Should you follow your passion?

If you've thought of starting a business, you've probably heard conflicting advice on this topic. Should you follow your passion? Or should you base your business on something more practical?

Doing what you're passionate about is an important ingredient to happiness in life. I believe everyone should have something in their life they're passionate about. And it's wonderful when you can get paid well for doing what you're passionate about. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. So how do you know if you should turn your passion into a business?

The key is to remember that a successful business's first priority is to bring value to its customers. The needs of the owner are secondary. A good business is a win-win situation: If the customer's needs and wants are being met, the owner makes money. If not, then the business fails.

So when considering the question of whether or not to turn your passion into a business, ask yourself these questions:

- Can I leverage what I am passionate about to bring value to others?

- How much will others pay for this value I am providing?

- Are the margins (income - costs = profit margin) strong enough to provide the financial profits I desire?

- Who is the business really for? Am I willing to make customer value my first priority, or is this really about me doing what I love?

If your honest answer to that last question - and you MUST be honest with yourself - is "It's really about me," that's ok. Sometimes adding the money factor to your passion spoils the passion. If your first priority is just doing what you love, then you can still pursue it - just do it as a hobby or a job where you get a steady paycheck, not as a business. Then find something else that interests you where you feel comfortable putting customers first and build a business around that.

Original publish date: January 19, 2011