All That Glitters

We are all so consistently attracted to shiny objects that we miss the real story.

The #17 company on the 2011 Inc. 500, ClearCorrect, develops clear removable braces. They grew revenue from $100,000 to $8.7 million in 3 years.

Valuation Management Group, #22, provides real estate (Yes, real estate) appraisal services for banks and credit unions. They grew revenue from $317,000 to $25.4 million in the past 3 years.

Every state in the country (and across the globe) are filled with great companies like these and the Inc. 500 and 5000 are filled with them. Great because they are growing by making more revenue than they put out in expenses.  Business that should not only be admired, but should be studied. Their methods, determination and purpose should be what we all try to emulate.

But we don’t.

We talk endlessly about how much money the latest new idea raised their series A,B,C round of financing. We listen in the echo chamber of blogs and other media to the endless chants of social media and the cloud.

Twitter, for all the good it has done in the world, has not earned revenue that is anywhere near the huge sums that have been invested in it. And there is no clear path to show that it will.  Past web darling, Groupon, was nearly insolvent leading up to its IPO despite having raised hundreds of millions of dollars. These are the businesses that capture our attention and our lust.

Sorry to point out the obvious but, envying someone that raised a lot of Venture Capital money is not about building a business. When you consider that most VC’s average a 33% success rate, receiving that money does little to ensure any kind of success for the business.  They are bets, chips set out in front of a roulette wheel, waiting for the ball to drop on just a few so they get the returns they want for their funds.

What I propose… Let’s celebrate the operators. The business leaders that build businesses that endure. That use their profits to hire. That are driven to build a lifestyle for themselves and for those that work with them that would like to find a place where they can work for their entire career. That are not waiting for the company to be flipped like a speculative real estate investment. Who make the hard choices to make cuts so they can ensure the business survives in tough times. Who build relationships with customers instead of counting users. They have the lessons and skills you really can use. Today.

The best businesses in this country no longer fit into the ideal of what too many think is success in business and life. That needs to change.