What Drives an Entrepreneur

If you think about it objectively, entrepreneurship doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Sure, there are cases of well-off people launching successful products or services with no risk to their own financial well-being.  But many of today’s entrepreneurs are those who have put their careers, family lives and personal stability on the line to pursue a business idea that – realistically – has only about a 50% chance of succeeding over five years.

But despite the logical argument to be made that we should all stay home, work our steady jobs and never deviate from the traditional “college-to-career” path, plenty of would-be business people still make the leap from corporate life to their own ventures.

In fact, according to research on entrepreneurship in the US compiled by the Gallup Business Journal, “nearly half of all jobs are in the small-business sector, and small businesses accounted for 65% of the net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009.”  Given the uncertainty that this particular path entails, that’s a pretty large number of people willing to take on the risks of entrepreneurship!

So what is it that drives people to make this decision?  What compels people who would otherwise be content to spend their days as desk jockeys to take such major leaps into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship?  While there are actually a number of different things that drive entrepreneurs, it’s important to keep in mind that business motivations may be diverse – and that the specific items that motivate you may not even be covered in the list below.

However, if you do see elements of yourself reflected in the following collection of entrepreneurial motivations, know that you might just have it in yourself to take on this unique career path!

The drive to make money

When it comes to the earning potential of different careers, few things stack up against entrepreneurship.  Sure, you could spend years in medical school and work your way up to a top surgical position, but you’ll still only wind up making a few million dollars a year – tops.

The best entrepreneurs can surpass these earnings figures with a single business deal.  Sure, the odds that you’ll wind up amongst this top tier of “captains of industry” are slim.  But when it comes to entrepreneurship, you’ve got as good a shot as any other person at striking it rich – assuming your products and your business practices are up to snuff.

A much-needed sense of autonomy

Of course, while the desire to make money plays a big part in motivating entrepreneurs, it’s not the only reason people choose this career path.  Plenty of people simply aren’t able to function in traditional “boss-employee” relationships and need the autonomy of entrepreneurship to avoid going crazy in their professional lives.

Really, would-be entrepreneurs who value their ability to work on their own are well-suited to this line of work, as the ability to uncover and actually take next steps on your own – without a boss peering over your shoulder – is a critical part of venture launch success.  And while it’s not that you need to be a primarily solo worker to succeed as an entrepreneur, it certainly helps to have this internal sense of drive and autonomy motivating you to make your business work.

The ability to contribute to the economy

Most small businesses don’t start out with the explicit purpose of hiring employees, as bringing on new team members requires resources and adds a layer of managerial complexity to growing companies.  Usually, new hires are brought on to meet some specific organizational need – not simply to help remedy unemployment and add to the US’s economic growth.

That said, there’s something incredibly fulfilling about the process of helping others to find meaningful, stable work within your organization.  I’ve spoken on this site about how thankful I am to have such a great staff here at Single Grain, but the truth is that I’m also happy to be able to provide jobs during a time when this country is struggling to employ all of our available workers.

Being a boss isn’t always easy, but it’s a role that I’m glad to play – and it’s one that drives me to be a better entrepreneur.

A lack of other options

Interestingly enough, the economic challenges that I mentioned above has resulted in a whole new type of entrepreneur – the business owner who launches a new venture because he simply can’t find employment within the traditional corporate system.

Take, for example, Andy Ball – a former sports facility worker who lost his job and decided to strike out on his own as a corporate events marketer, after being unable to find work in a similar position.  According to Ball:

“I was unemployed so I had to transition from unemployment to this business.  I love to be a part of the community. I love marketing. I love running.  I took all my passions and I applied myself with my abilities to develop this new concept.”

Obviously, just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean that you’re cut out for entrepreneurship.  However, it’s hard to deny that a growing number of people are entering the field this way, making it a viable entrepreneurial drive for many of the industry’s newest small business owners.

The desire to help others

Realistically, the drive towards entrepreneurship doesn’t always come from the desire to shape one’s own working conditions.  In some cases, “ordinary” people find themselves with an idea that’s so powerfully motivating that they’re willing to risk everything to pursue it.

If you have one of these ideas, you’ll know it.  Even though you recognize that there’s no way to guarantee your success, you won’t be able to shake your vision until you’ve taken concrete steps to make it a reality.  It’s definitely one of the longer roads towards successful business ownership, but it can absolutely be one of the most fulfilling.

A competitive nature

I’m a competitive person by nature, and I know that this trait plays a major role in my gravitating towards entrepreneurship.  As a business owner, I don’t just want to do well – I want to do better than I’ve ever done before in order to prove to myself just how successful I can be.

If you have this same competitive fire inside of you, you may be unable to find enough of a challenge in the world of slow corporate promotions and extensive bureaucracy to stay interested in a traditional job.  Running your own business offers the best possible way to challenge yourself, which is why it’s no surprise to me that the other entrepreneurs in my life are some of the most competitive people I know.

Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything that drives people towards entrepreneurship, as peoples’ reasons for entering small business ownership are as diverse as the organizations they go on to create.

But if you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions – or if you can come up with any other motivations that drive you to pursue entrepreneurship – I’d love to hear more about your personal experience in the comments section below.  What in your life has drawn you to entrepreneurship and what drives you to be successful?

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About Sujan

Sujan Patel is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work & Wage Base. Previously Sujan founded Single Grain, one of the top Digital Marketing agencies in San Francisco, CA. With more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force,…