Why Every Entrepreneur Must Find Their Purpose

Why do entrepreneurs do what they do?
 Why do they decide to start businesses, and what makes them stick 
with it?

Why do entrepreneurs do what they do?
 Why do they decide to start businesses, and what makes them stick 
with it? Furthermore, why do people who work for entrepreneurs
 decide to work for them?

According to a Kaufmann Foundation survey 74.8 percent 
of entrepreneurs indicated a “desire to build wealth” 
as an important motivation in becoming an entrepreneur. However, money
 isn’t everything.

The same survey showed that 68.1 percent of
 respondents indicated that capitalizing on a business idea was an 
important motivation toward becoming an entrepreneur as well. Meanwhile, 60.3
 percent said working for others simply did not appeal to them and 66.2 percent said that the appeal of startup culture was a key motivation.

As it turns out, the reason people
 work for entrepreneurs (and especially why people become entrepreneurs) has to do with something much more
 than money. Cash is simply a byproduct for many successful business owners because they’re in pursuit of something money can’t buy — purpose.


A tale of two pioneers

One of my favorite stories about finding 
purpose in your work comes from entrepreneur and author Simon Sinek’s take on the Wright Brothers.

Sinek offered up a powerful anecdote in his TEDTalk called “How
 Great Leaders Inspire Action.”



He mentions how in the early 1900s, the quest for
 powered flight was booming. A man by the name of Samuel Pierpont 
Langley, an aviation pioneer, was racing to be the first to create a 
flying machine, and everybody thought he would do it.

Langley secured 
government grants, the finest equipment, and the newspapers even 
followed his attempts — he basically had the recipe for success. The
 way that Sinek tells it, Langley’s work in avionics was driven by 
money and the promise of fame.

However, a couple hundred miles away 
in Dayton, Ohio the Wright brothers were also working on powered 
flight. While they lacked many of the things Langley had acquired, they were driven by something greater … belief!


Photo: Annie Spratt; Source: unsplash.com/@anniespratt
Photo: Annie Spratt; Source: unsplash.com/@anniespratt

Wright brothers believed that powered flight would change the
 world. That’s why, despite all of the government grants, newspaper coverage, and factors opposing them, the Wright brothers (not Samuel Pierpont Langley) are remembered for inventing flight.

Sinek offers up further proof that
 Langley was driven by the wrong thing by pointing out that the day 
the Wright brothers took flight, he basically quit. The Wright 
brothers (who had to take five sets of parts out with them every time
 they tested their flying machine because they predicted they’d
 crash at least five times before the day was over), who were 
hopelessly outgunned, succeeded because they were not driven by money
 or fame, but by belief.


The recipe for motivation

Belief essentially translates into 
purpose. Business author Daniel
 Pink, writing on motivation lists “purpose” as an
 essential driver in today’s business world.

Whether you’re a 
solopreneur or running a startup with 
multiple employees, the recipe for motivation, in Pink’s 
estimation is autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


  • Autonomy

    Autonomy is important 
because somebody who is allowed to work how they want to is going to 
be much more motivated than another person who is forced to work in a way 
that runs counter to their natural flow. This is a huge reason why many
entrepreneurs say that not having a boss is a key motivator.

  • Mastery

    Mastery represents the ability to get good 
at something. Intrinsically, we are all motivated to excel if
 we’re given the chance. As George Leonard writes in The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei“What we call ‘mastery’ can be defined as that mysterious process through which what is at first difficult or even impossible becomes easy and pleasurable through diligent, patient, long-term practice.”

  • Purpose

    Lastly, and most importantly, we are 
motivated by purpose. If you wake up every morning and hate your job
 and think it’s pointless and serves no good purpose, eventually 
you’ll quit. If you wake up every morning and hate your job,
 but you’re motivated by the pay, you may not quit right away, but you’ll 
eventually find a different job. A sense of purpose will not only motivate employees, but
 it also motivates customers to buy from you instead of your
 competitor. Hearkening back to Sinek, customers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do
it. Proof of purpose is how customers determine that “why”.


How to find your purpose

Maybe you already have a purpose. It’s possible 
you just need help conveying that purpose to employees or customers.
 UAB Collat’s School of Business proposes a
 simple set of questions that, if answered honestly,
 can offer revealing insights.

If you haven’t already, ask yourself:


  • What is the end product my company

  • Does it improve people’s lives
 in any way?

  • Is the world a better, safer or
 healthier place because of my company?

  • Does my organization provide a
 service that makes a difference?

  • Are you selling a technology that
 makes life easier or more convenient?

  • Does my company share its profits
 with employees?

  • Do the communities where my
 company operates benefit from these profits?

  • Is my organization involved in
 sustainability efforts?

  • Are we recycling, conserving
 energy, or reducing waste?

  • Does my company’s leadership
 care about the things that matter to me?

  • Do I feel that I can trust your
 organization’s ethical compass?

  • Am I earning a good living that
 allows me to lend financial support to others?


These questions are all precursors to
 what is called corporate social responsibility, something startups
 not survive without in the modern age. The answers to 
these questions inform and help formulate your “why” or your 
beliefs, the same driving force that led the Wright brothers to 
build the first flying machine.

If you want your business to be 
successful, then find your purpose and make sure that it’s apparent to
 everybody that does business with you, because — to repeat Simon
 Sinek — people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.


This article has been edited.

Andrew Heikkila is a writer, artist, and entrepreneur out of Boise, ID. He’s one of the four owner/operators of Earthlings Entertainment, a locally based artist collective committed to covering and putting on shows throughout the Northwest. likes writing about Millennial issues as well as what it takes to start and run a business that embodies purpose. If he’s not drinking craft beer (IPAs for the win) you can find him either making music with his homies or listening to music on a run. Connect with @AndyO_TheHammer on Twitter.


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