What Made You Start A Business?

The morning I decided to write about this subject, I saw a post on one of the popular discussion forums.

It was from someone who had invested quite a bit of time and effort into building his online business, was nearing the point where it could start being profitable, but was running short of energy and inspiration to keep going.

I’m never giving up. But I need some motivation. Please help!

…was his plaintive cry.

I responded briefly. But that reply got me thinking about how to address a similar problem that every entrepreneur faces at one time or another in their own online business.

That sickening feeling of burn out or angst.

Go Back To Your Roots

I’ve fielded this question several times over the 15 years that I have worked on my online business:

Dr.Mani, how do you fit so many things into your schedule? Isn’t it hard? Don’t you feel like giving up sometimes?

And to be honest, it isn’t always easy juggling three parallel careers – heart surgeon, Internet infopreneur and non-profit fundraiser – each of which could be busy full-time jobs. There are often periods when I’m tempted to scale down, to take it slow, to reduce responsibilities – until I ask myself that magical question.

“What Made You Do This?”

Thinking about the answer to your deeper ‘WHY’ is always illuminating – and inspirational. Fame or money, curiosity or circumstance, whim or worry… something pushed you into building an online business.

What was it?

For some entrepreneurs, starting a business was a career decision. They saw an opportunity in the marketplace, seized upon a chance to profit from it, and ended up building a business that grew rapidly and made them rich. But in many instances, if that was their sole motivation, the sense of satisfaction and thrill they gained from the venture is transient and unfulfilling, at least after the initial rush is over.

That’s why some of them become serial entrepreneurs, creating one start-up after another, well beyond the point where they need to do it from a purely financial standpoint. The thrill and excitement of building something keeps them going.

For others, the stimulus to build a business is rooted in a deeper passion or desire. It may be selfish – or selfless. It may be relevant to many others – or only to themselves. Whatever their motivation, it is often powerful enough to get them to overcome inertia and take action.

Purpose Overshadows Risk

Launching a business, even an Internet based one, carries a certain degree of risk. There is financial risk, for sure, and there is risk of failure, of time invested into the project, and of not picking the right choices. To overcome all these risks and plow ahead takes some courage and fortitude, and that’s often provided by one’s passion or sense of purpose.

A person appalled at the state of cleanliness of his neighborhood may launch a garbage hauling business to fix the problem. Another who sees the daily struggle of her handicapped parent may invest into building a company that manufactures wheelchairs or other aids for elderly folks. And online, too, the business one builds can be related to a real world problem or opportunity that can be leveraged on the Web.

Or not.

My own information marketing business, for instance, grew in part as an extension of my love for writing. But the driving force behind it was the desire to generate enough profit from it to pursue my true passion to carry out life saving heart surgery for children from under-privileged families who couldn’t afford the cost.

So while every business is not directly connected with the purpose behind it, it’s often true that successful small online businesses are run by people with a passionate purpose.

How Does Passion Help?

Does being passionate really matter for business success? Some would argue that it doesn’t – and maybe they’re right. I don’t believe, however, that working on a business you’re not passionate about is as deeply fulfilling – and even as likely to succeed – as one where you are.

The reason is simple. Any venture, no matter how small, will bring with it some attendant hurdles and obstacles that you must overcome. As your business grows, these challenges multiply, grow bigger, and take more effort to work through. During these times of challenge and struggle, the one thing that will keep you constantly motivated and focused is the purpose behind the venture.

  • Why did you begin?
  • Why did you stick with it?
  • Why do you want to keep on?
  • Why does it matter if you fail?
  • Why are you afraid?

… and above all else…

Why MUST you succeed?

You’ve probably read about the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortez scuttling the ships in his fleet during an attack on the Aztec empire, leaving his army no alternative but to defeat the enemy. It’s a similar attitude, one that leaves you with no ‘out’ or ‘escape’ but to succeed, that will ensure that you stay on course despite rough weather.

Your equivalent of “scuttling the ships” must be your driving purpose.

An accountant who works with non-profits once taught me a valuable lesson. He said:

When I total up figures in rows and columns for my clients, I don’t see numbers. I see the faces of the children I’m working to help!

Learn to keep your purpose clearly in mind all the time. See beyond the day to day challenges to the results of your hard work, sacrifice and struggle. Dream and visualize the changed reality that you will be creating through your business.

No matter if it is mundane or world-changing, your personal purpose matters greatly in keeping you motivated and engaged. That’s why its so helpful to keep asking yourself:

What made you do this?

If I asked you that question, what would your answer be? Please share in a comment below!

Dr Mani

Image courtesy of pescatello on Flickr

About Dr. Mani

Dr.Mani is actively engaged in spreading awareness about congenital heart disease (CHD) and fundraising to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India.

An ardent group of volunteers and donors have embraced this noble purpose that is bigger than any individual or group, and grown it into a global movement that has touched and saved the lives of 87 little children. You can help too. Learn how at http://www.DrMani.com

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  • Rebecca Johnson

    Excellent post! I don’t often see the risk of various opportunity costs discussed in such a clear and relevant way…and tied into one’s passion and purpose.

    Thank you for taking time to pull these thoughts together.

    • It was an interesting exercise, Rebecca. Glad you like it 🙂

  • Yes, I was just thinking about this today. How about a combo of reasons – one selfish and one not: starting a business to gain freedom ( of decision making, of using your time the way you see fit) and to spend your years doing something meaningful. It’s not a secret that many people are stuck in jobs that they can hardly tolerate, and pushed to do things that are against their values. Many can hardly see any value for any real person in what they are doing.. In small business, including online business, you deal with your customers directly, you can see a positive impact that your practice or product made in their lives or businesses. That’s mutually satisfying.

