Mark Richardson Asks: What's Your Motivation?

While there are standards in business in terms of conduct and practice, the leader’s motivation varies dramatically.

February 26, 2014

Mark Richardson, CR

What motivates you can influence how you think and how you make decisions. I see this dynamic in so many aspects of life. If the coach of a football team is motivated just to get to the playoffs, he may use specific strategies or players. On the other hand, if he is motivated to win an award for sportsmanship or teach his players life lessons, then winning may be secondary.

I share these thoughts in the context of business because it is important to understand the motivation of an owner or a leader. While there are standards in business in terms of conduct and practice, the leader’s motivation varies dramatically. I may agree or be more inclined to endorse one over another; however, motivation is not about right or wrong. The owner’s motivation may not influence the quality of the product or service or even how team members are treated. This motivation will change over time as the owner evolves and the business changes. While there may be many more examples or descriptions of the leader’s motivation, I will attempt to outline a few in the hopes that you can ask yourself: What is my motivation?

A Job…Many smaller business owners or leaders bought a job. They prefer to work for themselves rather than work for others. Their paycheck is what is available in the checking account after the clients pay them and the bills are paid. While they may have fantasies of business growth and financial rewards, this will be dictated more by the marketplace than a business plan. Business acumen and growth are not drivers as much as quality work and independence. Having a backlog of projects is generally a sign of success and comfort. At the end of the day, they are motivated by having a good and honest job.

The Businessperson…This owner or leader is motivated by creating a solid business. They spend time on the business, not just in the business. They are working toward finding valuable team members so they can continue to grow the business and see appropriate returns. They realize profit is important and necessary but generally do not sacrifice the future for short-term gains. They invest in team members as assets that need to be grown and retained.

The Entrepreneur...The difference between a businessperson and an entrepreneur is that an entrepreneur needs an exit strategy. I believe many business people would like an exit strategy, but it may not be a motivator like it is for a true entrepreneur. Very few remodeling businesses are sold because they are not lead with an exit in mind. The entrepreneur is a change artist. They are always looking for the next move.

The Investor...Another motivator is the investor. Investors are primarily motivated by the returns they receive on the business versus the energy and risk. A friend of mine who owns a very established remodeling company is not concerned about growth or top-line sales. He is more focused on the personal returns and the energy to achieve those returns. These are not limited to just the short term. Everyday when he wakes up, this motivation is top-of-mind. While this may sound a little cold to some, a properly run remodeling business can peel off a very nice return compared with other investments in which you have little control.

The Evangelist...There are other business leaders who are motivated by a cause. This cause may be a global one focused on energy or community service. The cause may be about making sure the industry is perceived in better light and homeowners are educated properly. Often this business owner is not very profitable or growing, but getting the message out is the real measuring stick. While the quality of the work is important, when given a choice to focus on product improvement or the cause, usually the cause is where the leader is drawn.

The Legacy...Another motivation is the future. Not the future for future’s sake but for the next generation. This business leader’s motivation is putting the next generation as a top priority. The investments in the business are more about the legacy than the needs of the business today. The legacy motivation does not have to be purely about a son or daughter, but it is about the leader having cash flow in their next passage.

The Ego...There are many in business who are more motivated by ego and getting an award for a project than making a profit on the project. Because the remodeling business is such an easy entry business, you can be quickly recognized by your clients, community, or professional association. This ego fulfillment is great, but many put it above many other fundamental motivations.

Most owners and business leaders are a combination of the above. I am not making judgment on your motivation. Although I am critical if you cry about the pain of not making enough profit while putting legacy or ego ahead of it. I am critical if you sing to you team about your commitment to business growth and future, then treat the business like a short-term investment. You can choose whichever direction you want, but a great business has the owner’s motivation and the key influences in alignment. PR

About the Author

About the Author

Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at or 301.275.0208.

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