When Jon and I started Transistor, our primary motivation was to have a better life. We wanted to build something we could be proud of. We were tired of working for other people. We wanted to make more money. We wanted more freedom.
It's important to be clear about why you're starting a company. "What is this in service of?"
This means not only identifying your company's purpose ("help customers do X") but also your personal motivations ("earn more") for being an entrepreneur.
At Transistor, our company's purpose is to build the best podcast hosting software and to give our users excellent customer service.
But for us as founders, our main motivation is for us to build better lives for ourselves and our employees.
I think for most indie entrepreneurs, their personal objectives for starting a company look like this:
If you've started a company, it's worth evaluating your progress along these lines. Your company might be killing it, but it could also be making you miserable. The flipside is more often true: your business isn't doing very well, which means it's not giving you the benefits you wanted from it.
I think it's essential to keep your entrepreneurial "raison d'etre" in mind from the beginning. Allow yourself to be selfish. Ask yourself: what do I want to get out of this experience?
When you start a company, you're making a bet. You're betting that your personal investment of time, resources, money, and passion is going to give you a return. Ultimately, you should get something out of this.
Naturally, a new startup isn't going to give you all the purpose, enjoyment, freedom, and money you want from the beginning. It's going to take some time for it to give you a return on your investment.
But I wouldn't wait too long for your business to start paying you "better life" dividends. Too many entrepreneurs get stuck in a life-long grind, where the business is making them (and their families) miserable.
This is also why we shouldn't blindly commit to "running our business forever." We want the good things that a business can give us; if those benefits disappear, there's no reason to keep going. Switch to something else, sell your company, or retire.
If you do want to run your company for a long time, it's even more important that you ask yourself: "Am I enjoying this? Is this company giving me the life I want?" When left unchecked, a business can quickly become a job we don't enjoy.
Make business decisions that optimize for the life you want. If you've hit a revenue ceiling because of a lack of customer demand, it might be time to switch businesses. If your category requires massive teams, but you like working on smaller teams, it might be time to find a different category. If your investors are making demands you don't like, it might be time to buy them out.
As a founder, you have the ability to set the direction of your company based on what you value. Don't lose sight of why you got into this in the first place.