Wealth Versus Control: The Great Dilemma

The great entrepreneurial dilemma, riches versus control. Can a founder have both?

To begin, I’d like to establish my overarching goal in my entrepreneurial venture. My plan is to start a fire safety company with my husband to serve Western Carolina and then expand outward to serve commercial and residential establishments in counties beyond the area. Creating wealth, for me, tips the scale much more than control does. When I really think about how I would like to see this venture run.

When comes down to it, my vision of success and my dreams for growth (i.e. not having all my eggs in one basket) exposes the tell-all. The only way for me to maximize growth and wealth, while still leaving time and resources for each to flourish is to relinquish certain levels of control. Sure, in a perfect or ideal world, our company would become infinitely wealthy and we would hold all the control in our hands, everything we touched would turn to gold in an extremely Midas and simile sort of way. Those instances do exist, for some companies, but they are rare. Realistically, there can be an environment in which both wealth and control can exist, but they must weigh in with some differing of levels to create a complimentary balance.

In Harvard Business School’s article, “Rich or Royal: What Do Founders Want?”, author Sarah Jane Gilbert, asks Wasserman the questions, “Is it better to be focused on one or the other? Is it possible to have a healthy balance between the two?” He highlights the obvious first jump for most presented with these questions, explaining that most of the founders that he has studied, started off wanting to become both Rich and Regal. He goes on to say that this desire is reinforced by the prominent Rich and Regal greats of the entrepreneurial realm, people like the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. What is ignored though is that great founders with great wealth and control simultaneously are the exceptions, the rarity, the unicorns who achieve both. Wasserman says that many founders that he has studied that have tried to mixed the Rich and Regal desires, have often ended up being left with neither. He goes on to offer up a more successful and viable approach to this dilemma. It requires a founder to take a step back, realize their true motivation, and make decisions that align it. While it reduces the chances of being both, it increases the chances of achieving the founder’s true motivation.

I can agree with this approach and I think it all comes back to establishing that overarching drive. That is the heart of a successful venture, true focus. It is knowing as a founder, what it is that you want and driving towards it. It is about making decisions that stay true to the visions for your venture and not falling victim to trying to have it all and then being left with nothing.

What I truly found interesting in this article, Wasserman continues and goes so far as saying that in his analyses he found some of what sets the Rich and Regal apart from the founders who are forced to choose between the two. The biggest finding was that the Rich and Regal often leveraged prior financial and social assets to build their venture.­­

I will touch on financial and social leverage in my next blog post.


Gilbert, S. J. (2006, November 29). Rich or Royal: What Do Founders Want? Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/rich-or-royal-what-do-founders-want

Wasserman, N. (2012). The Founder’s Dilemmas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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2 years ago

Good writing, in your blog post you presented the king and rich outcome very well and try to develop an idea with this two outcome. I really appreciate your insight.

2 years ago

Great job! You present the rich and king outcome very well.