Does money buy happiness and success?

Venn diagram with three overlapping circles with a pin stick in the middle

Imagine a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles labelled “money”, “happiness” and “success”. Now take an imaginary pin and stick it in the spot you think best applies to you.

Where did you put it? Do you have it all and your pin is sitting right in the centre, where the three circles overlap? Are you missing one or two circles? Or are you standing there, holding your imaginary pin, unable to find anywhere to stick it?

In our regular landmark State of the Nation surveys, Capricorn asks our Members a variety of questions looking at all three of these “circles”. Taken together, the results provide a fascinating insight into the happiness/money/success Venn diagram of the automotive aftermarket in Australia and New Zealand. So, let’s ask the question: can money really buy happiness and success? And see what State of the Nation tells us.

Let’s start with money. The figures in the chart below represent the average annual turnover reported by Members, by business type. (“Other” includes agriculture, engine reconditioners, franchise dealerships and transmission workshops.)

Figure 1: Average annual turnover reported by Members, by business type on the 2022 survey results for the State of the Nation 2022 report.

Let’s add happiness into the mix. We asked Members how happy they we were in their career. Sixteen per cent said they were extremely happy, 46% were very happy, 31% were moderately happy, 5% were a little bit happy and the remaining 2% said they were not happy at all.

But were the people making lots of money any happier than those making less money? We took the turnover data and overlaid the happiness figures to get a feel for that overlapped slice of the Venn diagram. Here’s what we discovered. See Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Happiness in your career from the Capricorn State of the Nation 2022 report.

What we learned was that Members are relatively happy in their chosen careers, irrespective of how much money their businesses are bringing in.

When we asked Members why they were happy (or not), the top answer we got (36%) was, “I love what I do”. Ten per cent said the great business environment (for example, their staff and customers) was a factor, 9% said they liked being a business owner, 9% said there was plenty of work around and 8% said it afforded them a good lifestyle. Those who were less positive cited being tired and worn out, and having a lack of income. Having lots of work around (that is, being busy) appeared to be a key factor linked to happiness, irrespective of business size.

Let’s bring in the last circle of our Venn diagram, success. You might consider that money represents external success and happiness represents internal success, and more of one will lead to more of the other, but that’s not always the case. We asked Members what success looks like to them. Here’s what you said. See Figure 3 above.

Figure 3: Perceptions of success from the Capricorn State of the Nation 2022 report.

The answers to this question provide an enlightening insight into the perspectives of workshop owners. Taking pride in the kind of work we’re doing comes out ahead of profitability, while having a good work-life balance is very high on the list of success factors. But the most important factor determining success, when we look at the data in aggregate, is the strength of customer relationships. Almost nine in ten Members said success looked like referrals, earning trust, and having repeat customers.

This aligns completely with what Members told us when we asked them about the positives of working in the industry. Thirty-six per cent said, “making customers happy”. It was the top answer, ahead of the fun of problem-solving (30%), working on cars (15%) and meeting new people every day (13%).

This suggests that the secret to ensuring your imaginary pin pierces the success circle is finding ways to gain the trust of customers, and subsequently earn their referrals. However, the number one driver of feeling successful, even ahead of financial considerations, is doing work that makes you proud—which might also point to an opportunity to refocus a business if the owner isn’t feeling successful.

There were, of course, differences in the data depending on the size of the workshop in question. Having a good workplace culture and loyal staff was more important to perceptions of success in larger workshops (of more than five staff), while being able to pay yourself a steady wage was more important to views of success in smaller workshops (with one or two staff).

The good news is if your imaginary pin isn’t sitting bang in the centre of your imaginary Venn diagram, you can always do something about it. State of the Nation provides you with some insights and inspiration for what to do next.

If you’re not feeling happy enough, successful enough, or rich enough, ask yourself what changes you can make. Can you take more time off? Can you refocus the business on the kind of work you’d prefer to do? Can you improve your relationship with your customers and generate more loyalty and referrals?

The secret to success is not just identifying what’s wrong but working out how to fix it. If you need help doing that, call in an expert business consultant who can help you create the business plan that will help you deliver that change. While it’s great to imagine your pin in the centre of the happiness/money/success Venn diagram, it’s even better to have a plan in place to help you get there. It is possible to have it all.

This article was published 28/04/2023 and the content is current as at the date of publication.