I meet many entrepreneurs with a real passion for their new idea, but unfortunately they don’t all realize that passion is necessary but not sufficient fuel to turn their idea into a successful business. The result is that far too few really great innovations ever get implemented -- or last more than a moment in the marketplace.
First of all, passion needs to be surrounded by a host of other personal attributes necessary to survive the rigors of the long, hard journey to success. These include confidence, commitment and a determination to succeed. In addition, there is a key set of execution principles that consistently separate the wannabe entrepreneurs from the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.
- Reality check your potential for building a business. Some people are passionate inventors or idea generators but really have no interest, skills or money for a business. Take an honest look at your motivation, resources and relationships before initiating a startup. The best use of passion may be finding someone else to build the business.
- Seek evidence of market opportunity to balance your passion. Just because you believe everyone needs what you have doesn’t mean it’s true. These days, there are over 150 credible market-research companies online sizing opportunities, including Nielsen and Gartner. If none of them mention your idea, it may not be a business.
- Double check the arithmetic on your business model. Put aside the rose-colored glasses of your passion, and ask a financial expert to validate the total costs required to build the business as well as realistic sales volumes and growth. It helps to document a total business plan rather than rely on your total recollection of all essential elements.
- Buffer your resource estimates by at least 20 percent. No amount of passion and startup planning will make everything work exactly right the first time. Assume you will need multiple iterations and multiple pivots costing more money and time than you anticipated. More passion may mean more opportunity, but it also means more risk.
- Interact with real customers to validate passion in their feedback. Use social media and live customers to eliminate any reality distortion in your internal perception of value. Develop marketing content and communicate with trusted advisors and employees to make sure the right message can be delivered with clarity and integrity.
- Plan for an extended effort, continued learning and personal balance. A business is a journey -- not a quick sprint. Don’t set up such a frenzied schedule that you will burn out after a few weeks or even a few months. The average overnight success for a startup takes six years, say marketing expert Seth Godin. And he is an optimist.
According to a recent analysis, entrepreneurs around the world have visions for over 300 million companies per year, but only a third ever get started. Other U.S. Labor Statistics data suggests that half of the ones actually started are gone in five years. Just imagine the potential impact of millions of unrealized innovations -- if only these execution principles were diligently followed.
Of course, an even more important driver of passion than success is happiness and satisfaction with the lifestyle. Despite the failure of many entrepreneur initiatives, other data continues to indicate that entrepreneurs as a whole are the happiest and most satisfied business people on the planet -- well ahead of corporate professionals who make more money and have bigger titles.
Thus, passion is a good thing, and it can be your competitive advantage, but only if you don’t let it lead to a self-reinforcing spiral of choices and actions that result in critical business miscalculations and missteps. Don’t wait until it’s too late to recover -- or realize after the fact that you didn’t even see it coming.
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