Current and future entrepreneurs: I want you to think about your WHY. Are you considering becoming an entrepreneur? Are you already an entrepreneur?
Why? Is it because you want to be your own boss? Is it because you’re sick and tired of making money for someone else?
I’m betting everyone who has entrepreneurial aspirations is nodding along right now. But guess what? Making money, being your own boss—it’s not enough. Sure, those reasons are certainly motivating factors, but they’re not going to give you purpose.
How about this…
Do you excel at a certain skill and you want to use that skill to create a company and become an entrepreneur? Now you’re closer to the right track.
I had a skill too. I’m what I like to call a “default entrepreneur.”
When I first started out, I learned how to deliver psychotherapy and I went into business on my own. Using that skill, I paid my way through grad school, delivering therapy and building a client base. Upon graduation, I discovered I had enough clients between $7.50 and $15/hour to pay my rent. (This was in 1979, mind you.)
Realizing I had this autonomy and self-sufficiency fueled me to keep going on my own. I was able to hold to “being my own boss” in the face of job offers that would have been very desirable to me before.
I had the good fortune to be well trained and have a strong background, which enabled me to help athletes—golfers in particular—win tournaments. Using these same concepts, I was able to help politicians win elections, help couples resolve their marital issues, and help CEOs build their businesses.
During this time, my own business grew very fast and the next thing I knew it was six months after graduation. I had so many clients I needed to hire my first employee! I went into business with the man who was to be my business partner for the next 15 years.
When I began, I didn’t even think about becoming an entrepreneur. I focused on doing what I knew how to do best. I knew my skills were strong, and would carry me. Conventional wisdom in the therapy profession was to work for an organization for five to ten years first, build up a client base, and then strike out on one’s own. I was already on my own and had the clinical supervisor I needed to practice, so there was nothing more an organization could offer me.
Eventually I had to look at why I was doing what I was doing.
How many of you have a higher mission—and you’re thinking of becoming an entrepreneur because of that greater social mission?
To obtain success and continue to achieve, you must have purpose. A career is more than a paycheck. To find fulfillment, a career must also include purpose. Purpose isn’t simply wanting to be your own boss or having the necessary skills to make money.
For purpose to be complete, you need a trifecta of factors:
I learned that the hard way. I built a vision and was driven by my mission to help others. But I didn’t care about money enough. In fact, I was paying staff MORE than I made until I’d been in business for five or six years! Money just wasn’t enough of a motivator for me. I loved what I did so much that I told people I was willing to PAY to keep doing it.
Little did I know—I actually was!
There are many marginal entrepreneurs driven by the fact that they don’t want a boss and don’t want to answer to “The Man.” They’re self-motivated (or they have issues with authority), but it’s not enough to push them over the hump financially. Their mission is themselves—to gain their own independence.
Sometimes they’re like me because they didn’t care enough about money. The mission is there, the self-motivation, and the skills, but they’re missing the drive to make and manage money. Fortunately, in my case, I had done a lot of work and partnered well with authority, as I needed to. I was self-motivated, but all three factors have to be in place or you’ll end up going under.
Some entrepreneurs are very mission-oriented. So much so, that they suffer with their mission for the community. They sacrifice and feel bad about taking money for helping people. Unfortunately, a mission isn’t enough to sustain success for yourself or others. Growing a business (even in a helping profession) requires revenue.
Think of these three factors as a tripod or legs on a stool. If they aren’t all considered, you have a cockeyed stool that isn’t any good. It’s unstable. It won’t hold up.
So do a self-assessment and check your “why.” Make sure you aren’t just a pissy, reactive employee who doesn’t want a boss. Be sure you’re learning about money and how to manage, make, and save money to fund your life and your business. Consider your community and the larger picture, too.
Some questions to ask yourself:
These questions can help you shape your WHY and ensure you’re an entrepreneur with purpose. Purpose drives success and keeps you moving toward the bigger picture. Find your purpose.
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Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.