A while back, I sat on a panel at a conference for entrepreneurs. There were three successful entrepreneurs and myself. As usual, the classic question came up, "What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?" The first panelist said, "Passion! You must be passionate, or you'll never achieve success." Of course, every passionate wannabe in the audience applauded.

The next panelist commented, "Without hard work, you will never be successful. You must be willing to work exceptionally hard." The crowd nodded their heads in agreement. They were all willing to work hard if that's all it took to be successful.

The third panelist thought for a moment, since the first two answers were fairly obvious to most entrepreneurial junkies. She finally said, "You must believe unwaveringly in your product." She explained the need to fight through the naysayers that would keep the entrepreneur from achieving his or her vision. The crowd looked on thoughtfully, awaiting my comments, which were last.

I took the microphone and gave a smirk. I said, "You know it's funny. I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of entrepreneurs in my travels. I have yet to meet any of them who lacked passion, weren't willing to work hard, or didn't believe unwaveringly in their product. And yet so many of these people still fail. There is only one thing that all successful entrepreneurs have"-;I paused for a moment-;"." I said, "All the passion, hard work, and belief won't amount to a hill of beans if you don't know how to create profits by transacting business."

The crowd was silent. You could see people fidget as they realized that being a successful entrepreneur was about commerce first. All of the other traits only support building a great business.

So before you engage your passion and start working hard while shoring up your beliefs, ask yourself a few key questions and answer with blatant honesty.

  1. Do I have an offering that the market will change behavior to acquire?
  1. Can I provide that offering in an attractive way and still make a profit?
  1. Do I have the resources to be competitive in the marketplace?
  1. Can the business model sustain reasonable salaries for everyone?
  1. Is there a viable path for long-term sustainable growth?

If the answer to any of these questions is not an unequivocal yes, keep refining the model until it's irrefutable. At least now you know where to focus your passion and hard work.