Most of the people I know who are unusually successful in their field have a unique trait in common. They love the work they are doing. To them, collecting a big paycheck (or nearly any paycheck at all, for that matter), is simply icing on the cake. Every day is like a mini-vacation, and work has ceased to have the four-letter definition most of us have for it. To these people, the work they do has such a strong personal draw to it that they would do it for free, if need be.

I work with a lot of small business owners and budding entrepreneurs, and this trend sticks with this group too. Often, one of my first questions to this type of client is why they want to start the business they have in mind. If the answer is “I want to be my own boss.”, or “I want to make a lot of money.” I will often advise them to go back to the drawing board to find a business concept with more gravitas for them. Often, people find that working for themselves means they will be working for the most demanding boss (themselves) they have ever experienced. And, when the money isn’t freely flowing in, as is often true for startups for significant amounts of time, what motivation to keep moving forward will they have then?

As a consumer, it is obvious to me when I walk into a store where the store owner’s modus operandi is to extract money from my pocket. Normally, I flee like a villager from an erupting volcano in this scenario. If I get a whiff that the store owner sees a big dollar bill walking through the door when I come in, any advice or guidance immediately becomes suspect, and our relationship as customer and merchant becomes adversarial. The store owner is on offense, trying to score a sale, and I am on defense, trying to end up with something that I actually want and is appropriate for my needs.

Conversely, when I walk into a shop where it is obvious that the owner is just glad to be there and get to work there every day, the experience is generally positive, and I am FAR more likely to return. Authenticity and genuine service are qualities that have been on the endangered species list for some time, and I know when I encounter one, or even better both, I have found something special.

When looking to start a business of your own, start with your interests. What are you passionate about? What would you love to help other people achieve or possess? What unique strengths or perspective do you possess that would facilitate creating an organization that is top in its market? Creating organizations that are overwhelmingly the best choice for your chosen market is always a smart framework for any startup.
Of course, passion for your work is not a panacea for ill-conceived businesses. All of the normal steps are still required. You still MUST do thorough market research. You still MUST have the expertise and experience to be capable of leading your industry. You MUST do thorough organizational and financial planning and management to keep your organization under control.

However, when things are not going your way, the passion will be what gets you out of bed and into work in the morning. The passion will be what drives the constant pursuit of excellence. The passion will be what keeps pulling you forward in the pursuit of your dream, even after mistakes or defeat. The fulfillment of your passion will be the REAL reward of what you do, and isn’t genuinely achieving the rewards you want the point of the whole thing anyway?