This article first appeared at fosters.com as part of the "Business on the Inside" column by Warren Daniel, Seacoast Regional Director, NH SBDC.
Starting and growing a business is not for the faint-hearted. The road is filled with land mines that can derail a person who is not wired for entrepreneurship. If running a business was easy, there would be many more entrepreneurs. According to entrepreneur.com, there are 8 qualities to a successful business owner. I will discuss one of these qualities – passion: how passion drives the business idea and subsequently drives business success.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after a 12-year absence, he discovered that the company he had co-founded was close to bankruptcy. Jobs said upon his return that “Apple is not about making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well. Apple is about something more. Its core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”
Upon Jobs’ return to Apple, his passion and the passion of those around him helped create groundbreaking technology such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. In addition to his role in the computing revolution, he was a disrupter in the way we listen to music and the way we use our phones!
When my wife, Elise, and I opened The Bagelry in 1983, we wanted to bring a traditional New York bagel to New Hampshire. Bagels were a staple in our native New York City, and we were passionate about introducing this iconic food to seacoast New Hampshire, an area we had embraced as our home.
We needed to decide whether we wanted to open a restaurant that served a mainstream menu, or to offer something that had the potential to be new and exciting. Keep in mind that in 1983, The Bagelry was only the third bagel café in New Hampshire. After a successful entry into the market, we quickly became a mainstay in the community and a place where town residents and UNH students, staff, and faculty congregated. We were a big part of the community and had passion for The Bagelry to grow as a gathering place where “everybody knows your name.”
In my position with the NH Small Business Development Center I have assisted thousands of businesses in the past sixteen years, some passion-driven, and some not. My job takes me to a variety of business types, sizes, makeup and age groups.
One of the clients I have the pleasure of advising is Van Berkum Nursery in Deerfield. The wholesale nursery grows over 600 varieties of perennials, both for sun and shade. In 1990 they purchased 22 acres in Raymond that borders a state park to house their nursery. On July 24, 2008 the nursery was hit by a devastating tornado, toppling hundreds of pine trees that were providing the very shade the perennials counted on. An employee was thrown 100 feet. The damage was all consuming. People asked Peter Van Berkum if the company was going to survive. “We have to bar no expense and make it happen,” Van Berkum said. “If you have passion for what you do, you will not have trouble motivating your staff to be passionate about the business.”
After 30 years in business Peter continues to re-invent himself. Successful entrepreneurs are a driven group and need that passion to get them up in the morning. Their zeal is infectious to the staff, vendors and customers!
I can look at businesses I frequent, whether they are retail, restaurant, airline or technology companies, and I can tell which businesses are engaged with their customers and how the owner of the company transfers that passion. For example, Southwest Airlines has a loose customer service presence in their light and joking presence for airline attendants. That humor comes from the top.
Mike Merenda, Professor of Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship at the Peter T. Paul School of Business and Economics says, “No matter what you do in life, whether you are a doctor, musician, teacher, CEO or serial entrepreneur, passion is the critical personal attribute that drives individual success…To be an entrepreneur is to embark on a lifetime journey, not just a single or discrete act. Like any journey, the road ahead has it many twists and turns, challenges, setbacks and obstacles that need to be staved-off and overcome…. One’s passion, similar to life-long, enduring values, is the one single personal attribute that is a must, if one is to succeed as an entrepreneur.”
If you feel driven by an interest, hobby or an expertise you developed, your next step can be to develop a business that furthers those passions. This can keep you engaged and generate an income for many years to come. Recognize what gets you excited, follow that passion and we might see you as the next Steve Jobs or Peter Van Berkum!