Passion can function as a double-edged sword. Often the very thing it takes to ignite a business can be responsible for ruining it. Even the most promising startups can be destroyed by too much passion. It blinds entrepreneurs, leading to overconfidence and bad decision-making at the worst possible times. Entrepreneurs within this category of over-zealous, blind-sighted optimism are often so impatient to move forward with their new ideas that they lose perspective on how would-be customers and investors will view their product.
Noam Wasserman, a professor at Harvard Business School, identifies three major areas prospective founders need to take into account when they’re thinking about kick-starting their new business:
1) Market Circumstances: A founder who is passionate about an area is more likely to misread whether a large potential customer base for their venture exists.
2) Career Circumstances: Passion often blinds founders into thinking they already possess the full skill set they need to build their business when in fact they’re poorly prepared. Many entrepreneurs eventually realize they don’t have the connections or resources necessary to find co-founders, investors, or even employees.
3) Personal Circumstances: Many aspiring entrepreneurs discount the toll a start-up will take on their family, and they are more likely to sugar-coat scenarios to a spouse in an attempt to attain their support.
While passion and optimism are great when building a business, founders should be encouraged to find effective ways of tempering their passion with a hefty dose of realism. As Steve Jobs famously warned: “[f]ollow your heart, but check with your head.” We couldn’t agree more!
Click here to view the related article in The Wall Street Journal (8.25.14)