High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Notes from Colombia: Where does entrepreneurial motivation come from?

Oriana Torres has been working at Endeavor Colombia since March 2007 in Entrepreneur Services. She posts regularly on her blog, Entrepreneurial Discovery, about all things having to do with entrepreneurship. She is a Business Administrator, has a diverse professional background and has worked in five countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. She used to own a restaurant in the north of Bogota, called Sizzlers. Oriana speaks Spanish, her native language, English, German and a bit of Portuguese. This fall, Oriana will begin pursuing an MBA degree at Babson’s Olin School of Business.

The following are excerpts from a recent post called:

When No One is Watching…

I have been following Seth Godin’s blog for some time and I especially like his concise, powerful messages. He is the author of ten books that have been bestsellers around the world, influencing the way people think about marketing, change and work.

I was drawn to a recent post of his called “Self-directed effort is the best kind.” It made me think about how many things we do because we have to, versus how many things we do because they genuinely matter and mean something to us. I quickly did the exercise Godin describes and discovered that the balance for me was pretty good: there were a bunch of things that I do because I care and technically enjoy doing, while there are others I do because I have those metaphorical policemen watching over me.

I don’t think that it is necessarily bad to count on such policemen to provide incentive to behave a certain way. It’s not ideal, but it’s not really an issue as long as your self-directed actions exceed the quantity of the stuff you need extra incentive to do.

I’m not an expert, I’m just drawing from Godin. This is a blog about entrepreneurship and therefore, I couldn’t help thinking about this in the entrepreneurial context. I immediately thought about Endeavor.

The first thing is that Endeavor, in the context of Seth’s post, is an army of policemen that force our Entrepreneurs to excel beyond what they would do on their own. I am aware that the word “force” is very strong, but after having worked as an Entrepreneur Services Manager for more than four years at Endeavor Colombia, seeing first hand how Entrepreneurs respond to our services, I feel confident that that Endeavor makes a difference not only through sharing knowledge. The real difference is in our capacity to act as “accountability agents” for Entrepreneurs. We are always there to remind them of their commitments: they need to create a business plan to move to the next level, or hire a manager, put together a board of directors, or even more simple things like analyze their financial statements to look for possible red flags. I am 100% sure that 90% of our Entrepreneurs want to and can do all of these things themselves, but for some reason they need the extra motivation. It’s not just a matter of knowledge, it’s about self-directed drive. The question for me, is where does the self-direction come from.

I had a debate recently with some colleagues about Endeavor’s role in Entrepreneurs’ project implementation. We disagreed about how involved the ESM — Entrepreneur Services Manager (also called Key Account Manager in our jargon) — should be in the Entrepreneur’s day-to-day activities in order to keep them on track and make sure things got done. Ultimately, our model only works if the Entrepreneurs execute the things the mentors advise in a timely way. Some people were adamant that “self-directed effort” had to drive the process and set the pace. Other people (like me) thought that we are actually there to provide any oversight that helps them go beyond what “self-directed effort” allows, even if this implies an important investment of time and energy. In the end, it’s the same time and energy that the personal trainer puts in to make you burn 700 calories instead of 500, as Seth’s analogy suggests.

So I ask my readers: what do you do when no one is looking? What do you make when it’s not an immediate part of your job? How many push ups do you do, just because you can?

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