Once you have a well-established company, you will have to look beyond money to motivate growth and evolution. So how do you create the conditions to allow you to keep moving forward?

“You’re just all about the money, though, Dave.”

This genuine comment was made to me a few years ago by a business owner I had met back in the days when I was a franchised Business Coach. Whilst it upset me to hear it, within the franchise context, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. After all, the franchise owner announced during a conference that “Whatever the client tells you their problem is, the answer is always money”. So, it was little wonder I came across like some Gordon Gecko, Greed is Good, character. 

Not that there is anything wrong with money. Personally, I’ve found it to be a helpful resource to have. It’s just that I have seen ZERO evidence that the pursuit of money is an effective tool for motivating you to make difficult decisions or take uncomfortable actions in the face of uncertainty and risk. 

The challenge is, it LOOKS like it is.

I met an MD in Basingstoke who was in the process of building his third company. After building the previous two into seven-figure turnover companies, he sold them for what would have been millions of pounds if I know anything about company valuations. At the point I met with him, he was about halfway through building the third one, presumably to do the same trick.

I asked him why he was going to all this trouble again. He was mortgage-free, had lots of holidays, was financially secure, and had nothing he or his family really wanted for.

He responded that it was the only way he knew how to make money. I rarely trust first answers with questions like this, so I pressed him some more.

It took a few attempts until he found a deeper answer. He began to become animated and excited as he talked about setting the business up. He loved searching for premises, recruiting and training people, buying equipment and the buzz as the phones started to hum and the first sales came in. Even though to most people (including himself), it looked like money was the driver, his motivation came from bringing the project to life. 

Figuring out how to grow a business of this scale (subject to market conditions) is easy enough. But finding the motivation to take risks, keep pushing forward and maintaining the high degrees of focus, drive and work necessary is the real challenge. Operating at this level requires a bucket load of confidence, resilience, and commitment.

Motivating yourself at this level requires more than the thought of the money. 

During the start-up (or early acquisition) phase, motivation is easy to come by. The heady mix of novelty and the race to break even are powerful motivators. However, once the business is profitable and broadly under control, everything can get too comfortable. The desire to take ‘risk’ to continue growing or developing diminishes as the owner becomes financially secure and maxed out from a workload perspective. 

Many business owners lack the self-belief, knowledge, and commitment to keep stepping outside of their comfort zone once they are at this point. 

So, how do you create the level of motivational tension required to keep moving?

You do it by making the company about you and your development.

Your company is an expression of who you believe you are, what you think you want and how you think your market works. The company grows and develops (or doesn’t) in sync with the perceptions, decisions, and actions of you and your management team. A few degrees of thinking is the difference between forward momentum, becoming stuck or even terminal decline.

Building and developing a company is as much a journey of personal growth as it is a commercial strategy. Every single day business leaders are challenged to operate outside of their comfort zones. Yet, it is these small daily victories, in the face of challenges and opportunities, that grow you as a person.

In and of itself, this growth is the source of all the motivation you can need for the commercial journey you are on. 

Predictably, T.S. Elliot says it better than I ever could:

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Your company is a significant part of your life’s work. If your company does not fill you with the heady excitement of adventure and the unknown, if you don’t experience the highs and the lows with equal intensity, growth and even survival will always feel like hard work and a grind. But, unfortunately, motivation from that position is hard to access. 

My job is to help you find the very best expression of yourself; the position from which you can show up in continually exciting and powerful ways to keep driving your company forward; whatever your growth or sustainability goals are. From that position, we can build a commercial blueprint that brings together your contribution, reputation and profit goals, which will have motivation effortlessly built in. 

This is what I mean when I talk about Leveraging Leadership. 

If you make it all about money, you make it challenging to motivate and inspire yourself and your teams. Money is the fortunate side effect of your commercial journey, not the reason for it. When you do what you do well and show up fully, you give financial success the best chance of showing up (and you’ll have a blast in the process).