TL;DR If you really want to make an impact, achieve a mission and a vision, and ultimately make even more money, you must build a company, not just a business. I’m convinced of it. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Just because you’re good at building a business that makes money doesn’t mean you’re good at building a company.
Building a business that makes money is one thing . . . Building a company is an entirely different ball game – and I’m not great at it (not yet, anyway). I’m good at the former. I’m not so good at the latter. Now let me explain.
I’ve always been good at finding ways to make money. In high school my parents told me to get a job. I didn’t want to work hourly at an ice cream shop or something similar so I tried to find ways around having a job and still make money.
I stumbled upon eBay.
I began selling things around the house my family no longer wanted. Eventually that had to stop because I ran out of things to sell. But by that point I was hooked. So after some research, I discovered Coach purses were a confoundingly hot item and always on the top seller lists. Because of this, I was able to do Coach purse arbitrage throughout high school.
After graduating high school, I went to NYU. When I moved to New York City I discovered a whole new world. However, I ran into a problem: I liked going out but didn’t have any money. Promoting parties became a way for me to make money while going out. But the problem with promoting was it didn’t scale that well.
One summer I partnered with someone and ran something called InternBar. Each summer, interns would flock to NYC. Naturally, they wanted to know where to go out. So, we provided that. We built an online community and messaged the group each week where the next event would be. We ran this every weekend, two to three nights a week. We cleared a couple thousand each week for a few hours of work. Not a bad deal.
After college I took on my next challenge: launching a stable, year-round business. While in college I taught myself to code. By that point I was clearly already interested in business and strategy. Once I started coding I became very interested in how to combine business and technology even more. Enter my current business: Jakt. Jakt provides product strategy, design, development, and conversion optimization services. I was able to tie my skills into an offering for companies that they found valuable and I could therefore charge for it. I once again found a way to make money.
However, just because you’re good at building a business doesn’t mean you’re good at building a company.
To me, a company is something different. A company is more than just finding a business model that makes money. A company has a vision, mission, culture, and core values. The team identifies with each of these and unities around them. These aspects push the company towards that vision. A company has a reason why it exists.
And no, it’s not just to make money. The reason why it exists is the mission. The company’s constant observance of the mission and relentless pursuit towards the vision is what will enable it to last. Money will be a by-product of this.
Building a company is 10 times harder than building a business.
Getting a group of people to unite around a mission – not just work with you because it’s their job – is hard. It takes a ton of effort because it doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it – constantly. It’s like a garden that has to be tended to. You can’t just let it grow on its own. You have to watch it and put work into it each and every day.
These days my focus is building a company.
Honestly, I avoided this in the past by focusing solely on making money. But I’ve learned something . . . Eventually that’s not enough. I want to make an impact on the world. And I’m convinced the way I can do this is to build an amazing company.
A major pitfall when building Jakt came from not sharing my mission and vision with others (I’ll dive into detail on what those are in another post).
I knew what I wanted Jakt to be, but I never shared it with anyone. I realized no one was going to want to stay because they had no idea what the hell the company was working towards. The past few months I’ve started making huge shifts at Jakt. I’m making sure the people I hire have the right values and I’m trying my best to instill a great company culture. I’m focusing on the long term for Jakt and not just the short term.
I want Jakt to last for years to come, capable of thriving without me, continuously working towards my vision for the company and always keeping in mind the company’s mission as a guide.
Over the past few months I’ve never felt better. I feel like I’m finally progressing as an individual again after a slight plateau. I am still figuring a ton of stuff out, but I know I’m moving in the right direction. I’m growing as a person, as a leader, and as a CEO – and that feels amazing.