I’ve seen pretty much every size, shape and flavor of entrepreneur over the past 20 years while living and breathing all things business. Companies come and go. They succeed and fail. Inevitably, the entrepreneurs that start these companies also come and go because, they too, succeed and fail. So what motivates successful entrepreneurs? Many I see move on to their next business, others take a break to lick their wounds, and still others seem to leave startup life permanently.
The light of failure shines brightly on those who aren’t in business for the right reasons. When the going gets unbearably tough, and it will, these types are done. Game over. In fact, they were done before they started – a self fulfilling prophecy if you will. Those that start off wrong don’t always end up that way, but they sure don’t help their cause much.
So what are the “right” and “wrong” motivations you ask? I’d suggest the following:
– Solving a problem you are so passionate about that even if the solution doesn’t result in wealth, you are still thrilled you “solved” it. A fun surprise? If you really do solve a big problem, wealth will almost always follow anyway.
– No real exit strategy. The best entrepreneurs automatically attract options. Large scale success creates buyers. Starting a business so you can sell it can certainly be in the back of your mind, but it had better stay there for awhile. The best investors (should you have any) love entrepreneurs that think big and aren’t focused on how they can sell the business. Focus on how you sell the product.
– Moderate to light desire to be well known or famous. Some entrepreneurs I know are more focused on their personal brand than they are on their company brand. The best ones reverse that entirely. If your business rocks, you will get all the notoriety you’ll need.
– They definitely aren’t doing it because it is the cool thing to do. Many fall into this category even though they won’t admit it. When they have their first failure they’ll see just how “cool” entrepreneurship is. Doing something because it is cool might work as a teen, but don’t let it influence you as an adult. Dance to the beat of your own drum.
– Love, love, love people. This doesn’t mean they are an extrovert. They just love working with, hiring, sharing and learning with their team. If you can’t handle the ups and downs of working with all kinds of employees, you are pretty much DOA.
I’m not saying you have to eliminate and/or add all of these things to your motives. I’ll be the first to admit that money was often a motivator for me. However, it was never the primary motivator. I did not lay awake at night thinking about money. I laid awake at night thinking about my customers, my employees, and – most importantly – how to make my product or service that much better. I wanted everyone to try my product or service, and I wanted them to love it as I did. That’s really what it comes down to; an almost unquenchable passion for what you are doing for others.
Being a great entrepreneur really means you delight in the service of others, I suppose. What a pure and meaningful motivator after all.