Do you want to be a fisherman or do you just like fish?

Do you want to be a fisherman or do you just like fish?

A few years ago I met a guy and we decided to start doing business together. He was a great guy and he was making a lot of money doing consulting work. He charged by the hour and consulted a few Internet companies and noticed how much money they were making (this was early 2000). I had just sold my first company and had made some money myself. We both sensed there was an opportunity so we started a business together. Life was good and soon we had a company that did well, got some traction and even got acquired in 2003. We had caught ourselves a big fish!

After that we had a few years where we didn’t do so well. We started some projects, some failed right away, some we raised funding for an then failed. Tough times, all part of being an entrepreneur.

After a while though it became clear that he was increasingly becoming unhappy. As a consultant he was making a lot of money, by the hour. And for every hour we sat in the offices, not making money, he felt like he was losing money. All billable hours that couldn’t be billed to anyone.

I didn’t mind that at all. I’m an entrepreneur and even if business isn’t doing well, at least I’m learning, growing and trying. No hour is lost for me. As Edison said “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”. I didn’t feel like we were failing but just doing what entrepreneurs do: going from failure to failure without lack of enthusiasm.

After a few years my partner decided he didn’t want to be an entrepreneur anymore. He got back into the consulting business and has been very successful ever since.

Since then I have had to deal with a lot of entrepreneurs who started out as consultants, lawyers or designers who are used to charging by the hour and unfortunately I have become very pessimistic about their chances at becoming successful entrepreneurs. It isn’t so much that it is impossible to combine the two but I have noticed that as soon as the going gets tough this category of entrepreneurs gets restless too soon and starts (unconsciously?) counting their hours and missed revenue.

Looking back I think my former partner and I came together for our love of fish. I had just caught a big fish and he noticed lots of people catching fish. He liked fish too and wanted to catch some fish together with me. We started and pretty soon we caught a very big fish.

Then we didn’t for a while, which wasn’t a big deal for me because I just love to fish. There is nothing in the world I would love to do more than fish. Without ever catching fish fishing wouldn’t be much fun, but not catching fish is as much part of the process as the actual fish catching.

We got into business because of the fish but I liked the fishing and he mainly liked the fish.

Are you a fisherman or do you just like fish? I hope the answer is: a little bit of both. The perfect entrepreneur is motived by more than just money, loves being an entrepreneur but isn’t just in it for the beautiful weather and fresh air.

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