I’m increasingly weary of the notion that life is about the endless pursuit of passion as if we were created only to experience its pleasures. It’s acutely palpable when I meet with young entrepreneurs, particularly the creative ones. Millennials are incessantly encouraged to “live the life they dream of,” wholeheartedly following their passions, reinforced by social media quotes extolling the virtues of entrepreneurship. Putting entrepreneurship in perspective, I have observed that many enthusiastic founders, having found their passion, have no clue that they actually need to understand key business principles in order to flourish. Businesses need to be nurtured, staffed, structured, driven, funded, and scaled. It’s all fun and games until the work begins.
Each time I meet a CEO of an SME I go into question mode attempting to unpack their courage to push beyond fear, create a unique product/service, and meet the needs of a market. When I probe about cost structure, unit economics, price/volume mix, cash burn rate, gross margins, supply chain, UX and the feedback loop, many eyes quickly begin to glaze over. A few get into it and they grasp that with passion comes purpose and with purpose comes responsibility. If you want to be the CEO of a company, you need to deeply understand everything about it otherwise you are engaged in a hobby funded by family (hopefully not third party investors) with a likely fantastic social media presence. To my surprise, a number of entrepreneurs don’t have a well-defined business model and/or they are poor at communicating it. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint-hearted and it’s not for the unprepared either.
”Some people, young and not so young, are following their passions because it’s exciting”
The skills you need to succeed include grit, tenacity, focus, hunger, knowledge of your space, and humility. From that humility is where the fallacies of passion end. It’s all well and good to be passionate about being an artist, photographer, coder, web series content creator, womenswear fashion designer but products/services generally don’t tend to sell themselves. Have you identified your target customer base and do you have a plan to generate sales? Who/Where is your addressable market and why do they want/need your product? How do you reach them in the most cost-effective manner? Do you have a handle on production and how quickly can you scale? Someone competent has to care about this stuff. What’s your differentiation strategy vs. the competition and how will you make certain that you stay ahead of innovation? The more I ask, the less I hear. Some people, young and not so young, are following their passions because it’s exciting. Penetrating a market with a unique value proposition, building a sustainable business, and making a difference are assumed entitlements and not strategic goals. My advice to “young” entrepreneurs: If you are pursuing your passion but despise the business aspects of your endeavor, find a suitable co-founder who loves it. Together you will soar. Owning 50% of something is far superior to owning 100% of nothing. If the latter is what you aspire to, I wish you well with your hobby
My advice to “young” entrepreneurs: If you are pursuing your passion but despise the business aspects of your endeavor, find a suitable co-founder who loves it. Together you will soar. Owning 50% of something is far superior to owning 100% of nothing. If the latter is what you aspire to, I wish you well with your hobby