Last year I sat in on a speech by an entrepreneur friend who told the young people in the room, "Money can be the main motivation to start a business." I admired that he said this. Most entrepreneurial spiels obsess about the need to have "passion" about the mission of the business — they say money isn’t enough.
So: can making money be the prime motivator when starting a business?
My take is that in the short-term (0-2 years after founding): Yes. In the long term: it’s not enough and a genuine passion for what the business is doing and the customers it’s serving is a necessary additive.
If your business survives until the long-term, generating the passion shouldn’t be hard. If you start a trash pick-up service, maybe at first you see it as just a cash cow business. After all, who can get fired up about waste management? But eventually, as the business grows, and you start to serve tens of thousands of customers, you can get passionate about the idea of impact on a large scale.
Impact is the entrepreneur’s drug of choice and if a company gets to a point where it is impacting a significant number of people I would argue any founder / executive can find a way to become genuniely excited about the mission above and beyond simply making money (which is an acceptable if not ideal driver for the founders at the outset).
(thanks to Stan James for helping brainstorm this post)