Being an entrepreneur is not an easy choice to make. Although the media entices us with stories of entrepreneurs making millions when their firm is acquired for billions of dollars or goes public, the reality is that these events are quite rare. Many entrepreneurs do not expect – and are not likely to receive – any such financial windfall. In fact, many entrepreneurs actually make less money than they would if they worked for somebody else. Factor in paying for your own health-care and double the social security, and the wage differential becomes even more pronounced.
So why do so many people become entrepreneurs? I believe it has to do with the satisfaction that comes with being your own boss. Being an entrepreneur is both incredibly exhilarating and frightening. As an entrepreneur, you make all the decisions and have to deal with the consequences of those decisions. If your company does well, you do well. If it does poorly, you may not be able to pay your bills.
Many of my family members are entrepreneurs. I have seen them enjoy periods of success, and persist through periods of struggle. I remember clearly one particularly rough period for my dad when it looked like his business would have to shut its doors. He knew that the rational thing to do was to close the company and get a job at a large corporation. But as I watched him look through the want ads (this was before the Internet existed), I could practically see his heart breaking. It did not matter that he could not pay the bills; he never wanted to go back to working for someone else.
Why not? Because, despite all the challenges he faced, the bottom line was that he was happiest when he was working for himself. This is one of the strongest findings in entrepreneurship research – those who are self-employed are happier than those who are not. Entrepreneurs are more satisfied with their jobs and their lives than those that work for others.
While there are a number of reasons I love teaching entrepreneurship, the biggest by far is the ability to facilitate happiness. By helping students learn to be better entrepreneurs, I hope to help them lead happier lives. And, if they hit that million dollar jackpot, then that’s just icing on the cake.
Dr. Atul Teckchandani