What Kind of Business Do You Really Want?

Mar 4, 2016

(an excerpt from The Entrepreneur’s Trap)

I am amazed by how many people I know who are trapped in businesses that they actually never wanted in the first place, simply because they weren’t clear on what they really wanted or got caught up in looking at others around them and feeling like they should do the same thing.

Take, for example, my friend Bryn Johnson of BrynJohnsonGroup.com:

“After leaving my corporate job at Monster.com in 2010 I was ready to devote myself to my business and invested heavily in coaching and support to do so. After a couple of years I found myself miserable – I was making money hand over fist with amazing clients but was not motivated by my work at all. I came to realize that I had hired a staff to build a business with me that I didn’t want.

After coming dangerously close to burnout I took some time to get quiet and pay attention to what I really loved doing. I had actually known all along what I really wanted to do but had given that up for the “sexy business model” that so many others were touting. I realized that in paying attention to those around me I had ignored my own inner voice. I’ve since shifted my business model to do the things I love to do the most (and which had been a big part of my success in the corporate world) – speaking and writing. Once I made the decision to do what I really wanted the opportunities came pouring in – such as being invited to be an expert blogger for Monster and to host my own radio show. I’m now loving my business for the first time ever.”

I want you to explore what kind of business you really want, and this starts with exploring your why.

Step #1: Why Did You Start Your Business?

There are three common whys for entrepreneurs when it comes to starting a business:

  • Freedom – being able to do what you want when you want to do it
  • Money – making as much as possible in order to enjoy everything it allows you to have in life
  • Meaning – being able to serve from your purpose, helping people in the way that you were meant to do so

Each of us has a driving why, and probably a bit of the other two as well.

Freedom is my driving why. I created my business for the simple fact that I hate it when people tell me what to do (my first word as a child was “no” – go figure!). I don’t want someone to tell me I have to do X or be somewhere at a certain time… and I certainly don’t want someone to tell me what I have to wear! (You want me to wear pantyhose? No thanks!) I like to be able to do what I want to do with my time, be it working or not (hence the reason I take a firm stand on not working weekends). I like to be able to express myself the way I want to through my work instead of trying to fit into someone else’s mold. This is why I consider myself unemployable these days (LOL).

Meaning is my secondary why, as I simply can’t sustain doing work that has no meaning. I remember this from my days of being employed, in particular with my first job as an accounts payable clerk for the head office of a large grocery chain. Yes, the work was necessary to the running of the business. But what kind of impact was I having on the world at large? What difference did it really make if I was good at my job or not? I simply wasn’t motivated to be the best darn accounts payable clerk in the world. Fast-forward to my work today as an entrepreneur… I LOVE the fact that the work I do has an impact. I love when someone says something to me like, “Tina, because of your program I’m able to take a vacation with my family for the first time in three years.” Or “After reading your book I finally know what I want to do. Thank you!” The work that I do matters, and that is really important to me.

Money is the why that’s third on my list. And I’ve come to realize that it’s not actually that important to me. Don’t get me wrong; I love money and enjoy all that it allows for me, my family, and my business. But it simply isn’t my driving force, and anytime I’ve tried to do something simply for the money, it wasn’t enough to motivate me. I’ve tried to set goals based on money alone, but if they aren’t led by freedom and meaning, then they simply fizzle out.

What is most important to you? What is your WHY?

It might have been a while since you considered this for yourself. Or this might be the first time ever. If you feel unsure about your why, try stepping back a bit and looking at decisions you’ve made in the past. It was actually only recently that I realized that freedom is my driving why – up until that point I would have said meaning was the first one. But when I realized how many times I’ve made decisions in life based on freedom, it was obvious. And since then I’ve come to use it as a touchstone for all that I do. The reason I had to write this book is to help you get more freedom along with money and meaning.

When you are clear on your why, it will help to define everything else in your business, including how much time, money, and effort you are willing to put in (or sacrifice) to create the level of success you want.

For example, someone who is driven by freedom may not be willing to work lots of hours, whereas someone driven more by money might be totally fine with working many hours in order to reach their financial goals. Someone driven by meaning might be OK with sacrificing certain things in life in order to fulfill what really matters to them.

Your why becomes the touchstone for making decisions about how to run your business.

Next week we will look at Step #2 – Finding the Right Business Model for your Why

What is your Why? Comment below to share your top why, and how you use this to drive your business.

And a nod to Simon Sinek’s great book Start with Why – if you haven’t read it yet I HIGHLY recommend you do, or check out his popular TED talk.


  1. Ajeet Khalsa

    HI Tina: It is nearly midnight here on the east coast and after writing a 2 hour description of my training weekend, I opened up your email. I read that JAI UTTAL, one of my favorite kirtan artists had his April all set–spring yoga chant workshops in california, then off to Davie Florida and then a hop, skip and jump to the Sivananda Ashram in Paradise Island, Bahamas. It was glaringly clear that he got his WHY right. Why am I leading a training? Because yes, I want to affect people, but more, why I do this is to make a contribution and for my own Self-Fulfillment in life and creative pursuits. Why I do it is to feel that I am making the difference and offering hope and tools. Money is second or third, traveling is very important-seeing the world, especially the beauty in the world. Why I lead trainings is to reach people, why I work with children is to feel loved, why I love teaching is to see parents embrace themselves and their children. This makes me feel very connected and part of a larger feeling of family in the world.

    • admin

      Such a powerful mission Ajeet – love that you are building your business from this space. 🙂

  2. Pam Ivey

    Tina, I think you’ve been watching over my shoulder again. LOL I’ve been building this monster business in a direction that everyone else, including coaches and colleagues, has been telling me for years is my “sweet spot”. Yes, it’s allowed me to generate a ton of money but like you, money isn’t my #1 motivator. I’ve been doing a lot of “soul searching” that last couple of months and I’m headed in a better direction that more closely feeds my why.

    • tinaforsyth

      YES! would love to hear more about what you are brewing…


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