January 29th, 2023 | Business Verkeerd (Grow Slow).
This text was fully written by a human.
In the Netherlands, one of the most popular types of coffee is “coffee verkeerd,” which translates to “coffee the wrong way.” Whenever I order it, I smile as it reminds me how I do business. Namely, turning many of the rules I was taught upside down and inside out, and doing things my own way.
In this article, I will list some of my personal rules and outlook on the business that might be viewed as nonorthodox. If you share any of them, or just disagree, please let me know!
1. Quite Leftist As For an Entrepreneur.
I was born and raised in Katowice, the capital of the Silesia region, the most leftist region of Poland. Furthermore, I spent the last 11 years in Nijmegen, the most leftist city in the Netherlands, which is one of the most leftist countries in the world. Furthermore, I worked for 8 years in academia, which is, in itself, a radically leftist environment.
Well, I always hesitate about what to say when asked about my political views. I am right-winged in the sense that I stand for value-based income. But on the other hand, I am left-winged in the sense that I stand for personal freedom, equalizing chances, and promoting work-life balance (hence, I created the Ontology of Value® Test).
Moreover, in the last few years, I was interested in topics such as governance decentralization, web3, and so forth, which also remove around making the economy more equal (well, in theory at least…).
No wonder that, as an entrepreneur, I have developed an outlook on success radically different from the “standard” Key Performance Indicators. I don’t even set financial targets for my company. Instead, I track how close I come to the person whom I would like to become and whether my development doesn’t block anyone else’s development.
I don’t even have any standard roadmap (see: Figure 1). I aim to convert my life into a never-ending party, or rather, a never-ending intellectual feast. And by combining career advisory with content creation, I can maximize the number of interesting projects and the number of amazing people met on the way.
And my only roadmap is to hatch as much good karmic energy as possible. I am fully aware that no traditional investor would ever invest in a business like this. But hey — luckily, I don’t seek investments anyway. I even had the audacity to openly tell investors on my webpage that I didn’t want their money (namely, here — please scroll down the page for the announcement).
This is actually funny: most people talk to successful investors hoping that this will lead them to develop good projects and become financially free. On the contrary, I develop projects aiming to become financially free so that I can spend my days talking to successful investors and other interesting people. I always smile at their surprised faces when it turns out that I don’t really expect anything.
2. Not Rushing Anywhere.
I spent my whole youth on books, studying textbooks day in and day out, racing against other kids, pushing myself to the edge of sleep deprivation, et cetera.
Especially as an undergraduate student, I kept myself busy to the very limits. In the Polish academic system, you should never land at the bottom of the list. When a Polish professor evaluates exams, they use to fit a Gaussian to the distribution of scores and put a threshold somewhere. It doesn’t matter all that much how many points you scored — it matters that you scored higher than some other students.
Then, I entered academia which is nothing else than a personal race. If you don’t outcompete everyone around you in terms of publications, your academic career is not going to last for too long. No wonder I used to compete for my whole twenties — there was no other choice, although in general, I do anything I can to avoid competition.
But at some point, I just stopped rushing. Don’t get me wrong — I still enjoy working a lot — but I changed my working style for three major reasons.
Firstly, I finally realized the trivial truth — we only have one body. It’s like driving one car for a lifetime while knowing that you cannot exchange this car for a new one if it fails. I witness people in business who burn out and pivot all the time.
Secondly, I always admired entrepreneurs and public figures who put all their life energy into one project, which has become a project of their lives, such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. Slow success builds character. Fast success builds ego.
Lastly, what would I do with myself after I become a fast success? As Mark Manson beautifully described in one of his YT movies, climbing a mountain is more pleasant than standing on top where the only way forward is the way down.
And, do you really need to become a millionaire in a year or two? Because Gary Vee told you so? And what if it takes you ten or twenty years instead — or, if you never become a millionaire? Does this make you a loser?
And sincerely, I still can’t understand why people and teams are so obsessed with fast growth and exit strategy. In most instances, the project which eventually wins the market is the best-implemented one rather than the first one. Plus, if you need to rush just because twenty other teams are building the exact same thing, that means that your skills and business model are not unique. You clearly do something wrong and you don’t base your business on a contrarian truth.
