Your Passion Does Not Matter

passion doesn't matterWhat if I said passion does not matter to success as a small business owner? Last week I was in Los Angeles teaching from the stage at the Elevate Live event with Ali Brown. I love talking with the many coaching clients in Elevate. But several times I listened as individuals talked about their beliefs with such great passion and conviction that I realized they believe their passion alone will magically create a small business for them. I wondered if a few women I spoke to would be able to calm down enough to actually put a plan to their passion. As I flew back to the East Coast I started questioning the often-heard belief that you’ve got to have total passion to make it as a small business owner.

It’s very trendy right now to talk about “living your life purpose” and “turning your passion into profits.” And this can surely work. I think about the little man I once coached who had been making fabulous miniature furniture for doll houses for decades. After urging from his family he finally decided to learn basic business skills and opened a small retail shop. That business is still running today. Notice that I mention his going off to get help with business skills? It’s an important point.

On the other hand, I think about the dozens of women who talk with me about wanting a business to help other women “transform their life” or “find their passion in life.” In every case, these women have themselves undergone a transformation of some sort. They were depressed and got out of it, they were overweight and became skinny, they were miserable in their marriage and fixed it or got divorced, they were stuck at home and changed their life through finding community. These women feel so much better, so much a part of life instead of watching life go by that they are totally convinced every other woman will want to transform, too.

The issue I see is that these women can’t stop talking about transforming others long enough to sit still and talk about their target market, their offers, or how they are going to structure and run their business. They are so excited about transforming others that they can’t be bothered to come down to earth and think of themselves as business owners who are responsible to review a profit and loss statement every month. “It will just happen, the world needs this!” one starry-eyed woman gushed to me a few months ago. “I’m not good at the nuts and bolts, I’m a transformative, creative being, I can’t stand to put a price on what I do,” another one told me over the phone.

At the risk of being called a naysayer and a joy killer, I’d like to hand out a few tips to these passionate women who think every other woman would surely want to go through the same transformation they have been through themselves.

  • Your passionate beliefs about what others need will not ring true or be of interest to every woman.
  • Your ideal client (or target market) is not every woman. No, every woman doesn’t “need” what you went through yourself.
  • Your long-winded stories coupled with an euphoric belief in how much better off others would be to go through a transformative process often overwhelms those listening to you. They cannot grasp exactly what it is you are offering and how it will benefit them in a meaningful way. You sometimes sound belittling to those who don’t “get it.”
  • When you give away your work to others “because you believe in it so much” it does not build a sustainable business for you that will pay your bills and put food on your table.
  • The most successful business owners have learned to think of themselves as both passionate about their business AND as business owners. They are not afraid to look at what isn’t selling, what is working well, and adjust their offers accordingly. They have also learned that prospects are not as passionate about the “tranformative thing” as they are. If the prospect was already as passionate she would not need what you offer as she would have already found the transformation herself.

Passion is fine but it isn’t necessary for a wildly successful business. And when it is present it has to be married to planning. Passion plus planning and learning to market in words that attract rather than overwhelm is the key. Passion doesn’t matter if there is no partnering with business planning. There! I’ve said it! Do you agree? I’d love to hear your comments below.

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  1. says

    Thanks for this post Sue! It was raw and real! Considering my business topic is very spiritual I need to keep a balance of business strategy and passion for sure! Good to keep in check whether I am overwhelming people .. not sure I guess I would have to ask them!

  2. Heidi Alexandr says

    Love this discussion you’ve created here Sue – Passion has become the buzz term like World Peace to Miss Universe contestants. I once had a mentor say to me – get passionate about serving your customers, when the $$ are in the bank you bet you will feel passionate about business too!

  3. says

    OMG THIS –> “The issue I see is that these women can’t stop talking about transforming others long enough to sit still and talk about their target market, their offers, or how they are going to structure and run their business”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! At Bourn Creative, we run into this same issue with clients from time to time. They are so focused on their dream of helping others that they never stop to actually work ON their own business, decide exactly what they will be offering/selling, and who their marketing and website needs to be targeting.

    This results in a lot of delays, and then sites that may not perform as well as they should because the owner doesn’t have clarity of what they are offering, who they are offering it to, and what they want to happen on their site.

    These sites tend to be too general and try to speak to everyone … but they end up speaking to no one.

  4. says

    You knocked it outta the ball park again, Sue! I struggled for several years with the concept. Being an introvert was another hurtle, but once it was impressed in my mind that I was with-holding value by not marketing and talking up my skills, it changed my business mentality.
    Appreciate all your good practical advice. BTW: have you completed the visit to Tuscany? I want to hear about it.

  5. says

    I think passion is fuel–it’s what adds enjoyment to your work and keeps you going when others might give up, but It isn’t THE only thing you need to be successful. Like you said, “The most successful business owners have learned to think of themselves as both passionate about their business AND as business owners.”

    Passion is a great gift but you still have to provide value to your clients, solve problems, etc. The type of passion you have described above is very self-centered. They actually are not coming from a place of service and are not taking the time to figure out how they can channel all of that passion into a business that actually helps others.

