“I don’t work to collect money.” — Warren Buffett
If anyone should have a skewed perspective on money, it would be Warren Buffett. At the time of this writing, he is worth over 81 billion dollars. Yet he still lives in the first house he ever bought in 1958 for $31,500. He eschews a personal cook and fine dining for a daily breakfast from a McDonalds’ drive-thru and lunches that typically revolve around burgers and cherry Cokes.
For Buffett, accumulating wealth is not the end product for what he does, it is a by-product. He doesn’t relate his personal happiness to having a lot of money or possessions. Buffett derives his satisfaction from his love of work, saying, “I work because I love what I’m doing. It just so happens that I’m in a business where lots of money comes in when I do it right.” While he has the finances to own an entire city, he realizes possessions won’t make him any happier, remarking, “My life would be worse if I had six or houses.”
This is an important lesson I learned when I first co-founded a company. My partners and I were less interested in enriching ourselves and more interested in doing something we enjoyed. Our focus from the company’s inception was on hiring quality people and delighting our clients. Early on, we immediately reinvested the money we earned back into the company. Personal wealth wasn’t the endgame for us. We never went into building a company to sell it to the highest bidder and cash out. We wanted to do what we loved: call our own shots, build a company in our industry like we thought it SHOULD be built, and surround ourselves with talented people.
Now, I won’t lie and say that generating revenue isn’t important. For a boot-strapped company, it’s critical. But none of the owners dreamed about yachts or private jets; we simply wanted to create a company the way WE wanted it. That was the most important thing for us. We were tired of being a small cog in a big machine. We wanted to re-engineer the machine. Ultimately, we wanted freedom from working in a corporate hierarchy; we wanted our independence.
Over the years countless investors and other companies have approached our company looking to acquire us. We have even entertained a few offers. But at the end of the day, we have always shied away, relying on the mantra of Warren Buffett, “I don’t work to collect money.”