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Are You Doing Business or Playing Business?

Jason Balin
Jason Balin

You don’t start a business just to start a business. You start a business to make money.

Many business owners are slaves to their businesses. Their businesses run them when it should be the other way around. As basic as it sounds, making a dollar is one of the hardest things to do in business. It is also the most important.

The foundation of your business needs to be a monetary one. Essentially, all businesses should have the same goal: to make money. Your mission can still be “to serve the best coffee in town” or "to have the most diverse selection of bridal gowns,” but your goal should always be to make x amount of revenue by the end of the year.

Roy, a business associate we have known for several years, still doesn’t understand this idea. Roy loves the start-up phase of establishing a new business. He can’t get enough of brainstorming ideas, designing a logo and unveiling a business for the world to admire.

Once the creation process is complete though, Roy’s enthusiasm takes a sharp nosedive. He begins to twiddle his thumbs helplessly, at a loss for what to do next. With the goal of starting a business realized, Roy has nothing left for which to work.

What Roy doesn’t understand is that you don’t start a business just to start a business; you start a business to make money. There always needs to be a long term goal that extends beyond the start-up phase of a venture or creative project in order for it to thrive.

Roy’s story doesn’t have to be yours, and it won’t be if you follow this rule of thumb: always make your business goal an economic one.

Sometimes we’ll hear people say that they feel greedy or too materialistic basing their business on money. This is ludicrous. Don’t lie to yourself. You went into business with the expectation that it would support you financially, and that it would support your employees. Just because your goal is to make money doesn’t mean you can’t be altruistic as well. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the more revenue you bring into your business, the more resources you have at your disposal to give.

A monetary goal is a good reason to start a business. Giving yourself a title and filling your time are bad reasons to start a business.

Calling yourself an entrepreneur doesn’t make you one. There are many “entrepreneurs” toting around several mediocre products or services at any given time, and they continue to add more to their repertoire because they can’t seem to make ends meet. This kind of “entrepreneurship” eats up your money and time like a parasite. It will also eventually leave you with your back against the wall and no exit in sight. One waving red flag that can warn you you’re about to step into this sinkhole is if you carry a heavy wallet brimming with various business cards for the many unrelated products and services you offer. Settle on one idea, and learn to do it well.

Starting a business to fill your time doesn’t make you an entrepreneur either. That is what we call a hobby. Trust us, business isn’t a hobby. It is not something to be played at.

Business is business

If you’re merely looking for a new pastime, establish this independently, so it doesn’t affect anyone else’s livelihood. Meeting the financial needs of employees is an integral part of running a business. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

At this moment, take an inventory of your business goals. Make sure that they are attached to a concrete, long-term vision. If not, fix this.

Reworking your goals so they offer a solid outcome is an easy alteration that will have a profound impact on the trajectory of your business and career. 

Playing versus doing

What exactly separates business owners who cash in on their ideas from those who don’t? There are two different classes of entrepreneurs: those who play business and those who do business.

Chris’s first job out of college was in a lending department at a commercial bank. He was excited (and admittedly a bit intimidated) by the idea of working with smart, motivated colleagues. He was under the impression that everyone in business would be professional, innovative and well-educated. He anticipated being challenged, learning and growing through healthy competition and mentorship.

After attending several meetings with associates, Chris came upon a startling realization: most of the professionals with whom he was talking didn’t care about making deals or creating new business opportunities. They had no long-term goals.

Chris was attending these meetings with the agenda of bringing loans back to his bank. He was bewildered to find that most of his colleagues didn’t have a goal beyond having a meeting. They wanted to look and feel productive without actually accomplishing anything. And they had no idea this was the case.

This is the prototype of a player in the business world. These professionals enjoy playing business instead of doing it. When you play, you’re not invested in outcomes or goals. You’re in business for the ride, and you are going nowhere fast.

Doers, on the other hand, have goals that they actively pursue. They are the sprinters in business. They are often called lucky, but luck has nothing to do with their fast rise. It is decisive action and clear vision that allows doers to seize fleeting opportunities when they become available.

The tough part is recognizing whether or not you’re playing business. Most people don’t. But serious professionals recognize this trait instantly in others.

If you fear you’ve been playing at business or life, it’s never too late to change your ways. Give yourself a goal and take action. You’ll soon find those playing days are far behind you.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Have a nice day Photo

Jason Balin
Jason Balin Member
Jason Balin & Chris Haddon co-founded Hard Money Bankers, REI 360 and are serial Entrepreneurs. HARD MONEY BANKERS is a full service and self-funded private/hard money lending company providing fast and flexible financing for residential and commercial investment real estate deals. We are currently lending in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more information, please visit