There are many good reasons to become an entrepreneur. We live in a country that not only celebrates entrepreneurship, but makes it both possible and rewarding to do. Even those of us who never take the plunge at least occasionally fantasize about what it would be like to create and run a business of our own, whether you’re after the creative potential, the feeling of autonomy, or the chance to follow your passion.
I firmly believe that anyone, with the right dedication, can become a successful entrepreneur, regardless of their motivations. However, there are some “wrong” reasons to become an entrepreneur, and if they constitute your motivations, you’ll be more likely to be dissatisfied with your work, burn out, or fail:
1. To get rich.
Thanks to the popularization of outlier entrepreneurs who seemed to become overnight billionaires, there’s a common misconception that entrepreneurship is the fast track to getting rich. As the owner of your business, you’ll be entitled to at least a portion of the profits your company makes (and potentially all of it, if there are no other owners), and in addition to that, you may draw a salary.
However, this doesn’t guarantee that your business will be profitable, or that it will succeed indefinitely. It’s certainly possible to make a good living from your business, but you can’t count on striking it rich — even if you have a good idea.
Being motivated only by money will interfere with your ability to make long-term decisions for your business, and will leave you feeling unsatisfied and stressed if you don’t meet your target numbers.
2. To become famous.
It’s true that becoming an entrepreneur has the potential to increase your personal visibility — especially if your marketing strategy relies on media exposure. Look at entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, or Elon Musk — these are high-profile people who get lots of media attention and have attained celebrity status.
However, pursuing business creation and management for the sole sake of gaining popularity for yourself is a bad idea. Relentlessly pursuing more personal branding opportunities is going to take you away from the office, where you’ll be needed. Plus, your idea of successful entrepreneurs is almost certainly distorted by survivorship bias.
3. To have unlimited vacation days.
Yes, it’s true. As an entrepreneur, you’ll get to make your own schedule. You can set your own hours, work whatever days you want, and take unlimited vacation time, if you want. But remember, your business’s success will depend on the effort you put in, and the unfortunate reality is that your first business is more likely than not to fail.
If you’re busy traveling six months out of the year, you won’t have enough time invested in your business to make it become successful. If all you can think about is vacation time as a business owner, you’re grossly underestimating the amount of work it takes to run a business. Chances are, you won’t have much time for regular days off for at least a year or two.
4. To make other people happy.
Some entrepreneurs start businesses because they like the idea of being a positive force in the world, and I respect that. They want to build a great team, take care of their employees, make clients happy, and make the world a better place while they’re at it.
Unfortunately, this mentality leads to unfortunate business decisions; you’ll be more likely to keep unproductive workers around (rather than making tough decisions to fire them) because you’ve bonded with them, you’ll keep unprofitable clients because you refuse to move on, and you’ll sacrifice your own profitability for other causes.
You may be willing to make those sacrifices, but your business won’t do anybody any good if it ends up folding. As a business owner, your primary responsibility should be to make the right decisions for your business.
It feels sort of like being a parent, and the business is your child. It’s up to you to protect it and nurture it. After all, if you don’t, who will?
5. Because “why not?”
You may not have a specific motivation. You may just have an idea and an understanding that anyone can become a business owner. At that point, you might think to yourself, “why not?” and start building a business for no reason other than the fact that you can. This is a whimsical approach that does have a chance of succeeding, but it’s more likely that you’ll start running into problems you had no idea existed.
Do you have a financial model? Do you know how to scale? Do you know how much capital you need to start, or what competitors are out there? Are you psychologically strong enough? Are you familiar with the dark truths of entrepreneurship?
If these motivations only represent a portion of what’s driving you, they probably won’t sabotage your efforts. For example, if you like the idea of becoming rich, but you’re also interested in being your own boss and working with a team of people you get to choose, your monetary motivations aren’t likely to interfere with your happiness or your decision making.
There are lots of good reasons to become an entrepreneur, but before you take the next step, think carefully about what your personal motivations are, and whether they’re healthy reasons to pursue business ownership.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!