It's a common refrain at nearly any business conference: "You can turn your passion into your profession!"
Scour the aisles (digital or physical) of the self-help or business sections of a bookstore and you'll see countless books promising that you can succeed at work and life just by unlocking, discovering, unleashing, harnessing, or embracing your passion.
And judging by the current #hustleculture images on Instagram, if any of us just #hustle and keep our passion front and center, we too can be living the dream while running our businesses from the sands of Bali or our AirBnB cabin in Vail.
I call #bullsh*t.
Any successful business needs more than passion. I know it and the 300+ entrepreneurs we've worked with at Batch know it.
For example, Shannon Bennett, with Creative Crayons Workshop says, "Successful entrepreneurship requires passion, but passion alone will not lead to success. I'm a visual person so I can relate this to a sandwich with passion being the bread. You need bread to have a sandwich. But who would ever eat a bread sandwich without something great in it?!"
So what else is needed? She goes on to say, "Integrity is a key ingredient to mix with passion when it comes to business. I can be passionate about something all day long and attract people with my passion, but the second I don't follow through on my word, work ethic, or the product I stand by proves mediocre and not excellent, that passion leads to a dead end without integrity backing it up. I've heard that passion can spread like a wild fire and I believe that is true, but I believe it needs to be coupled with integrity which will keep the fire burning when present, or quickly bring the blaze to a smolder when in lack."
Passion is only the first step. Deeper values are needed to make a business successful. When I speak to budding entrepreneurs, one lesson I hope they leave with is that passion can get you started - it's what may spark an idea and motivate you to stay up late working on it to get it launched. But you need talent - a great product or service - to actually get to the finish line of success.
This idea seems to be confirmed by Laura Kimball, of TruBee. When asked about passion, she told me, "Passion isn't enough to move an entrepreneur, or any worker, through the challenges of starting and maintaining a business. That's naive. I think passion is the spark that ignites the desire to work hard at something you love, but passion can never be a substitute for the work.
"I had the privilege of interviewing the Indigo Girls years ago (in another life and job), and I asked them how they stay passionate about singing "Closer to Fine" over and over. There was a pause. Then Emily Saliers said that the fans are what keep them passionate about that song, hearing the enthusiasm of the crowd when they strike those familiar chords.
"I would guess that playing that song — hearing how it connects with others — also reminded them of why they were in it, why they wrote that song. I bet some days they just show up, tune the guitars and hope the passion comes. Every time somebody tells me that our beeswax lip balm is their favorite, their go-to, the thing they give everyone for Christmas, it reminds me of why I do what I do.
"It reminds me that I'm a creative person, a maker, somebody who has chosen a different path. Some days I don't feel the passion, and I don't feel creative. I do feel the pressure to finish what I've started, though, so I guess the other ingredient to entrepreneurial, or life, success is the willingness to peck away at the work and hope the passion comes through again in the process."
It's fine, then, to let passion be your compass, your true north pointing to your Why, but don't let it be a substitute for an actual business model, skill, a solid marketing strategy, and great service.
Anyone selling you, the entrepreneur, on the idea that with a little passion you can have a lot of success is a fraud. Run from them.
Instead, run toward your work. Continue to get better. Measure your results and plan your next feature, product, or campaign. Because while passion can get you excited, you'll need more than that to be - and stay - successful.