Many aspects of entrepreneurial culture have changed over the years: Over the last five years alone there have been significant changes in the way we think about social media as a tool for business growth, and about the Internet as a kind of virtual marketplace—and those are just two examples among many. But when you get down to brass tacks, some of the core elements of entrepreneurship really haven’t changed, and likely never will—and that includes the basic means for making money.
I’ve been thinking about that as I continue to witness the advent of startup culture, which, every day, feels more like its own separate world to me, something totally unique from the new business culture in which I’m a member. Startup culture is focused on incubation, on hyper growth, on technology, on that golden IPO—and I have nothing against any of those things. I do think it important to note, however, that not all small business owners or entrepreneurs have those goals in mind. Some are simply focused on running lifestyle businesses, or small, simple enterprises—and that’s fine, too.
To put it another way: Some entrepreneurs may not wish to raise funding or meet with venture capitalists. They may want simply to put their money somewhere where it’s going to make a good return. That’s not a particularly sexy thing to say and it’s not as flashy as what you might hear from the SnapChat guys, but it’s that foundational focus on cash flow that has long helped entrepreneurs like myself make money.
Just the other day I mentioned to my spouse that I wanted to buy something boring—a business that has had extremely minor fluctuations in cash flow over the years, and ideally a business with real estate attached to it. I don’t want anything that will surprise me or bring a lot of risk; I just want to put my money somewhere where it will make more money, slowly and steadily.
I think startups and the kinds of new businesses I’m talking about—the ones that are simply focused on the fundamentals, not necessarily on hyper growth—are really two separate worlds, and both of those worlds have merit. However, the pendulum has swung so far in one direction—to the point where flashy tech startups seem to receive all the attention—that I think we pay too little focus to the lifestyle businesses and the small, simple companies out there. The ones that just want to put their money somewhere it’ll make a good return—nothing more, nothing less.
All of this puts me in the mindset of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad craze from a few years ago, wherein many would-be entrepreneurs suddenly started learning about things like assets and liabilities as though this was some just-discovered secret to making money. Of course it wasn’t, and isn’t: It’s that focus on fundamentals that has always offered avenues for entrepreneurial success. Startup culture can offer that, too—but for people like me who just want to put their money somewhere it will make a difference, there is much to be said for getting back to basics.