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Think Bigger by Michael W. Sonnenfeldt

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LESSON 19Entrepreneurship Is Rarely about Just Making Money

In 2014, Barbara Roberts, a serial entrepreneur and the first woman on the board of financial services firm Dean Witter (which was later acquired by Morgan Stanley), researched and wrote “The Owner’s Journey,” a Columbia University Business School white paper, featuring eight case studies of entrepreneurs who had sold their businesses or transferred them to family members. I read Barbara’s report with interest, especially when I came across this insight:

Few entrepreneurs start companies with the sole goal of getting rich. Often, they launch companies to fix a problem, to create something new, to act upon an insight that only they see, or even simply to make the world a better place.1

That certainly describes my own experience. As grueling as it was to get my first enterprise off the ground, I loved the work of revitalizing a forgotten stretch of the urban landscape where I saw the potential of a revitalized Jersey City waterfront long before other much more experienced developers and government planners did. During the years I ran the development, I almost never thought about cashing out, and I only reluctantly agreed to sell when forced by my partner with few other viable choices. What most people do not understand is that while money is at the heart of business, it’s far from the sole motivation. What drives many entrepreneurs is the urge to build something, create something totally new, to turn around a wreck, or ...

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