Entrepreneurial Motivations

By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University

Motivation is the reason, desire, or willingness to act or behave in a certain way. Some people are motivated for positive reasons such as working for a paycheck. Others are motivated to avoid a negative outcome like showing up to work so they won’t get fired. People are motivated by different reasons in different circumstances, and what motivates one person may or may not motivate another.

Entrepreneurs are no different, and there are many motivating factors in entrepreneurship. Each entrepreneur is unique in what motivates them to act. Some entrepreneurs are motivated to turn a hobby or interest into a part-time or full-time business. Others are motivated to turn a skill into a side hustle. Others look to start a business to help make ends meet. Still, others are motivated by the satisfaction of doing their own thing.

According to Small Business Management, 19th Edition written by Longenecker, Petty, Palich, and Hoy, most entrepreneurs share the following motivating characteristics: personal fulfillment, personal satisfaction, independence, and financial rewards. While one of these characteristics may be stronger in some than in others, these four motivating factors are dominant in entrepreneurs. Let’s examine each one to better understand these motivating characteristics.

Personal Fulfillment: Steve Jobs is credited with saying the following: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” What is your passion? What fulfills you personally? Once you know this, explore ways in which you can create value for others and for yourself. I have a friend that has a full-time job that he loves. But he also has a tremendous love and interest in sports. Although his playing days are behind him, he has discovered a way to turn this passion into a nice side hustle. He follows younger athletes in several different sports, invests in their cards, and then sells them on various websites to other collectors and investors. He is personally and financially fulfilled when he lands a big hit (i.e., buying a card at a low price and then selling it at a higher price).

Personal Satisfaction: Do you ever step back from doing your work and feel a sense of reward for doing a good job? Are you energized by enjoyable associations within your business? Do you enjoy learning from other entrepreneurs? Do you have respect within your community or industry for the value that your work generates? Personal satisfaction is closely tied to personal fulfillment, but is still a little different. Personal fulfillment is doing what you love. Personal satisfaction is feeling that sense of reward for doing a good job and having a sense of value for doing what you do.

Independence: Do you like making your own decisions? Do you want to take risks and be rewarded? Do you feel happier when you have more control in your decisions at work? People often list independence as a key factor in deciding to start a business. Tired of answering to an inflexible set of rules or a boss that does not seem to care causes many individuals to jump at the chance of being in charge of their own destiny. When you have freedom, you have some choice and control. This does not mean that the road will be easy or without difficulty. And when you start your own business, you still have a boss: the paying customer. You will still need to put in long hours and work day and night to turn your business into a success. However, when you factor in the opportunity to call the shots and be the boss, many entrepreneurs are more likely to take the risk for a chance at being independent.

Financial Rewards: If you are sticking your neck out to start your own business, then you need to be financially rewarded for your effort. Generally speaking, individuals who are self-employed are more likely to create greater personal wealth than those who work for others. However, this does not mean they “get rich quick.” It means that wealth develops over time and years of hard work. And financial rewards also translate into job creation and the opportunity to hire others and meet their financial needs through your business.

Each of these motivating characteristics balance each other out over time. There will be times when one characteristic is more dominant than the others. For example, you may be on track for a great sales month and your dominant motivation becomes financial rewards. Or you may have a few great reviews on your Google site that give you personal satisfaction of a job well done, and that becomes your main motivator.

Whatever the motivation, remember that the paying customer is still the boss and that they have options. How are you entrepreneurially motivated? How do you show this motivation in your daily activities?

Whatever your motivation, remember to keep innovating.

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