The idea of starting a business is very attractive to many people. It is practically a genetically imprinted desire in the United States to want to one day own your own business.
At last report, nearly 3 out of 4 adult Americans indicated a desire to someday start their own business. I know I have always been one of them!
So there seems to be no shortage of initial motivation. The problem is getting it to the point of actually starting a business, and then keeping it up long enough to enjoy some of the rewards of business ownership.
The main reasons initial many motivations don’t translate into actually starting a business is because they are based on largely false conceptions or easily overcome problems that people simply don’t take the time to properly evaluate. The actual motivations that are strong enough to get people to be successful in their own businesses are the ones to identify for yourself and put to use.
Motivations That Don’t Usually Work
First, let’s examine the motivations that generally don’t work for getting you into your own business. The most often cited are:
- Desire to make a lot of money
- Desire to lead the easy life
- Desire to not be bossed around
- Desire to impress others
- Desire to be like someone else
- Desire to have more free time/no schedule
Don’t these things all happen for people who own their own businesses, and so doesn’t that make them reasonable motivations for someone just starting out? The answer is no. Why? Because these events are usually byproducts of whatever got successful entrepreneurs to where they are in the first place. They are not what got them started, or helped them get through the tough startup phase.
Lots of people want to start their own business because they keep hearing it is the best way to become wealthy. It is true that owning a business is a much more reliable route to eventual wealth than working a 9 to 5 job. It is also true, however, that there can be some very lean years, and that the money often only comes after a lot of hard low paid work in the beginning.
People who think owning a business is the way to get rich and are motivated by the wealth factor are often turned off by the idea of hard work for little money, often less than they are making now, and so they never get started.
The same idea goes with people who see business owners driving nice cars or taking vacations they themselves couldn’t afford. The thing they imagine is a gilded lifestyle with lots of downtime and pampering. The reality of starting a business and making little money for an unknown amount of time is too daunting for them to be willing to take the chance.
But what about not wanting to be bossed around? Don’t lots of people start their own businesses because they want to be their own boss? That is true, however, there is a difference between wanting to do something yourself and simply not wanting to be told what to do.
Many people resent their bosses, or dislike being given direction, but that doesn’t mean that they are in any way motivated to actually do something on their own. Maybe part of the problem is that they are getting “bossed around” because they don’t get much done at all!
An even weaker form of motivation is wanting to impress others, or to be like someone else. People who are mainly driven to try and impress others will not be able to stand up to the criticism and naysayers actual entrepreneurs deal with on a regular basis.
Most serious entrepreneurs are pretty independent people, not overly concerned with what others think of them or trying very hard to get their egos stoked. That doesn’t mean they can’t be charming and make good salesmen and be flattered by admirers, but it is true that these are not their main motivations for getting to where they are in business.
The motivation to have a free time and not have to get up for an alarm clock is maybe the least informed perception of an actual entrepreneur’s life and so is a truly weak motivation that is easily upset by reality.
While it is true that many successful entrepreneurs can take more time off and be more flexible with their schedules than many employees, it is also true that they are very hard working as a general rule, and no one has to force them to get up to go to work- they like to go and often get in earlier and stay later than the people they hire to help them.
Motivations That DO Usually Work
OK- so if these motivations, which most people claim are the reasons they want to own their own businesses, are not going to get them very far, what kinds of motivations are going to be strong enough to get someone to start a business?
These are the most common motivations for actually starting a business:
- Did the same thing for a boss, thought they could do better
- Saw a great opportunity and couldn’t let it go
- Couldn’t stand working for someone else
- Started as a hobby, grew from there
- Didn’t have any other options
- Fell into it and liked it too much to quit
If you already find yourself in one of these situations, you may realize you already have the motivation you need. If you haven’t started yet, it is likely not because of lack of motivation, but something else is holding you back, which you should be able to overcome.
If you don’t see how one of these may fit with your present situation, then these are what to look for in trying to get motivated. Some may be harder than others.
For example, if you haven’t seen any great opportunities come by, then you can’t just make on happen. You can learn how to spot business opportunities better, but spotting one and actually finding it motivate you is not the same thing.
You also obviously can’t make yourself fall into something you turn into a business. Usually this happens when you have a particular talent or ability to do something, and you find people keep asking you to help them out. Pretty soon, you find that you can charge them for your help, and sooner or later this becomes a full time business.
You can’t go into competition with your bosses in all cases- sometimes the requirements of starting that particular business may be beyond your means. Other times, you aren’t working in a field you would want to get into, or you may not be working at all. Some enterprising people, however, will go get a job in a field they intend to start a business in, to first learn the ropes while getting paid, and determine if they really want to go into it full time on their own. If you have an idea that fits this scenario you may want to do this because it is a fantastic way to do market research.
People who start their own business because they don’t have any other options are often hampered by their legal status, previous record, personal credit or language issues that hold them back from getting an acceptable job anywhere else. They are motivated to succeed by the fact they really have no fall back plans.
If you are starting a business because you can’t stand working for someone else, you have to realize it isn’t that you can’t stand work, or can’t stand your boss, it is simply that you need to do your own thing. You also should be OK working with people in general, and able to deal with customers, who are like bosses in some ways- if you don’t make them happy they will “fire” you by not giving you business anymore.
The difference between these motivations and the ones listed originally are that they are core beliefs that will withstand hard times and tough challenges.
The “compete with the boss”, “hobby becomes business” and “fell into it” motivations all come with a pre-existing notion that the business will work because the people involved have already seen it work, either on a smaller scale, or for someone else.
The “great opportunity” motivation usually buries itself deep in the entrepreneur’s brain beyond any doubts, so it remains there until it is either proven or some seriously powerful notion dislodges it- far beyond the normal self doubt and fears that sidetrack lesser enthusiasm.
The “can’t stand bosses” motivation works because it is based around a deep seated belief that there just is no other way. This is one I fell into. I can and have worked for other people but it never felt right and I always knew on some pretty basic level that I would be self employed. The bookkeeping service I own now is just the most recent in a long line of things I’ve tried (many of which have not worked out) rather than going back to work for someone else. Once I took my last paycheck I never looked back and never had plans to go back- it just wasn’t me.
The “no other options” motivation is based around the actuality of there is no other way. In both cases, these are not motivations that can be easily thrown off. If a person in either situation is barred from proceeding on one plan, they will simply switch tracks and keep trying. Unlike the other motivations which are built around a faith that it will work out, these two are based around a conviction that it has to work.
These are not hard and fast rules, obviously, and some people have been successful in getting into a business simply because they wanted to make a lot of money and saw that as the best way to go. For the majority of successful business owners, however, the motivation came from one of the reasons listed above that had nothing to do with wealth, free time or any other day dream type of perks associated with entrepreneurship. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those perks, but if that is all that you are aiming for the chances are you are going to fall short long before you get there.
The next step for you is to honestly assess why you want to get started in your own business. If you find your reason listed in the first section, then it is time to stop and think through whether you are ready to deal with the challenges and realities of starting a business. You may want to rethink the business you want to start, and see if there is a reason in the second set of motivations that fits you, and start from there.
Being motivated by something that won’t desert you in hard times is what allows you to be persistent in your attempt to start a business, and persistence is what allows you to succeed. If you find yourself questioning your motivation, this is the first thing to work on in your quest to start a business. Once you have this figured out, the rest is almost easy!