Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — I. Close to the Heart
What are the motives for most entrepreneurs? Do they go beyond the avoidance of regret, as the behavioral economists suggest? Do they rise above the minimal level (survival) or even the intermediate level (job security, compensation, safe working conditions)? For the successful entrepreneur who leads a closely-held enterprise there must be other key motivators. If the entrepreneur had been interested in job security or compensation, she would probably work for a large corporation or government agency. Rather, the key motivators are often a sense of achievement (often mixed with a competitive spirit), the need for autonomy (often mixed with counter-dependency), the need for a creative outlet (often mixed with a desire to stand out in a crowd), and (using Maslow’s term) a desire for self-actualization. These motives are often difficult for an entrepreneur to articulate and are often not met in the short-run by specific activities or accomplishments.
The capacity and willingness of an entrepreneur to be clear about their fundamental motivations is important and inherent in the primary entrepreneurial challenge associated with this issue—this challenge being the ongoing planning of career by the entrepreneur. Clarity about motivation is important because the entrepreneur must frequently make decisions about the direction in which she wants her enterprise to move. She must decide if any potential move is aligned not only with the long term strategic roadmap of the enterprise, but also with her own fundamental reasons for being an entrepreneur and for holding this specific enterprise close to her heart. Quite often the entrepreneur “knows” when something is “right” or “wrong” in terms of her own interests and fundamental commitments, but will need assistance in articulating her motives.
It is also important that the entrepreneur remain flexible with regard to her motives. She must be capable and willing to identify and engage shifting personal aspirations and career interests, for these shifts may portend strategic changes in the direction of her enterprise. It is not uncommon for a successful entrepreneur to have relatively low capacity with regard to stable levels of interest in specific tasks or assignments, while holding a core set of values and motives that remain constant over time and location.