You Don’t Have to Be Passionate
I know this sounds impossible, but hear me out: You don’t have to care about the product you sell.
Honey, I can hear you saying “Why the heck would I quit my secure 9-5 to launch a company if I don’t care about the product? Like, deeply care. Like, maybe even more than I care about my spouse.”
Let me tell you about an entrepreneur I know – we’re gonna call him Kevin.
In college, Kevin needed some cash flow so he literally googled “low-cost small business ideas.” He got loads of results with titles like “25 Easy Small Businesses” and the whole concept seems totally laughable to me but hang on.
He’s scrolling these lists and kinda just randomly picks one. It’s now so famous that I’m gonna make up his product for the purposes of his privacy: cheap earbuds you can gift people who insist on Facetiming in public.
Even though I think speakerphones in public should be a crime, Kevin doesn’t care at all. It’s never even crossed his mind that this is an issue.
But he launches the company anyway, constructing cheap earbuds in his college apartment living room.
They’re wildly popular, so pretty soon he’s shopping for a production facility and a warehouse. He hires management and marketing people who care deeply about how your conversation with your BFF while she’s in Portugal belongs to just you and your bestie.
The company skyrockets.
They produce earbuds in different colors. They enter into branding agreements and generate logo-ed styles. Everything’s coming up Kevin.
Is this when the plot turns and we discover that Kevin’s lack of passion for earbuds means that he never listened closely to the consumer, thus leading him to mistake after mistake?
Not at all.
In fact, when the data showed that the brown sparkle version wasn’t selling, he immediately chopped it. Even though it was his favorite.
He lacked an emotional investment that would have otherwise caused him to stay on a sinking ship.
Sometimes being indifferent to the product can give you a better sense of objectivity, a clearer mind for that critical decision-making.
Most entrepreneurs plant their own flags because of how much they love the actual work.
This is a terrible idea.
You’ll never spend your whole day just chilling in your office, grinning ear-to-ear while you just do the actual work. You’ll be sending invoices, developing systems, creating a vision, and marketing your ass off.
Going into business because you’re passionate about the actual work is a bit Pollyanna.
You don’t have to be as actively dispassionate as Kevin, but you gotta respect the way it’s helped him.
In grad school, I remember my shock as one of my fellow classmates defended her dissertation, where she hadn’t done much of the actual work. She hired out her data collection, analysis, and report-writing.
I’m like “You can get a whole PhD without actually demonstrating you know how to conduct a study?”
Her advisor said “Of course. Think about it: Most scholars aren’t out there transcribing their own interviews. They hire grad students. You don’t have to actually do the work. You have to know how to design the process and guide others to success.”
In fact, that’s what CEOs do.
Unless you’re watching Undercover Boss, the CEO isn’t – nay, CAN’T – spend their days in the weeds, cooking the fries, packaging the earbuds, or coding the focus group data.
Instead, they have to focus on listening to customers, setting the tone, creating the culture, establishing the high-level plan, and developing the systems to stay on the pulse. If anything, that’s what Kevin is passionate about.
Earbuds could become obsolete this afternoon and he’d have the infrastructure to start up something else tomorrow.
Have I convinced you at all that perhaps a little bit of dispassion could be helpful?
If you’re still thinking something like “the secret to my success is that I care about the product” that’s ok – keep the passion. But be very clear that you’ll also need to grow passionate about backend business matters and get comfortable murdering your darlings.