Building a successful business is hard. I should know. I started my career as an investor, backing privately-held companies on behalf of Goldman Sachs. I worked closely with the executives and entrepreneurs behind these businesses to support their key initiatives and I did so for long enough to realize that despite their own trials and tribulations, I wanted to be in their shoes.
I left Goldman Sachs, enrolling in Wharton’s MBA program and began a near decade-long career in the entrepreneur’s saddle. My first business was by all accounts a success – we built a great product that benefitted our customers, aligned ourselves with phenomenal investors, hired amazing employees and ultimately we were acquired several years later.
The outcome for my next business, a tele-health platform, was not so glamorous and I wound down that company in order to focus my energies on This App Saves Lives, a new endeavor with an important social-mission near and dear to my heart.
The operative words here are “social-mission” because having one can help businesses and the entrepreneurs behind them remain focused and thriving, even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable hurdles. To paraphrase a great quote by Guy Raz in How I Built This:
A company that is successful and resilient and that acts as a force for good in the world long after you’re going has a larger purpose – a mission – at its center. Founders guard this mission during times of plenty and lean on it during times of difficulty. Having a defined mission or being a mission-driven business is especially valuable when money is scarce, growth is anemic or when any other myriad of problems arise.
Because it gives us the added reason and motivation to keep on fighting.
Contrast this with money-focused founders. Sure, growing a profitable business is a requisite for building a sustainable company and for those that raise capital, we have an obligation to be good stewards of our investors’ hard-earned money. But absence of money makes it so much easier for “money-first” founders to abandon ship, give up on their original idea or just plain quit altogether when times are tough.
It’s the mission that gives the entrepreneur and his or her business the lasting jolt to stand the test of time and to successfully navigate the treacherous waters that are sure to arise.
Several years ago I was injured and nearly killed when a driver ran a red light while texting. I founded This App Saves Lives to put an end to such a dangerous behavior. We’re off to the races with TASL and already we’ve made lasting and life-saving imprints on the world around us. And we’ve done so in the midst of meaningful challenges along the way. In the face of these hurdles, it’s the mission that has kept us plowing forward and while we are a for-profit company with a unique and massive business opportunity, we’ll always be powered by the social impact nature of our endeavor.
How has having a guiding mission impacted your own business or personal life?