The Purpose of Business

What is This All For?

It seemed to be THE topic of the 2010’s regarding living a purpose driven life and fulfilling that mission through business. I’ve listened to more podcasts and read more articles surrounding this topic than I care to remember. Motivational speeches are filled with this rhetoric, “do what you love and you’ll find financial success.” Or, “create a business around what you’re passionate about.”

While this isn’t bad advice, and there is some helpful truth to these words, it creates a stigma that if you’re not passionate about something you can’t be successful. Or going further, you shouldn’t be in business unless you’re passionate about the problem you’re trying to solve. The truth of the matter is that being in business is a grind. It’s just simply a grind. There are fulfilling aspects of business that go beyond money or status, but at the end of the day, you must put in the work. Pursuing a passion through business at some point will become work. There’s ways to prevent burnout, but a passion, not fully supported, can result in burnout quickly.

The Problem with Passion

Passion is phenomenal. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use your passions as a guide to business. What I am saying is that you can have a business purpose that isn’t necessarily driven by a passion. The important distinction here is that you shouldn’t get in business just because you think it’s going to make you a good deal of money. I can speak first hand about this while I was in the construction business.

On the surface, construction companies have the capability to generate a lot of cash flow and higher margins on an expensive product. That’s tempting. But, there was absolutely zero interest/passion driving the reason I got into the construction business. It was “hey, I’ve got a level of familiarity with this and I think we can be successful.” This resulted in major headaches and financial losses. Had I been more passionate about the business, it might have been different, but ultimately we chose to get out after four years. In this case, a level of passion was important. It really wasn’t there. The business decision was financially driven and when we had to make a decision to continue to grit it or hit the eject button, it made more sense to stop. We needed a certain level of passion here.

The problem with passion is that you can quickly find yourself in a business that doesn’t make any money and carries such a niche level of interest that you’ve made a major financial mistake. Or, you may end up doing so many additional duties because it’s a start up that you quickly burn out. This is not uncommon, but it’s rarely talked about. Everyone focuses on Steve Jobs talking about how you must have passion for what you’re doing in order to be successful.

So How Does Passion Fit with Business

An emerging and more sustainable philosophy regarding your passions and how business fits, is that your business fuels your passions. If I’m interested in financial literacy, I don’t have to start an educational company in order to pursue that passion. I need to create a cash flow machine that allows me the time and financial means to then invest myself or money into a worthy cause.

This is important for two reasons. One, you have a driving force which is the passion that you want to serve. That causes you to wake up early, drive harder, and perform better than you otherwise would. The second reason is that you don’t experience direct burnout from your business which can cause you to abandon the passion or under serve the passion. When you’re dealing with product or personnel issues that are taking you away from the mission of your passion, you don’t find yourself at odds with your goal. You can separate the two in a way that serves both better.

Final Thoughts

There are times when a passion can fuel a wildly successful business. It is possible. But, it’s rare and those stories are over-glorified.

Realistically, you should start and manage your business knowing exactly what you’re trying to serve. Orient the business to allow you to pursue your passions wholeheartedly and you will find a higher level of satisfaction with less burnout.

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