Certainly in this entrepreneurial climate you have to Botox your financial projections and wheel out the smoke machines and full-length mirrors to capture angel investment or more heavy-handed venture capital investment. Most people would be more than thrilled to see a predictable return on an investment of 20, 25 or 30 percent, but that's not ambitious enough for most of the investment community. They know well that only a small fraction of their investments will be the next Twitter-meets-iPod-meets-Airbnb, and that more than pays for all that fall flat. When you see some of the crap that gets funded, you understand this can be more art than science. Thank goodness for the long-overdue advent of legitimate crowdfunding!
Unfortunately, by not pulling back the smoke and mirrors we miss out on some of the "real" stories we could all learn a lot from. After all, not everyone gets to be Mark Zuckerberg. Not everyone wants to be Mark Zuckerberg, either. Incredible entrepreneurial success at any means possible may bring about timely innovations, great financial comfort, and even the illusion of power. We celebrate that doggedness and disruption. There are some breakthrough companies that create meaningful change, others that manufacture nice-to-have consumer products (usually overseas), and others that seem to do little more than gin cash. Then you have the billionaire hedge fund managers on Park Avenue that can write their own rules and even get bailed out by taxpayers when they muck it up.
In this day and age, is it possible to achieve a relative measure of success in a truly mission-driven business without compromising your integrity? Can you do it fighting the good fight? Fortunately I've met a lot of people through this work that have showed me indeed you can. You can read all about these companies in Sustainable Industries.
There is also risk in telling a “real” story. When your livelihood depends on asking companies for marketing dollars, illuminating cracks in the facade can be, um, counterproductive. It amazes me how much money some media companies ask for relative to what they deliver, but every good salesperson knows when you pitch with confidence and persistence you can make magic happen. Marketers understandably want to put their money on the fastest horses, so a lot of pomp can go a long way.