How to Grow a Business When You’re Not Motivated by Money


So you’ve got talent. Check.

You’ve acquired relevant industry experience and valuable expertise. Check.

You’ve found a pain point or gap in your industry, you’ve done your homework, and you know your solution will help people. Check.

You even know who these people are and how to find them. You’ve checked all the boxes, right?

Success in an entrepreneurial endeavour can be multi-faceted, and it requires the very best of us. Sometimes it requires us to be skilled in areas we currently aren’t, and sometimes it requires us to work hard at things that don’t excite us.

Also Read: Why Set Up A Business In India

With awareness and motivation, we can acquire new skills. We can also hire people who are more skilled in certain areas that we are, or we can outsource everything from our accounting and bookkeeping to our social media strategy and even content. But how do we increase our motivation for things that need to happen in our business that don’t normally excite us? Specifically, how can you grow a business when you’re not motivated by money?

In their book Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behaviour, Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan describe motivation as having two components; energy and direction. The energy associated with our motivation, according to Deci and Ryan, consists of our innate (i.e. survival) drives, as well as our environmental, or learned desires.

An example of the latter variety would be spending a lot of time with highly intelligent peers, only to see ones’ desire to learn and better themselves grow.

The directional aspects of motivation are tied to internal and external stimuli, according to the authors. In business terms as it relates to money, this could be the panic caused by an imminent cash shortfall and the inability to pay one’s bills (internal, at least emotionally). It could also be noticing that revenues are off target two months in a row as flagged by effective dashboards.

In short, we can generally only become motivated by things that truly matter to us, and/ or when we perceive that taking action can help us achieve something that matters to us or avoid something we don’t want.

When it comes to money, almost any entrepreneur will be motivated to a point. That point is generally when they are comfortable, or at least not afraid of not being able to pay their bills. For many people, comfort is one step away from complacency, which is when we become less proactive and start coasting.

When it comes to business growth, this sort of approach all but guarantees no new business stimulus, and thus firm ceiling on the head of the entrepreneur (and their team) when it comes to growth.

Circling back to the question, the answer lies in manipulating the variables of motivation. We need to find a way to lift our internal or external need for money; or we need to find a way to have our measurable hit home earlier or more meaningfully.

In terms of energy (need), an entrepreneur may decide to;

  • Increase their monthly investments, therefore increasing the amount of monthly revenue required to remain cash positive
  • Increase their monthly philanthropic efforts, achieving the same end but serving a different motivation
  • Surround themselves with entrepreneurs who think differently than they do in terms of finances or who do more for charity, thereby lifting their own perceived need to earn or donate

In terms of direction (measurement), and entrepreneur may;

  • Change the threshold acceptable values in terms of minimum revenue they aim for
  • Change their budget or goals to increase revenue targets
  • Change their accounts payable or accounts receivable terms (and days)

In my experience, there is one more method to changing motivation when it comes to money (or anything else), and it’s all about alignment.

As a former football player, and as a red-assertive directing personality archetype in the Total SDI system, I’m a highly competitive person. I am motivated by competition. My motivation in writing this article lies in my experience finding a way around my lack of motivation around money. In short, I’m not motivated my money, but I’ve learned to become very motivated by revenue.

What’s the difference you may ask? To me, money helps pay the bills and buy stuff. I’m motivated to pay the bills, but I’m not motivated to buy stuff.

Revenue, however, is the sum of all of the working parts of my business. As a formula, revenue = sales efforts + sales effectiveness + billing speed & accuracy + client service + client retention – refunds (errors or client service issues) and client departures (client service issues).

Also Read: How To Start A Company? Answer Simple Questions – Guy Kawasaki

Furthermore, as a competitive person whose number one core value is ‘personal growth’, it’s extremely motivating to measure revenue in month over month or year over year terms. I’m not motivated by money, but I was very motivated and encouraged to try even harder when I saw my business reach year over year growth of 1,589% from August 2016 to August 2017! Now that my business is wrapping up its’ third year of operations, those growth numbers are next to impossible to achieve, but I’m still just as motivated to measure revenue growth, even if my motivation around money hasn’t changed.

In closing, we can change our needs, we can change our measures, and we can align what we need to do with how we are already motivated. Let us know in the comments what you’ve done to grow your business even if you’re not motivated by money. Best of luck, entrepreneurs!

Stan Peake

Entrepreneur by nature, coach by trade, catalyst by approach; Stan Peake lives to help values-based leaders discover and live up to their potential. With entrepreneurial expertise spanning 4 businesses in 3 industries over 14 years; and 15 years of leadership and executive management experience, Stan gets business, and he gets entrepreneurs. He is certified as an executive coach (certified by John Mattone, Steve Jobs’ former executive coach), corporate facilitator, and is also certified in cultural transformation tools and over 65 tools that help to create awareness, change, and results in leaders and teams. His written works range from the InSite Performance Coaching blog to published works in 5 different magazines including Entrepreneur, and newspapers across Canada and the United States. Stan has also published two books, and contributed to a third. Stan’s speaking engagements have taken him across Canada, from startup incubators and national franchise shows to crowds in the hundreds to intimate personal and professional development in-services to small groups. He has also been a guest on over a dozen podcasts on topics from sales to leadership to all things entrepreneurism. Stan has coached businesses of all sizes and industries, from Vancouver, BC to Montreal, QC. He has helped pre-revenue startups get off the ground, to a business two decades in improve their profitability by 175% within three months. A dynamic speaker, passionate and wise coach, and gifted writer – Stan is the go to for leaders and businesses who want to get unstuck and make their vision a reality. When not coaching, speaking, or writing, Stan enjoys time with his wife Maria, son Chase, and dog Zeke travelling, being active, and arguing over their football teams.

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