Listen to this article
Mick Jagger is one of the world’s most financially successful pop singers, but he still sings at Rolling Stones concerts that he cannot get any satisfaction. Perhaps his problem is that he is not doing something entrepreneurial.
This was the conclusion of a study into the satisfaction levels among the owners of family businesses, conducted by Franz Heukamp and Heinrich Liechteinstein, both based at Navarra University’s Iese Business School.
They sent questionnaires measuring satisfaction levels, based on the World Values Survey, a global network of social scientists studying changing values, to members of the Family Business Network, an association for family-owned businesses.
Among the questions about attitudes to health, education and religion were several designed to assess the impact of entrepreneurship, philanthropy, family values and wealth management on the respondent’s levels of contentment with life.
What they found was that those involved in entrepeneurial activity expressed significantly more satisfaction with their lot than those in other roles, such as running the family’s philanthropic ventures or being sleeping partners in the business.
What surprised the study’s authors was that it was not just those family members still running their businesses that expressed higher levels of satisfaction than the rest.
It was enough to be in charge of a new project within the company or involved in some other activity that involved doing something to make the respondent significantly more gratified than their peers.
“They were more satisfied whatever level they were at,” Mr Heukamp says.
“Being an entrepreneur is something that satisfies people even if they are not in charge of that entrepreneurial venture.”
Satisfaction does not seem to come from the belief that they are doing good, according to the results. Those involved in philanthropic activity were only likely to express the same satisfaction levels as the entrepreneurs if they were in charge of a family foundation named after them.
The authors’ use of satisfaction in their research, as opposed to happiness, was intentional. Satisfaction was seen as a less ambiguous and emotive notion than happiness, producing clearer and more consistent results when used in questioning, they felt.
What the study does not prove is whether entrepreneurship in general can lead to greater levels of satisfaction, beyond the realms of family-owned businesses.
Mr Heukamp admits: “My sense is that it does but there is no empirical evidence …entrepreneurship engages people in a way that leads to greater satisfaction.”
Mr Heukamp, who is also the associate dean for MBA programs at Iese, is more certain about the link between satisfaction and the pursuit of wealth for its own sake and his prognosis is not good.
“If you look at entrepreneurship as a short cut to getting rich then you are in for a disappointing ride,” he concludes.
Follow us on Twitter @ftbized
Get alerts on Starting a business when a new story is published