Follow your passion… NOT…
Too many “entrepreneurial” bloggers suggest you simply “follow your passion.”
Unfortunately, that alone is not enough. You better be able to make money at it! Here are two stories that illustrate the point:
The Ice Cream Store…
At a professional meeting some years ago, one of my colleagues said to ask Dick about his ice cream store.
“Ice cream store?” I responded. “We’re a bunch of consulting engineers. What’s with the ice cream store?”
“Just ask,” he responded with a twinkle in his eye.
So I did. As engineers, we often like to twist our colleagues’ tails, and I was pretty sure that was what this was all about. But it turned out there were some valuable lessons in the story.
Dick told how his daughter had long wanted to have her own business. Being a good dad, he agreed to help her. With stars in her eyes, she decided to open an ice cream store. Not a franchise, but an independent store, that she could decorate and run how she saw fit.
How cool is that?
Unfortunately, this was her first business venture. No customer surveys, no location research, no marketing of any kind. Build it and they will come, right?
With some luck, the store was moderately successful. Enough so that soon a second ice cream store opened up down the street. Another would be entrepreneur with stars in her eyes also thought it was a cool idea, and jumped in.
The net result. Neither store now made enough to break even. Within a year both stores went bankrupt.
There are a couple of lessons here:
- Make sure there is a want or need for your products or services.
- Make sure there are some barriers to entry.
- Make sure there are enough customers able and willing to pay.
Just because it looks cool, doesn’t mean it is a viable business!
Roto-Rooter isn’t particularly cool, nor was our consulting practice. Like Roto-Rooter, we fixed problems that others did not care to handle.
And while our consulting practice was not as cool as an ice cream store, we enjoyed it — and we made a darn good living at it.
The Country Doctor…
In an earlier post, I told of my great-uncle’s medical bag, and how a few simple tools coupled with the right knowledge and experience saved lives in the early 1900s. His medical practice spanned a half century. A successful professional consulting career.
His first passion, however, was music. As a young man, he dreamed of being a concert violinist. But he realized the odds of making a decent living playing the violin were not good.
So he made a career out of a second passion. Healing people through the practice of medicine. Music became an avocation, not a vocation.
He found great satisfaction in both. He was an accomplished physician, and also an accomplished musician. Thanks to his decision, he lived life well.
I heard this story years later from his wife, my great aunt, who was also his nurse. Since he passed away when I was young, I hardly knew him. But I always found his decision to be very wise. Find something you like to do, AND with which you can make a living.
You can always make a hobby of other passions.
So before you quit your job to follow your passion, make sure there is a need, there are barriers to entry, and there are clients willing/able to pay. Otherwise it is just a hobby.
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