Renee Rouleau, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Austin, is the founder and CEO of Renee Rouleau Skincare. She's a thought leader and esthetician whose products and personalized skincare are respected by celebrities, bloggers and skincare obsessives. EO asked Renee about her entrepreneurial journey and her strategy for continuing to love her work. Here's what she shared. 

How have you maintained 100 percent ownership of your company?

When I started 24 years ago, I took out a good old-fashioned bank loan. I took a low salary, reinvested all profits back into the company, and bootstrapped in order to maintain control.

I owned 100 percent of the company for the first 10 years. My husband joined as COO after 12 years and accrued equity, eventually to 20 percent. He passed away 18 months ago. I lost my partner of 22 years, and we lost a leader in our company. And now I own 100 percent again.

I never wanted outside investors. I've seen entrepreneurs go that route and end up working for someone else. Those investors may even have the power to fire them.

My company is my name--it's literally on my birth certificate--so it's very personal. I want to love what I do. If that means keeping control and keeping things smaller, so be it.

You've bucked the "bigger is better" trend. Why?

I think it's important to know where you're headed. I've always wanted to build a great company, not a big company. My mantra is "Mo' money, mo' problems."

I see similarities between starting a company and starting a rock band. In 1970s rock band documentaries, the story often goes something like this:

Five guys or girls start out making the music they love. They're super scrappy, living in their cars to make ends meet. They get their first gig, then their first hit, climb the charts, and eventually hit the big time. Success!

It's around this time that egos and greed get involved. Ultimately, the band members end up hating each other. There's conflict or a lawsuit; they don't even talk to each other on stage. Some drown their sorrows in alcohol or drugs. Then, the band breaks up. From my perspective, that happened because they got too big and took each other for granted.

In interviews, when they talk about the early days, they light up. That's where the fun was. That's when they loved what they were doing.

I've always looked at business that way. The startup years--with all the challenges they entail--are the fun part. You learn to be a strong problem solver and enjoy being scrappy, gaining exposure and hitting big wins. Once you've made it, it's often not as fun anymore.

So I've always thought, "How can I keep it fun?" That's my goal. We're growing every year, but at a controlled pace.

How do you control the pace of growth?

I say "no" to a lot of opportunities. I'm not looking for growth where it creates chaos and stress. I know my end goal: To keep doing what I love and maintain control. That's why we keep it on the smaller side, with 19 employees.

For me--and this is a personal preference--bigger is not better. Nobody can convince me otherwise, though people often try. I just don't need that. I want happiness.

My definition of happiness is loving what I do, loving the people I work with, doing good work, and creating a positive impact through our philanthropic arm.

You have a unique set of decision parameters. Will you share them?

People say yes to opportunities because they're flattered. Or, it would seem foolish to say no, because we're programmed to want more money and more growth.

Who doesn't love opportunity? It's the American dream, the fulfillment of the entrepreneurial spirit. And yet, I've seen too many people say yes to opportunities that sounded great in theory. But, once the honeymoon phase wears off, it ends up not being so great.

To avoid that, I do my due diligence before saying yes. Once you sign, it's hard to go back. I've even said no to creating a celebrity skincare line, which was the right decision for me.

Here are 13 questions I ask myself before I say yes:

  • Is it a "Hell yes?" 
  • What problem are we trying to solve? 
  • Is it in alignment with our core values?
  • Does it align with our one-year goals, three-year goals and 10-year target?
  • Is it on brand, so as not to confuse our brand messaging and offerings?
  • How will it affect our core business and focus?
  • Will this opportunity to get bigger make us better?
  • Is this where it makes sense to put time and energy?
  • How will this affect our team and culture? 
  • What's the worst-case scenario? 
  • What's the jump-ship plan if it's not successful?
  • When will we know if it's not successful?
  • Lastly: Why?