It's all about the bottom line.
Reality: Keeping the numbers at the bottom of your spreadsheet nice and plump is "necessary, but not sufficient," says Kahn. "It's helpful because it's what drives the business forward. But it certainly can't just be about the bottom line. You have to give meaning and purpose to the business and inspire employees as well."
The beauty of entrepreneurship is that it's your prerogative to tweak the bottom line a bit. "If we decide to educate kids about the environment and put 1 percent of our sales each year into a not-for-profit foundation, a giant conglomeration would say `You could have spent that money in television and driven your brand up another two points,' " says FaBrizio. "We don't have to answer to those analysts, that quarterly statement. We only have to answer to ourselves."
How do FaBrizio's Don Quixote dreams mix with the cold, hard bottom line? "What I dreamt of 20 years ago--to clean up the world--has grown exponentially," he says. "I now have offices in Auckland, New Zealand; Chicago; Honolulu; Paris; Sydney, Australia; and Zurich, Switzerland. At some point, there's a light that goes on that says `We're going to make a difference.' So the dream becomes reality, and then it's all about how much of it you can actually handle. You decide where you want to get off, because there is absolutely no finish line."
It's not that these entrepreneurs don't think the bottom line is important. It's just that their bottom line is much more than a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet, more than red or black or zeros or points. It's about the environment and people's quality of life. Ultimately, it's about bringing their own brand of truth to the world. "After I'm gone, my dream will continue and the product will endure," says FaBrizio. "The truthfulness of proving that we're different from everything else on the shelf provides a wonderful sense, a bittersweet victory that you could never put a price on."
Cascadian Farm Inc., (800) 624-4123, http://www.cfarm.com
Restoration Hardware Inc., firstname.lastname@example.org
SBA Office of Advocacy, fax: (202) 205-6928, http://www.sba.gov/advo
Sunshine Makers Inc., (562) 795-6000, http://www.simplegreen.com