Sustained Small Business Success Requires Two Kinds Of Passion

Jim Blasingame

Over the years, as I’ve talked with many a budding entrepreneur about how to start their business, it continues to amaze me how many haven’t conducted anywhere close to a prudent amount of research or due diligence on their baby. Indeed, they often act as if they must get their business going … right … now … or … they … will … just … POP!

This kind of impatience is dangerous.

Doing my best to talk them down off the ledge, I walk the fine line of tough love, between slowing them down to the speed of reason and smacking their entrepreneurial passion into a wall. 

When would-be small business owners get that far-away look in their eyes at this impetuous stage, they have plenty of passion for what the business does. They can’t wait to sell suits, manufacture plastic parts, bake bagels, or (your baby here). And passion for what they want to do is not only a good thing, it’s essential. 

But without a healthy interest in – if not an attraction for – business fundamentals, passion has only slightly more value than a dream. In truth, if the balance between your baby and operating fundamentals gets out of whack, that’s when your dream becomes your nightmare. Trust me. I’ve had to make payments on one or two of my nightmares after the thrill was gone.  

This will be on the test: Success as a small business owner requires two kinds of passion:

  1. The love of what you want to do – your baby. If you haven’t been a mother, this is akin to how a mother loves her newborn, and it’s the easy kind. Spoiler alert! It’s too easy.
  2. This kind of small business passion is less adorable but in no way less important. This is passion for becoming an operating professional. It makes you dedicated to learning and practicing management fundamentals. If done right, you’ll acquire a peaceful acceptance of a return-on-investment timeline that pushes the deferred gratification envelope beyond what you ever thought possible, let alone acceptable. 

See, I told you it was less adorable. The closest kin to this kind of passion is that which is required for parents to love their teenagers – during those times when you don’t like them very much, but you still love them … anyway.

It’s critical for a starry-eyed startup to distinguish between and be dedicated to both passions because the passion for what you sell won’t be enough when

  • Payables exceed receivables; 
  • You’re making payroll and there isn’t enough cash because you didn’t manage the cash. (“Is it Friday already?!”);
  • When customers are the most difficult; 
  • When an employee becomes part of the problem;
  • When your bank loan request requires current financial statements, including a 12-month cash flow projection showing how the bank will be repaid; 
  • (Your operating derailment here.) 

Brace yourself! This list is like a “What’s inside!” teaser on the cover of a very thick catalog of abiding small business operating challenges. Fending them off will require you to deliver on the management fundamentals you became good at because you had that second kind of passion: you became a high-performing, professional business owner, not just someone who dreamed of being one. You were passionate about what you do and just as passionate about how you do it.

Write this on a rock … Sustained business success – year after year – requires passion for what you do, and for how you do it.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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