Is Passion Enough to Start a Small Business?

Lee Polevoi by Lee Polevoi on March 19, 2013
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Anyone who’s ever considered starting his or her own business has heard the following:

  • “You have to love what you do.”
  • “Start a business around something you feel passionate about.”
  • “To succeed, you must follow your passion.”

If your motivation for starting a business is strictly financial, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Driven by money, you’re likely to make key decisions for the wrong reasons, which can damage your reputation and decrease your company’s chances of survival. What’s more, by focusing solely on profit, you may lose sight of important emotional elements of your endeavor, such as cultivating a sense of achievement and purpose.

But is passion alone enough to start a business and succeed as an entrepreneur?

Why Passion Is Essential

Obviously, loving what you do is the best point of departure when contemplating a new business. Here’s what happens when passion is your key driver:

  • Passion keeps you energized and helps you enjoy what you do. Because building a business often requires a serious time commitment, this is a critically important factor.
  • Passion is infectious. Potential investors can get swept up in your passion. Employees may be inspired to work harder on behalf of the business. Customers may share your excitement about a new product or service.
  • Passion breeds patience and a willingness to endure. Patience enables you to see the big picture and make better business decisions. Every fledgling enterprise hits bumps in the road. Without passion, you may be tempted to throw up your hands and walk away when the going gets tough.

When Passion Isn’t Enough

Few businesses succeed on passion alone. If you can’t use your skills or experience to build a profitable enterprise, then what you have is a hobby, not a business.

Passion without a realistic understanding of the marketplace will inevitably lead to setbacks. After a series of setbacks, even the most passionate entrepreneur will question whether the effort is worth it. Having a positive attitude is vitally important, but so is the willingness to anticipate that things may go wrong and to figure out how to deal with problems.

Not everyone is cut out for the high-stakes gamble of starting a small business. Often, the visionary who dreams up a spectacular business idea has little aptitude or patience for the nuts-and-bolts reality of business. Passion alone won’t balance the books, manage inventory, or pay employees.

Follow Your Passion (But Be Smart About It)

After passion comes planning. A business plan is the fundamental first step in the process. Formal or informal, this plan outlines where the business is right now, where you intend to take it, and what’s needed to get there. A financial plan and a marketing plan also help translate passion into profit-generating results (and carry a lot more weight with potential investors than starry-eyed enthusiasm).

Conduct a thorough self-appraisal. Are you prepared to cast aside the little pleasures of life and work ridiculous hours? Will your passion sustain you through the nerve-wracking financial risks you may have to take? Are you willing to learn everything you can about your intended market (the industry itself and the customers you want to reach)?

For many budding entrepreneurs, the right solution is to seek out a partner who’s comfortable with the operational aspects of running a business. If you determine you’re not cut out for that side of your business and you find someone whose passion lies precisely in that arena, take advantage of the golden opportunity! Passion combined with clear-eyed business acumen always goes farther than passion alone.

Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.

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