Is Passion Enough to Make You a Successful Entrepreneur?

Learn what it takes to fulfill your entrepreneurial dreams.

By Carrie Myers Smith
Oct 5, 2015

I’ve worked at a few gyms where the owner built the facility for reasons other than fitness. At one place, for example, racquetball and tennis were the owner’s first love and primary focus. The fitness part of the business (cardio, weights, etc.) was sort of left to run itself, and this was apparent to club members.

The reggae musician Bob Marley sang, “Love the life you live, live the life you love.” Are you passionate about your business? Or do you drag yourself through each day?

Your Foundation

Whether your business is brick and mortar or virtual or online, having a strong foundation for your company is vital—and passion should be a cornerstone.

“Passion about what you do with your time is crucial,” declares Idan Shpizear, founder, owner and CEO of 911 Restoration, headquartered in Los Angeles. “We should all have a passion for what we do—or at least for some aspect of it. This is important because it gives a person a sense of connection and purpose that can’t be achieved through many other avenues in life.”

Debra Strougo Frohlich of Row House NYC and EVF Performance in New York agrees. “If you don’t have passion, then you will never attract what you need to grow a business from nothing.”

“Having passion for what you are doing is the number-one thing you need in order to be a successful entrepreneur,” adds Holly Hurd, founder of VentureMom® and author of Venture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks (AMACOM 2015). “If you develop something around a passion, it doesn’t feel like work at all.” Conversely, she says, “If you wake up every morning and don’t think about what to do next with your business because you’re not passionate about it, you will have a hard time being successful.”

But is passion enough?

“Passion is vital to igniting that fire of being an entrepreneur, but passion alone is not enough to keep you going,” comments Angela Mader, founder of fitlosophy and creator of the fitbook™ interactive fitness and nutrition journals. “In fact, passion is overrated if you don’t have the tenacity to keep on fighting when the going gets tough.”

So what else should be a part of your foundation?

“Courage is what separates the person with an idea from someone who actually goes out and does something about it,” continues Mader. “It takes boldness, fearlessness and downright bravery to wake up every day knowing that your future is in your hands, that the livelihood of your employees is your responsibility and that other people are looking to you for direction and vision.”

“You have to be courageous to start your own business,” advises Hurd. “It took me 2 weeks to gather the courage to hit the email send button on my new business. Having the courage to put your passion out into the world in the form of a business is essential.”

At some point, most new entrepreneurs also have to make the decision to quit their day jobs and devote themselves to their business. My cousin showed his courage when he recently decided to leave his very comfortable corporate position with a major international company to start a craft vodka distillery with a friend.

“I walked away from the big corporation because one day I woke up and realized I couldn’t keep telling the group it was going to be okay, when I wasn’t sure myself,” recalls Michael Maggio of Cranford, New Jersey, co-owner of Tree City® Spirits. “Some big corporations have lost sight of what got them to where they are today: the people. Every company talks about human capital being its most important asset. However, when the bottom line is not being met, the first thing to go is the people. Human resources [departments] have become business partners and have stopped caring for the people they are there to protect. Finance departments now have more control than the decision makers and only think about the bottom line, not about growth and certainly not about human capital. In short, that is why I walked away from a very lucrative and challenging position: I stopped believing, but I gained the courage to step out on my own.”

Al Palladino, cofounder of the Rebounderz® franchise, left the fast track at AT&T to open Rebounderz with business partner Mark Gurley.

“In 2007, as a five-time karate champion, I designed a safer alternative to indoor trampoline arenas after I was injured at a small mom-and-pop location,” explains Gurley. “While working as a karate sensei, I met my Rebounderz cofounder, Al Palladino. We both had teenage children, and we saw an opportunity for kids to exercise while having fun. We launched Rebounderz in 2008 as a safe, fun and less expensive way to entertain children. Fitness and safety are two of my passions.”

Your Team

So you have the passion and the courage to move your idea forward. Now make sure the people you bring on board have those qualities, too.

“For me, my passion for fitness, attention to detail and desire to fill a need in a growing industry allowed for the growth of our company,” Gurley says. “And I couldn’t do it without my team having that same level of commitment for our success.”

Strougo Frohlich agrees. “Having a great team that supports your passion and believes in your product creates more passion and more courage. You can’t have a team that isn’t interested in going the extra mile, because starting a game-changing business is all-consuming. You need to have people who are as disciplined and hard-working as you are.”

Passion Versus Money

One thing most entrepreneurs have in common is a passion for making money. But is that enough to ignite your success?

“If you don’t have the passion for what you’re doing within you,” explains Hurd, “you’d better make sure you have employees who are into fitness, because the clientele can tell if people are doing something for the money and not because they’re passionate about the work.”

“I think you can be successful simply through a passion for making money,” adds Taylor Schulte, founder and CEO of Define Financial in San Diego. “But if making money is your top priority, I don’t think you will be a happy entrepreneur. And if you aren’t happy, the success likely won’t last long. I think it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Julie Ann Wood, owner of e-Seedling and author of More Than a Lemonade Stand™ (Morgan James Publishing 2015), concurs. “You could have a passion for making money, but if you don’t love working and serving your customers or if you don’t understand and empathize with them, it will be really difficult to keep coming to work every day and showing your team that you are invested in the business. This happened to me with a product I developed. I loved creating it and helping others. But once I had to start making it over and over, I was bored and I decided it wasn’t the kind of business I wanted to be in.”

Can you have a passion for business without a corresponding passion for a specific business? The answer is yes, proclaims Scott Harris, founder and president of Mustang Marketing in Thousand Oaks, California. “You can enjoy the sales, the operations and the human element of running a business, but not necessarily love the product or service you’re selling, and still be successful. However, you have to believe that it’s an excellent product or service for those who do love it or need it.”

Hurd concludes, “Passion drives the bus. You may fail many times and hit many roadblocks, but the passion for what you’re doing makes you get up again and helps you find the courage to keep moving forward.”

SIDEBAR: Beware Passion Burnout

Sometimes passion and business don’t mix.

“I made the choice to get my culinary arts degree because I’ve always loved to cook and bake,” explains Mary Ann Jock of Lisbon, New Hampshire. “But after just a few months I found that my love for cooking and food had dimmed. I was actually having nightmares about cooking steaks incorrectly! I made the choice to change careers, because I could see my life as a chef turning into a scenario where getting dinner meant popping a frozen pizza into the ovenÔÇöthe thought of more cooking was too much. Now I still love to cook and create new dishes, but I do it for people who love food too and appreciate the love that went into it.”

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Carrie Myers Smith

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