Small Business

Rekindling an Entrepreneur's Passion


I founded a highly creative business five years ago that I loved. However, that company struggled to survive, and I finally realized it wasn't practical for me to continue with it. I recently formed a new company that I believe has a better chance of success. However, I miss the old business and need help working up more enthusiasm for this new undertaking. Any advice?

-- J.B., Renton, Wash.

Entrepreneurs faced with the prospect of change have two choices: Stand still and go out of business, or recognize the change and go with it. You made the latter choice, and you should recognize that it was a positive one.

Think about this: The future will exist, with or without you. So, while you can no longer work in the original business, be grateful that you have stayed in the game. Plus, it sounds as though you have a better chance of making money now than you did before.

BELIEVE IN YOUR MISSION. That said, owning a business is all about passion. A entrepreneur has to possess zeal about business in general, whether it's owning a stationery store or running a hot-dog stand.

"One thing you must remember is that, if you don't believe in your products or services, no one else will. Your enthusiasm for what you're selling is contagious, and your lack of enthusiasm is just as contagious -- to the detriment of the business," says Frank Stokes, of Stokes Pacifique Associates, a small-business consultancy in Los Angeles.

Entrepreneurship in itself is a fascinating, interesting, and -- one hopes -- profitable undertaking. So, try on the mindset that passion comes not from external events or circumstances but rather from a desire to meet a need in the marketplace, serve your customers well, and succeed both personally and financially.

TALK TO PEERS. Bob Phibbs, a sales trainer and speaker known as the Retail Doctor, suggests that you jot down all the things you liked about your old business and then write out what you want from your new one. "Find whatever elements [there were about] the original company that you loved, and see if you can put those familiar elements into your new business," he says.

"I also believe it would be worthwhile for you to sit down with some fellow business owners and seek counsel about how to successfully grow the new business," says Ken Keller, a small-business consultant who founded STAR Business Consulting in Ventura, Calif.

Rather than consulting with experts like attorneys or CPAs, seek out peers who have thriving companies and seem happy about what they do all day, Keller says. While valuable in many circumstances, paid advisers tend to be conservative risk-avoiders, and you need a dose of can-do entrepreneurial energy right now.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE. Remember that the most successful corporate CEOs frequently move from one company to another, and often from industry to industry. The head of a food company this week may turn up as the leader of a toy manufacturer next week. To attain success, entrepreneurs must possess similar flexibility. If you're in business primarily to serve your customers and make a contribution to their lives, then you can run any business with passion and dedication.

"Your enthusiasm for your business is related to your commitment to affecting someone else through your unique delivery of service and desire to effectively communicate the message to your audience that your company is its best choice for their solution. Show your customers or clients that you enjoy serving them," Stokes recommends.

Think about the profound difference you make in other peoples' lives and let go of your attachment to exactly what it is that you do. And if you're still not absolutely charged up about your current industry, remember that you don't have to stay in it forever. Build this business up, sell it, and find another industry that you prefer. If you're passionate about life -- and business -- in general, you won't have trouble doing just that.

Have a question about your business? Ask our small-business experts. Send us an e-mail at Smart Answers, or write to Smart Answers, BW Online, 45th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020. Please include your real name and phone number in case we need more information; only your initials and city will be printed. Because of the volume of mail, we won't be able to respond to all questions personally.


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