The Point Is To Build Something
Years ago, Yahoo offered to buy Facebook for $1 Billion. Now, this was a scant few years since the business was started in Mark Zuckerberg’s college dorm room and certainly well before Facebook became the colossus it is now. And so, at the time, $1 Billion was a pretty amazing offer.
Zuck said no.
Now, in hindsight, he made the right decision. Since then, by any stretch of the imagination, the company has done incredibly well from a business and financial point of view. (I’m not getting into the debate here as to whether Facebook has been a net good or bad here - that’s a separate conversation.)
But, at the time, the decision was NOT a no brainer. Forget the mental machinations of Zuckerberg and the Facebook board at the time, put yourself in those shoes.
You’ve conceived of a business idea, decided to go all in and build that idea - from scratch - and, in a handful of years, achieved material success. A great company, happy customers and a revenue model that makes a whole heck of a lot of sense. Then, someone comes along and says, you’ve done a great job, I’d love to take this business off your hands and here’s a check for a cool Billion.
Do you take the money? Or do you say no?
If you decided to take the money, no one would blame you. You’d rightfully be proclaimed a business success and you’d be financially set (as would multiple successive generations of your family). So if you took the cash, no one could say it didn’t make sense.
So why wouldn’t you take the money? Why didn’t Zuckerberg?
Well, their perspective was that the Facebook story hadn’t been fully told yet. There was still plenty of work to be done, plenty of value to deliver and plenty of it to still capture. Selling at that point would mean handing that vision, that story over to someone else, and possibly someone who was no better equipped to tell that story than the Facebook team themselves.
In other words, they believed they were building something and the driving force behind their work was not the money on offer, but rather the work to be done, the story to be told.
The point is, being motivated by money (alone) cannot be the sole driver of what we do. That’s not how we (most of us, anyway) are wired. Most us are wired (motivated/want) to do something, to build something bigger than ourselves, to leave a mark of some sort.
That doesn’t have to be building a billion dollar business, it doesn’t even have to mean becoming an entrepreneur.
But it does mean contributing to a story that actually has some meaning to us, on a level beyond the simple dollar.
The point is, always, to build something.
(To be clear, on the To Sell or Not To Sell question, there isn’t necessarily a right answer, by the way. There are too many variables at play to suggest that there could be. That choice can only be yours.)