On the other hand, there's no denying it: People are making money today. And it's naive to think that prosperity doesn't color the way we view our achievements, for better or worse.
In the early 1990s, entrepreneurship was a struggle, a contest. Economically, everything was. To declare success in such an environment was ungracious--and potentially deadly. Who would want to do business with a braggart?
Today--whether from economic abundance, millennial fever or even spiritual maturity--the very opposite view prevails. It's not because entrepreneurship has changed. There are still the daily crises, the endless hours, the sleepless worry. Growing a business is no easier or more elegant than it ever was. It's only our perspective that's changed.
These days, you can find Gianforte at his new venture, a software applications company called Right Now Technologies in Bozeman, Montana. The company, which helps businesses develop customer service functions for the Net, is in heavy growth mode. To date, Gianforte estimates Right Now's annual sales are about $4 million; he expects them to accelerate to $4 million per quarter in short order. His work force has blossomed from one employee in March 1998 to 90 currently. The idea, says Gianforte, is for the company to generate a significant percentage of the 2,000 software jobs Gianforte plans to create in Bozeman during his career.
Gianforte works hard. But he keeps his business travel to just two or three days a month. And he tries to keep sight of the blessings in his life: rewarding work, a strong family, a sense of purpose and ample money. He's not the most successful entrepreneur who's ever lived. But he's pretty happy, just the same.
In the old way of thinking, humility meant acknowledging the shortfalls--the money you didn't make, the mistakes you should have avoided, the dreams you had yet to achieve. Now it's the reverse. "My glass is half full," says Gianforte. "My life isn't perfect, but I can only do what I can do. And I don't want for anything." And that seems more like a statement of gratitude than hubris. Yes, we are hoping and striving for more. But we also see what is here, now, and the great fortune it represents.
"Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I used to be up all night worrying about the opportunities I'd missed--the account my competitor got, the press opportunity I missed, the product I saw at a trade show that should have been mine. Finally, I came to the realization that it was like standing at the base of Niagara Falls, trying to drink all the water. It was impossible. Now I visualize my job as standing at the top of the falls with a harpoon, waiting for the biggest salmon to go by. I can't do everything. I can't control it all. I can only do what I can do." - Greg Gianforte
"I teach small-business start-up classes, and I see a lot of people who have ideas but don't have the skills to start a business. My best advice is to go out and get the skills. When you're working hard and not making any money, that's when the resentment and frustration come in. It's wonderful to have your own business--to be able to create your own destiny. But without the money side of things in place, it's not realistic--or fun." - Barbie Dallmann
"I started [my business] at 20 with no experience, scared as hell. If I'd known [what it would be like], I would have said `No way.' It's like telling a kindergartner what he's going to be facing in high school. It's enough to make you want to stay in kindergarten forever." - Stephan Paternot
"Today I live an impossible future. When I started out, my little pea brain could not have imagined what I have now. It would have said `You'll never have that, Deborah. Don't even want it.' That's why--whatever the destination is in 10 or 15 years--I know I can't imagine it now." - Deborah Rosado Shaw
"[Entrepreneurs] are huge dreamers and brainstormers, but none of that really gets you anywhere without some action on the back end. Inevitably, that means challenges, frustrations, brick walls and humbling experiences along the way. But these are healthy, because not only do they keep you centered, but they also tend to be the times when you do some of your best thinking." - Tracy Porter
"No entrepreneur would [work this hard] unless [he or she] loved it. There's never a day when I look at my watch and say `It's 6:30--time to go.' When that day comes, I'll know it's time to get out." - Todd Krizelman
Ariat International Inc., 940 Commercial St., San Carlos, CA 94070, (800) 899-8141
the globe.com, 120 Broadway, 22nd Fl., New York, NY 10271, http:www.theglobe.com
Right Now Technologies, (406) 522-4200, http://www.rightnowtech.com
Sinetar & Associates, (707) 575-5555
Tracy Porter--The Home Collection, (920) 295-0142, firstname.lastname@example.org
Umbrellas Plus LLC, 154 Rte. 206, Chester, NJ 07930, (908) 879-7450.