Entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs typically because they can’t face working for other people. Some will try the world of work, and some will realise it’s never for them. They’d rather be poor and struggling than work in the dull corporate world.
What are the three needs that drive almost all entrepreneurs, and how can we use this knowledge to drive performance and productivity, for the good of the business they’re creating?
First off, what’s a need?
Some of you might have come across needs in connection with Maslow’s hierarchy, which aims to show that deeper needs can be difficult to meet before more fundamental needs are being met.
This is a useful way of thinking about needs, but since for many of us food and water are almost a given, the needs we experience not meeting are mostly the deeper more psychological needs.
What happens when we don’t meet our needs?
We experience bodily sensations, that we tend to call feelings and emotions. In relation to a lack of water, we feel a sensation called thirst. For a lack of food, we experience hunger.
If you are someone who needs security (not everyone does – some people base jump!), you might experience anxiety when you aren’t feeling secure. If you need leisure, and you aren’t getting enough, you might experience a sensation of boredom or even depression.
Our emotions, then, are a communication system of unmet needs.
The three needs that drive most entrepreneurs
I’ve coached more than a hundred entrepreneurs at the time of writing this, and these three come up time and again. The interplay between them can create quite a challenge for many entrepreneurs.
- Freedom – power over self & ability to make choices that suit you in the moment
- Stimulation – new and exciting challenges, possibly creativity, learning, exploration
- Security – financial security particularly, but also emotional security
Frustratingly, these three needs don’t always sit well together.
We all might have heard of Richard Branson on Necker Island. For many entrepreneurs, that seems like an idea mix of freedom, stimulation and security. He’s certainly not going to run out of money, he get’s to choose what he works on and he choose the stuff that excites him.
But that seems so far away when you’re just starting a business.
The question then is .. how do I get to the point where I have the right mix of these 3 needs?
Let’s look at them in more detail
The need for stimulation
Stimulation is different for us all, but most entrepreneurs deeply desire it. It’s like air for many of us.
Freedom allows us to avoid mundane work which can be almost impossible to get through if you have an entrepreneurial mind.
Stimulation for us might mean:
- Challenge and overcoming obstacles.
- Creativity and innovation.
- Learning, discovery and growth.
- Social stimulation.
- Sensory stimulation.
- Emotional stimulation, such as feeling inspired.
- Risk and adventure.
- Feedback and recognition.
- Financial success, often around signing deals.
We’re all different though, and what is stimulating for some is mundane for others.
I wonder, if you looked back at your last week, what would you see that stimulated you?
The need for security
Where does the need for security come from? And what elements of security are particularly relevant to entrepreneurs?
- Financial security – ensuring there is at least enough money to pay the bills. This is a key reason digital nomads exist; for a cheaper living
- Business security – ensuring that the business assets and information is secure.
- Emotional and relationship security – ensuring you live within your values, and keep your important relationships functioning (work-life balance is key here!)
Of these, financial security is most important in the early days of business ownership. It can be a challenge to meet the financial security needs at the same time as emotional needs, and some relationships fall apart because entrepreneurs focus too much on work.
I’m curious, when do you feel least secure, and how does it feel?
The need for freedom
Entrepreneurs as a group tend to prefer to lead and come up with ideas, compared with being told what to do. This is particularly relevant where they’re being told to do work that doesn’t fit with their values, or which they consider mundane or repetitive. This can be incredibly depressing.
Autonomy and independence, then, live within the core of most entrepreneurs since our emotions are often heightened compared to others, which makes holding down a normal job difficult. Power over self, personal choice, decision making and work-life harmony are some of the key elements that make up the need for freedom.
For many, this can stretch as far as “do I want to work today at all? If not, I won’t”.
Could you look back on your life and see when you needed more freedom than you had? What happened?
Meeting these three needs as an entrepreneur
How can you be secure, and have freedom? Because if you have freedom, you might not want to work at all today, and therefore won’t earn any money?
The answer often lies within understanding stimulation for you. Work isn’t work any more if you’re stimulated. If you’re excited by signing a new deal, that’s a strength for you to use. Go sign some deals! If you get stimulation from talking to others, get networking and sell yourself! If you get stimulation from learning, go read something new and put it into practice!
So, stimulation is a key strength for entrepreneurs
By considering stimulation as a strength, you can find what you love within your work and hack your brain into creating a business from it.
If instead, you work within your weaknesses, such as mundane and repetitive tasks, you’ll eventually give up on your entrepreneurial dream. Then, you won’t have the freedom you so deeply need.
But you won’t need so much freedom if you’re loving what you’re doing.
If you would like a little coaching exercise to do for your business, write down everything you do in your business and categorise each into 4 elements, based on whether you’re stimulated by it, and whether you’re personally effective at that task:
- Stimulating & effective
- Not stimulating & effective
- Stimulating & not effective
- Not stimulating & not effective
Ideally within your business, you’ll eventually only ever work on what’s stimulating for you, and what you’re most effective at. The rest can be done by someone else.
When you’re starting out, it usually makes most sense to work within your strengths as much as possible, and avoid your weaknesses. If you’re a natural and extroverted networker, follow that as your marketing system, rather than getting on YouTube or TikTok.
Good luck finding your path toward the perfect day for you!