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Passion - the key ingredient for every successful entrepreneur

Yesterday I joined Evan Carmichael on another fantastic live Google hangout, taking questions on overcoming adversity from Evan’s 100,000-strong entrepreneur community on YouTube.

We had some great questions, but the one red thread that ran through every piece of advice we gave was Passion. Passion, for me, is the one thing that truly sets apart the successful entrepreneur. 

Building a business is a story of personal sacrifice. More than one fifth of our entrepreneur customers work more than 70 hours per week, whilst 70 per cent have either used their life savings or remortgaged their homes to fund their businesses. It’s truly humbling – the great sacrifice entrepreneurs make to pursue their dreams, creating growth and jobs in their economy, is, for me, the noblest of causes.

I have a profound admiration for entrepreneurs and that drives both me personally and us as a business at Sage. That’s our passion and our mission – to champion Small & Medium Businesses, to be their voice and to support them as the DNA of every economy.

Entrepreneurship is a struggle, but without passion, that struggle is even harder. Can you really motivate yourself to work those long hours, sacrifice your savings or even put your home at risk if you’re not truly passionate about your business? Are you going to inspire customers to buy from you, employees to follow you, family and friends to support you or backers to finance you, if you don’t live and breathe genuine passion for your enterprise?

But, finding your passion in the first place isn’t always easy. What do you personally love doing, what gets you up in the morning? Or conversely, what really frustrates you that you want to change? As a starting point, talk to you friends, your family, ex-colleagues, ex-bosses, ex-teachers – anyone who can help you get a handle on you. What do they think of when they think of you, personally and professionally? You’ll soon start to narrow in on that passion within, and then it’s about harnessing it to form your mission.

One budding entrepreneur asked what type of business they should invest in setting up. Only you can answer that question. However, it’s never been easier to road test any number of ideas, so long as they are driven by and intrinsically linked to your underlying passion. In the digital and social media age, we can crowdsource opinion in minutes; we can rapid-prototype a product or service model and test it on the open the market within weeks. Live, continuous feedback allows us to make rapid course corrections along the way, to constantly test and probe the market, finding out what sticks.

For successful businesses, that relentless questioning never stops and it’s essential for course correction. Hitting challenges is a regular part and parcel of building a business and on to success. It’s passion that will give you the tenacity needed to overcome these regular hurdles. Take it on the chin, fail fast and move on. Quitters quit, winners never say die – they find an inner resilience to overcome adversity. Driven by their inner passion and a belief in their personal noble cause, they’re always mentally prepared to overcome it.

I shared a story of a brilliant young team of entrepreneurs I backed some years ago. They had a fantastic idea, but the market conditions shifted to make it suddenly obsolete. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and applied what they had learned to the next, even better, idea. Then exactly the same thing happened again. Quitting point for most, but this resilient team were able to remain connected and pour their passion into another venture, which hit gold and was a huge success.

Finally came our toughest question of the session – what do you do if you’ve lost passion in the business you’re running? We both had to think about that one – it’s not something I’ve personally encountered, but I think the answer is clear. Be true unto yourself. If the passion isn’t there, look to exit – without it, the business or market will soon exit you. Because, you see, passion is about honesty. Of course you’re going to have bad days and you’re going to have to paint on a brave face, but genuine passion means you never really have to fake it. Your colleagues, customers and investors will back you if they sense the authenticity in your mission. Your passion will rub off, exciting your whole community to support your success.  If you are looking for a mission in life, then find your passion to pursue your dreams.