The first ingredient for successful entrepreneurship is passion.
Everyone tells you that starting a business is difficult; you just have no idea how difficult it is until you try. If you do not have passion, or a belief that what you are doing is right (whether for society, your family, or yourself), it will be very difficult to achieve success for yourself or for your business. However, there is more to the equation than just a good idea and passion for what you are doing.
In fact, our absolute belief that what we are doing is right can be what gets in our way. We need to keep our passion in check in order to be willing to listen to our customers and understand their true needs. The feedback we receive is crucial for shaping a successful business. We have to be able to be as objective as possible when we are criticized to see if the criticism warrants making a change in our process. Of course, not all feedback is constructive, but our passion can blind us to what are actually useful critiques.
Not only can passion blind us to our weaknesses, it can keep us from the day-to-day operations of our business. As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to get caught up in the big picture of your business, that you can completely neglect the actual day-to-day operations of your business. Trying to get your business recognized and off the ground can be the most frustrating part for any entrepreneur and when you are spending your time thinking about how your work will make a meaningful difference in the lives of your customers, you often neglect how to connect your vision with your customer's true needs. Often times you will find that your assumptions and your wants/needs to not necessarily match with what your customers value or are willing to pay you for. I recently met with one entrepreneur who had this to say about her business:
"The customers I did reach were enthralled with the concept of my business, but were not hiring me. I consistently received the feedback: "what a great idea, but we just can't afford it right now." My response was two-fold: offer sharp discounts to the people who loved the idea but couldn't afford it and to keep looking for those who could afford it. Neither strategy ever paid off. Finally, I woke up and realized that my belief that I was going to make a meaningful difference in someone's life was not going to happen at this pace. I maintain my passion and work ethic, but finally listened to the feedback and changed my business model accordingly."
This perspective is certainly not intended to dissuade anyone from working to maintain passion in their business. You will not make it with out passion for your business, but ensure that your passion is kept in check by focusing on the key values of your customers and avoid neglecting the critical actions that are required to reach and influence your intended audience. Your intentions and passions must be true and believing that your business will positively impact the lives of your customers is what keeps you moving forward, however, it is not enough to just be passionate about it, as exemplified by the entrepreneur above. You need to open your eyes and ears and listen to your customers to understand how you can truly connect your services and products with the needs and wants of your customers.