I’m about to put across a controversial and probably unpopular viewpoint.
I surf the same Internet as everybody else. And there are few ideas more actively embraced on the Internet than the idea that passion is the most important ingredient in any entrepreneurial venture.
First of all, it depends what one means by passion. And definitions may differ. But I think we can all agree it has something to do with liking the thing that we’re doing. We could go even bigger and say that it has to do with being part of an industry that we feel is important and a force for good in the world.
I had a mentor a number of years ago who defined passion as something that feeds your soul. It’s something you have an almost spiritual relationship with. It most certainly is not just something you do for money.
For example, am I, as the owner and manager of a digital marketing agency, passionate about web development and marketing? I’d say yes, I am. However there are other things I’m passionate about too. So why is it that I’m running a digital agency instead of pursuing one of my other passions?
Because I have come to believe that there is one element of any entrepreneurial venture that is considerably more important and deterministic of success than whether you’re passionate about the industry or field.
There is one factor that must be considered that will make or break a business venture and no amount of passion can compensate for a lack of this thing.
Do you know what it is?
There has to be a market for what you’re selling. That is non-negotiable. What do I mean by “a market”? There has to be demand. There have to be thousands and thousands of people – with money – who are willing to pay for whatever products or services you are offering.
If I can elaborate on that slightly and qualify it further, if you’re a solo entrepreneur and you’re looking to start your first business, the mere existence of a market may not be enough. Let’s look at 3 situations.
Passion + No Market = Fail
You could tattoo “I love hairdressing” across your forehead. But if you happen to live in a community of bald people, it isn’t going to make any difference. There isn’t going to be any hair to cut.
Do not overlook this. Do not be seduced into believing that you can make any business venture succeed if you are prepared to work hard enough on it. The Internet is brimming with so-called gurus who want you to believe that so that you’ll buy their ‘How To Start A Business’ courses.
Hard work is very important, but if there isn’t a considerable demand for what you’re selling, you won’t sell much of it. And that has nothing directly to do with your skills, traits or character.
Passion + Mature Market = Fail
The other common situation is when there clearly is a market but it’s already well serviced by very well established competitors.
Once upon a time, I tried to start an entertainment blog because I’ve always been interested in movies and TV. Guess what? It didn’t work. It’s a huge market. But it’s quite well services by several huge and very well established (and very deep pocketed) competitors. Plus, the work load was enormous and impractical for a single entrepreneur.
Passion + New and/or Growing Market = Potential Win
Companies like Google and Amazon started out in new markets that were forecasted to grow.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, was working on Wall Street in the early 90s when he read an analyst report that said internet use had increased 2300% in the last 12 months. It was enough to make him quit his job at the hedge fund and move his family across the country to California to start a little company called Amazon.
Amazon’s growth has since largely mirrored the increase in Internet use throughout America and across the world.
Passion + Dynamic Market = Potential Win
If your market is growing, or constantly turning over, this ensures a few things: there will always be new clients. The ultimate need is unquenchable. For example, estate agents.
On average, British citizens move house 8 times over the course of their lives. That equates to roughly once every 10 years.
I made the decision to start a digital agency because the demand for web design and development, for PR services, for SEO and copywriting is huge. These are also all fields that I’ve got considerable experience of.
Notice – there is no set of circumstances where the win is guaranteed.