Sacrificial Rites

Can You Really Do It All?

Can you start a company and keep your life intact? "Maybe you'll get lucky, and [when you don't give] 100 percent, your company will make it. But it's hard to make these things work, because there are people out there trying to prevent you from succeeding," says Steinhart.

Chere Estrin, founder of Estrin Organization, a 4-year-old Los Angeles staffing firm for the legal and financial sectors, has sacrificed plenty: a $300,000 corporate salary, time with her son, a love life, friendships outside the legal industry, vacations and even her thunder-to get her company off the ground, she gave up some control in a 3� year partnership with a clerical business to share resources. But Estrin knows the entrepreneur's life is for her, and she knows how to make suitable trade-offs.

"The reason you're an entrepreneur is that you don't fit in the corporate world, so in truth, you're not making a sacrifice by saying 'I'm not going to be getting that regular paycheck,' " says Estrin, 50. "You're making sure you do everything you can to have a lifestyle you like. And you manipulate the sacrifice so it doesn't become a deprivation."

In her first year, when her accountant told her not to get that Mercedes just yet, Estrin knew she'd see the day when she could. With 2000 sales estimated at $3 million, she's more than happy to have waited for the perks.

According to Danielle, she and Tom aren't able to look 10 years out yet, but with VC backing for Home-Portfolio and with Tom taking a salary, she says seeing one year ahead is doable. Danielle never gave the ultimatum of "me or the company," but she thinks that at the height of the frenzy, Tom would've chosen HomePortfolio-and regretted it later.

"When you start a business, it becomes an all-consuming passion, an addiction," says Carsrud. "Sometimes you have to back off and say it just isn't any good. And really good entrepreneurs are the ones who know they've got to have that balance."

Make time for family. Acknowledge you're taking them on the wildest ride of their lives. Find a mentor to help you through the tough times. Know your limits. Know that unhealthy relationships will worsen, and solid ones could waver. "[Owning] a business is not to be taken lightly," says Tom. "You'd better have that spark and wildness in it because that brings you a lot of fuel. But this is serious pool, and when you get in the game, the consequences are real."


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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Sacrificial Rites.

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