Small Business Success Requires Two Kinds of Passion

Over the years, when I’ve counseled budding entrepreneurs, it always amazed me how many haven’t conducted anything close to a prudent amount of research in the run up to starting their businesses. Indeed, they often act as if they must get their business started right now or they’ll just pop.

That kind of impatience and lack of discipline is dangerous and I had to do my best to talk them down off the ledge. The trick was to walk the fine line between slowing them down to a prudent speed without dousing the fire of their entrepreneurial passion with a bucket of tough love.

Yes, passion is important. When would-be small business owners get that far away look in their eyes at this impetuous stage of a startup, they have plenty of what I call market passion: passion for what the business does. They can’t wait to sell suits, manufacture motors, bake bagels, or (your dream here). But without full devotion to something else, what I call operating passion, aka, business fundamentals, market passion is no more valuable than a dream. Or as my Texas friends say, “All hat and no cattle.”

This will be on the test: Success as a small business owner requires market and operating passion.

Market passion – devotion to what your business does – is like a mother’s love for her newborn baby, it’s the easy kind. Unfortunately, in business it can be too easy.

The object of operating passion is less adorable but not less important. It’s dedication to consistently executing management fundamentals while accepting a return-on-investment timeline that pushes the boundaries of deferred gratification. It’s similar to how parents love their teenagers even when they don’t like them very much. See, I told you it was less adorable.

A starry-eyed startup must make the distinction between market and operating passion. Passion for what you sell won’t be enough when sales fall below projections, when payables exceed receivables, when it’s time to make another payroll (“Is it Friday again? Already?!”), when you lose one of your best customers, or when an employee has to be let go. Sometimes they all happen at once.

It isn’t possible to list all challenges the marketplace will throw at your business. But regardless of what and when, sustainable success requires you to manage both market and operating passion so proficiently that you become a high-performing, professional small business CEO, instead of someone who dreamed of being one.

Write this on a rock …

Small business success requires two kinds of passion: market and operating.


Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning new book, “The Age of the Customer®: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance” .

Jim is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and founder and president of Small Business Network, Inc. . He’s the founder and host of the syndicated weekday radio program, “The Small Business Advocate® Show,” where for more than 16 years he has conducted over 1,000 live interviews annually with his “Brain Trust,” the largest community of small business experts in the world.

©2014 Small Business Network, Inc.