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Personal Development  |  3 min read

Not Motivated by Money? Well You’re Not Alone

by Clare Kirlin

Who is the most successful entrepreneur you can think of? 

Take a moment to consider.


Who came to mind? 

You might have named a celebrity like Richard Branson, or someone you know personally who runs a booming business. If you’re like most people, you probably thought of someone who has earned a lot of money. (If you named yourself, congratulations and keep up the great work!)

Quite often, we consider the highest-earning entrepreneurs to be the most successful—and we assume that every small business is striving for the same thing. 

But when we asked 402 small business owners how they define success for our Defining and Achieving Small Business Success report, we discovered something interesting: Money doesn’t define success for most small business owners. 

What does define success for small business? Here’s what they said:

  • The ability to do work they enjoy
  • Being the boss
  • Work flexibility
  • Freedom and control
  • Having a positive impact on employees, customers, and community

Similar findings were reported in an MIT journal; researchers found that 50 percent of small business owners started their businesses for non-financial reasons, including:

  • Wanting to be their own boss
  • Being tired of working for others
  • Wanting flexibility to set hours
  • The desire to pursue a passion 

Of course, every entrepreneur wants to achieve financial success—94 percent of the small business owners in our survey have specific financial goals. It’s hard to enjoy being the boss when you can’t make payroll, after all. But they consider their non-financial goals at least as important as the financial ones, if not more important. 

And despite the popular belief that small businesses strive to grow exponentially, 88 percent of small business owners interviewed for our report say that they have no desire to grow a staff larger than 50 people. 

While small business owners certainly strive for—and deserve—financial stability, it would seem that they are driven by far more powerful forces such as passion, freedom, and legacy. 

If you’re a small business owner motivated by something bigger than a paycheck, you’re not alone. 


Clare Kirlin.jpeg

Clare's 10-year marketing career has deep roots in content strategy, with an emphasis on B2B technology. Outside the office, Clare can usually be found indulging her passion for language as a creative writer, prolific reader, and inexorable chatterbox. She is a proud parent of one daughter and self-nominated captain of Team Oxford Comma. Connect with Clare on Twitter @clarekirlin.

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