As a consequence of the aforementioned thoughts, I am building a company based on content, which implies slow growth by nature. I was thinking about it for two years before I even started moving my pieces through the chess board. And, I deliberately chose a topic that I am willing to spend my whole life on. It’s like a marriage for a lifetime — regardless if the business is growing fast or slow, I keep on winning every single day.
I can say even more: instead of rushing, I do not opposite. I chose a subject that I’d never want to exit and I aim to develop my company as slowly as possible and often arrange checkpoints for myself to check whether I am on the right track. The stop lever is always on. Sometimes I ask myself if I might simply suffer from a fear of success. Who knows…
Anyways, I take my time and make sure that I don’t get overloaded with responsibilities. I don’t even use an alarm clock! Sometimes, I wake up at 11 am. And so what.
3. The Biggest Doesn’t Mean the Best.
While visiting the Bay Area, I noticed that the superiority complex is still prevalent there. If you don’t aim to grow big, you have no status. But to me, the biggest and the best are two different categories. Especially if you are building a company based on a personal brand, you don’t necessarily need to care whether or not you are the biggest.
This is why, instead of trying to become a unicorn, I decided to become a bootstrapping solopreneur and work with subcontractors and affiliates only. So far so good. Lack of obligation to discuss my ideas and decisions with cofounders and investors saves me unbelievable amounts of time. I spend some of this spare time on meditation which helps me make better decisions all by myself.
By the way, one aspect of business that no one talks about is: between deliberating your financial KPIs, your number of users, growth pace, revenue, impact on the world, Sustainable Development Goals, and other external assessment factors, do you think about yourself sometimes?
Is your business something that (1) you genuinely enjoy doing every day? (2) lets you interact with people whom you love interacting with? In my view, business is there for me, not the other way around.
4. Emotional Openness (Not To Say: Exhibitionism).
The unwritten role in business is: the stories of hardship and overcoming one’s weaknesses are highly welcome… but only when told in retrospect (or, in past tense). You just shouldn’t show any weakness in real-time.
Elon Musk loves to tell the thrilling stories of almost going bankrupt with Tesla and SpaceX in December 2008. Steve Jobs gained millions of fans as a founder of Apple who got fired and returned in glory to lead the company again. The billionaire and media personality Grant Cardone often talks about his youth when he ended up in the streets as a junk at the age of 25.
Overall, coming to the top straight from the bottom is cherished. However, as long as you are in trouble, you better stay quiet! Well, to be more precise, today people tend to expect two contradictory qualities from leaders: being strong and unflappable on the one hand, and being authentic, relatable, and vulnerable at the same time. It is extremely hard to play the PR game and properly balance the two.
This is why I just chose to say the truth. Namely, I decided to report all my mistakes and struggles openly here, even though it is frowned upon. For instance, last year, I released a number of highly personal articles on this blog, including “The Doctor Manhattan Syndrome” and “The Piano.” So far, I only experienced positive feedback after these publications.
Besides, I am not all that concerned about the critics. I like to think of popularity in a different way than most people. Namely, I believe that if everyone likes you, it means that you didn’t achieve anything.
5. Experimenting With New Management Strategies.
Having all that said, I enjoy experimenting with new ways of working and managing projects. For instance, I am planning to hire a personal manager either this year or next year and make sure that this person is a good pacemaker. The unwritten axiom of employment is that the boss pays the employee, but in this case, I am planning to hire my own boss and see what comes out.
Conclusion: Am I Weird? Or Just Verkeerd?
Yes, developing a company did change me. However, I believe that it made me even more rational, patient, self-protective, and balanced than before. I didn’t become an aggressive capitalist but rather the opposite – I developed an intuitive way of making decisions that serves me greatly.
What is the “right” or the “wrong” way or doing business? I believe that now in the times of dynamic changes in the job market, fast developments in machine learning and AI, and complex economy, there will be many new trends in business development, differing from “traditional” startups.
Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (2023, January 29th). Business Verkeerd (Grow Slow). Retrieved from: https://nataliabielczyk.com/business-verkeerd/
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