According to a July 8th article in Forbes passion actually leads to failure. This is news to me because some of my most passionate entrepreneurial clients are quite successful. And, ahem, Steve Jobs was certainly considered a “passionate” leader, at least about the innovation and design of Apple’s products. However, I think the author Adam Hartung may be on to something, just not as generic as “passion leads to failure.”
The author cites two reasons that businesses fail and used the announcement this week of the closing of Crumbs Bake Shop as an example to prove his point. The owners were passionate about cupcakes and failed to see that eventually the desire or market for cupcakes would become saturated and the “fad” would die out, leaving them high and dry. In this particular case he is correct. It looks like passion was blinding and contributed to the failure of the business.
However, he doesn’t really connect the dots that it’s not the fact that the owners were “passionate” about cupcakes and therefore that passion should lead them to success. Passion coupled with good business practices is what leads to success, not passion alone. Look at all the brilliant inventors that were passionate about their ideas, and some of them were indeed very good ideas, but passion alone didn’t get the job done. His premise that “passion will lead to success through hard work, etc.” is a myth that is only half true. Passion can get an entrepreneurial business over the hard times and through to success. Without it, the first bump in the road will likely put them out of business. However, I do agree with him that without good business acumen, systems, support, resources and a solid business plan, passion will not get you to the goal line.
Leaders who have passion about a company’s mission inspire teams to achieve goals and be successful. Leaders who do not have passion, don’t inspire much. CEOs of large organizations rarely have “passion” about the product or service, but they certainly have passion about getting a return for their shareholders, because if they don’t, they’re out.
Hartung’s second point that you need to be able to spot trends goes along with the business acumen. A good marketing strategy should be anticipating the future and predicting and measuring trends with enough time for the business to adjust. Any business based on one product is certainly at a higher risk unless there is something irreplaceable about the product. Crumbs Bake Shop was fairly obviously vulnerable because cupcakes are certainly not unique, as any mother will tell you. Spotting trends, seeing what the future holds, and looking forward are keys to any sustainable business success. Today’s hit is tomorrow’s has been so development of new products or services to meet the needs of customers is key. Remember the frog who sits in the pot while the water is heated up will eventually die because he does not notice the contrast. However, he would jump out of a boiling pot the minute his feet hit the water. A key takeaway from this article is a good reminder to find out what’s heating up in your business that you haven’t noticed before you reach the boiling point and miss the changing landscape like Crumbs Bake Shop did.