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Posted: 2010-08-12 / Author: Gareth Cotten

8 Reasons Why People Start Their Own Businesses

We all know someone who’s gone into business for themselves – a family member, a friend or an ex-colleague. The amazing thing is that every one of them has their own story about why they did it! Some fell into it, some had no choice, others were hit by a bolt of inspiration. While there are seemingly millions of different reasons for doing it, these can definitely be summed up in a few main themes that come up over and over again.

1. Necessity – no income
How many people do you know who’ve lost their jobs recently? Personally, I can think of at least half a dozen close friends and associates. For these people, out of the blue, they’ve had their livelihoods ripped out from underneath them. But have their expenses fallen away? No! They’ve still got mortgages to cover, bills to pay, mouths to feed. Or maybe they’re freshly qualified, but there just aren’t any jobs around. If there aren’t any other positions or pay-cheques forthcoming, the answer is to go out there and make their own.

2. Necessity – not enough income
Along the same lines as the previous point, people find themselves in a position where there’s simply too much month left at the end of the money. Living expenses have gone up, but they’re not always matched by pay increases. They can’t take another job, so they start a little something on the side. It might just be a few hours a week, or the odd evening and weekend, but it’s the difference between being short and coming out ahead every month.

3. Change in circumstances
So, you had a 10-year plan. But out of nowhere, your partner got offered a job across the country. Commuting is impractical (it would take up half your day), so you need to work from home. Or maybe you’ve had children – you need more flexibility in your life to make sure that they’re cared for, so you need to be able to set your own hours. Starting your own business is just the way to do that – you can strike the balance you need to.

4. Feeling like you have a purpose
People are starting to realise that there is more to this world than waking up, going to work for 40 years, keeping your kids out of rehab, and then retiring to some tucked-away old-age home. They want to know that they have really lived. And one of the best ways to achieve that is to know that they’ve created something out of nothing, or to have something in their lives that they are completely and absolutely passionate about. Often, running their own business fills that need, and gives them a real sense of achievement.

5. Desire for independence
After taking orders from a boss for a while, people just don’t want to anymore. They’re sick and tired of having their lives dictated to them by others – what time they have to be at work, what they can or can’t wear, when they can take a holiday. They want to be able to make decisions based on what’s best for them, and not some big, grey, soulless corporation.

6. Lifestyle choices
Everybody has their own idea of the ultimate lifestyle. For some, it could be the ability to work from anywhere in the world (their home, a villa in France, the beach). For others, it could be getting up late, never having to work on a Friday, or being able to have the time to train for that marathon they’ve always wanted to do. It’s supremely difficult to live the life you dream about if you’re punching in on somebody else’s clock.

7. Being in control of your own future
The default mindset was always that it was risky to be in business for yourself. People ask me all time how I put up with the risk of losing everything. I turn around and ask them straight which is more risky: relying on somebody else to ensure that their business keeps ticking over, and that there’s always enough money in the kitty to pay your salary; or running your own show, where you always know what the situation is? We live in turbulent times, and I’d rather be the captain of my own ship than a deckhand on somebody else’s.

8. Creating true wealth and financial freedom
I’m going to be honest with you: it’s very difficult to become fabulously wealthy working for someone else. Yes, if you’re highly disciplined with your savings, and a good investor, you can make it big – but how many people do you know personally who have pulled that off? Building your own business may not be easy, but it provides you with the opportunity to multiply your efforts – you have the ability to leverage off of other people’s time – or other people’s skills – and you can build something that you can either sell down the line, or set it up in such a way that it provides you with a passive income for life. As the saying goes, “You’re either making yourself rich, or you’re making somebody else rich.” Which one is it?

Gareth Cotten is the course convener for the University of Cape Town (Law@Work) Start and Manage a Small Business course.

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