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Make The Best Of It

Optimizer (noun): an entrepreneur who knows how to take care of No. 1
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the April 2000 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Some people are in it for the money; some for the power; others for the prestige. Cheryl Leonhardt is in it for the golf.

"I'm the best boss I ever had because on the days I get a chance to play golf, I always say to myself, 'Yes, you should go out and play golf,' " says Leonhardt, 45, whose one-person Sudbury, Massachusetts, consulting firm, C.A. Leonhardt & Associates, dispenses golfing advice for businesspeople.

Leonhardt is, in fact, a special type of entrepreneur, dubbed the Optimizer in a study performed for Pitney Bowes Inc. by Yankelovich Partners identifying five distinct types of business owner. (For the first part of this series, see March's "Pulse." You can find it online at The Optimizer is a confident and savvy businessperson motivated more by personal rewards than by building an empire.

That's not to say Leonhardt, or any of the 21 percent of small-business owners identified as Optimizers, fritter the day away on the links. According to the researchers, who interviewed more than 2,000 U.S. small-business owners last year, Optimizers are more interested in take-home pay, as opposed to sales growth, than any other group. And for many Optimizers, ownership's intangible rewards outweigh its financial benefits.

Leonhardt, for instance, is an energetic, focused and creative entrepreneur on a mission. She has created a professional business women's golf association, published a newsletter and written a book on golfing for businesspeople-and the ideas are still coming. Leon-hardt's brainstorms include a series of Business Golf 101 seminars that would be open to the public and possibly hosted by a law firm or bank.

In her current business, she's helping others combine work and pleasure, advising execu-tives on ways to use golf in business. Much serious business is done over golf, Leonhardt notes. By teaching businesses and businesswomen how to employ clubs in commerce, Leonhardt makes executives better managers, marketers able to land new accounts and diversity-seeking corporations better at integrating and retaining female professionals.

In fact, Leonhardt keeps herself busy enough that she stays late one weekday for every afternoon on the links. "You can't own your own business without being a hard worker," she says. "I joke about going to play golf, but some nights at 10 or 11, I'm still sitting here."

A confessed worrier, Leonhardt frets over what might happen if golf's popularity declines, though she doesn't see that happening any time soon ("Not at the rate they're building golf courses," she says). And she always sweats the details before seminars. "That's a pressure-cooker," she says. "You know you're going to be on the stage and have some impact on people's lives. You want to be sure you're absolutely prepared and you give them the best performance you can."

Leonhardt agrees with the Optimizer description, but she's confident enough in her self-knowledge to discount any effect such typecasting has on how she runs her business. "On most days, I'm an Optimizer," she says. "On another day, I might be something else."

Work It Out

Neglecting their personal lives is a trap many entrepreneurs have fallen into. Of the five types of business owner, here's who thinks they're guilty:

All Types Combined: 32%
Jugglers: 47%
Idealists: 47%
Sustainers: 16%
Hard Workers: 31%
Optimizers: 11%

Contact Sources

C.A. Leonhardt & Associates, (978) 443-2883,

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