Entrepreneur working on Mac

What Kind of Entrepreneur Are You?

Entrepreneur working on Mac


In 2011, there were more than 27 million small businesses in the U.S. that collectively created between 60 – 80 percent of all new jobs (according to the SBA). With such a significant part of our economy supported by a growing entrepreneurial population, it’s important to understand what factors drive these independent business owners. In order to sustain growth in the small business sector, it’s not only important to understand what motivates an entrepreneur, but also to look at the various motivational traits of successful and not-so-successful entrepreneurs.

I recently came across an article on Inc. Magazine that discussed the successful traits of an entrepreneur as well as examined the differences between male and female entrepreneurs by analyzing the results of a recent study performed by associate professor, Naom Wasserman, and senior fellow and director of career development, Timothy Butler, of Harvard Business School.


According to Inc., Wasserman and Butler “carved out results for men and women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s-and-beyond, and compared the results with those for thousands of non-entrepreneurs who completed the same survey. Among their findings: Entrepreneurs are from Mars; non-entrepreneurs are from Venus. When respondents were asked to rank 13 motivations, entrepreneurs gave priority to things such as autonomy and power. Non-entrepreneurs, by contrast, valued security and a congenial work environment. The study also showed that motivations change with age, with women’s motivations shifting more than men’s. The results expectedly showed a definitive contrast between genders when it came to explaining the underlying motivation for starting a business.”


Top Four Motivators for Male Entrepreneurs (Average by Age Group)
20’s 30’s 40’s
Autonomy Autonomy Autonomy
Power & Influence Power & Influence Power & Influence
Managing People Managing People Altruism
Financial Gain Financial Gain Variety


Top Four Motivators for Female Entrepreneurs (Average by Age Group)
20’s 30’s 40’s
Autonomy Autonomy Autonomy
Power & Influence Power & Influence Intellectual Challenge
Managing People Variety Variety
Altruism Altruism Altruism


With a quick glance, it’s immediately apparent that there’s a distinct difference between the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women. The men surveyed in their 20’s and 30’s picked “Financial Gain” as a driving factor for forming a small business, while women in the same age group indicated “Altruism” as one of the key motivational factors. These differences in motivation for starting one’s own venture are important to understand, especially for those who decide to do so with a partner of the opposite sex. However, even more importantly, prior to embarking on the road to entrepreneurship, it’s wise to take the time to understand one’s own motivation for launching a business.

Want to get a better understanding of what drives you as an entrepreneur? The folk’s at Inc. have put together an excellent quiz (modified from Wasserman and Butler’s own assessment tool) where you can rank your motivational priorities and receive feedback based on the Harvard scholars’analysis of each category.

Photo by: flickr/Ed Yourdon

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