The Vest Pocket Consultant:

The reality is that few of the people I know in the internet business cashed out in a big way and far fewer went on to build another company that was as successful as their first one. And dotcom superstars such as Steve Case of AOL, Jerry Yang of Yahoo and Mark Cuban of Broadcast.com have all seen better days.

My point is this: While the purpose of every company is to make a profit, the goal of every entrepreneur has to be more than just making lots of money. Especially in an economy like this one—where startup companies are struggling for survival and an IPO or acquisition could be years or even decades away—it’s important to enjoy what you do at your business. Because you’re probably going to be doing it day in and day out for a long time to come.

That’s why I was so impressed when I heard Devon Rifkin, 33, speak last week at the conference. Rifkin is CEO and founder of The Great American Hanger Company, a Miami manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of high-quality clothes hangers whose company rang up over $10 million in sales last year. Rifkin was honored as Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Here are some of Rifkin’s thoughts on life, business and entrepreneurship:

Secret to success: “People commonly ask me why I work so hard. And the reason I give them is that it’s one of the only things I can control. There are very few things in business that you can control, so I try to master the things that I can control.”

Advice for other entrepreneurs: “I would tell them not to focus on making money. If you believe in the idea, you need to focus on the equation and your business.”

When he knew he’d made it: “I know this business has had a good run of success, but I’ve never felt like I’ve ‘made it’ because I feel like there are still a lot of things we have to improve and a lot of things we have to obtain that we haven’t obtained yet.”

Unfortunately, goals like these can’t always be measured in dollars. But when you’ve climbed the mountain of business achievement and reached the peak of personal satisfaction, I think you’ll know that you’ve arrived.

Photo by Mattox.

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