Are You in It for the Right Reasons?: The 5 Most Common Entrepreneurial Motivations are Flawed
There are a ton of different reasons that people nowadays want to be entrepreneurs, and, to be honest, most of them suck.
Calling yourself an entrepreneur is in vogue right now. In the U.S., 69% of men and 58% of women ages 18–64 “would rather take a risk and build [their] own business than work for someone else.” Reaching out to a list of 549 people who did just that, the Kaufman Foundation conducted a survey on the common reasons that people start a business. While some reasons are more valid than others, I honestly can’t say that I connect with any of the top 5 reasons that they came up with.
Contrary to popular belief, being an entrepreneur isn’t all that glamorous. I’m not sure that so many people would want to be entrepreneurs if they knew the truth of how an entrepreneur actually lives.
A lot of modern “wantrepreneurs” don’t have a clue what it actually takes to be an entrepreneur, and that’s often reflected in their motivations. It’s the reason so many would-be entrepreneurs fail. To see if someone’s going to be a successful entrepreneur, often, you just need to look at the reason they want to be one in the first place.
Top 5 Entrepreneurial Motivations (And How They Can Go Wrong)
1.) 74.8% of respondents said that wealth was an important motivation in becoming an entrepreneur.
Americans love a “rags to riches” story about an inventor, a leader, or a visionary who pulls him/herself up by the bootstraps. A lot of us fancy ourselves to simply be “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” We hear a lot about the thrills of success and the underdog who strikes it rich, but there are many more stories of failure and financial ruin that aren’t told.
The truth is, entrepreneurship is risky. In fact, 50% of small businesses fail within 5 years. There’s no guarantee that you won’t end up years older and thousands of dollars poorer after it’s all said and done.
2.) 68.1% wanted to capitalize on a business idea.
Ideas are great. Action is better. It’s not enough to just have a great idea. You need to follow through on it.
A few months ago, I was sitting in a room with a bunch of other business professionals. I ended up talking about one or two business ideas that I think have a great deal of potential. Other entrepreneurs will tell you that’s crazy — that you should keep your ideas under wraps unless you want your million-dollar plan stolen. But, the truth is, I don’t care.
I don’t have the time or bandwidth to pursue every idea I have. An idea without action is just a wish, so it doesn’t bother me if someone else beats me to the punch on a great business idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Effort and dedication are so much rarer.
3.) 64.2% said they’ve always wanted to own a company.
Maybe it’s the feeling of independence and freedom, or maybe it’s the ability to call the shots. Either way having that title of “owner” is something that a lot of people aspire towards.
There’s nothing really wrong with dreaming of owning your own company, but I would be wary of someone wanting to play owner just for the heck of it.
Do you want to be the owner so you can boss people around? Or is it because you want independence to make decisions? Making sure that you’re actually cut out for leadership before jumping into entrepreneurship is a crucial step.
4.) 66.2% were drawn to the appeal of a startup culture.
What is startup culture? Usually, it’s defined by creativity, open communication, and a lack of the traditional hierarchical structure, but there’s also a darker side. Startup culture can be exciting, but for those not suited to it, this way of life can have disastrous consequences to mental and physical health.
Burnout is a well-documented problem among workers in the startup world. Elon Musk famously slept in a beanbag chair next to his desk, and, while that worked for Elon, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.
Some personalities are better suited to entrepreneurship than others, and, honestly, it’s rare to find people who are willing to work 18+ hours a day for that chance at success.
5.) 60.3% said that working for others didn’t appeal to them.
This is another reason that is particularly troubling for me because, in a lot of cases, being an entrepreneur means having not one boss, but many. Sure, you may not need to report to a supervisor, but you are accountable to clients, employees, and investors.
Clients decide whether or not you get paid. Making them happy should be your number one priority, and, in a lot of cases, that can be a lot easier said than done. A supervisor usually has a clear set of expectations. Clients, on the other hand, can be fickle, ill-informed, or unclear in their communication. It’s up to you to make sure that you’re meeting a set of ever-changing expectations.
As for employees, if you have anyone working under you and you hit a rough patch, you may have to forfeit your own paycheck to make sure they are taken care of. If an employee gets sick, you have to be the one to cover for them.
Will you need startup capital? If so, you’ll also have investors to consider. You’ll need to report to and consult with them regarding significant developments. In fact, making investors happy will take precedence over making yourself happy.
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean freedom from responsibility to others.
The Only Reason That Matters
Passion. It’s an undersold resource. People will tell you that passion doesn’t matter in business — that you should just go for what’s profitable or practical. I don’t buy it.
I could make a decent living doing a lot of different things, but the only things that I’ve been able to go all-in on are things that spark a passion.
It doesn’t matter if I make a mistake or I lose some money. It doesn’t matter if I have a bad day. Passion and the love of the challenge keep me going.
A lot of the people who want to be entrepreneurs nowadays don’t have a passion for the work. They have a passion for money or control. That’s way I worry about the people who want to be entrepreneurs for the money, for the power, for the perks. You won’t always have those, so you need passion to carry you through.