Why Become an Entrepreneur?
The three primary reasons that people become an entrepreneur and start their own firms are to be their own boss, pursue their own ideas, and realize financial rewards.
Be Their Own Boss
The first of these reasons being one’s own boss is given most commonly. This doesn’t mean, however, that entrepreneur is difficult to work with or that they have trouble accepting authority. Instead, many entrepreneurs want to be their own boss because either they have had a longtime ambition to own their own firm or because they have become frustrated working in traditional jobs. The type of frustration that some entrepreneurs feel working in conventional jobs is exemplified by Wendy DeFeudis, the founder of VeryWendy, a company that makes customized social invitations. Commenting on how her experiences working for herself have been more satisfying than working for a large firm, DeFeudis remarked:
I always wanted to be my own boss. I felt confined by the corporate structure.
I found it frustrating and a complete waste of time—a waste to have to sell my ideas to multiple people and attend all kinds of internal meetings before moving forward with a concept.
Sometimes the desire to be their own boss results from a realization that the only way they’ll achieve an important personal or professional goal is to start their own business. Christopher Jones, David LaBat, and Mary McGrath started a business for this reason. The three, who are educational psychologists, had secure jobs at a public school in the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. Over time, they felt inhibited by the limited range of services they were able to provide students in a school setting, so they left their jobs to start Dynamic Interventions, a more full-service educational psychology, and counseling center. Recalling why it was necessary for him and his colleagues to leave their jobs to become their own bosses Jones said:
The idea came from some general frustrations with not being able to practice the breadth of service that [we wanted to]. And instead of going to work and being angry about it for the next 30 years, we decided to do something about it. With Dynamic Interventions, our service doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. We can go more in-depth and be more beneficial to the whole family.”
Pursue Their Own Ideas
The second reason people start their own firms are to pursue their own ideas.16 Some people are naturally alert, and when they recognize ideas for new products or services, they have a desire to see those ideas realized. Corporate entrepreneurs who innovate within the context of an existing firm typically have a mechanism for their ideas to become known. Established firms, however, often resist innovation. When this happens, employees are left with good ideas that go unfulfilled. Because of their passion and commitment, some employees choose to leave the firm employing them in order to start their own business as the means to develop their own ideas. This chain of events can take place in noncorporate settings, too.
For example, some people, through a hobby, leisure activity, or just everyday life, recognize the need for a product or service that is not available in the marketplace. If the idea is viable enough to support a business, they commit tremendous time and energy to convert the idea into a part-time or full-time firm. An example of a person who left a job to pursue an idea is Kevin Mann, the founder of Graphic.ly, a social digital distribution platform for comic book publishers and fans. Mann became discouraged when he couldn’t find a comic book in which he was interested. He even took a 100-mile train ride to search for it in a neighboring city. His frustration boiled over on the train ride home:
“I kept thinking that there had to be a better way of buying comics, and then it dawned on me. That morning I had purchased a movie from iTunes, which I was watching right there on the train. Why shouldn’t buying comics be just as easy? Why did I have to travel over 100 miles and waste the better part of a day, all for nothing? I realized I had two options. I could quit buying comics or I could quit my job and build the iTunes of comics.”
This revelation led to the launch of Graphic.ly in the fall of 2009. Today, Graphic.ly is both a robust platform for the sale of digital comics and a social network for people who enjoy discussing the comics they’re reading. Following up on the story about the train ride, Mann went on to say:
That’s how Graphic.ly started and my enthusiasm for comics has now transferred to a business I love being part of. Every single day I am excited to go to work. I get to create and innovate in a sector I love. Ultimately, I’ll solve a problem that was ruining something very special to me.
Pursue Financial Rewards
Finally, people start their own firms to pursue financial rewards. This motivation, however, is typically secondary to the first two and often fails to live up to its hype. The average entrepreneur does not make more money than someone with a similar amount of responsibility in a traditional job. The financial lure of entrepreneurship is its upside potential. People such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google made hundreds of millions of dollars building their firms. Money is also a unifier. Making a profit and increasing the value of a company is a solidifying goal that people can rally around.
But money is rarely the primary motivation behind the launch of an entrepreneurial firm. Some entrepreneurs even report that the financial rewards associated with entrepreneurship can be bittersweet if they are accompanied by losing control of their firm. For example, Sir Richard Branson, after selling Virgin Records, wrote, “I remember walking down the street (after the sale was completed). I was crying. Tears . . . [were] streaming down my face. And there I was holding a check for a billion dollars. . . . If you’d have seen me, you would have thought I was loony. A billion dollars.” For Branson, it wasn’t just the money it was the thrill of building the business and of seeing the success of his initial idea.