Paying respects to prudence in entrepreneurship

Pinzon Tortoise on Pinzon Island, Galapagos by Island Conservation on Flickr.

Pinzon Tortoise on Pinzon Island, Galapagos by Island Conservation on Flickr.

In today’s media, the idea of entrepreneurship has grown more and more synonymous with startup culture and its Silicon Valley-inspired “get rich quick” mentality. We often praise the entrepreneur who becomes a millionaire overnight, and we associate innovation and progress with companies that grow big quickly. 

But there’s much to be celebrated about the entrepreneurs who play the long game, who aren’t beholden to the whims of VC investors but carve out their own path and make a rewarding living doing what they love. It’s the tortoise to the hare—prudence and diligence over speed and shortcuts. 

Here are four reasons why entrepreneurs (and the rest of us) should value prudence:  

Strong customer and vendor relationships.

Developing trust within your business network takes time; there’s no fast and easy way around it. Highly successful companies place a high importance on maintaining this trust with their customers and vendors. This means delivering on quality, investing in good customer service, and paying vendors on time. 

Productive, loyal employees. 

The best companies know that they’re only as good as their worst employee, so investing in their well-being and development is a top priority. This means having developed HR policies, open communication among staff, and encouraging employees to grow professionally within the company. As it is with building trust, building a healthy and strong work culture takes time and prudence, but in the long run it builds employee loyalty and reduces turnover. 

Ties to the community. 

The Monocle Guide to Good Business defines this as “social terroir.” Long-standing businesses have strong roots within their local communities, whether it’s sourcing from local vendors, hiring from the neighborhood, partnering with other local businesses, or supporting local causes. Even as businesses expand and grow, the most successful of them still maintain a sense of place within the community. 

Steady and wise growth. 

While startups fret over burn rates and funding rounds, prudent entrepreneurs are establishing solid operations practices that will keep their companies sustainable in the long run. Growing too big too fast is one of the fastest ways for companies to crash and burn. Cautious companies stay successful by keeping operating costs low, strategically managing inventory and cash flow, making smart capital investments, and growing business in a way that doesn’t compromise on the quality of the product or service. 

At the end of the day, prudence isn’t sexy or glamorous. It probably won’t make headlines on TechCrunch. But in prudence you will find purpose, the antidote to the emptiness that get-rich-quick schemes can create. And that’s where true innovation and growth lies—in turning a labor of love into a thriving business.