    • It’s the ideal mix of ‘purpose’ – one selfish, one selfless. But it doesn’t have to be – just uniquely yours. Because it’ll be what keeps you going far beyond when you want to just give up 🙂

  • Why? The answer is purpose. I believe that I have a purpose in life beyond making money. For the time being, I am developing and crafting my gifts and talents so that my purpose will be fulfilled. Starting and growing a business is a part of that purpose. Its a part of the journey. For me its necessary. Fantastic post!

    • Ralph, as your business and success grow, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this more deeply – having a business align with a deeper purpose lends meaning in ways that it’s hard to imagine until you experience it. I wish you every success in your purposeful journey.

  • Raj

    There are two things we need to know when converting our passion to business – We can make it into a successful business with time, money, hard-work and energy. But we’ll lose our passion on the way.

    • Raj, I’m curious to know why you think passion dims along the way. In my own case, as in many others, passion intensifies as the things you do work towards a purpose. I can see how “turning a passion into business” could be a wrong choice when implemented incorrectly, turning something you enjoy into a chore. But it doesn’t always have to be that way – and there are many happy examples of that point of view. Most successful entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do in their business.

    • Hi Raj,

      I respect your opinion but i must say that i totally disagree with you. Passion doesn’t dims along the way. In fact, passion will make you successful. It’s the key towards success and it is what will keep you going despite of all the obstacles that you will encounter.

  • Why?
    For the passion and love in what I enjoy. Helping other business succeed, and self achievement.
    It can be quite a task to get side tracked, but if you fast forward every day, and just take a minute to think what you want to achieve out of this at the end of the day, you can already visualize success.

  • I totally agree with Dr Mani’s post success will be in your hand what you do something that you’re passionate about.. something that you really love.. No matter how many times you fall,you will still be able to raise again and again because you love doing it.. So follow what your heart tells you to do rather than listening to others.. Seriously great post and i seriously admire your post and hope that it would be something inspiring for the younger generation whom are so keen to venture into Internet business and online marketing.. Bravo!!

  • That’s easy, my kids. I was working full time and depending on teenage au pairs to look after my two boys and realised that was bonkers. Not a great lifestyle, not giving 100% to my career or my kids. So, going it alone and replacing my full time income with passive income from HMO’s was my first step. Now I can’t imagine working for anyone else, being beholden to anyone else’s priorities and schedules, or missing my kids Christmas services and plays.

    Life is for living, not being stuck on the hamster wheel because that’s all you know. Make 2012 the year you look at your options and craft your ideal lifestyle with your own business (and let me know if you need any help!!).

    • YES!!! Love that message, Carrie. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • I started to get some extra money whilst at uni, as I was finding it hard to get a job and work in a proper job, whilst starting my own business was much more flexible.

    • It is. And that’s a reason I love running my own, too, Robbie. 🙂

  • I started my original business with a partner. He had more guts than brains and I had more brains than guts. The partnership only lasted 5 months but I learned a lot about running a business. That was 26 years ago.

    • Sounds fascinating (and intriguing), Richard. Care to share more about how the 26 years went since? 🙂 There’s sure to be lessons many of us can benefit from.

  • Kyle Post

    This is timely for me as I am just putting the finishing touches on my own online business launch. I’ve always wanted to have more freedom with my time and financial independence, but the two other purposes that finally pushed me to take the plunge are: 1. Finally finding the purpose that overshadows those other concerns – if I fail in making money but succeed in my mission, then it will be more than worth it. 2. I want to teach my two kids (2 and 5 yrs old now) that they can make a living doing something they love and they don’t have to do things the traditional way. There is no authentic way to teach this without living it.

  • thanks for the reminders. your post gave me the ponts i needed to always remember. sometimes its easier for me to give up than to proceed. but now i know what to do the next time quitting cross my mind

  • Ronald Slyderink

    Great analysis of finding the motivation to continue to do business or anything for that matter. I would add to it this.
    My motivation is closely tied to what I was designed and purposed for. To live a caring, saving, giving, serving life to enhance the quality of life for all in the power and love of Jesus to the ultimate glory of God. The most sustainable motivator is wrapped up in the Kingdom of God – your will Oh Lord be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    • Chris

      And how is that working out for you Ronald?

  • Starting a business is not that tough. The toughest part is to keep in going in the hard times. Yes! its passion which will keep the spirit on.

    Business is more about skills and knowledge than motivation 🙂

    • Yes, this is true. The maintaining part is very hard especially at this bad economic times

  • Clement

    Freedom from been bossed around and the joy of owning something to pass on to somebody else. Sometimes i really feel like throwing in the towel but these purpose urge me on. Also silent point is my mentor who always send mails to me irrespective of the fact whether i buy his products or not this forges me ahead

  • The purpose of my online business was to help myself and my readers to increase their knowledge on different types of assets that make a person rich. I write about investments, business, tax, retirement, saving and making money. I started with absolutely no background knowledge or college education of finance. So, I can truthfully say that the purpose of my business is what helps me to make my business the best it can be. I genuinely enjoyed this article Dr!

  • Discovering new things while sharing your own knowledge along the way

  • Hi everybody, I love this post so I want to answer the title blog post question, what made I start a business?

    I’m a policeman, who lives and works in Vietnam, I started my blog because I thought it can generate a passive income streams for me. Why do I want to make money blogging?

    In fact, my salary is not enough for the living expenses necessary while I wanted to help my family living better. But How?

    I have some free time and saw someone earned money from the internet and I thought I could too.

    That’s why I started.

  • great article, really got me thinking as to why I started my online business and to really reflect and try to get motivated again. It is frustrating when things are going the way you hoped or planned and it can get discouraging. Thanks.

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