For three years a couple friend of ours have been searching for a business to buy. Sadly I know whenever, and if ever, they do find something to buy it’s more than likely going to fail. If I sound like a downer let me explain.
Most businesses fail. Most businesses fail before they have even had time to become successful. For those that do find success most of them eventually fail, too, when variables change. Those are simply the facts. And the numbers don’t lie, they tell a story. Running a business is hard, very hard, and the number of things that can cause a business to fail are almost as numerous as the kinds of businesses that are out there. From the economy to theft, from government regulations to a change in weather, you never know what the next hurdle you might not be able to jump over might be. To say running a business is hard is an understatement. It takes everything you got which is exactly why running a business is not for everyone.
Our friends are hardworking good people. He’s supported the family working in a 9 to 5 job that more often than not takes a 7 to 7 day to complete. She spent her time raising the kids who are older now and they’d like to find something they could do together. That something has become anything, as their search has included everything from Laundromats to Marinas, to the latest endeavor, a print shop. I was surprised to learn print shops were still around? The common denominator between every business “opportunity” they’ve explored is it’s being sold by an owner who wants out. Which begs the question “Why do they all want out?” The answer I believe to why they want out is also the answer to what it’s going to take to make whatever business they do choose a success…PASSION!
The biggest variable of what makes a business successful is passion. Conversely the biggest reason a business fails is a lack of passion. Passion is the multiplier of success or the divider of failure. Yet passion is nowhere on my friend’s radar as they evaluate business “opportunities.” Despite the overwhelming evidence that everyone they have talked to has been more passionate about selling their operations than doing them, my friends simply haven’t concluded that to have any chance at success in business they need to have passion for what they will be doing. So three years after beginning their journey, they are still searching a sea of opportunity not comprehending that whatever enterprise they evaluate, must first be put through their passion filter to have any chance of succeeding.
As I’ve watched without commenting (if I’ve learned one thing in 43 years it’s that I need to be asked my opinion if I have any hope for it to be heard!) on what’s become a wild goose chase for them, it’s made me evaluate things for myself. I see far too many business owners running businesses that are running them, not vice versa. The very freedom they hoped for, and maybe once had, has been lost over the years. Instead of becoming happier, many business owners have become downright miserable doing what they once loved.
Here’s the crux of this blog. If you’re in business for yourself here’s the question all business owners must ask if they want to stay successful. “How’s my passion today and is my organization a reflection of that?” I have a passionate organization, and no one at Aquascape is more passionate for the organization than me. I don’t feel I’m alone in that regard from many a kindred spirit business owners I’ve met in my field and others. But, I’ve also met far too many business owners in my field and others who are anything but passionate about what they do. And without fail, from what I can observe these organizations are a reflection of their personal passion levels too. If you don’t have extreme passion for what you do, how could you expect your people to have even a normal level of passion for what they do?
So as I watch my friends pour over financial statements as the sole barometer for whether they should buy a business I just shake my head. But it shouldn’t surprise me that they have their priorities misaligned. Most business owners focus their energy on the top and bottom lines of their business. That in itself is not a bad thing. But if you really want to evaluate a business to buy, or drive profits of one you already run, look no further than your passion. Focusing first on your passion level will be the only way you have any chance of long term success.
The Pond Guy