Running a small business can be a draining experience, and it's easy to lose sight of why you originally took the plunge. Follow these tips to ensure you can maintain your passion as your small business grows and faces new challenges.
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Recognise what passion is
Passion is often discussed in a business content, but isn't always usefully defined. The passion you experience in your business is not the same as the passion you experience in a relationship, even though the core emotions are similar.
In a recent feature on how to find and follow your passion, William Guzzo came up with a definition that's very helpful for small business owners:
If the going got tough and things weren’t easy, would it be something you still enjoy?
If you can answer "yes", then you have a passion for your business — one that should help you overcome the inevitable obstacles that will appear along the way. That core of enthusiasm is what can continue to drive them.
Move past the passion-quenching excuses
We recently rounded up the reasons why people don't follow their passions. The excuses that that come up time and time again tend to fall into the following categories:
- I don't know what my passion is
- I'm too busy to pursue a non-paying passion
- I don't want to lose my free time
- I'm afraid that I'll fail
- I don't know where to start
- I can't do it alone
- I'll get to it later
Here's the thing: None of these should apply when you're thinking about your small business. If the business exists, you've already identified your passion and taken time to pursue it.
The trickier roadblocks are fear of failure and not wanting to do it alone. Deal with the first by putting in the hours: a neglected business is far more likely to fail. And you don't have to do it alone — a point we'll be returning to throughout this series.
Recognise that passion isn't everything
While passion can help you overcome business obstacles, you need to avoid making it the sole goal you're pursuing. Otherwise you risk suffering from "passion guilt": feeling as if you're doing something wrong simply because you're not bursting with passion every minute of the day, regardless of what you're doing. Life isn't like that. Some aspects of your business you can control; others you can't. Everyone has to do their taxes and sort paperwork. That's going to be the case no matter what you do. Don't confuse that hassle with your core passion.
You shouldn't let passion blind you to other issues you need to deal with As entrepreneur Ben Casnocha explains:
The question is whether you find passion or develop it through competence. And then how you square passion with other considerations – such as your aspirations and the market realities. So, passion is key, yes, but it’s rather more complicated than many career writers would have you think. Passion without being good at it doesn’t get you very far; passion that no one will pay money for is also limited in scope.
Being passionate about something but completely lacking competence can be a particular problem. Dilbert creator Scott Adams explains it well:
In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.
Define what success means to your business — in concrete terms, not vague statements like "I want to make a lot of money" — and passion will be easier to maintain.
Recognise that not everyone else will agree
One key element of passion that's easy to ignore? It's what matters to you that's important when it comes to defining passion, not what matters to everyone else. You absolutely need to consider the needs of customers and employees in the context of the overall business, but when it comes to passion, your own enthusiasm is what counts.
We highlighted this point recently in a roundup of productivity tips you can learn from Sesame Street. You might not think of Oscar The Grouch as an obvious role model, but his passion for trash (and for being grouchy) has sustained the character over 45 years:
Share your passion with others
A passion shared is a passion amplified. Conveying your excitement and experience to others can help define the answer to that original question: "Would I still want to do this if times were tough?"
If you have other people working with you, make sure they understand why you make the decisions you do: don't just order them about. If you're flying solo, consider sharing your experiences with others online, whether that's through a formal blog or simpler insights shared on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.
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