Monday, April 13, 2009

Business - Passion Isn't A Blank Cheque

Many people these days are highly motivated by the flood of websites and self-help books promoting the pursue of "passion". 

While it's applaudable to help others stand up for what they like, many of these books fail to impart the knowledge of engineering the road to it.

Pursuing a passion requires a few elements in place before one takes the plunge. 

To spare one a long boring thesis for this entry, I'll bullet them in digestible bits, please refer below.

  1. Money.  It's the Fuel to get anything going.  Before one goes deep into their passion, it's only sensible to save for a whole year of expenses (besides the Operational Costs to the Passion) to make sure your bills are paid.  2 years of expenses would be even wiser.
  2. Personal insurance.  It's eminent one be thoroughly covered with suitable insurance policies in the pursue of their passion, that no Passion Fund set aside be dipped into if hospitalisation or a terrible disease strikes.  It's also critical to know your immediate family is adequately covered as well, so you're not required to chip in for their expenses from your Passion Fund if it happens.  And yes, this requires money too.

I may sound meretricious for emphasising the role of money in the pursue of one's Passion, but it's the reality one must accept if to pursue one.  A body needs food to run on while living in this world depends on money to run on.  No new business from a Passion runs on air throughout human history.  If you're still piqued for your Passion, well done, and let's go on the system of getting there.

If one's Passion lies in being their own boss for a skill they own (muffin making, copywriting, online selling etc), it's very important to overcome the following issues before heading into setting up their new business.

  • Experience - A minimum 5 years of experience being employed in the society is needed before one starts something on your own.  This experience isn't about honing your craft to muffin making.  It's about the ability to handle the stress in business relationships, ability to identify potential markets, ability to converse well within your targetted sector.........I'm meaning the ability to sell and market your talent with a hawk's eye view of your marketplace.  And, knowing that the lowest prices don't mean the most businesses coming in.
  • EQ - A very important element for your business to survive.  Are you one who flies into a temper when you're running late for an appointment?  Feels defeated if lost a potential deal that can cover 6 months of your expenses?  Drinks if met with a whole lousy week busting your current month's budget of your Passion Fund?  If most of the above applies to you, I'm sorry to inform that you're not suitable to be a business owner.  Running a business isn't unlike being a parent to your children, patience and tenacity are the next most important criteria besides money and experience.
  • Network (Exposure) - Do it well and it'll save you some run-time.  But network in the right places.  Don't go to places where backend IT people gather if you're doing advertising.  Don't go to a furniture convention if you're running a chicken rice stall.  Fish where the right fishes swim.
  • Market Wisdom - This is about doing your homework before taking the plunge.  How much is your targetted industry worth?  What has been the trend in the last 5 years?  What was the growth like?  What are the foreseen changes in the next 3 years?  Who are your competitors?  What's the pricing system?  Payment conditions?  Why do some of the previous same businesses fail?  How do others succeed?  How do your product/service differentiate among all?  2 questions one should ask themselves: 1. Why should others buy/engage me?  2. Would I buy/engage myself if I'm a customer?
  • Mentor - Many people overlook this catalyst when plunging into their new business.  A mentor must be qualified not in the emotional area, your best friend cannot be your mentor just because he pays the drinks for you when you're having a lousy business week.  A mentor must have the rich experience for you to tap on in your business baby steps, he/she must be able to spot and pre-empt a likely pitfall on your road and present you where you must be careful in.  A mentor is the hawk's eye on your behalf because of your lack of experience.  He/she must be the infallible mountain when you're facing the strongest storms to help you through.  If your previous boss has time to help you in this, then all is well.  If not, you've got to hire one.  Yes, a mentor is like a hired boss till you're strong enough to take off on your own.

An additional note to hiring a mentor.  It's important to know you've got the right help.  Grill a potential with questions about your targetted industry if he's an industrial-experience mentor.  But you must know some of the answers too in case you got smoked into a beautiful deal.  Share your business plan with the potential and he/she must be able to pick up about 5 weakness from it, if the potential is a business processes expert.  No first-time business owner has a thorough plan worked out, or they'd be poached to head a department of a foreign MNC with a SGD$20K monthly salary with all the perks.

An experienced (10 years) ex-high flyer normally don't need a business mentor, they would already have some form of business running once they've opened just by their rich network in the industry.

I hope I've given a good overview to running your Passion the first time though it's not possible to cover everything in an entry.  Should you have more enquiries, do feel free to contact me via email to discuss further.  You can then decide to engage me to diagnose if you should step out for your Passion or it's some job dissatisfaction needing some iron out.