You’ve heard it before. Find what you are passionate about and open your own business. Don’t just work at a job. The problem with that message is twofold: (1) what you’re passionate about might not be what you’re good at and (2) what you want might not be what the market wants.
Television commercials toss these messages at us regularly, showing people leaving their seemingly boring jobs to spend time in the garden, become adventurers, open a winery or go back to school. Even the U.S. Army got into the act with its “Be all that you can be” campaign. Some of you may remember how we were told to “Go for the gusto” and we “only go around once.”
Best-selling books are reinforcing this message of self-achievement and self-bliss. The “seven habits” are not good enough in this knowledge economy. We now need an “eighth habit.” We must find our voice and inspire others to find theirs. And this will be so easy to do because we now know “The Secret,” which is to simply visualize it and it will happen. Can’t you just see yourself there running your own business?
I love this stuff. I am inspired by it. I am into positive imaging and having a positive mental attitude. I cannot stand to be around negative people. I’m a fan of the noted psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow who said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” Goal-setting, visioning and self-motivation are important. Many great companies have been built because of people pursuing their dreams.
I’m also a realist. Just because I can dream it does not mean I’m going to achieve it. Although the above philosophy is motivational and inspiring it is not what will make you a success in business. Take a moment to stop and consider another philosophy. It basically says, “Do the best you can with what you’ve got” and “You play the cards that you are dealt.”
So what will make you a business success? The reality is that the most successful businesses are the ones that are best at providing products and services that the market wants, not what the business owners want.
To illustrate, there was a story in my local daily newspaper last week about three people who worked in a bank. They were tired of their jobs, and they were especially tired of their bank being acquired by another bank time and again. So what did they do? Did they sit around and tell each other their dreams of jobs that fulfilled them and made them whole? Hardly. They sat down and discussed leaving their jobs and forming a company. The first question they asked was, “What does the market want?” and “What skills and resources do we have that can meet the market’s needs and wants?” They did research and planning. The result was a successful computer recycling business. It does not sound very glamorous. I doubt that any one of those bankers paraphrased Maslow and said, “A computer recycler must recycle computers.”
Maslow also said, “Growth is, in itself, a rewarding and exciting process, e.g., the fulfilling of yearnings and ambitions, like that of being a good doctor; the acquisition of admired skills, like playing the violin or being a good carpenter; the steady increase of understanding about people or about the universe, or about oneself; the development of creativeness in whatever field, or, most important, simply the ambition to be a good human being.”
As you dream of finding that vocation that also fulfills your passion it is worth remembering that being the best at your current job is rather noble. Indeed, one of the best ways to get a better, more fulfilling job is to do well the job that you have the opportunity to do.
There is a wave of people who have discretionary assets and who are considering retiring or otherwise leaving the workforce to open their own businesses. Some are chasing their dreams and will open businesses for the primary purpose of fulfilling their passion. Others are chasing their dreams and will open their businesses for the primary purpose of fulfilling a need in the marketplace for a product or service at a better price. Then there are those few – those very few – who will be able to combine both. May you be one of those.
Phil Hardwick is a regular columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.