Why passion is not enough

By: Fiona Humberstone

Date: 10 November 2010

We often start our businesses because of a deep-seated passion for what we do. Perhaps we have a flair for something and we want to spend all of our time doing it. Maybe we want to turn a hobby into a business – perhaps we just want to do what we do best.

I have a lot of respect for people who follow their passions. When you bring a passion for what you do together with a flair for business, you have a winning formula.

The challenge is getting that flair for business into the mix.

I’ve spoken to two brand new clients recently. Both have more than 20 years’ experience in their respective fields and have a real passion for what they do, but they haven’t thought clearly about how customers fall into the mix.

Business owner number two – let’s call him Jeff – is an expert in his field. He works in a niche, scientific market but his service could be sold to anyone – domestic or commercial. He called my company for help with designing an advert for a school magazine. The trouble was, he hadn’t thought through how the parents at school would benefit from his service. He certainly hadn’t thought through why they should care about his business.

Jeff was blinded by his passion. So passionate was he that everyone should use his service, he’d failed to see it from his customers’ point of view.

You may believe in your product or service, you may have scientific evidence to back it up. But unless you can convince your customers they need or want you, you’re on a hiding to nothing. You’ve got to sell your business in a way that your customers can feel it in their gut. They need to understand exactly why they need you (ask yourself – so what? why should my customers care?) and what the cost of doing nothing is.

It’s hardly surprising that Jeff’s business is struggling. He needs to define a clear brand strategy for his business; he needs to work out who his most profitable clients are; and he needs to create a structured marketing plan that enables him to communicate effectively to them and get them to start buying. His passion alone isn’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been described as one of the most passionate business people in Surrey – on more than one occasion. I “get” the importance of running a business you’re passionate about. But passion alone isn’t enough. You’ve got to stay focused on your customers, because without them – you don’t have a business.

Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing


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