Monday, May 21, 2007

Making a Business of Your Passion

Monday 7:29 AM
Sun Spree Resort
Panama City Beach, FL

Making a Business of Your Passion
By Michael Masterson

"If passion drives you,
let reason hold the reins."
- Benjamin Franklin

One of the most common recommendations that
you will hear from business-opportunity
"experts" is to "find something you love"
and make a business out of it.

In fact, I used to make that recommendation
myself, arguing that turning your passion
into a career is a good way to make
a good living.

This is the kind of advice that
feels right and inspires loyalty.

But when I thought about the successes
in my own business career, I didn't
see that pattern.

When I decided to get rich back in the early 1980s,
I didn't stop to ask myself "What do I love?"

I set to work the very next day transforming
myself from a sometimes-good, sometimes-disgruntled
editorial director into a 24/7 marketing maven,
and I boosted a marginally profitable,
million-dollar business to a $135 million cash machine.

I didn't love the products we produced,
but I loved the process.

I retired from that business -
but didn't stay retired for long.

With my second career, I was determined to
stay a little closer to my childhood dreams
by selling publications instead of products,
ideas instead of things.

Because I partnered with someone who shared
that mindset, I have been lucky.

I've made as much money this time around,
and without the emotional conflicts over
selling products I was less than
enthusiastic about.

But even as a publisher, I haven't
really "followed my dreams."

My true passion - in terms of publishing -
would be fiction and poetry.

I can say without any doubt that had I followed
that road, I would be running a much smaller,
much less profitable business.

And it might not have given me any
more pleasure than I get now.

As a recommendation, "turn your passion
into a career" no longer rings true to me.

As I said earlier, it's the kind
of advice you want to believe...

But it doesn't take reality into consideration.

Proceeding with a pragmatic purposefulness,
it seems to me, is the best course of action.

By "pragmatic purposefulness," I mean an
ounce of passion and a pound of practicality.

I mean facing the facts and making a realistic
assessment of the business idea you love so much.

Will it really work in the marketplace?

Will it really live up to your dreams?

The usefulness of this approach was made clear
to both me and the businesspeople who attended
my Business-Building Retreat last month.

Of the 30 people in attendance whose business plans
were scrutinized, at least six realized that the
financial expectations they had attached to their
dream projects were totally unrealistic.

"You have to adjust your wealth expectations
or change your business," they were advised.

It would be silly for them to push ahead,
following their passion, when it was easy
to see, by putting pen to paper, that the
businesses they had imagined could not work.

That's basically the same advice I have for LG,
an ETR reader who recently wrote to me.

LG has been advised by a well-known guru
(who shall remain nameless) to "find something
I love and make a business out of it."

He says he has found a business for sale that
matches one of his favorite hobbies: golf.

"It is a patent for a machine that
uses sonar to clean golf clubs.

Attached to the machine is an
LCD screen that displays ads.

The money to be made is not in
the actual cleaning of the clubs
but the selling of the ad space.

It is an absolute novel idea,
and the owner claims that he
has patented it all over the world.

My only problem is the cost
for the patent in my country.

He is selling it for what would be
about five million in U.S. dollars.

I've done a couple of sums, and I can see this
business paying off itself after 3-4 yrs.

My only problem is finding an investor
that would possibly want to fund this.

I know that the investor would make a very good ROI,
but I somehow need to find that person."

LG "really wants" to get this patent, and is hoping
I can tell him how to go about looking for the
five million bucks in start-up capital that he needs.

This is precisely the danger you face when
you follow your passions into business.

You make these kinds of mind-bogglingly foolish mistakes.

Invest your time and someone else's money into a machine
that spits out advertising as it cleans golf clubs?

Are you nuts?

If I had to list the top 10 stupid business ideas
I've ever heard, his would make it onto that list.

It is stupid not just because the idea itself is so idiotic,
but because the person behind the idea - the person supposedly
holding the patents - thinks he will find investors to buy into it.

Maybe that guy isn't so dumb.

He has found, in LG, somebody who
is seriously considering it.

[LG sounds like most MLMers I talk with.]

I don't have space here to list all the reasons
why this is a completely crazy business idea.

But let me use LG as an example for any other
ETR reader who may have bought into the
"follow-your-passion" fancy.

Listen, I know that it IS possible to turn your passion
(a hobby or lifelong dream) into a way to earn a good living -
but ONLY if there's a good business idea to support it.

How do you find out if your passion makes business sense?

Start by asking friends and colleagues what they think of it.

Tell them to be brutally frank.

Then look around and see if there's anything
like your idea out there in the marketplace.

If there isn't, chances are it's not going to work.

Unfortunately, because there are so many stories about
entrepreneurs who succeeded against all odds, the idea
of pursuing a screwball idea is often lauded.

But following your passion when it makes no sense...

Makes no sense.

And if you have a family to support, it's irresponsible.

The first and most important rule of entrepreneurship is this:

Never invest in anything unless you understand it extremely well -
unless you have the kind of knowledge about the business
and the industry that you can only get by working in it,
on the inside, for several years.

Staples founder Thomas Stemberg said it this way:

"I think following your passion is a really dumb idea.
I follow a great market that provides an opportunity
to satisfy customers and to make money."

LG has a passion for golf, but what does
he know about selling advertising?

Does he have any idea of the kind of advertisers
that might be interested in this kind of program?

Does he have any idea what kind of numbers
such advertisers would need before investing
their money?

Does he know anything about the size
and volatility of his target market?

I don't need to ask him to know that
he doesn't know these things.

The way he talks about this business makes
it clear to me that he is a total tyro.

[And folks, don't think for one second
that an experienced marketer can't tell
in one minute or less if you know what
you're talking about or not!]

The good news is that LG will not find the
start-up capital he needs unless he hooks
up with a Nigerian direct-mail scamster
and steals it from some rich old lady
in Pittsburgh.

The bad news is that LG may continue to believe the
foolish mantra his guru has been chanting and
continue to follow his passion...

Instead of learning something about
business before he jumps into it.

Sound like anyone YOU know?

Getting into a MARKETING business
without knowing anything
about marketing?


LG and others like him would be well advised to hold
their passions in check until they've asked all the
right questions and thoroughly researched their market.

If there are other people out there making
good money doing more or less what you want
to do (but your idea is better),
by all means, go out and try it.

But if no one is doing it - and people you
trust give you that distant stare when you
tell them about it -

Be smart and put your energies into a business
that has been proven to make money.

If you'd like to suggest Early To Rise to a friend,
please point them to:

Ever Wish Someone Would Teach YOU?

I will:
Mike Stokes
(225) 218-1469

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