Do What You Love, But…

Can you build a business based on the precept, “do what you love and the money will follow”? Maybe. 

Viewers of the successful TV showDragon’s Den or its American spin-off, Shark Tank have seen many examples where that advice for entrepreneurs just doesn’t fly. Simply because you’re in love with your dog and passionate about sharing stories about your dog in a children’s book, doesn’t mean you can make a business out of it.

Every week the Dragon’s Denpanel rejects wannabe entrepreneurs who have built their business concept on something they love, but don’t have a financial leg to stand on. Some of the contestants have invested everything they own in an idea they’ve fallen in love with, but they haven’t done their homework. They haven’t done market research beyond their own circle of friends. They haven’t knocked on enough of the right doors to make sales. They don’t know their numbers.

If you’ve started with the premise of do what you love, but haven’t expanded it to include the basic foundations of business success, you could still build a great practice, but not a business that someone else might invest in or buy. That’s not a bad thing. I’m not being judgmental. Creating a career for yourself in which you love what you do, get paid a reasonable living, and achieve the life balance you want, is all good. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that someone will buy it from you when you decide to slow down or quit working.

There’s a difference between a practice and a business. Most practices bill for the expertise of the owner.  It may pay well, but if it doesn’t continue to make money when the owner is not there running it every day, then it isn’t worth much to someone else.

On the other hand, a business generates revenue based on the work of employees. (Hopefully those employees love what they do.) Once the entrepreneur begins to leverage other people’s time, then running that business often requires a different skillset, expertise and passion than was necessary to start the business.

At that point you need to find someone whose love is to grow revenue, trim expenses and lead team members to success. When you find that person, encourage them, support them and promote them. Then re-evaluate your position. Maybe it is time to do what you love all over again.

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December 5, 2012

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