Passion keeps entrepreneurs — and editors — hard at work

Phil Castle

In one respect, the entrepreneurs I interview are as unique as snowflakes. They come from different backgrounds. They bring to their ventures different training and talents.

But it’s also been my experience in working more than 20 years as editor of a business journal that entrepreneurs share a lot in common. They have an idea for a better product or a service that better meets a need. They want to work for themselves and play greater roles in determining their fates. They’re willing to assume greater risks to reap greater rewards.

The attribute that most amazes me, though, is the passion entrepreneurs invariably bring to their efforts. They’re excited not only about what they do, but also what they do for their customers.

I’m grateful for this trait because it makes my job easy. Rather than pry information out of sources as tight-lipped as clams, I have only to pose a question or two and then scribble as fast as I can on my yellow legal pads to keep up. To use another idiom, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. Most entrepreneurs are as passionate about talking about their businesses as they are passionate about their businesses.

The entrepreneurs featured in this issue of the Business Times constitute more notable examples. There’s Andy Nack and Brice Berentis at Advanced Automotive Calibration, Jeison Vasquez at A Misfits Tail and Jana Thomas at Wild Peace. Thomas introduced me to a form of passion I hadn’t considered, one that provokes both excitement about the potential results and reassurance it’s the correct thing to do. In other words, wild peace. She also reminded me of an important paradox of writing: The best and most authentic stories are those easiest to write.

Of course, entrepreneurs don’t own the passion franchise. Lots of people — most, I’d wager — bring passion to their work. Although I write about them for a newspaper, I’m not an entrepreneur. But I’m still passionate about what I do. Passionate enough on a Sunday afternoon to sit in the office in front of a computer to write a column when it’s tempting to sit at home in front of a television and watch the NFL playoffs. I count myself blessed to remain passionate about print journalism four decades after starting down that career path. How many people are fortunate enough to discover what they believed would be their dream job actually is?

All these thoughts make me wonder even more about passion, in particular the role of passion in business. To what extent does success depend on passion?

My conclusion? Passion alone doesn’t guarantee success. But few successes are achieved without passion.

I’ve met entrepreneurs who couldn’t have been more passionate, but failed anyway. Perhaps they were insufficiently organized or lacked the requisite knowledge or skills to succeed. Possibly, forces beyond their control intervened. Or maybe their very passion for a particular product or service or activity prevented the dispassionate realization there were too few customers who felt the same way. The grim reality of entrepreneurism is that most small businesses die in infancy.

I’ve met other entrepreneurs who similarly struggled for one reason or another, but whose passion drove them forward to eventual success.

The word passion comes from the Latin term for suffering or enduring.
In that sense, passion means enduring the hard work that leads to success. Passion means learning and doing things we don’t necessarily want to learn or do — bookkeeping or public speaking, for example. Passion means not quitting when plans don’t work out and changes become necessary.

Here’s another way to think about it. Do what you love, the old expression goes, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’ll actually work harder. But not just because you have to. Because you want to. It’s enjoyable and rewarding. That makes all the difference when long hours and challenging tasks are required or adversity arises.

There’s still another way passion contributes to business success. Passion is contagious. Who would employees rather work for? Bosses who’re enthusiastic about what they do or those who’re ambivalent at best or miserable at worst? Who are customers more likely to purchase products and services from? People eager to help them and meet their needs or those who deem customer service a necessary nuisance? Who are investors more likely to support financially? Someone hoping to get lucky with an idea or those personally driven to succeed?

I’m passionate about interviewing entrepreneurs and telling their remarkable stories. What are you passionate about?

Phil Castle is editor of the Business Times. Reach him at phil@thebusinesstimes.com or 424-5133.