Are You Satisfied?

Drawing The Finish Line

Wielding power means different things to different entrepreneurs. Five years ago, at age 33, Greg Gianforte exercised the same power of choice when he and his partner sold their Tinton Falls, New Jersey, software company, Brightworks Development, for $10 million. "I loved being an entrepreneur, but I was on the road 75 percent of the time, and with a wife and small children, it just wasn't working," says Gianforte. The thrill was gone, but the adventure was only beginning.

After selling Brightworks, Gianforte and his wife were faced with the rare pleasure of constructing their future, choice by choice. They moved to Montana, "the most beautiful place in the world," by their estimation. And they took stock of their lives.

"At some point, we drew a finish line--the point at which we knew we'd had enough," says Gianforte. "It meant having enough money to send our kids to college, owning two cars, owning our home, and having enough money left over to dabble in start-ups without having to worry about putting food on the table. We were already there."

Although reaching the finish line didn't mark the end of Gianforte's career, it did provide necessary perspective. As Gianforte cast about for his next opportunity, and then his next, knowing he had crossed this bar was liberating.

The same holds true as young upstarts take their Internet companies public and raise instant fortunes in the process. When questioned about this phenomenon, Gianforte displays not a trace of envy. "When I see how many ruined lives and ruined families are coming out of the Silicon Valley, I can't help but think that greed isn't the answer," he says. "When your sense of self-worth is tied to your most recent stock price, you're in a very bad place."

"Individuals who find fulfillment measure themselves by their own yardsticks," observes Sinetar. "The more you can say `This is my ball game. I play by my rules,' the happier you'll be. Sophia Loren was once asked why she didn't attend more parties. Her reply was, `The party is where I am.' That's the attitude you're looking for."

To the extent that satisfaction comes from attaining goals and measuring worth, taking stock can be a good thing. This is why Dallmann sits down periodically to determine the "value" of her business. "Every year I open the books and look at everything I get out of my business--the money, the perks, the flexibility," she says. "Then I calculate what I would have to make as an employee to replace what I get from my business. It would be very difficult to find an employer who [could give me that]. Even setting aside the [emotional rewards] of being an entrepreneur, I couldn't replace what I do with a job. That's satisfying, too. I know I have the best I can have for me."

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Are You Satisfied?.

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