Twenty-year-old Pankaj Arora seems to have it all. The Rochester, Minnesota, entrepreneur first started experimenting with his father's hand-me-down computers at the tender age of eight. By 12, had written his first software program.
Two years later, he started Pankaj Arora Software and, a year after that, started another business, paWare, which focuses on Web site design and custom-built computers. Since that time, he's been offered a $100,000-a-year consulting job and received five stars from PC Computing in their June 1999 issue for a software program he developed.
But if you think this guy's rolling in the dough, you're wrong. Pankaj charges less than market price for his Web site consulting and design services, and assembles computer systems for customers almost at cost. "I could be making a lot of money," Arora says, "but I'm not totally money-oriented."
So what drives this computer phenom? A lot of things, apparently.
"I had two main objectives [when I started my companies]," says Arora, "to help people by giving them desired products and services, and to have fun doing what I like to do."
And nothing, according to Arora, is more fun than toying around with computers and starting "adventures" in entrepreneurship. In fact, Arora comes from a long line of adventurers: His grandfather owned a business in India and his father, Jagdish, is a computer consultant.
He may not be a millionaire yet, but Arora's company does turn a "healthy profit." He says it's easy for young entrepreneurs like himself to be swayed by all that green. "It's very easy to get caught up in your success and fame," he admits. "It's easy to lose sight of what's really important and exchange your values for a buck. Sometimes it seems like cutting corners, taking the easy way out or doing somebody wrong may be beneficial. You might actually earn that extra buck, but that's short-term thinking.
"Let me promise you, all that will ever matter in the long run is doing what's right and not losing sight of what's important," he continues. So how does a young entrepreneur know what's right? Trust your values, Arora says, and know that while your business may be fun, it also has far-reaching effects on the world around you.
"In today's world, there's no easier way to affect society for good-or bad-than through business," Arora says. "From my experience, doing what's right has benefited me a hundred times more than doing what's convenient. Money should never be the bottom line-success should be, and there's much more to success than money. That's not to say you're not allowed to enjoy your success and money-you have every right to-but you need to remember what's really important and not lose sight of where you started."
Giving back to the community is also important to Arora. "Not only do I offer many services for free or below market price, but I'm always willing to use my success and money toward a worthy cause," he explains. "As much as we have our individuality, we also have a duty to our society-and to the greater good."
Arora has many role models to help him understand the true meaning of success, one of which is the character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. "I look up to Picard because he has such a strong sense of right and wrong," he explains. "He does what's right, even when it's not necessarily convenient or in his best interests."
Real-life role models include his grandfather and father, as well as Bill Gates. This fellow computer nerd not only gives much of his vast fortune to charity, but also continues to work.
"He could have retired a long time ago, but he still feels passion for his work," Arora says. "Without passion, it's just the same old job and you're just doing it for the money."
Amy Fennell Christian, a writer living in Augusta, Georgia, is a freelance editor for YoungBiz.com