People go into business for all kinds of reasons, and oddly enough many of them do it not because they want to make money because they have a mission.
It may sound strange, but having a mission, something you believe in, is common to people who don’t have much. Sometimes it’s music, or art, or design, or fashion, or baling, even bicycles, no, especially bicycles.
People who get into the bicycle business were first entranced by bikes. This differs from most lawyers, accountants, stockbrokers, real estate people. They got into business because they were first entranced by money.
Car people are similar to bike people in that way. Most little repair shops get started because the owner loves cars and loves fiddling with, fixing, modifying, improving them. They spend all their time doing the thing they love and then finally make the jump from “This is my avocation” to “This is my vocation.”
Business sense usually doesn’t make the jump with them because it was never there to begin with. Business is a simple thing, but not pretty. It works this way: I take money from you.
I know what you’re going to say. “It’s voluntary!” or “It’s an arms-length transaction!” or “This is the only way to rationally allocate resources!” etc. etc. etc.
That’s often true, and sometimes not, but in any case the root behavior is the same: I take money from you.
And the corollary is this: If you are not taking money from people, you are either not in business or you’re about to go under. Why does this matter? Because people who get into business out of passion, or hobby, or avocation, or mission, have an incredibly hard time saying “Pay me the money.”
What’s stranger is that, because they came into business lacking the key component of business, i.e. “Pay me the money,” they feel guilty about getting paid, especially when the “customer” is a family member or friend, or even when it is simply someone who shares their zeal.
Jeff Bezos does not discount his products because you share his love for online shopping.
Successful money people find it all a bit comical and strange, that you would go into business and stumble at the only thing in business that matters–taking money. But passionate people don’t find it strange at all because to them it is natural to see the whole picture. The guy who brings in the dead bicycle deserves a discount because he’s flat fucking broke, or it’s his only way of getting to work, or he is madly in love with the rusted out POS, or he thinks bicycles are gonna save the world, or or or or.
The passionate person knows that money is only a tiny part of the human transaction, which encompasses kindness, honesty, hard luck, good luck, friendship, kinship, shared interest, human commonality, and he or she can be leaned on to consider all those factors instead of THE factor: Pay me the money.
As someone who lives more and more on his bike and comes into more and more contact with homeless people I am struck by how the avocation-mission-passion businessperson shares with those who have no fixed abode other than the street.
Homeless people give you money if they think you really need it. Homeless people will help you even to their detriment if they think you are a good person or if you are just down on your luck. Homeless people will immediately identify with you if you look scraggly, pedal around on a bike with a backpack, and seem sort of aimless. Homeless people will feed you, share a cigarette, and always, always, always take the time to talk.
Why is it that the people with the least, and the “business people” whose real interest is in people, have so much humanity?