3 entrepreneurs who felt they had no choice

Successful creative entrepreneurs often thrive because they feel like they had no choice but to do what they have done, not because of outsize ambition or skill.

Geoff Vuleta
no choice entrepreneurs geoff vuleta

Geoff Vuleta, 49, is CEO at Fahrenheit 212, a consultancy that owes its success to its relatively novel business model. Fahrenheit 212 bets half its fees that its clients will hit mutually agreed milestones; if it works out, the consulting firm gets a percentage of the return on the effort.

That's not the only risky bet the company has taken. "When the recession hit in September 2008, in a two-week period, we lost $2 million of booked revenue for that last quarter," says Vuleta. "It was a tough year, bloody tough for us."

The financial downturn was particularly bad for consultancies like F212, which focus on creating growth through innovation. "For the first time, the core concern of every CEO in the country was not growth, where Fahrenheit earns its revenue. For months, CEOs just flat-lined."

Vuleta could have responded the way most CEOs have -- by focusing on cutting costs. Instead, Fahrenheit invented a new program called 35/35. While Vuleta had originally been solely responsible for generating new business leads, the new program called for the entire team to spend 35% of their time searching for new revenue opportunities.

The result? Vuleta's financial resources grew 900% almost overnight. "And then I got the partners to agree that we would invest 35% of all our free cash in pursuit of revenue generating initiatives. I was used to approaching five to eight companies at a time. What if we approached 500 to 800? It was also a fantastic time to recruit great people..."

This kind of success is fun to chuckle over in hindsight, when the money is in the bank - but rolling the dice on 35/35 couldn't have been easy. Making that choice was only possible because Vuleta saw it as his only option.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated October 10 2012 01:47 PM ET
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