Want a better work-life balance? Are you passionate about something? Well, then you should start your own business. At least, that’s what a recent survey of over 500 female business owners suggests.
The survey, conducted by the US-based National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), ranked the traits a woman needs to successfully run her own business. The number one ranked trait: “a passion for the business idea.”
This, I fear, is incredibly misleading.
The results imply that as long as you are passionate about your idea, you will be successful, and that simply ain’t so. Being in business is tough: StatisticsBrain notes that nearly a quarter of businesses go bust in the first year, with nearly half failing by their third year.
The other result that worries me is the fact that many women cited wanting a “more flexible work-life balance” as a reason for going into business. Yikes.
Let’s tackle passion first.
While it’s probably a good idea not to get into a business that you hate (after all, you’re about to dedicate one heck of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to it), passion alone is not enough to sustain an enterprise.
You need a solid plan, access to capital, and some basic business skills. At the very least, you need to be a very, very fast learner.
What’s more, just because you are passionate about something doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for a business, or more specifically, a good fit for a business for you.
For example, I absolutely adore cooking gourmet meals, but never in a million years would I make that my business. Turning something I love doing when I feel like it into something I have to do in order to make a living would take most of the joy out of it in a hurry. And personal passions can be hard to scale efficiently, precisely because they are, well, personal.
Perhaps worst of all, sticking strictly to ideas you can get worked up about may blind you to far more lucrative opportunities. I would think that it would be very difficult to be “passionate” about things like toilet paper, copper piping, or snow shovels, yet all of these products are huge industries. (Don’t believe me? The global market for toilet paper hit US $45 billion last year.)
And what if you could make more money in a business that you weren’t very excited about, but then leverage that to do something with your passion? Consider what Andrew Carnegie did for libraries, or what Bill and Melinda Gates are doing for a number of causes.
What about that work-life balance entrepreneurs supposedly gain?
Let’s not kid ourselves, please. Yes, it’s true that going into business means that you don’t have a boss anymore. What you have instead is dozens or even hundreds of bosses in the form of customers. As a bonus, you also have to deal with all of your employees’ issues too. You also get to exchange that nine-to-five grind for a six a.m. to midnight grind; no more leaving work at five o’clock or passing the buck for you. Ultimately, you’re responsible for all of it.
That’s not to say that the entrepreneurial lifestyle has nothing to recommend it. Eventually, you do get more freedom, and plenty of very cool opportunities. But it’s very important for those of us in business to provide a realistic and truthful picture of what it’s like—especially at first—to those considering it as a career option.
This advice is especially pertinent given that most women business owners predict that more women will become entrepreneurs in 2013 than in past years. Of the women business owners NAWBO surveyed, 61% were more optimistic about 2013 in general than they were about 2012. About 81% were optimistic about their business’ overall performance for this year. Many planned to invest more or the same in hiring, and 73% planned to increase their marketing budget.
Let’s not set these new female entrepreneurs up for failure and disillusionment by telling them passion is all they need to be successful.
Chandra Clarke is the president of Scribendi.com, an award-winning, ISO-certified company that provides document-revision services to corporations and SMEs around the world. She blogs about the issues particular to female entrepreneurs at NeverPink.com.
More columns by Chandra Clarke