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In the Driver's Seat

While navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, your independence is your best asset.
September 1, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/79398

This month's cover headline, "Retire Rich," is, I admit, hardly original. But it usually appears on books and magazines that deal with investment and personal finance issues. Sure, investing in real estate or the stock market is one way to retire rich. But here at Entrepreneur, we advocate another way-business ownership.

Owning your own business is the first step to truly taking charge of your future. It leaves your destiny in your hands; your future is not subject to the whims of bosses or managers.

I've been on the road a lot these past few months and have met hundreds of existing and aspiring business owners. That may sound like hyperbole, but it's not. When one of the road trips is to eBay Live!, where 12,000 people showed up, it's relatively easy to interact with several hundred people in a short period of time. And while you may think eBay is for hobbyists or startups, my two workshops were jampacked (people were standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor) with business owners-entrepreneurs just like you who were looking for insight on growing their companies. Most of these people didn't start a business to get rich. Most entrepreneurs I meet don't start with the aim of getting rich. It is, however, a welcome aftereffect.

The entrepreneurs of 2005 are a bit like the entrepreneurs of 10 years ago-pre-dotcom boom. They're business owners because they want to build something-and be completely responsible for its success. When I asked many of the people I've met recently why they started a business, the answers varied, of course. But very few (in fact, I can't remember any) said, "I want to be rich." I think we're over the frenzy of the late '90s, where so many people started businesses because they wanted to, even expected to, become overnight millionaires.

Don't get me wrong. Making millions of dollars is a worthy dream, but you need to plan for and work at achieving that goal; it's not going to happen without the proverbial blood, sweat and tears. You all know it; you've all been there. Being an entrepreneur is like living in an endless loop of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Remember: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." A few months ago, I got an e-mail from one of my friends, an entrepreneur, declaring, "This is the worst day of my entrepreneurial career." Within two weeks, he sent me another e-mail, declaring, "This is the best day of my entrepreneurial life." When I talked to him after the first e-mail, he swore that as bad as he felt, he would never go back to working for someone; he'd never stop being an entrepreneur.

Many people can't relate to that sentiment; all entrepreneurs can. Because business ownership is not just about owning a business-it's about taking ownership of your life.