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culture. Newspaper articles often report the number of employees at a start-up—particularly one that is privately held and does not report its finances—is as an indicator of its credibility. How often have you seen reports such as “the business took off, and in the space of 18 months has grown to 200 employees”?

While writing this book, I thought long and hard about why the number of employees seems to be such a central measure of success. Why is my employee count the first question I am always asked about my business? I think the best explanation is one suggested to me—that this bias goes all the way back to feudal times. In the Middle Ages, the power and wealth of knights was measured by how many serfs worked their land and the size of the armies they commanded. We still hold in awe those who have power over a lot of people. But we have entered an era in which the old measures of success do not always apply. As this book demonstrates, we can envision a new hero: the go-it-alone entrepreneur who succeeds without legions of employees.


In the 1980s, the humor book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche was a best-seller. The book played on the stereotype that to be considered a true man, one had to behave in specific ways. Today someone could write Real Businesses Get Venture Capital. U.S. business culture grants almost instant credibility to firms that raised millions of dollars in venture financing even when they have yet to produce a product or earn a single dollar in sales. There’s always the attitude that you don’t have a real start-up if you don’t have venture funding. One Business Week Online headline read: “Something Ventured, Plenty Gained: Finally, VCs are ready to jump back in—with enough cash to fuel a rebound.” The article’s message, written when the U.S. economy was in the doldrums, was that the sustained recovery of

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GO IT ALONE! Copyright 2004 by Bruce Judson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.