Sheila was beaming.
“My gym just held a fundraiser for a local veterans’ organization!” she practically shouted at me.
She was proud, and for good reason. But I was concerned.
“Sheila,” I asked, “Didn’t you have to miss your own paycheck this month?”
You could hear her bubble burst over the phone line.
“Yeah,” she said. And she sighed. “I guess it just helps to know that someone is benefiting from my hard work.”
You Need to Survive—and Thrive
Many gym owners fall into the trap of self-martyrdom.
They’re generous people by nature. They’ve given up their secure job, their quiet nights at home with family and, in many cases, their own fitness all to help other people get healthier. That’s so inspiring that I’ve dedicated my life to helping them.
And that’s why, when Sheila shared the news of her generous gift, I got really worried. Because if Sheila goes out of business, nobody else is going to host that fundraiser.
Nobody else is going to get up at 4 a.m. to coach the 5 a.m. class full of people who want to get healthy but can’t do it at any other time.
Nobody else is going to do it on a shoestring grocery budget.
Nobody else is going to do it after fighting with a spouse over money.
Nobody else is going to miss a child’s piano recital to stay late and talk about macros.
When Sheila’s gone, she’ll leave thousands of people un-helped and unhealthy.
A Lesson From Bill Gates
In “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” I wrote that entrepreneurs should build their own platforms of wealth first and then spread that wealth to others. Building your wealth platform is done in Tinker Phase (after you’ve built your business); turning it into a giving platform is done in Thief Phase.
Think about it this way: Bill Gates goes through Founder Phase scrimping and bootstrapping and pulling pieces together. He goes through Farmer Phase attracting specialists and building his company, Microsoft.
Then he goes through Tinker Phase acquiring other companies and making a wealth platform for himself.
But finally, the purpose for all of it is revealed: a massive legacy platform called the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It’s big enough to eradicate the problems that plague the poorest. It’s big enough to do almost anything!
What would have happened if Gates had started giving money to charity before he could afford it?
What would have happened if they hadn’t poured every resource into Microsoft?
They still would have been generous. But their contribution would have increased incrementally, not exponentially. By building a platform of wealth first, their eventual contribution was much larger—like many orders of magnitude larger—than it would have been 30 years earlier.
The Noble Entrepreneur
Building your personal wealth with the intent to help others is noble.
Waiting until your help can make a real difference—even if that means you miss some of the kudos along the way—takes a lot of discipline.
But the ability to pay for kids to play hockey or supply some shut-ins with food every week—those things make you feel like you’re here for a reason. Trust me on that.
Building a platform of wealth doesn’t make you a bad person. Being a bad person makes you a bad person. Becoming a wealthy good person makes you able to help more people more. Do that.
I work to make gym owners wealthy because the easiest way to help a lot of people is to start with the good people who want to spread their wealth. That’s my legacy.
How big could yours be?
Which stage of entrepreneurship are you in? Take our 20-question quiz to find out and get the exact steps you need to take your business to the next level.