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Why 'Follow Your Passion' Is Actually the Worst Advice for

Entrepreneurs. Following your passion is a really bad idea. Passion doesn't pay the bills.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Today I am going to be a grumpy contrarian.

I was speaking with a fellow entrepreneur recently and he was lamenting the fact that his new venture wasn't working out as planned, despite multiple iterations. But he refused to walk away. Why? "It's my passion!" he exclaimed.

Of course, he is not alone. "Follow your passion" is a business maxim almost as popular as "Buy low and sell high," to wit:

"True passion attracts. If you have passion in your business, the right people will be attracted to your team."  --Robert Kiyosaki

"Passion is the genesis of genius."  --Tony Robbins

"If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick out." --Steve Jobs

Far be it from me to say I know more than these great entrepreneurs, so I will leave it to none other than Benjamin Franklin to make my case for me: "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins."

Here's why Ben said that and why passion is overrated: Passion doesn't pay the bills.

If you want to be successful in business, being passionate is all well and good, but it isn't enough, not nearly enough.

No, rather, you must go beyond entrepreneurial enthusiasm and become a businessperson. And that, my friends, means that you must become proficient in the numbers of your business.

Why knowing your numbers is so important

Let me ask you a question: Would you ever get in your car and drive down the road with a paper bag over your head? 

Of course not.

Driving with a bag over your head would be dangerous. You would have no idea if you were headed in the right direction or the wrong direction. You would not know if you had enough gas to get to where you wanted to go, and if a red warning light popped up on the dash, you would miss it completely.

But running your business without being proficient at the numbers is akin to driving a car with a bag over your head. The only way to see where you are going and to get there safely is to take the bag off, and that means you need to learn what numbers make the difference in your business. Being "passionate" about your business won't tell you if, for example, your budget doesn't balance.

The 80-20 rule makes all the difference

While understanding a profit-and-loss statement, or being able to apply for a bank loan, are important, let me suggest that what is vital is being a business owner who understands the 80-20 rule. 

You know the 80-20 of course. It posits that 80 percent of your profit comes from 20 percent of your customers. If you know who those most valuable 20 percent are, you will be way ahead of the game.

But let's dig in a little deeper, shall we? While that is a good start, let me further suggest that it would really behoove you to extrapolate on the 80-20 numbers. What you will likely find is that

  • 80 percent of your income comes from 20 percent of your products. Which products are those?
  • 80 percent of your website hits come from 20 percent of your pages. Which pages are they?
  • 80 percent of your biggest sales come from 20 percent of your salespeople. Are you treating them right? 

The point being, the great small business owners know their businesses so well that they know which products, people, and pages generate the most money, and how much money that is. They then double down on those key, difference-making, most important numbers.

And the same is true for you; learning which numbers create your success means you will never have to drive in the dark again.

Photo Credit: Illustration: Inc.

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