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Entrepreneurs: How Much Money Is Enough?

Years ago, I posed this somewhat offbeat philosophical question to another small business founder I knew: I asked, if he had to choose between:

A) Owning a $100 million business selling products or services that were inappropriate for discussion at the dinner table (let alone "bring your kid to work day")


B) Owning a $20 million business doing something you can share with your young kids and their friends

Which would it be?

In other words, would you do just about anything (let's stipulate legal and legit) to make the most money you possibly could?

"Obviously I'd take the hundred-mil... is that even a real question?" he said. (Cue Charlie Sheen: "Winner!")

"I'd definitely choose B," I said.

He laughed. Then he was silent. "You're not serious."

I explained that I was, in fact, serious -- my goal is to run a business that will support my family in the lifestyle I want, take good care of its employees, provide some enjoyment, fulfillment and pride, and in the end, provide financial independence (all of which are, admittedly, highly subjective). He responded by telling me that his goal -- and I am barely paraphrasing -- was to make as much money as he possibly could, as quickly as he could. Period.

Other than the few genuinely altruistic among us, in general most entrepreneurs are in business to make money. Sure, there are all sorts of other good reasons -- freedom (riiiight), passion, making a contribution, tax deductions, insomnia, masochism. But sooner or later it comes back to bucks. But how much is enough? Is there even such a thing?

Needless to say, everyone and every business is different and these differences enter into the equation. Some people want to do what they are doing for as long as they can, some crave change and newness, others want to retire by 50. Some businesses stay in families for generations, others get flipped. Some have partners and investors, some represent one person's bet-the-farm risk.

So, entrepreneurs and small business owners, I want to hear from you:

In addition to taking part in the poll, I hope you'll share your more detailed comments below. How much is enough? What is your definition of success and/or independence? Where does money rank in your list of priorities and goals?

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(Flickr photo by ryanmshea)
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