The Only Good Reasons to Start a Business

Markets are competitive and customers couldn't care less about your self-serving motives for becoming an entrepreneur.

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By Steve Tobak


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are loads of good reasons to become an entrepreneur, right? You get to be your own boss, do your own thing, set your own hours, benefit a cause, achieve personal fulfillment, be happy, and steer clear of the evil tyranny of the corporate world, to name a few.

The only problem is that none of those are good reasons to start your own business because they're all self-serving. All that popular dogma is nothing but feel-good nonsense manufactured by self-serving bloggers or content generators vying for clicks.

The motives behind successful entrepreneurs always point to customer value. As a veteran of the high-tech industry who's worked with dozens of successful founders, I can only think of a handful and even those are not necessarily sufficient to guarantee anything, let alone a profitable growth business.

You've come up with a better solution to a big problem.

This is hands-down the most common basis for Silicon Valley startups, and with good reason: It's a requirement for venture funding. If you want to get VCs interested, you've got to have a solid problem statement and a solution that's way better than anything out there.

The dream team comes together.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Paul McCartney and John Lennon. When talented people with shared interests who complement each other's skillsets come together, sparks fly and great endeavors are born.

Related: 7 Lessons for Dealing with Defeat

You're obsessed.

Obsession is the basis for lots of successful entrepreneurs. If you're so passionate about something that it's all you think about and you don't believe anyone else knows how to do it right, then striking out on your own may very well be the right path for you. That's certainly been the case with Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

Opportunity knocks.

When the stars align, it feels as if you've been kissed by an angel, or opportunity just happens to fall in your lap, you owe it to yourself to go for it or risk spending the rest of your life wondering what might have been. If the universe is trying to tell you something, it's a good idea to listen, especially if there's funding involved.

You're desperate.

There's a good reason why people who grow up with nothing to lose – like SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son or FUBU CEO Daymond John – often become great entrepreneurs. They're highly motivated to take risks. Also, if no one will hire you, what have you got to lose? If necessity is the mother of invention then desperation is the father of motivation.

It's in your DNA.

This may sound like a hokey reason but it's not. If your gut tells you that it's what you're meant to do, that it's your destiny, then you should consider it, especially if your instincts have served you well in the past. Some people – Donald Trump, for example – actually grew up with it so their risk tolerance is high.

Related: Why Being Likable Never Works

You have mega-experience.

Once you've learned the ropes, have some wins and losses under your belt, know everything there is to know about how a business works, and it's something you've always wanted to do, that's a good enough reason in my book. One caveat, though: the closer it is to your functional expertise, the better.

You're accomplished at something in demand.

Expertise is a great reason to start a company, as long as you're near the top of your field or have a truly differentiated value proposition (think Whole Foods' John Mackey or Michael Dell). Your capability can be anything from coding or product design to cooking or winemaking, but if it's a crowded field, beware.

Look at it this way. Markets are competitive and customers couldn't care less about your self-serving motives for being in business. For your company to succeed over the long haul, customers have to see a strong, differentiated value proposition to buy your products or services instead of a market full of alternatives. If they don't, it doesn't matter what your reasons are for being an entrepreneur. You won't be successful.

Related: Don't Be a Solopreneur. Do This Instead.

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at, where you can contact him and learn more.

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