Many of the podcasts I listen to aren’t financially-related, but I’ve recently been catching up The Distance Podcast which profiles the owners of private businesses that have been around for at least 25 years. Here’s their own description:
What’s the hardest thing about business? Not going out of business. The Distance features stories of private businesses that have been operating for at least 25 years and the people who got them there. Hear business owners share their stories of hard work, survival and building something that lasts. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the company behind the leading project management app.
A few observations after several episodes:
- If you’ve been around for 25 years, then you are both (1) good at what you do and (2) you turned down buyout offers.
- These businesses were not highly-leveraged with debt, and thus could survive the lean times like the 2008 financial crisis.
- Many of these founders could have sold for a sizable sum and retired (at least modestly) years ago.
- Why didn’t they sell? For one, they have pride in the their work. Building houses, growing food, carving ice sculptures, or making cardboard boxes. It matters to them that it is done “right”. They feel loyalty to their employees and community.
- Some are workaholics. If you’re going to always work, why not be the boss? If you sold, you’d have to start over or work for someone else.
- These businesses are often kept in the family. Keeping it around to pass down to the next generation is another reason not to sell.
- Some might only be in it for more money. But that seemed to be rare.
Most mass media business profiles focus on multi-national corporations (Apple) or some hot-shot tech unicorn (Uber). I found myself having a soft spot for these mom-and-pop businesses that stubbornly do their own thing.