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What drives the best entrepreneurs?

meaning of life

I am fascinated with what drives certain people to make a success of themselves in business. More often than not, aspiring entrepreneurs put their heart, body, and soul into their start-up to obtain a degree of success. But, what is it that drives them and what can we learn from entrepreneurial business people?

If you were to ask a broad spectrum what the key driver would be for anyone in the workplace, money might come out top. But is chasing an elusive pot of gold at the end of the entrepreneurial rainbow what makes entrepreneurs get out of bed in the morning or is it something else?

While we’ve all heard of the phenomenal successes of Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg, not everyone will achieve the dizzy heights of Gulfstream Jets and Maybachs. It is just too rare.

In fact, there is an element of truth in the old adage ‘money is the root of all evil’. It seems that current academic research shows that pursuing only money can actually lead to the failure of any successful venture.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman writes about this in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. He points to the research done by Dr Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota that studied the psychological effects of money on human behaviour. In her research, she found that those exposed to monetary terms and images found it more difficult to solve complex tasks, were less willing to help others and physically distanced themselves from others in the room.

All of these behaviours led to the conclusion that adopting these in a day to day workplace environment would be detrimental to any business growth.

It certainly seems successful entrepreneurs see the value in surrounding themselves with a good team. Long gone is the myth of the solo entrepreneur being the only way to achieve success.

Taking this view one step further, it can be concluded that financial gain is not the primary driver for entrepreneurs especially when any windfall will be shared amongst a wider team. Financial gain is not a sufficient explanation. It actually seems to impede an entrepreneur’s ability to build a team that will produce good results.

So what is it that keeps them going and drives them ever forward, taking greater risks than your ordinary ‘nine-to-fiver’? There is a term now used known as ‘extra-rational motivations’. These motivations lie in the psychological rewards of being an entrepreneur and include benefits derived from:

  • the thrill of completion
  • the desire for adventure
  • the joy of creation
  • the satisfaction of team-building
  • the desire to achieve meaning in life


These would never be considered traditional drivers of economic growth but they seem to be the deciding factors that push entrepreneurs forward.

So what can we take away from all of this? Well, if you’re considering giving up your job to pursue a long-held business dream, ask yourself what is motivating you. Reflect on what your true drivers are, and you might go some way to predicting the future. In other words, are you going to make a success of it?

And remember, it’s not all about the money, money, money.

We’re interested to know what you think. Do you know any entrepreneurs and what drives them? Are you one yourself and have any words of wisdom to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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