Support Your Staff
You can use your experience and power to help your employees realize their goals. A lot of employers have the idea that their staff members should work for them forever, and they take it personally when people move on. I don’t see things that way at all. When people leave your business and go on to do amazing things, that further defines your own success.
A few years after I started Intrinium, I hired a guy who went from being a part-time computer programmer to becoming the chief security officer for one of the best-ranked healthcare systems in the nation. That evolution came about because in the eight years he worked with us, we taught him everything we knew about security, risk management, and leadership.
A few years back, I received a $12.5-million offer for Intrinium. I turned it down because I was certain the would-be buyer planned to move the contracts to another firm and lay off my staff. That’s not what success looks like to me. It’s not a way to screw the very people who worked so hard to get the business to this point.
When you’ve achieved a consistent level of success, you’ll be faced with these kinds of ethical choices. When the time comes, what are you going to do? Are you going to take care of the people who took care of you? Or are you just going to cut and run? Something to think about.
Look for Ways to Give Back
If you’ve decided to start and grow your business, you’ve set out on a worthwhile journey. Remember, though, once you reach your definition of success, you didn’t get there by yourself.
Your staff, your customers, your family, and your community contributed to where you are today. I hope you’ll consider it your moral responsibility to look for opportunities to show your gratitude.
I’m not saying you have to give away all your wealth. But take really good care of the people in your life and your community. It’s the right thing to do.
When I started my business in 2007, I never realized that someday I would have the money and the power to do what I can now do. You’ll never get as much joy out of counting the zeros on your bank statement as you will from helping people. It’s a terrific feeling—and truly one of the biggest rewards of running a successful business.