Lately I’ve been tired. Starting a new business is tough on it’s own, but it’s even harder when it can’t be your primary focus. It’s times like this that the self-doubt creeps in, and I start to wonder “why am I doing this to myself?” If you find yourself asking the same question, or more importantly, if you are just starting the journey of building your business, it can be very helpful to have a clear answer to the question – why are you an entrepreneur?
Reasons for Entrepreneurship
In my short experience as a founder, I have done a lot of reading on the different types of entrepreneurs that exist. Many sources say that there are three: People who want monetary gain (to be rich), people who want to run the show (to be king), or people who want to live life on their own terms (lifestyle businesses).
I’ve been thinking about what makes people fit into these categories, and in my opinion it all boils down to one common trait: independence. I have identified four different ways that entrepreneurs desire independence: financial, time, location, and vision. All entrepreneurs have these traits to varying degrees, and the way they vary have a huge effect on the kinds of businesses they build.
Financial gain is the first thing most non-entrepreneurial people think of when they hear about people starting businesses. It’s also the easiest to get press coverage on – a startup that raises 50 million dollars in funding makes the news because it sounds exciting. Amy Hoy goes so far as to call this “entreporn”. Remember the most quoted scene from The Social Network?
All entrepreneurs starting a for-profit business have some degree of desire for financial independence. But most people would be surprised at the low level of importance most entrepreneurs place on this desire. In my experience, this is usually the least important of the four. Based on the failure rate of new businesses and the time investment required to start one, there are easier ways to make money than being an entrepreneur. I would caution anyone who starts a business solely for this reason.
The dream of starting a business and then spending your time playing golf is another common entrepreneurial fantasy. In reality this is a pipe dream, but there are several ways that having a business can give you time independence.
Working Different Hours
Many people become freelancers because they want to keep their own hours and be in control of their time. In the modern economy, there is becoming less and less reason to have to work from nine to five. The mindset of employers basing work hour practices on the industrial age leads many people to start their own companies.
Tim Ferriss, in his best selling book The 4-Hour Workweek, enticed a whole generation of entrepreneurs into starting businesses that gave them the ability to work less hours. This is a common goal, and is fully achievable in today’s world of automation and technology.
Changing Work for Life Phases
Some people want to work 80 hours a week and retire at 50. Others want to take sabbaticals or travel for months or years while they are young. Still others want to spend time with their children while they are young, or work only part of the year. These are all possibilities that entrepreneurship provides, as long as your mindset and your business are structured for it.
Dan and Ian of the Tropical MBA podcast are the shining examples of entrepreneurs that start businesses so that they are not tied to a location. The desire to live where you want, move and travel when you want, and not have your income and experiences tied to one area is a strong one for lots of people.
This desire often follows closely from time independence. Building a business to allow this is no longer a huge challenge if it’s your goal to be location independent.
This one is often the most powerful, and the most complicated, of the drives. All entrepreneurs have a desire to create something that didn’t exist before. What the thing is, why they want to create it, and the scope of the thing varies greatly. For some, the vision is simply to solve a small problem they’ve got right now. For others, the vision is as grand as changing the whole world. Lately, the canonical example of the grand vision has been Steve Jobs. But not all visions need to be so ambitious.
The desire to be in control of one’s destiny ties in strongly with the vision drive. It takes a huge leap of faith, and then ruthless determination, to conceive of something that people will use or pay for, and then bring that thing into being. This is the “entrepreneurial spark” that people refer to, and when you feel it, you feel it deep down. Many entrepreneurs need to be running the show to make this happen, but not all. There are a growing number of “intrapreneurs” that work in existing organizations, but use their spark to bring new ideas to the world.
Why Are You An Entrepreneur?
So why are you an entrepreneur? What drives you to want to start or run one or more companies? Answering this question early in your journey, and revisiting it when situations change or you question yourself, can be very helpful to get you through some of the tougher times.
After thinking things through, I am reinvigorated to take on the world. I know why I am doing what I am doing. And it feels great. Please share in the comments the reason for your journey, and connect with me if this resonates with you. I would love to discuss it with you.
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