Real businesses . . .

I have been working on the plight of small businesses in the American credit industry for many years. As entrepreneurs who are often lumped in with companies that have 500 employees and more, it seemed a good idea to write first about the people are top of my mind.

As I write about digital platforms, credit, and data technologies, you’ll see I have launched and co-founded multiple venture-backed startups. It is a great ride for those who want and get to experience it. But that world isn’t what “real” businesses are mostly about. The world of venture-backed startups (and their investors) have an odd way of describing any business that isn’t destined to be a fast track to wealth–“lifestyle businesses.”

Apart from how dismissive that can sound (as if the bodega on the corner is how the family that owns and runs it has fun), it makes me think of the business owners in my family. It reminds me of a roadtrip I took with my then 85 year old dad and daughters some years ago. Dad still had 10 surviving siblings and I wanted to make sure he had one more reunion with them back in the Midwest.

At the time I was facing big challenges at my first venture-backed company. By then $20M into the company and it wasn’t looking like a home run was possible. Revenues were growing, we had many happy customers but the business didn’t seem scalable in the venture capital sense.

This was very much on my mind as we arrived in Manitoba and the family dinners began. What I encountered was a family as huge as expected but more surprisingly, all of them entrepreneurs. It was almost like a family mantra, you must start and run your own business.

On my Dad’s side they tended to start businesses around their inventions. On my Mom’s side it was all about the conviction they could take an existing business or product and do it better.

Whatever, they all assumed they had to offer real customers something of real value. They built their companies on personally-guaranteed loans, a ton of hard work, and revenues. I have never felt so humbled in my life. I never told them how much money I had raised and I have never again considered any company to be a “mere” lifestyle business.

Today I begin this blog writing about services and tools for entrepreneurs who mostly build their companies on hard work and sales from customers to whom they deliver real value. Real businesses!


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