The danger of money-motivated decisions

Making decisions with a money-first mentality is a slippery slope.  Whether you’re going for a new job or running a business – if you’re too focused on the moola, it’s pretty likely you’re going to miss out on what’s truly important, and truth-be-told, even hurt your longer-term income opportunities.   

I speak from experience!  Back in the day, the corporate sales guys at the company I worked for got paid an unsightly amount of money.  I was in the marketing team and the lure of the big dollars proved too much – so I crossed over into sales for a triple figure salary at 25.  Great, right?  Well, so I thought, for about a minute.  I hated the job.  I didn’t like my boss and the work was repetitive with little in the way of learning opportunities or career progression (the Sales Managers spent 10+ years in their roles).  It wasn’t long until my motivation waned and I started looking for other opportunities.  An important lesson in focusing on the right things, not the money attached to those things. 

Cecilia and I had met at this point and we started talking about setting up a childcare business.  So, we did.  I loved the challenge of being responsible for so many facets of a business, the ability to set the direction/be your own boss and make a difference in the lives of others.  This was where I truly discovered the value of finding the right thing to focus on.  I enjoyed building things and helping them grow into something self-sustaining, versus the drag of monthly sales targets as a cog in a much larger wheel.  So much did I love doing this, I did it unpaid for nearly 4 years.  

Insane, right?

Well, probably, but we built value in a business that we eventually sold, and the personal learning opportunities and growth gave me (and us) the ingredients to do it again.  Then, along came My Food Bag, the perfect opportunity to exercise our learnings – $100M in less than three years and the rest was history!

So, what was the learning?  Pretty simply, letting money be your sole/primary motivator can also be a dangerous thing when making decisions whilst running a company.  Becoming too focussed on the financial upside can make you lose sight of important considerations like; do customers want this product/service?  What problem does the business or product solve, and are we doing the right thing (environmentally, socially, for our customers and team)?  Making money-motivated decisions will harm the long-term customer and your team’s perceptions of your business and its value.

Another key thing we’ve come to understand is that leaders should be very wary about motivating employees with company performance plans and bonuses.  They can often drive short term thinking and decision making that is not in the best interest of the customer or the longer-term success of the business – particularly when incentive plans that are 100% weighted to annual EBIT.  In my experience, EBIT is what primarily motivates shareholders not employees.  The right learning opportunities, working for a company with purpose, having fun with the people you work for and with, responsibility and trust in your role and career progression opportunities are all stronger motivating factors.  In my case, I learnt this from hindsight.

So remember, whilst it’s undoubtedly important – don’t just do it for the money.