I recently asked fellow members of the Young Entrepreneur Council--an invite-only organization made up of the world's most successful young entrepreneurs--just what it is that makes them work so hard. Money? Success? Autonomy? Or do entrepreneurs just have big egos?
Being an entrepreneur myself, I wanted to know why others work with such persistence and dedication. I know that for me, it's not about money. Money is just a byproduct. So is it the same for others?
Not one of the entrepreneurs I spoke to mentioned money as the motivator.
Surprised? Don't be. When I write about company culture, I often note author Daniel Pink's philosophy that once money is off the table for people--meaning it's no longer a stress point or constantly on their mind because they're paid enough--they become driven by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
So what are entrepreneurs driven by, if not money? I got more than 20 responses from the entrepreneurs at YEC. Here's what they had to say:
Susan Strayer Lamotte, a leader in talent acquisition and HR, says she's motivated simply by "doing great work. That's the difference," she explains. "All the other stuff is gravy, but as an entrepreneur, I can decide what the work is like. What I get to do. And that's the mecca for me."
Some entrepreneurs simply want to avoid the daily grind that comes along with a career that isn't self-sustaining. Says Aron Schoenfeld, founder of Doitinperson.com and DreamArtists Studios, "Fear of failure is what motivates me to keep going. [I'm] scared of going back to corporate and being a robot again."
Aaron Pitman, president and founder of API Domain Investments, agrees. "Freedom is my driver," he says. "I always wanted to be able to call my own shots, be in charge of my destiny, and have the ability to set my own life."
4. Responsibility to society
For other entrepreneurs, there are bigger societal issues driving their work. "For me, it's also about an alignment of story," says Josh Allan Dykstra, a consultant, author, and speaker. "As entrepreneurs, we are always analyzing the state of the world, examining the larger stories that are playing out on a macro/global level. While we strive to make sense of these big-picture stories, we are also searching for the places our personal strengths and passions can make a larger impact on the world. We make the most difference when we find where the intersection point of the thing that makes us feel alive also lines up with the bigger story, allowing us to improve society in some meaningful way."
Justin Beegel, founder and president of Infographic World, explains: "[I love] knowing every action [I] take truly has a direct impact on the outcome of the business. When you're an employee...what you do has limited impact. When you're running the company, each and every thing you do can make or break it."
Ari R. Meisel, an entrepreneur, author, inventor, and triathlete, says what drives him to entrepreneurial work is simple: "[I love] being able to spend as much time with my family as possible."
Trace Cohen, founder and president of Launch.it, says what drives him is seeing change. "My current and previous company have all been about providing value to our users to enhance what they are currently doing to either make it better or more efficient."
Forging a lasting legacy is important for many workers. Both Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media, and Lewis Howes, lifestyle entrepreneur, noted that leaving a personal legacy is a huge motivator in their decision to do entrepreneurial work.
"That is what truly makes people happy, a sense of accomplishment," says Pablo Palatnik, CEO at ShadesDaddy.com. "That's why I do what I do every day, to accomplish my goals, and that [means] building a successful company."
Some entrepreneurs are driven by the sense of security that comes along with being in full control of their work. Joey Ricard says control of his own destiny--"or as some people like to call it, security"--drives his entrepreneurial efforts.
I'm a big believer that money is not what drives people to work hard. If you want successful, happy workers, take a cue from what drives you. Freedom, flexibility, social responsibility, the ability to do great work? Provide your workers with opportunities to thrive in these areas, and you won't have to deal with workers who are motivated only by money.