Articles

The Benevolent Entrepreneur’s Motivating Why

January 25, 2018 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

On the 10 January 2018 I facilitated a full-day workshop for the ABSA Enterprise Development (ED) Programme (ABSA is a South African bank) with the aim of aligning more than 60 entrepreneurs’ personal purpose to their business objectives, thus cultivating a deeper commitment to delivering on their 2018 goals.

The day allowed for introspection on their way of being – who am I? who am I becoming? and who do I want to be? Participants spent time considering their reasons for starting their businesses (their motivating whys), and how those translated into their business value proposition.

The ED programme assists emerging black small and medium enterprises in South Africa to grow and prosper through various initiatives, including access to development finance, to markets, and to business development support. Entrepreneurial skills development is a key focus, and this workshop paid attention to the Why rather than the How or What of the business service/product offering.

MOST COMMON REASONS FOR STARTING UP A BUSINESS

The entrepreneurs were asked to think about their personal reasons for starting up their business ventures – what motivated the decision, what got them out of bed every day, what was in it for them, and why do they do what they do.

Their response to these questions were:

  • To make profits or wealth creation.
  • Being the boss and being in control.
  • Pursuing passion and utilizing talents.
  • Job or employment creation.
  • Self-expression and self-fulfilment.
  • Survival and security.
  • Independence and freedom.
  • Time flexibility.
  • Motivating the youth and empowering women.
  • Leaving a legacy.

Their list of reasons was compared to a study done by Entrepreneur Magazine on most common business startup reasons. These were categorized into needs-based versus values-based reasons.

NEEDS / VALUES MODEL

The needs/values model was used to facilitate a conversation around motives for starting their businesses. The reasons from both lists were categorized as either giving or taking motives focused on either people or things – giving can be to other people or to things, and similarly with taking or getting from things or people (as per diagram below).

The reasons on the left-hand side of the diagram are about satisfaction of one’s needs and getting what one wants – that is, pursuing one’s own agenda. On the right-hand side (values) are giving reasons that are bigger than the immediate self-interest or agenda.

Four different types or motives were thus revealed in the quadrants A to D:

  • Quadrant A: The need for power, significance, acceptance, recognition and being in harmony with others.
  • Quadrant C: The need for security and fulfillment through acquisition, accumulation or retention of things deemed important.
  • Quadrant D: Task excellence, passion or pride in the job, learn and grow.
  • Quadrant B: Service, making a contribution, dedication to a cause or noble purpose, making a difference to others.

The entrepreneurs soon realised that the change from TAKING to GIVING is reflected in what they pay attention to. It is about what concerns them, drives them, challenges them, stretches them and inspires them; what they choose to spend their time, effort and resources on. This is their “motivating why”!

BENEVOLENT INTENT

Intent is not an ability issue but rather a matter of the will and, as such, intent is a choice. Your intent to give is guided by your personal values – your guiding principles for your life. When an individual’s willingness to contribute is ignited, a great many possibilities arise. It allows for adding value and making a difference in other people lives – that is, giving more than taking or getting.

And so, if giving is truly a personal choice, the entrepreneurs were challenged to explore the choices they have made thus far. Was it an unconditional giving choice (benevolent intent) or was it about taking (malevolent intent)? Does their enterprise exist to make profit for the shareholders or to contribute meaningfully to their customers or clients? What does the business value proposition reflect: benevolence or malevolence? What would make the business more successful, and sustainably so?

From this workshop, the entrepreneurs were encouraged to consider:

  1. Who pays me for what I do?
  2. What value or contribution am I making to my customers?
  3. What problems am I solving for my customer?
  4. Which customer needs am I serving?
  5. Why do they choose me over other competitors?
  6. What does what I do, do for them?

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