Goodbye, Mom & Pop

5. You Set the Standard

Getting credit is an issue for all entrepreneurs. Unlike employees, who might gauge their success by their succession of job titles (and corresponding salaries), or traditional business owners, who might track the stability and steady income they derive from their companies, entrepreneurs can't always measure their success by conventional indicators.

Why? For one thing, growing a business means channeling more profits into growth than into your pockets. This means that, even on the very brink of your big breakthrough, you may be up to your eyeballs in debt, flat out of cash, driving your neighbor's abandoned Subaru, and living with so much stress that you look like the victim of a war crime. The size of your bank account doesn't always reflect the might of your business.

For that matter, neither do plush, cushy offices, multiple locations and hordes of eager employees. Stansell--like plenty of other enterprising solopreneurs--is both challenged by and contented with her status. Her lack of accoutrements belies the expansive spirit of her venture.

In fact, says McCann, "What we once thought of as assets--real estate, machinery, number of employees--are now potential liabilities. The question used to be, How big can you be? Now people want to know how much you can do with the fewest number of people and resources."

As these rules change, one fact remains constant: Entrepreneurs make their own rewards, their own motivation. They don't rely on Aunt Gertrude's approval or validation from their good friend Bob.

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Goodbye, Mom & Pop.

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