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All Fired UP

Saturday, November 01, 2008
NASE Members Say There’s No Mystery To Staying Motivated
By Jan Norman

NASE Member Bob Peckenpaugh had two significant reasons for starting his own business, The Home Loan Group Inc. in Indianapolis, Ind.: When he worked for someone else, he often didn’t get home at night before his two children went to bed.

“I wanted to be my own boss; I knew I could do the work and that I had the drive to be successful,” Peckenpaugh says. “But the hidden treasure I have found [in owning a business] is a huge improvement in my quality of life, specifically having the luxury of spending more time with my two children.”

Despite struggles and uncertainty, Peckenpaugh has discovered that business ownership is full of delights as well. He started his mortgage business in his home and still keeps a home office so that he can be available if his children need him.

“I had never had the pleasure of . . . little things like putting the children on and off the school bus, picking them up from school in the event they were ill, attending school functions like talent shows, science fairs and field trips.”

What motivates business owners like Peckenpaugh to start and stay committed to a business may be a mystery to some. After all, owning your own business means hard work, long hours, frustrating setbacks, finicky customers and financial uncertainty. But the results of surveys and studies have uncovered common themes. And as NASE Members explain, the rewards of running your own show are often the best motivators of all.

Multiple Motivations
Separate surveys by the Internet directory Yahoo! and Discover Card, which provides small-business credit services, found there are widespread motivators for owning a business: being one’s own boss, flexible hours/spending more time with the family, a passion for the work, and a sense of accomplishment.

Far down the list of motivators on both surveys was the possibility of making more money.

“Outsiders wonder why anyone would start his own business, but what I have learned doing this survey is that people associate business ownership with independence,” says Ryan Scully, director of the Discover Card Small Business Watch, a monthly survey of small-business owners’ attitudes and economics.

The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., leads the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 42 countries and reports that in affluent nations like the U.S., the vast majority of entrepreneurs start businesses because they see an opportunity.

Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, a nonprofit educational group, found that 37 percent of female entrepreneurs are motivated by life balance issues.

“People starting businesses have many reasons,” says Leila Mozaffari, director of the Orange County Small Business Development Center in Santa Ana, Calif. “Some are at the point in their career that they don’t see themselves going much further in a company. Entrepreneurship is the next step.”

Clearly, there may be as many motivations for starting and staying in business as there are owners.

Feeling The Passion
Don’t underestimate love as an implicit motivation for starting a business and a sustaining driver when a micro-business owner is going through tough times. Most entrepreneurs love what they do.

“From the time I was a child, I was in love with music and realized I had a natural ability and ear for playing the guitar,” says NASE Member Maria Wilson, a professional musician and a solo guitarist with five albums. She has also owned her music studio and talent agency, Maria Wilson Productions, for 15 years in Hummelstown, Pa.

Another NASE Member, painter Beth Stafford in Concord, N.C., also loves her art, oil and acrylic painting, which she has done professionally for 30 years. During that time she’s added new avenues of expression, the newest of which is digital media. However, she says, “My goal never changes: Keep making art and making it better.”

But it’s not just artistic entrepreneurs who are motivated by a passion for their work.

Mortgage broker Peckenpaugh says, “I continue to stay in the mortgage lending business even though the industry is experiencing some tumultuous times [because] that is what I love to do. I remember how excited my wife and I were when we purchased our first home. The idea that what I do gives others that same excitement and joy is actually very rewarding.”

NASE Member Ray Clauss started his career as an electrician working for an electrical contractor, but became bored until he was given the opportunity to do electrical work in the restoration of old railroad cars. That work so excited and interested him that he eventually started his own business, Star Trak Inc. in Lebanon, N.J.

Star Trak restores 20th century railroad cars and operates a private car for the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey.

“We do museum-quality restoration for educational purposes to let Americans know what railroad travel was like,” he says, his voice brimming with enthusiasm. “These cars have been out of service for 40 years, but rail used to be the primary means of travel in the country.

“I could work seven days a week. It’s fun. It’s always something different. I have the opportunity to work at my hobby.”

Being The Boss
Clauss also voices a motivation that’s common for many micro-business owners: “I like being the boss.”

As a micro-business owner, Clauss says he’s the accountant, supervisor, psychiatrist, machinist, spray painter and air conditioner repairer, as well as electrician.

Guitarist Wilson is even more adamant: “I love being my own boss. The thought of working for somebody else makes me ill!”

Artist Stafford agrees. “I wanted to pursue art as a career but didn’t like schedules or regular 9-to-5 hours. After many years of being my own boss and following my dreams, it would be really painful to give that up.”

That desire to be her own boss keeps Stafford going when finances are tight. Few artists ever get rich selling their works.

“I’m really struggling to find a profitable niche but am too stubborn to give up,” she says.

One stumbling block for would-be micro-business owners is the uncertainty: Can I get enough customers? Can I make enough money to meet my bills? What if I make mistakes?

People who have been self-employed for many years, like Stafford, draw self-confidence and motivation from the answers to those questions. They may have highs and lows, but they have learned to persevere, which is perhaps the most prevalent trait of long-time micro-business owners.

“Deadlines for projects and financial panic are pretty good motivators,” Stafford says. “Sometimes it is difficult to keep moving in dry spells, but I am always open to new avenues of expression, so something usually comes along to light my fire again.”

A Sense Of Accomplishment
Scully says that the Discover Card survey revealed one of the most important motivators: a sense of accomplishment. This was especially true for business owners who are beyond the startup glow of being the boss or doing what they love. The feeling of accomplishment, says Scully, seems more rewarding and personal than for people who work for others.

“A sense of accomplishment resonates with owners,” Scully says.

That may be the result of the business and the owner being mutually dependent and the personal responsibility that the owner has for overall business success. Many micro-business owners work 12- to 18-hour days, seven days a week because they’re motivated to accomplish their goals.

Railroad car restorer Clauss agrees. “The more I accomplish, the more motivated I am to continue doing what I do. It’s really a thrill to see the looks on people’s faces when they see these cars and ride on these trains.”

He never thinks about quitting or retiring, so he never has to pump himself up artificially to go to work each morning.

“My motivational advice to other business owners is to do something you enjoy doing. It’s that simple. There’s a need to be rewarded, but it doesn’t have to be monetary rewards.”

Success isn’t merely measured in dollars and cents, adds mortgage broker Peckenpaugh. “I’m not motivated by money or greed, but more by the overall success of owning a profitable business and having a family life that I can be proud of.

“Looking back, I feel my parents provided just the right amount of support and leadership to me as a child, and I want to be able to have my children look back and say the same thing about me,” he says. “I want to provide the best that I can for my family and their future.”

In the end, the work itself along with the owner’s responsibility and participation in a successful business are strong motivators.

Guitarist Wilson offers this motivational advice to other micro-business owners: “Believe in yourself. Keep positive and remember why you went into business: to create your own destiny."



In the more than three decades that Jan Norman has been a writer, her motivation has been the joy of learning new things and helping others by sharing the information.

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