Look anywhere today in the business world and you can see individuals pursuing their dreams and looking to provide a new product or service to the world. We see it in technology, the food industry, transportation, and many other fields. Why are these individuals deciding to take a step off the high dive and plunge right in, while some of us stay with what is comfortable? What is it about becoming an entrepreneur that motivates them to dwell in the realm of possibility, while some of us dwell in dreams of retirement?
In Larry Alton’s The 5 Motivations that Drive People to Choose Entrepreneurship, he states those motivations are: money, flexibility, control, team and legacy. (Alton) It is not difficult to see why money would be one of the main motivations for becoming an entrepreneur. The idea of being able to harness one’s talents to bring about change through products or services with the attachment of financial gain is attractive to many. Also, money may enable a person to have more freedom to pursue other ideas and/or use the profits to enhance his or her community. Who among us has not been at work, daydreaming and thinking about being their own boss and having the flexibility to make their ideas “their passion”?
The flexibility to pursue that passion and create a life around non-work interests and family responsibility excites many. As for control, how many times have you said to yourself “if I were in that position, I would do, I would have done, they should have done”? The idea of controlling one’s destiny as well as the destiny of others and being able to be the decision maker is extremely rewarding to many individuals.
There is no better illustration than the coming NFL season to understand how important a team is to people. Even if you are not a fan of football, you can understand from the continual coverage it receives on a daily basis for almost seven months how important these teams are to many people. But why? Because we love our teams, whether they are NFL or Fantasy, and we do not have to be on the team to feel like we are part of the team. Either one gives us an opportunity that has great rewards; for some it is financial and for others it is clearly bragging rights.
The last motivation is legacy, and I think we can all agree that leaving a mark on the world long after we are gone is extremely motivating to many individuals. Think Steve Jobs — his legacy has profoundly changed the way we can communicate. We may not all be able to leave that kind of impact, but we certainly can leave an impact on the world we inhabit.
The question is– are all these motivations equal? If a person is motivated by all of these to different degrees, how will that impact his or her success? In The Founder’s Dilemmas, Noam Wasserman’s research shows that wealth and control are the two biggest motivators for entrepreneurs. (Wasserman 14) The problem with those two motivators is like the offense and defense in football — they both want to win, but have very different ways of getting to the win. This may lead to constant friction.
Therefore, it is important for entrepreneurs to look deep within and see what is really motivating them. How will the motivations of wealth and control reveal themselves within the entrepreneur? It is not just wealth and control, but the decisions behind those motivations and understanding what the entrepreneurs want to accomplish with these decisions that will determine the success of the business. Wasserman equates those motivated by wealth as having “Rich” outcomes and those motivated by control as having “King” outcomes. (Wasserman 13) The “Rich” outcome is the person who is more interested in creating wealth and value than having control of every little decision. This person is willing to bring others in to help grow an organization and let them make some of the decisions. Oftentimes, this results in more wealth and less control. The “King” outcome is the person who is interested more in control than creating wealth. This person is likely to be involved in all the decisions and maintaining a tight control, and possibly not bringing in the necessary resources to grow the organization. Oftentimes, this results in more control and less wealth.
So what does this mean to the person that says I am going to jump off the high dive and plunge right in? It means some self-reflection is in order. Before plunging in, it means take the time to know what you want to accomplish with your decisions. It means looking at what type of work place are you most comfortable in. Do you need to make all the decisions? Are you able to trust others with expertise so you can focus on the bigger picture? Is creating wealth more important than having control? There are no right answers. The right answer is different for each entrepreneur as we all come to the table with different work experience, goals, desires, families, and motivations. The wrong answer is to not take the time to learn what one’s motivation is and the damage it could cause to one’s business in the long term.
Resources and Links:
Wasserman, Noam The Founder’s Dilemmas. New Jersey: Princeton UP,2012.
“The 3 Biggest Challenges of Being a Solo Founder.” Entrepreneur.com. 2015.
Web. 16 Apr. 2015
“The 5 Motivations that Drive People to Choose Entrepreneurship.” Entrepreneur.com. 2015.
Web. 8 Aug. 2015
“Behavioral Determinants and Motivation.” Kauffman.org, 2016.
“Entrepreneurial Characteristics and Motivation Factors of New Venture Owners: A Case
in the Food-service Industry.” Researchgate.net. 2014.
Web. Dec. 2014.