There are many reasons why someone would want to start a company. There’s the pursuit of wealth, glory, and fame, but above all, I believe most founders are searching for freedom. Freedom to run things the way they see fit, freedom to be the masters of their own domain.
But until you have profits, until you’re self-sustainable, you won’t truly have that freedom. As long as you’re beholden to other people’s money, you’re ultimately beholden to their approval.
Because we’re profitable, Jason and I get the freedom to do all sorts of “crazy” things:
- 37signals runs entirely without debt, which is apparently so uncommon that we had trouble getting net-30 terms from a vendor recently, because we couldn’t give four trade references for credit. Running a company without debt is like paying off your mortgage—liberating.
- We actually trust our employees. No expense reports, no counting vacation or sick days, no required location or work hours. We give everyone a credit card for expenses and tell them to spend it wisely. What really matters is turning out good work.
- We speak our minds — even when it’s inconvenient, controversial, or risking offense to some of our customers or partners. There’s none of the traditional self-censorship that quickly creeps in when you have to worry about what the big man thinks about your opinions.
It’s these supposedly crazy things that make me not want to give up 37signals for anything.
Now, all this is technically possible without the freedom of profitability, but it certainly wouldn’t be natural or common. Once you start thinking about how your decisions and actions might displease the men with the money, you invariably shy away from the most controversial (and best) ideas.