Passion vs. Profits. What drives YOU?

If you follow those tech people in silicon valley, you know they have a big mantra on entrepneurship.

In that quest for business success, people often put themselves in one of two buckets.

Missionary – You’re out to change the world. Mercenary – You’re in it for the kill, the profits, the M/A, and of course, the sale.

According to John Doerr, the VC famous for investing in Google, Netscape, Sun, Amazon, Intuit, etc., the really great companies are led by missionaries, not mercenaries.

Mercenaries are driven by paranoia; missionaries are driven by passion. Mercenaries think opportunistically; missionaries think strategically. Mercenaries go for the sprint; missionaries go for the marathon. Mercenaries focus on their competitors and financial statements; missionaries focus on their customers and value statements.

Mercenaries are bosses of wolf packs; missionaries are mentors or coaches omf teams. Mercenaries worry about entitlements; missionaries are obsessed with making a contribution. Mercenaries are motivated by the lust for making money; missionaries, while recognizing the importance of money, are fundamentally driven by the desire to make meaning.

As Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, … “THAT IS ONE BIG BILE OF SHIT”.

In fact, if you’re an entrepreneur, do yourself a favor and do NOT take it literally.

Here’s why.

1) They don’t eat their own dog food

6a00d834517b5669e200e54f2871ee8833_800wiIf that’s the case, why aren’t these VCs investing into every entrepreneur that knocks on their door and tell them that they’re going to change the world with their latest mobile app/game/social network/platform/SaaS..?

Why? Because they don’t have market traction. And why does market traction matter? Because VCs don’t want to lose money. There is no ROI in losing money. Call me crazy, but that sounds like something mercenaries would do.

Yes I agree to a large extent: company leaders who are focused only on the profits will get just that.. profits. Look at all those shady CPA networks ran by shitheads and morons. They all tanked because all THEY cared about was their margins, never the margins of their advertisers (who pay them) or their affiliates (who run their traffic).

But at the same time, they’re doing a huge dis-service to entrepreneurs who actually believe in all this silicon valley foo-foo mantra that doesn’t serve anyone except those who already made billions.

And if you’re a non-investor funded entrepreneur risking your own money to make your business work, ain’t no amount of ideal vision going to save your business if you don’t know when the next check is coming. If you’re worried about day to day and don’t have a steady salary paying for your basic life needs, you’re NOT thinking long term vision stuff.

I have a wealthy friend who collects art and  expensive wine. He asked me why this girl I introduced him to (a really HOT single mother with 2 kids) doesn’t show up to his fundraisers.

Well, no offense bro… it’s because she’s working 2 dead-end jobs to pay for her insanely expensive kids in one of the most expensive cities in US. That’s why. It’s not that poor people don’t like art or philosophizing about life, it’s just that they’re too damn tired at the end of the day to be doing any of this “missionary” things.

Same for entrepreneurs… if you are starving, surviving becomes your #1 passion.

2) Missionary in public. Mercenary behind closed doors.

Sure, in public these Silicon Valley people look like they’re squeaky clean nerds who made billions by sticking to their big visions and dreams.

In private? Sheep in wolf clothing, like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

Not that anyone from Amazon, including and especially its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, would admit to violating the creed described by Doerr, his now-former board member.

As BusinessWeek writer Brad Stone details in The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Bezos has built the most mercenary of enterprises — squeezing partners, undercutting competitors, degrading employees — while insisting repeatedly to both internal and external audiences that Amazon fits Doerr’s definition of the missionary business.

No offense to Apple fans, probably the biggest douche of all? Steve Jobs.

His “missionary” vision for Apple in 1980?

“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

I guess he when he said “the world”, he meant all the world except poor Chinese factor workers at Foxconn (company contracted to make Apple products) who were apparently killing themselves by jumping out of their apartments because the working conditions at their factory was so shitty.

Of course, it’s ONLY when the media makes a big fuss that Apple decides to stop turning the blind eye. And let’s not forget all those wonderful lawsuits. Their controversy is so long that they have a whole wikipedia entry on it.

Funny how they became the very THING that they hated so much & grew as a result of that hatred – large corporation that treats people like numbers. Remember that TV commercial where that woman throws a hammer into the screen? It looks like they’re the one who should be receiving that hammer in their face now.

So what are you? Mercenary or missionary?

Amazon, Apple, Google are indeed great companies, but are they really all one sided missionaries? Doubtful.

Personally, I think ALL entrepreneurs are deluded in thinking that they are missionaries. It’s alright, because I am too.

But now I am older and wiser to not give a shit about what people think of me, so I’ll be honest. Yes, I’m in it for the profits, but at the same time, I want to die knowing that my customers and my employees’ lives were better off because of what i did.

It’s not either / or, rather a combination of both that defines success, in my humble opinion.

If you suck at hustling, how do you plan on marketing & selling? Ever try paying your mortgage or rent with your “passion”? YOu can try but i can tell you that you’ll get a passionate kick-in-the-ass eviction. At the same time, if you all care about is profits, who the hell wants to work with you? Nobody.

But what do I know? I ain’t a billionaire.


Like I said, what drives YOU? And why?

Share your thoughts in the comment box.

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

14 thoughts on “Mercenary vs. Missionary – What Drives You?”
  1. Huh. After reading that I’m not really sure what to say I am. Definitely giving me pause for thought.

  2. I think that’s the noble line that most of us want to walk. I want to make money and I’ll step on a few people to get there, but I’m not going to burn down villages to get where I want to be.

  3. There is not a return on lost money?!?! You don’t say?!?! I know you’ve been doing some work the venture capitalist companies while you raise capital for PAR, I’m interested to hear more about your experience in dealing with that.

  4. I think you’re dead on about the whole being a different person to the public than who you are behind closed doors. I mean, Jeremy, you’re pretty open and stuff, but I’m sure you’ve got certain things you do/say that you probably wouldn’t want certain people/clients knowing. Well maybe not, you are ShoeMoney after all. But I know for one am that way.

  5. I think that people need to look harder at the big picture of things. So many people on JUST profits and it is totally their downfall.

  6. What drives me if making money. More specifically so making enough money to live a better life than my parents had and to give my kids a better future.

  7. No company can be all good all the time. we can pick apart the giants of the industires that started out with good intentions of makign the would a better place or whatever, but really no matter the copmany (even humane society and red cross) once you get to a certain size then shit starts getting shaddy and more money goes to admin costs and other bullshit than towards the cause.

  8. You must find a balance by offering value but at the same time making the money. We all want the money and you need to remember that is what you are after, but give honest value in return and you will go much farther and do much better in monetization!

  9. My man Shoemeister, great timing for this read. Just plopped in and read this. Just keep it real.

  10. Can’t you do both? Make money while doing something you love that helps people?

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