Read an Excerpt
BUILD YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESS AROUND SOMETHING
got to do with it?
THAT YOU LOVE—SOMETHING THAT IS INHERENTLY
AND ENDLESSLY INTERESTING TO YOU.
BUILD YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESS AROUND SOMETHING
IT IS GREAT TO LOVE ONE’S WORK. Doing work that you enjoy gives you energy. You are imbued with enthusiasm. Your senses seem sharper. You wake up with new ideas every day and with solutions to conquer the challenges that cropped up the day before. You are always confident that goals are attainable, that creativity and ingenuity and hard work and passion for the work will make “it” all come together. This “passion” for one’s work is just like an all-consuming love affair—something that all of us crave to experience but encounter only once or twice in a lifetime if we are lucky.
Knowing your passion, working hard to keep it alive, enjoying it every minute of every day, even when the going gets difficult— these are the hallmarks of an entrepreneurial enterprise that you build and develop and maintain and evolve. You expend this extraordinary energy so that others may benefit from it, may learn from it, and may even profit from it.
I have always found it extremely difficult to differentiate between what others might consider my life and my business. For me they are inextricably intertwined. That is because I have the same passion for both. Simply stated, my life is my work and my work is my life. As a result, I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I am excited every day: I love waking up; I love getting to work; I love focusing on a new initiative.
I am not alone with this passion for my work, for my life. Other entrepreneurs that I know have the same type of passion, and their excitement for their work and for their lives is electric and palpable. Whether they work for a large company, run their own business, are raising a family, or are organizing a fund-raising event for a charity, they are tuned into anything and anyone that can help them make their plans unfold and their dreams come true. They are positive and optimistic. They always find a way to get the job done better, faster, and more energetically than those around them. Passion is the first and most essential ingredient for planning and beginning a business or for starting and satisfactorily completing any worthwhile project. Without passion, work is just work, a chore. Without passion, quality, the cornerstone of all businesses, is simply about minimum standards. Without passion, the people who will benefit directly from your efforts—the customers—seem incidental.
It was my passion for teaching and for easing the challenges of the homemaker’s everyday life that helped me turn my homegrown catering business into a successful omnimedia company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and with hundreds of similarly creative and driven employees designing and producing thousands of exciting and useful products for America’s homemakers. When work is based in passion, it does not feel like work—it feels fulfilling and empowering, far more about creating, building, devising, initiating, leading, and serving than about simply moving through one task and on to another. I often use the following example: For me, planting and maintaining a garden is not, is never, working in the garden. Instead, it is gardening. I never have to do housework. I have furniture to polish, I have vacuuming to do, I have ironing to finish.
Search until you find your passion
You may already know your life’s calling as surely as you know your eye color or your favorite flavor of ice cream. Perhaps you have envisioned yourself running your own ski school or designing a line of fine paper products for so long it already seems real. You are just trying to find out how to get going, how to transform your dream into a business.
Or you may feel a burning desire to start something and run something, but you are not sure what that something is. Business schools are filled with people who feel this way, people putting together the tools to hit the ground running as soon as they figure out where they want to go.
Or perhaps most commonly, you may find yourself in a situation where you feel vaguely restless. You may have a perfectly good job, but you feel an urge, a tugging, a preoccupation with an idea. You are turning it over in your mind like a Rubik’s Cube, rehearsing how you are going to tell your family and friends about “it” in serious, measured tones. You are preoccupied with trying to figure out how you can make money with “it” so people will not think you have lost all sense. But the private notion you keep coming back to is: “How fun this could be!”
When I look back on the years when I was exploring career choices and discovering my true entrepreneurial spirit, my choices seem rather eclectic. I was barely in my teens when I began taking a bus from my home in Nutley, New Jersey, to New York City, where I worked as a photographer’s model. I was the envy of my girlfriends, making much better wages for a few hours’ work than they did babysitting or doing chores. This work was fun and lucrative. It demanded a certain optimism and a drive that not everyone possesses.
In the freelance world, you start every day at zero. There are no guarantees of future or regular income. This freelance life taught me to believe in myself and work hard and that good things (and income) would come of it as a result. However, by the time I married and finished my college studies in history and architectural history, I was tired of the modeling business. Modeling was a wonderful way to supplement our family’s income, but I wanted to build a career. I longed to do something more intellectually stimulating.
Armed mainly with my father’s encouragement that I could do anything I put my mind to, I considered my options. I had no capital to start my own business. I did, however, have a great desire to work hard and learn. So I went to Wall Street and joined a small brokerage house where I learned how to be a stockbroker, buying and selling stocks; and I watched closely as many companies’ fortunes rose and fell. I saw some companies make terrible blunders and others, such as McDonald’s and Electronic Data Systems, grow and grow. It was an outstanding education in business and often was very exciting, but I never developed a passion for the brokerage business.
When we (my husband, our baby, and I) moved to Connecticut, I decided to leave Wall Street and try something different. I loved houses and landscaping and decorating, so I thought real estate might be a good career for me. I studied and eventually got my real estate license, but I soon realized that the actual work of selling houses involved spending many hours driving around with clients. That was not something that I wanted to do. I left the business without ever hosting an open house or buying a single property!
I tell you all this because it is not uncommon to try a number of different things before your passion becomes clear. Experimentation is the only way to figure it out. By trying out different businesses and jobs that interest you, you will learn things that will later help you. For example, when I quit modeling, I never imagined I would again spend so much time in front of still and television cameras, and yet I did and still do, regularly. As a stockbroker, I watched many companies take on too much debt and expand too rapidly. It made me vow never to build a business on debt. I also saw companies in which dynamic leaders inspired employees to attain impressive goals—and so I’ve worked hard to motivate people and hire the right executives.
Even my brief time in real estate held an important lesson. Although I disliked driving clients around, looking at houses with them, I loved looking at real estate as an investment for myself. I discovered that the true work of a given job may be much different than what you imagine. There may be a public face to certain businesses that seems fun, exciting, even glamorous. The backroom realities may be another story altogether.
The restaurant business is like this. Running a restaurant is only partly about cooking delectable dishes and greeting regular, friendly customers at the door with a big, welcoming smile. You have to know how to buy foods of appropriate quality and quantity. You need to understand the culinary needs and wants of the community in which your restaurant is located. You must hire and manage kitchen workers and a wait staff. You have to be prepared to fill in as a carpenter, plumber, bartender, dishwasher, or locksmith if that is what it takes on any given day to keep the doors open. On top of those challenges, the hours are terrible, and you will never spend a holiday with your family. Considering all of these obstacles, it is a miracle there are so many great restaurants.
Try new things. I promise that no matter what you experience, you will learn lessons that will eventually help you choose a business you love and a job you will cherish.