Who knew that passion could be such a controversial topic? But thanks to my blogging partner, Scott Gerber, passion is in fashion on The Entrepreneurial Generation. So I can't resist jumping into the debate, especially because I keep hearing this word over and over again from the young entrepreneurs I interview. They are a 'passionate' bunch, and many of them are wildly successful. But what exactly are they most passionate about? Making t-shirts? Writing code? Creating the next hot iPhone app? Nope. They're passionate about business and creating an entrepreneurial life. Because without that single-minded desire to determine your own destiny, without passion for the process of building something that goes far beyond your talent for, say, making cupcakes, you're sunk.
When I speak about this to audiences, I go back again and again to a quote from Trish Karter, who recently stepped down as CEO of Dancing Deer Baking Co.: 'Many people call me for advice on how to start or run a food company,' says Trish. 'I always try to talk them out of it because it's so often the case that they pursue the business for the love of food, but are wiped out by the business reality of producing and selling it. Anyone can make a great cookie. It's all the rest of what it takes to build a team and deliver a great quality product 52 weeks a year while staying profitable that's challenging.'
I think this is exactly what Scott was saying – that going into business simply because you are passionate about the product or service you are offering is the road to heartbreak. Passion for the cookie alone will most certainly not enable you to build a great business – it may, indeed, lead you off a cliff, as Scott says. But, I'd add, heaven help you if you aren't passionate about your business, because that's what will sustain you through all the hard work that goes into building a company – the stuff that actually has very little to do with the product or service that's your stock in trade.
It seems to me that a passionless business is a lot like a passionless marriage: it may take a while, but it will ultimately just grind you down. And a marriage – or a company – built solely on passion will most certainly rock your world, but probably not for very long. So go ahead and be passionate. Just make sure it's your company that makes your heart beat faster. Not just your cookies or your code.
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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