Traits of the Rich & Free #2. Passion

June 5, 2010Post by Laura Humphreys

As I talk to very successful business people, their traits continue to share a common thread. I listed the 10 traits they seem to share in a previous blog and promised to cover each one in turn. I’ve talked about ‘vision’ already. Now for Trait Number 2: Passion. The world’s most successful business people unsurprisingly are not people who typically struggle to get out of bed in the morning. They are people who find each day driving them towards achievement and feel their hearts fired by the vision they’ve mapped out for themselves. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to you. To be the top of field in any game, you have to be passionate. Of course we all know that.

But there is a twist to the concept of passion in business. I talk to all sorts of business people, at every stage in their development. I am honoured to spend time conversing with some of the most successful, those who have proven themselves and reached the very top of the business success ladder and I also talk to others who have yet to start out. Sometimes I will get an email from someone who has heard me talk and is at the very beginning of the business ladder, still wondering how to get on the ladder. A common comment these pre-entrepreneurs make to me is this, “I want to be in business for myself but I don’t know what my business should be. I’m just not passionate enough about anything to make a business out of it”.

And here’s what I say in return. It must be wonderful to have a business doing something you are passionate about. I know that some lucky people do this, they take a personal passion, something they love doing more than anything and they create a business around that. And some even go on to become multi-millionaire business tycoons doing the one thing they would be doing even if they didn’t get paid. But I struggle to think of many examples of such people (please feel free to write some examples in your comment to this blog post).

In reality, you don’t have to be passionate about what your business sells, you just have to believe its the best. It’s an important distinction to grasp. My late father retired when he was 50 years old, having made his fortune from his business selling photocopiers. He started that business in London in the seventies, a great time to be in the photocopier business. He never had to work again from the day he sold it. He did exceptionally well in business. But I can tell you now, he was never passionate about photocopiers. He was passionate about creating a business that would enable him to provide a life for his children without hardship (he grew up in a working class family in the East End of London during World War II, with an abusive father and siblings who left home to escape the hardship). He was passionate about his vision for success for himself and his family, and about growing a business from nothing to an thriving empire he would eventually sell and retire from.

By the time I started my advertising agency, I was no longer passionate about TV Commercials or magazine adverts. But I was passionate about creating the best advertising agency in town, winning Agency of the year and building an agency so successful a multi-national would come knocking at my door. One of my current businesses, Pet Angels, the world’s first online matching system for pet owners and pet carers, is another example. I love animals and I am passionate about animal welfare. But I am not necessarily passionate about walking a dog in the freezing rain or hand feeding carrots to an aggressive guinea pig (one of our Angels recently had to clean a rabbit’s personal areas with a cotton bud… she was not that passionate about it!). I am passionate about providing the best (and most highly systemised) pet care experience in the world and creating a business that fulfills all of its objectives whilst allowing me time to pursue other passions in life… such as time with my children and my mentoring.

So yes passion is a must in business. Passion for life, passion for success, passion for the game of business and building something really cool, watching it grow and achieving its goals… this is the sort of passion you need to succeed. You have to believe in your product or service, and be committed to its uniqueness in the market. But you don’t have to make your passion your business (I love golf but the golfing world will breathe a sigh of relief to know I’m not going to try to make a business out of this passion!).

In short, your business must be your passion. But your passion does not need to be your business.