Empire Builder or Lifestyle Builder

David Cummings on Startups

When meeting entrepreneurs, one of the mental questions I like to ask myself is whether or not this person is an empire builder or a lifestyle builder. An empire builder wants to build a massive company, or collection of companies, and yearns to play the great sport that people call business forever. A lifestyle builder wants freedom to be both financially independent and to do what they want with their time, but doesn’t aspire to having an empire. There’s no right or wrong approach, and people can switch between the two, though that’s usually rare.

Here are a few questions to discern empire builder vs lifestyle builder:

  • When do you want to retire? What are you going to do during retirement?
  • If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do?
  • How big do you see your startup getting? Why?
  • What’s your desired exit (my favorite exit strategy)?

Again, there’s no right answer…

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