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A passion for small business is overrated – it won’t make you money

By March 2, 2019No Comments

(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

Passion? Oh, puh-lease. I oftentimes speak to people starting up their own companies. They’re “excited” and “passionate” and “overjoyed” to be entrepreneurs. Good for them. It’s important to be passionate. But that’s not the most important thing. It’s not even close.

Passion only accounts for so much. Passion doesn’t pay the bills. Passion doesn’t collect cash from deadbeat customers. It doesn’t avoid employees from not showing up and vendors from not making their deliveries. Just having passion doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a cold, hard world out there and that no matter how many people are wishing you well, very few of them will write checks. If you’re working a corporate job and dreaming of the life of an entrepreneur pursuing your “passion” then know that that passion will not replace a guaranteed paycheck, snow days, flex time, coffee breaks, reimbursed lunches or week-long conferences in Vegas.

Don’t believe me? Then go to the data. Just this month Vistaprint, a popular online marketing service for small businesses, released a survey of about 1,000 business owners in the US, Canada and UK who run companies with fewer than nine employees. What did they find? A solid third of them had lost the “passion” that they started with.

I get it. I also think the other two-thirds are not being entirely truthful. That number is probably much higher.

Sure, running a small business has its potential advantages: more control, more independence, more freedom to make decisions and more chances of hitting the jackpot. But these are just potentials. What’s the reality?

Just ask those Vistaprint respondents. They complained about the high levels of stress, the lack of a regular paycheck and the myth of work-life balance. Many were frustrated when they found themselves earning less than they thought. Big surprise.

The nice people at Vistaprint tried to put a good face on the data by saying that “an overwhelming majority of respondents say they have not considered closing their businesses despite the challenges they’ve faced over the years.” The company also offers tips for getting back on track like “reminding yourself why you started the business in the first place” and seeking “new challenges”, setting “new goals” and “hitting the reset button”.

Here’s my tip: make money.

My most successful clients who own small businesses aren’t incredibly passionate about what they do either. But they generally enjoy their work and are happy to be running their own show. What does excite them the most about their business is the money. That’s because a business is just a business. It exists to provide a livelihood for the owners, their employees and their families. If it’s run the right way, it can grow in value and become an asset to sell someday. The passion comes from all the things a business can help you buy to make your life better: a decent house, a few vacations, a college education for your kids, a comfortable retirement, charitable donations. I like my business. But I’m passionate about those things.

Your business isn’t some romantic fantasy. It’s just a business. View it that way from the beginning. You may not become more passionate about it. But you’ll be happier.

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