Why am I starting over? Why would I want to risk give up working short hours from the comfort of home, having time to spend with my wife and daughter, do triathlons, write on this blog, and do many of the other things I enjoy?
In answering that question I have to be careful. I don’t entirely trust myself. After all, I’ve been misled by myself so many times before. I’ve tricked myself into thinking I wasn’t working for my ego or for money when I was. I’ve made all sorts of justifications and rationalizations to do what I wanted to do, and to avoid doing what I didn’t want to do. I’ve been selfish, and most likely still am. So I proceed with caution in making the following list of reasons I want to start over and grow MWI:
1. Money. Let’s face it, this is my job, and I need to make money. Money certainly isn’t what it’s all about, but if there isn’t any money in this then I can’t afford to do it. I’ve got a lot of business debts to pay off, plus I need a minivan and some new shirts.
2. Learning / experience. I’ve learned a lot about running a company with 10-15 contractors. I’ve learned a lot about running a business with 5-10 full time employees. I’d like to learn a lot about running a business with 30-50 employees.
3. Accomplishment. I don’t know if I’d call it ego, it’s more like running a race where you don’t care about what other people are doing, you just want to beat your own best time. I want to make MWI succeed on another level, not because I care what anyone else thinks (although I’m not saying I don’t), but because I want to do it for myself, even if nobody else ever knows what I’ve accomplished, and indeed no one else can know it quite the way I will know it.
4. Resume enhancement. I don’t plan on running MWI for the rest of my life. I don’t even plan on being an entrepreneur the rest of my life…ok, maybe I do, even if I plan on working for someone else at some stage. But that’s the point, I do plan on getting a job working for someone else at some point, and I’d like to have some more experience managing more people under my belt as a stepping stone in that direction. Plus I still intend to apply to HBS someday, and at my age I’m going to need all the success and experience under my belt that I can get, or at least I assume that can only help (unless they don’t like taking on students who have already proven themselves, lest they be unable to take credit for that student’s future success themselves).
But perhaps the main reason is progression, which incorporates a lot of reasons #2 and #3. Once I master something I have a hard time sitting still, and I feel as though I’ve maxed out what I can do where I’m at and I need to move on to the next stage. I feel as though there’s something new to learn, something new to accomplish, and I can’t stand to be bored doing the same thing today that I was doing a year ago.
That said, if avoiding being bored were all it was about, I wouldn’t just jump into something new. I’m only making the leap because I believe it can work, and because I have a plan that’s in the process of being written on paper as to how I’ll do things differently. If it were just me saying “Well, things should go better this time around, I mean, I’ve got more experience than I had before, right?” then I would be doing the same thing I’ve already done before, and that too, would be boring.
Building a business with 20, 30, 40, 50 full time employees will be different, but it will only be possible if things are different when I have 2, 3, and 4 full time employees, because this time, unlike previous times, there will be no outside funding. This is going to be 100% debt free, and free of investment. The only revenues I’ll have are those we produce, and employees will only come after revenues. And that difference alone will be a major change from how I’ve done things in the past, and that, along with the other differences, is enough to make things interesting.