Lifestyle Company versus Growth Company
Starting Nobscot Corporation I found to be a relatively easy and fun challenge. We were creating a technology (WebExit) that we knew there was a need for and we had a clear vision of what we wanted the company to be and do. The only times that I had any doubt at all were on the few occasions that I encountered those connected with the venture capital community. Sometimes it would be an attorney, other times a local networking group. The discussion would inevitably turn to the dreaded lifestyle company versus growth company discussion. Lifestyle company would be said with a condescending tone even when the words around it were seemingly positive. "It's OK if you want to be JUST a lifestyle company"
Fast forward 9 years later. Today I can without guilt extol the virtues of a lifestyle company. We run Nobscot the way we want to. We grow based on our earnings. We have lots of money in the bank. We have no stress. We make great HR technology with the design philosophy of simple but powerful; no more and no less than what is needed. We have amazing, truly amazing clients. We help some of the best HR departments in the world. We have tremendous colleagues that are like family. We provide fun, challenging opportunities to our staff and they provide our clients with more service than they ever expect (or pay for). We barely noticed the recession. We live in paradise. Not a bad lifestyle.
Would we have been happier if we had gone the Growth Company route? If we had started with $10,000,000 in the bank instead of $10,000? It's possible but hard to imagine. My guess is that we would have butted heads with money people very early on. Likely if we had even become at all successful, Bruce (co-founder) and I would have been booted out. The company would have gone off target and be gone. More likely is that it never would have become successful at all. We would not have been able to focus with such laser sharpness on continuous improvement of products to meet the customers many wants, desires and needs. There is something to be said for small and scrappy.
Lifestyle company or growth company? For the entrepreneurs out there, don't let anyone turn their noses up when you choose the path less travelled. There is a pot of gold at the end of the lifestyle rainbow and perhaps more importantly the rainbow itself is a pretty great (and profitable!) path to follow.