If you’re a small business owner, or maybe thinking about being one, then a recent article in Inc. Magazine is instructive in pointing out what motivates men and women to want to start, and run, their own businesses. A brief synopsis follows. (You can find the full text of the article beginning on p. 60 of the March, 2012 issue of Inc.)
A couple Harvard Business profs took their stab at listing top motivators and found that they were, in order:
1. Autonomy. Entrepreneurs number one motivator. “The only distinction is between the independent and the fiercely independent.” In general, “motivations for company founders change less over time than do the motivations of other professionals.” It’s true across the board regardless of age or gender.
2. Power and Influence. Entrepreneurs care almost as much “about being the boss as about not having a boss.” True of men across ages, and of women in their 20s and 30s. After that, women may feel they have already proved themselves and are looking for ways to make the work itself more meaningful.
3. Managing People. Prevalent among younger entrepreneurs who may conflate managing people with power. With experience comes the joy of inspiring rather than directing, and interest in pure “management” tends to wane.
4. Financial Gain. Especially true among men. Conversely, you may have to surrender some control (to investors, partners, angels, etc.) to earn financial gain. Women want to be independent and powerful, “but don’t care as much about getting rich.”
5. Variety. Grows more important as entrepreneurs age, and learn they can sculpt their own roles within their own businesses.
6. Altruism. Women of every age view their companies as vehicles for making a difference, a factor less prevalent among men almost regardless of age.
7. Intellectual Challenge. Scored particularly highly among older women entrepreneurs. The thinking is that by their 40s both they and their male counterparts are often financially comfortable and seeking satisfaction elsewhere. Also, many women have been forced to put intellectual growth on hold while they struggled to build companies and raise children at the same time.
You can take a modified version of a quiz called CareerLeader, used by hundreds of schools, at www.inc.com/motivation to see where you fit on the entrepreneurial scale.
Use it to rank your motivations, and see perhaps what makes you tick.