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Motivation and Commitment

Why do people start small businesses? The most frequently cited motivation for business start-ups is to allow the entrepreneur to achieve independence; money is secondary. Is this surprising? The other reasons named most often are that an opportunity presented itself, a person took over the family business, or the person simply wanted to be an entrepreneur. Identify your motivation.

For context, what reasons might people offer for joining a large corporation? For choosing a government career? A union job? Certainly, many people desire security, fringe benefits, and a predictable career "trajectory."

What kinds of people start businesses? Their skills are seldom different from those of people who succeed at working for others. The more successful entrepreneurs tend to be proactive, assertive, and highly observant. They are efficient, quality-conscious, and good at planning and procedures. As business operators, they are committed to "partnership" with employees, customers, suppliers, and their community. Would these skills or personality traits lead to success at any professional pursuit?

Most entrepreneurs value control, freedom, flexibility; and self-reliance. They generally desire responsibility and personal fulfillment. Most entrepreneurs are not "gamblers;" they have a preference for moderate risk (What is the largest financial risk that you would consider moderate?). They are always searching for opportunities, and willing to pursue some.

These are merely general characteristics. How might we apply them to our own fitness for, and commitment to, the entrepreneurial lifestyle? We need to ask ourselves some tough questions:

Do I really want to start or own a business? What are my real reasons for considering going into business? The motivation must be strong enough to sustain you when the excitement of the startup has passed, and the everyday grind begins.

Is there a product or service that fits my talents or desires? How should I address the opportunity? About 65% of new businesses are startups, 30% purchases of existing businesses, with the remainder inherited, promoted or otherwise brought into ownership. About 11% of the businesses operate under a franchise name.

Am I ready yet? Why do you think so many new business founders are in their 30s? Perhaps it is because they have enough experience to be confident, yet are still flexible enough to take some risk. Do you think entrepreneurs are born (demanding parents, ethnic tradition) or made? Is it for you? If so, identify what additional skills or knowledge would increase your readiness.

For women and minorities, there are additional considerations relevant to their chances of success. Do they have to be "better" to make it, or is entrepreneurship the only true meritocracy? Is any disadvantage only at startup?

Do I have an adequate support structure? If you have a spouse, or are relying on some other form of family support, make sure that they understand the sacrifices involved and the pressures these will put on relationships.

Can I place developing this business over other interests and goals for the foreseeable future? Am I willing to take on the personal demands of entrepreneurship? For example, can I work a full day as an employee of another firm, then work at my coffee shop evenings and weekends until it can support me full-time? There is more to life than work, and maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle can be a challenge for the self-employed.

Can I muster the resources to make the venture a success? Do I respond well to continuous pressure? Once I make the venture a full-time pursuit, can I live without a regular paycheck, a predictable work schedule, and for a while without vacations and other benefits? Even after startup, business concerns seldom end when you lock the door at closing time. Am I prepared for the possibility that I might lose my money and property, and damage my health and self-respect?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, only those that best reflect your feelings on these issues. Similarly, if your feelings indicate that you should not take the entrepreneurial path, it is certainly not a sign of weakness or any other sort of deficiency. It is more likely a decision that reflects the best life-work balance for you.

John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has almost 40 years experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, author, and college professor. For 20 of those years, Dr. Vinturella was owner/president of a distribution company that he founded. He is a principal in business opportunity sites jbv.com and muddledconcept.com, and maintains business and political blogs.

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