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 What drives entrepreneurs to take the path less traveled?

 

 One of the most enduring myths about those who take the difficult, uncharted path of starting their own business is that they are mainly motivated by money. The short response to anyone who tries to uphold this crude misunderstanding is simply that there are many easier ways to make money – starting a business is not one of them.

This is according to Gugu Mjadu, general manager: marketing for Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that the long answer has to do with what drives and fulfils entrepreneurs, which is totally unrelated to money.

“There are many different goals that an entrepreneurs try to achieve when they risk so much and work so hard for their businesses. While entrepreneur’s sets of inspirations can differ greatly, there are broad patterns that help us understand these complex soldiers of economic growth and wealth creation.”

Mjadu explains there are three different types of entrepreneurs. “Firstly, there are the necessity driven entrepreneurs, which accounts for a larger portion of business owners in South Africa. These entrepreneurs start their businesses because they have no other choice – their survival depends on getting out there and trading.”

She adds that necessity driven entrepreneurs scrape together what they can, and often start their business by copying others in often over-traded markets, where growth and progress are rare. “Driven by survival, their fulfilment often has a strong family focus, and they will work hard to provide food or put their children through school so that their lives may one day be less challenging.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum is high-growth entrepreneurs. Mjadu says that these are the scarcest types of entrepreneurs, even though these individuals are the examples that most people think of when the word ‘entrepreneur’ is mentioned. “High-impact individuals’ fame has made names such as Mark Shuttleworth, Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk synonymous with entrepreneurship.”

Reflecting on these ‘one-in-a-million’ kind of business people, Mjadu says that these entrepreneurs are often driven by imperial ambition rather that getting rich. “These high-growth entrepreneurs want to build an empire, and money is merely a means to that end. Their fulfilment, if indeed they are ever satisfied, lies more in building power, influence and a formidable legacy.”

Even though they are rare all over the world, Mjadu believes South Africa still has far too few of them. “One of these individuals can do an enormous amount of good, from being a role-model and job creator to disrupting vested interests with their radical new ways of doing things.”

In the middle of the entrepreneurship spectrum, between the survivalist entrepreneurs and the high-flyers, lies a group of business owners who are no less important for South Africa’s prosperity – the lifestyle entrepreneur.

Mjadu says that it is difficult to generalise about this group as they come from vastly different backgrounds and industries. She adds that if there is one common characteristic that they share, it is their yearning for independence. “The majority of these entrepreneurs say they have no desire to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Rather, they seek their fulfillment in financial independence and the freedom to choose their own working hours, deadlines and pace.”

She stresses that anyone who thinks this is a sort of laziness has probably never run a business. “Creating and running a business successfully takes an enormous amount of work, creativity and persistence to become financially independent, and even more to get a business to a place where you can start working flexible hours.”

The things that fulfil these entrepreneurs can differ widely, says Mjadu. “For example, smaller lifestyle entrepreneurs find fulfilment in being excellent artisans, such as restaurateurs, while others find deep satisfaction in providing outstanding customer care. More family-focused entrepreneurs may live for providing career paths for their children, and dream of a business that stretches over generations.”

Mjadu adds that ultimately, all types of entrepreneurs end their careers as pillars of the community, and find fulfilment in ‘giving back’ to the people who have supported their business.

“This often makes retired business owners ideal mentors to new generations of entrepreneurs, as they find fulfilment​ not only in sharing their business skills, but also in passing on their amazing spirit of generosity. As such we should encourage all experienced entrepreneurs to consider mentorship in a drive to increase entrepreneurship in the country,” Mjadu concludes.


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