What Have You Become?

A Traditional CEO?

The Root Of All Evil

How does success really affect the entrepreneurial spirit? Here are some firsthand looks.

Many wildly successful firms out there started with little more than a desk, a fistful o' dollars and a great idea. But when those companies grew to become successful ventures, did their leaders lose their entrepreneurial spirit? Entrepreneur asked the successful business owners featured on the following pages the same question: "Do you still feel like an entrepreneur, or do you feel like a traditional CEO?"

Name: Jack A. Martinez
Company: Black Flys (sunglasses maker)
Based: Costa Mesa, California
Fast fact: $8 million in sales in 1999
CEO or free spirit? "It's strange-I do call myself a CEO, but I sure don't feel like one," says Martinez. "In fact, this is the first year I've had a business card. "But so many of our licensees have different cultures, I felt it was important to be identified as the CEO-there's a comfort factor there. But if you came to our office and saw all the weird photos and toys hanging around the place, and the laid-back work environment, I think you'd call me an entrepreneur.

Name: Lisa Swayne
Company: The Swayne Agency Literary Management & Consulting
Based: New York City
Fast fact: One of the fastest-growing literary agencies in New York City
CEO or free spirit? "We've doubled in size over the past three years," Swayne says. "We have a bigger office and will double sales this and next year. I don't work Saturdays anymore-I actually went on vacation last year.

"In that sense, I don't feel the same. Somebody asked me where we kept the postage materials for the postage meter the other day and I didn't remember. I don't vacuum my own floor anymore. But I'm also constantly thinking about growing the business, what's going to be the next thing, and I try to be agile. So in that way, I do still think like an entrepreneur."

Name: Snooky And Tish Bellomo
Company: Manic Panic (hair-care & cosmetic products)
Based: Long Island City, New York
Fast fact: Started with $200 in 1977; now grosses $5 million per year
CEO or free spirit? "We are very independent-minded," says Tish. "I never feel like a CEO at IBM or anything like that. But things definitely get quite different from the day you started. You still learn from experience, and you certainly apply the things you learn like a traditional CEO does."

"I don't think we'd ever feel like that," says Snooky. "Everything we do is still really exciting to me. We're still taking risks, not resting on our laurels, doing new stuff and staying one step of ahead of anybody. When you're avant-garde and cutting-edge, you don't really want to be known as a CEO. We started out as singers and entertainers, and that's part of what makes us different. We've got to keep our edge."

Name: Tom Scott
Company: Nantucket Nectars (juice company)
Based: Boston
Fast fact: Grew 35 percent in 1999
CEO or free spirit? "There are moments when I don't feel like an entrepreneur," says Scott, "but no matter how much we grow, I'll always look for ways to change, and I'll always be trying to change the way our business is run.

"Our office is very organic and as fun now as it ever was. We're still the underdog and still have to play with the big boys. The only way to succeed in that environment is to be entrepreneurial."

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    This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What Have You Become?.

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