George W Bush is famously cited as having said that the trouble with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.
I live in France and set up my territorial marketing consultancy 13 years ago. We help locations to brand themselves and attract foreign direct investment.
It certainly isn’t because the French language lacks the necessary vocabulary that I don’t refer to myself an entrepreneur. It is more that I have never really considered myself to fit the modern-day representation of that category.
Technology and innovation have become the warp and weft of 21st century entrepreneurialism. I don’t develop algorithms or sell trips to the moon.
But the definition of an entrepreneur is actually more wide reaching and encompasses “any person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”
Knock me over with a feather, it turns out I am one after all.
Maybe you are thinking of starting your own business?
Nowadays, it is easy to get caught up in the label of “entrepreneur” and the cachet it accords. I am certainly not here to discourage anyone from being entrepreneurial, but have you drilled down into your motivations for doing so?
Your motivations are as important as a well-defined business plan.
As I never really defined myself as an entrepreneur, but am unwittingly a successful one, here is a quick tour of what experience has taught me are some personal motivations that will help you go the distance.
1. Starting your own business responds to your own needs and desires
“But shouldn’t we first assess the needs of the market?” I hear you cry.
And yes, of course we should. If your business idea meets your needs but not the needs of the market, it just won’t have legs.
In my case, I had the experience of having awarded marketing and communications strategy contracts from within the government structures. I knew my market was there.
But we are not here to discuss business plans. I want to talk to you about the personal motivations for starting your own business.
These are two different things.
Quite simply put, if your business concept responds to a very direct and personal need or desire, then you pretty much ensure your sustained personal investment.
There are stories out there of people who have created and invented services and products to respond to their personal needs. They have then seen that these needs are shared by many others. These ventures get lots of airtime on Dragons’ Den. VCs listen to them because they feel that heightened level of vested personal interest.
Needs and desires come in many forms.
My story goes back 13 years and to a very strong need to balance my work and personal life. I had a baby on the way. Maybe a surcharge of estrogen accelerated the decision to launch myself into the unknown world of running a business. However, the definite and recalcitrant stance taken at that time that the working world would not dictate my availability as a parent has never gone away.
The business has had momentary ups and downs but that persistent desire to have the ability to schedule my working life around my daughter has helped me persevere through. In the difficult times, I have innovated and evolved certain areas of the business along the way.
2. Starting your own business is a way for you to develop your full potential
I don’t believe in stagnating. Life is too short.
If you think you have things to bring to the world — and we all do — then starting your own business could be the medium to do that.
One day, thirteen years ago, as my baby belly was just starting to show and I had developed an inexplicable craving for fresh milk and those small, individually-wrapped Dutch cheeses, I was sat at work. I saw an announcement on the job board for a Director of the London office of a French Investment Promotion Agency.
I was living and working in Marseille, France at that time and didn’t want to go to London, but I was pretty sure I could do that job hands down.
This was 2006. France at the time was still somewhat behind the curve in terms of an open playing field in the workplace. Whether the French workplace has made great strides since then, I would be hard pushed to say. That day I decisively made the vow to pull myself out of it.
The announcement asked for someone who was at least 50 years of age.
I was 31.
It may as well have added that the candidate had to be French and male.
3. You just aren’t happy at work
This does link into the previous points, but I would like to give it its own airtime as the notion of happiness in a professional context is vastly undervalued in my opinion.
Are you frustrated at work? You wouldn’t be alone in that.
Option A in that scenario can be to simply find a new job, but option B can be starting your own business. Taking your destiny in your own hands, professionally speaking, can be a rollercoaster ride. However, lots of people come off a rollercoaster with a rush of adrenalin and a big smile.
Running your own business is hard work, but as the captain at the helm of your own ship, you have the ability to create the workplace you feel happiest in.
4. You want to make positive change and bring something to others
Do you know what actually makes people the happiest?
It is helping others and the gratitude of others. I didn’t just make that up. There have been studies into what makes people tick and this comes out top. The Greater Good Science Center at Berkley is doing some great work in this area.
There is a ground swell of social impact businesses, often founded by Millennials, and supported in my view by Generation X who lived through the 1980s and 1990s.
This was a time of shoulder pads and demonstrative signs of wealth. Globalisation accelerated like never before and the pursuit of money carved the huge gap we see today between the top 1% and the rest of the world.
I am part of Generation X and I can see that the advancing years are pushing my generation to think more about what actually makes us happy and the legacy we will leave behind, especially for our children.
A few years ago I started to search for a way in which I could give something back.
And so, I decided to train as a meditation teacher.
Meditation found me in my 30s and it had helped me find my way through some more difficult periods of my life. I wanted to be able to share with others what had helped me.
I now run a local group in my town. It’s my side hustle for the moment and I don’t need or want to do it for the money, but my idea is to cross-pollinate it with my corporate clients over time.
So, starting your own business appeals, but you are a bit unsure?
The other day a friend told me that her husband thought I was “weird” because I just do whatever I want.
It is slightly offensive, but let’s bypass that. Reading between the lines, I would say he is a) glad I am not his wife and b) worried I may be a bad influence on the wife he does have.
On a more subtle level, it sheds light on how independent thinking and working is not an easy go-to option for many people. Even watching people (not just women!) who demonstrate those qualities can reinforce your own personal reticence.
Setting up your own venture is about a great idea, but it is also about your motivation. And it is in your motivation that you will find the tenacity to push through the more difficult times.
If you are toying with the idea of starting your own business, you have an idea of what that product or service looks like and you feel the market is there, then why not start drafting your business plan?
At the same time, right now and off the top of your head, write down your motivations for starting your own business.
And then, ask yourself one final question: Would you still pursue your idea if won the lottery tomorrow?
This isn’t a make or break question. We obviously tailor our professional decisions to our financial needs. However if you hesitate to answer, that is where you will see that your motivation does, in fact, go over and above your basic alimentary needs. And that is a very positive sign.
Entrepreneurialism isn’t for the fainthearted, but once you get a taste for it, there is nothing more liberating.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash