Is entrepreneurship a means or an end?
This is my site Written by Alora on August 10, 2010 – 10:32 am

For some people entrepreneurship is a philosophy. For others, it’s the price we pay for an idea we are passionate about. But what’s the difference? And, even more importantly, why does it matter?

I think it matters most if you are in a B2B business yourself. As a business that serves the needs of other businesses, understanding the motivations of your customer can go a long way toward understanding how to sell to them, when not to, and where their comfort levels are.

It also matters socially. Birds of a feather will often flock together, and that is often true of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs tend to have slightly different lifestyles than people who are content to be employees, and as such, they tend to find it easiest to relate to other people with a similiar outlook on life.

Entrepreneurship as a Means

What do I mean when I say ‘entrepreneurship as a means’? I mean that entrepreneurship is the means by which someone can accomplish something worthwhile. Owning your own business may not be your main goal, merely the vehicle to help make your real goal possible.
For entrepreneurs who fall into this group, there are often a myriad of motivators:

  • Lifestyle
  • Wealth-building
  • Passion around an idea

Any of these things can lead someone to set aside the relative ‘stability’ of a J-O-B, strike out on their own, and start building their own business. For these people, while entrepreneurship may be an adventure with its own series of challenges and rewards, it also may not be in their bones, and if circumstances changed, these are often the people who could be content to go back to working for someone else again.

Entrepreneurship as an End

The other side of the coin are the real evangelists. These are the die-hards who will move from venture to venture, opportunity to opportunity, and for whom working for someone else is the psychological equivelant of being buried alive.

This is a completely different mindset, and one that I would guess is in the minority among entrepreneurs, though they are often more high profile. This group tends to have a tenacity that keeps them moving on to a new idea after the last one crashed and burned. This is the group that writes blogs, starts conferences, builds incubators, hosts Meetups, and sponsors competitions.

One of the most important reasons to stop and consider this question is really for yourself, however. Is your entrepreneurial journey a means or an end? The reason I find this question particularly compelling for business owners is that it helps set priorities.

If entrepreneurship is an ends in and of itself, then bouncing from one idea to the next, building multiple businesses at once and having a social circle that is largely composed of other entrepreneurs is probably a common sight.

However, if entrepreneurship is merely the means, then your other goal should be clear. Why? Because entrepreneurship takes sacrifices that being an employee doesn’t. While the payoff potential is greater, the investment is far steeper — sometimes at great cost to the rest of your life. Any new entrepreneur needs to understand than before diving into the pool.

Understanding what motivates you is how you know what things to outsource vs. what things to manage internally; it’s how you figure out what are the priorities for your time and how to focus your business objectives; and it’s how you identify your own personal tipping points where the sacrifices are not worth the price.

Entrepreneurs who never stop and consider these points can end up like hampsters on a wheel, with no progress and no recognition of their lack of progress. Knowing why we do what we do, what we hope to get out of it, what we’re willing to pay to get it, and how long we are willing to keep it up is how we build a plan — for our business and for our life.

And, in the end, whether we meet the goals or not, at least sorting out the motivation helps us keep marching on the days when it’s hardest to get out of bed.