Every business is started for a reason, and whilst making a profit is a key factor, it is rarely the causal factor. Most of us who have started businesses have done so as a result of an inspiration, an idea, a cause, or perhaps because we want to make a mark. Whatever the reason, it’s at the heart of the business. It’s the spark.
As the business grows, it changes. We recruit people who weren’t in at the beginning. We adopt processes to make life more efficient, but maybe a little less personal. We end up with important customers, suppliers and investors and shape our business to their needs. The business becomes professionalised.
The spark remains, but the business develops more and more layers that bury it deeper.
Before long, the balance changes. The business becomes distant from the spark that generated it and it becomes an end in itself, rather than means to an end. The business can become the master, rather than the servant.
The spark remains for a while, and can always be brought back to life if attention is paid to it.
Attention is a distictly human attribute – it suggests engagement and curiosity. A sense of being seen and acknowledged. It fans the spark.
The North American Indian Tribes always had a “fire carrier” – a senior member of the tribe whose role was to carry the embers of the campfire to the new campsite when the tribe moved on, in order to start the next fire and keep the original fire alive.
Maybe we can learn from that. Our businesses move on to new areas, but unless somebody is carrying the fire, the spark will go out.
Who’s your fire carrier?