  6. says

    Excellent points. This is much like having the belief that the “Law of Attraction” will magically manifest all of your desires without good, old fashioned, work. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get busy building businesses we are passionate about that produce profits.
    Write on!~
    Lisa Manyon

  7. says

    I think that the passion is good and that people can make money doing what they love… IF as you say, they do the research and business side as well, and before “putting up their shingle.” As someone who has been to so many of these conferences, I think that excitement women feel is “the possibility” they’ve never felt before. Then, you have coaches and speakers who expand on that possibility to show how “they’ve done it” without really giving the accurate account of what they went through in the beginning, in turn misleading these passionate women into a belief that they can have huge success in a short time. To be truly honest with these women would not be good for sales. “Hey spend $20K this year with me to learn how to create the foundation for a business you’re passionate about which will take at least 10 years to pay off in the way mine has” is not an enticing pitch. So, we are at a standoff and women have to be smart, read articles like this in their research, and get true perspective from business mentors (not ones they are paying who won’t give them an accurate account).

  8. says

    Your write up is good advice. Since you are going ‘out there’ you might add
    the part about taking action rapidly and making money. If the passion is not
    something people are willing to pay for, it will always be a hobby.

  9. says

    I see this all the time with creatives. They are passionate about their work…so why wouldn’t someone just buy it? They don’t like marketing, or social media, or selling…they just want to create.


    • Louise says

      I agree. There are way too many “Life Coaches” who promise to help you follow your bliss and became
      a big success by doing so. There is a recent article in, entitled..’When Passion for Work
      is a Bad Thing”…discusses the backlash against the “follow your passion” movement.

        • Louise says

          Hi Sue, In addition to “When Passion for Work is a Bad Thing” the
          Palm Beach Post article…there is also a link to a blog by Penelope Trunk ..
          “Bad advice–Do what you love”
          Also, if you google the subject, there a many other articles on the
          “follow your passion” backlash.
          As an accomplished business woman, I just feel it is irresponsible for
          “coaches” to allege that following your bliss will bring success, when any
          experienced person will tell you it takes years of hard work and a
          solid education to succeed in the business world.
          Keep up the good work! We need more advisors like you.

  10. says

    Amen, Sue!

    Passion may be all it takes to enjoy a hobby and it certainly will convey your enthused spirit with potential buyers yet it won’t build a business! Understanding your audience and the benefits they seek from your category of provider, your competition, your best use of available resources, building a relevant plan, repeatable processes, a team and then measuring all the results are key elements. It’s one thing to have passion, it’s another to develop buyers, repeat business, partners and referrals. And if the results all keep pointing you forward, that’s one more reason to have justifiable passion!

  11. says

    “Starry-eyed” is a good description of many of the women I’ve met at similar conferences. I’ve been floored at what people will pay for business coaching when – come to find out – they don’t even have a business.

  12. says

    Sue, first of all I was delighted to follow your progress at the conference. Secondly you really struck a nerve with me. Frankly I’m a bit “passioned” out with all of this passion these days. Call it the MBA in me but let’s here it for the business nuts and bolts.

  13. says

    This is a post that every business owner (especially startups) needs to read!

    I agree with you 100% that we are in this “passion frenzy” in business.

    And what really worries me as the movement grows is that there are thousands of women out there (and coaches) supporting and spreading the message that if you’re not passionate, you shouldn’t do it, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it, if it feels like work and not joy, don’t do it, etc.

    Just recently I watched a video from a passionate entrepreneur who had decided that they were tired of all the “shoulds” in their business. Should’s like marketing, sending out email newsletters, writing blog posts, being on social.

    They had decided that from now on they were only going to do those things n their business if they felt inspired and the spirit moved them!

    The problem is that this approach is NOT a business, it’s a hobby.

    The even BIGGER (and in my opinion) scary thing about this is not that she had made that decision, but that scores of commenters supported this approach and were going to adopt it in their own business!

    I fear for all those business owners as their traffic and sales tank as a result of no marketing, no structure, no “I have to’s”.

    Sure, we’ve all heard about the business owner who doesn’t have to do any marketing – clients come to them! But they are the exception, not the rule! Most small business owners have to work it day in/day out to reach new customers and sales.

    And therein lies the bottom line. Running a successful business is about work and hopefully some passion.

    As a business owner who has run a successful online business for 13 years, I love what I do. My customers are awesome. Next to having my kids, running a business has been the most amazing experience of my life.

    BUT the success of my business has been built on work and good business sense. Taking what I love to do and applying business principles into making it profitable.

    And I worry that if we don’t spread this message to women entrepreneurs, in a short period of time we’re going to see scores of women who started the entrepreneurial journey with high-hopes not achieving their goals – not due to lack of passion but due to lack of business implementation.

    Fortunately, you’ve started getting the message out there with this blog post.

    You said it best “Passion doesn’t matter if there is no partnering with business planning.”


    PS: Interestingly I don’t see passion frenzy as much with male business owners or startups. They like what they do, but they are very focused on doing what they need to do in their business, so they have the time and money to enjoy their passions outside the business. It’s interesting to see the difference in approach.

    • says

      I agree it’s a different approach from men to women for the most part. I’m passionate about helping small biz owners so I do truly “love what I do.” But I’ve had other “jobs” that I didn’t so much like. I did them well, learned from them, and those times led me to my current life. Be passionate about what’s right in front of you. Do the thing. And it will lead to other things. It doesn’t have to be your “one thing.”

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