You Gotta Have Heart

As an entrepreneur, you probably often wish you were working in an industry with better growth potential. But would it really be better for you?

I am currently considering that question when it comes to my own business. I am starting over. Again. This time, I can build the company exactly the way I want right from the beginning. And yet I still catch myself wavering over the right decision.

Cycling around Lake Myvatn, Iceland

To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business and your business in your heart.

— Thomas J. Watson

In my new venture, I am blessed with three opportunities, or markets, to focus on. Two of them are relatively easy – one has been virtually handed to me on a platter. I would be fully operational and profitability by November. The work is innovative and engaging. The second would take about six months and be slightly different space. Interesting again and profitable. And yet I hesitate.

The third opportunity will be a tough slog for many months. And there are already a lot of people in this market, so I will have to work hard to differentiate myself.

But this route – and here is the big one – is where my heart lies. I am passionate about the work and here is where I can make a difference that will positively impact those around me. The other two options are interesting but this one fascinates me; I can get lost in it for days. Although it will take more work and it looks like a bit of a “red ocean” dive (a very competitive market), I know without question that the work is meaningful, and this is where I belong.But am I making the right choice?

Studies now show that the heart plays a significant role in business success.Who knew? As entrepreneurs, the first critical decision we make is whether to follow our heart and create a business that allows us to truly make a difference. In fact, odds show we achieve better results in the industry where our passion lies, regardless of its growth rate.

When things don’t go as planned with our company, it is so easy to blame the market. As in the case of my former business, it is much more likely that youare the root cause. Blasphemy! But really, the ability to compete smarter lies in focusing on your core capabilities to create a high growth company, no matter the industry. It may sound cliché but success really does start with you.

The measures of success for an entrepreneur lie in balancing achievement and independence. Being able to focus on the core of what makes your business great also makes it competitive. The core is where your strengths and passion make a difference and support achievement, which, in turn, perpetuate independence.

Focusing on the core of your business means understanding your customer thoroughly. Your customer knows where you create value, where you can innovate, and how you are different from competitors and alternatives. This is what will make your business unique – offering a platform for growth and attractive returns, no matter the state of your industry. Growth and innovation happen from there.

Much of your energy as an entrepreneur can be expended in the chase. Putting out new products, finding new customers and investing in new marketing campaigns simply keep you running with the crowd. This energy could be much better spent – focusing on proactively working from your core, and generating more strategic and competitive rewards.

I think business success is more about the person and the company than the industry. Focusing strategically on a strong core position, rather than reacting to the market, is consistently more likely to yield success. We may think we would be better off in a faster moving market but if our hearts are not in it, it is unlikely we would make the right decisions to excel.

Even when facing a “red ocean” market, you are more likely to win when you are engaged and passionate. The critical shift is on how you run your own business, as opposed to focusing on the external landscape of your industry. In the end, you and the decisions you make are responsible for the results of your business. You are in charge of your own destiny.

A critical first step is to identify why you are passionate about your business (rather than your industry). Think about why you are driven to make a difference and what ambition drives you to invest your energy. From there, you want to thoroughly understand your customer. With that knowledge, you can find the sweet spot – that position where you create value at a profit for your customer that is different than others in the market. The capabilities that create that value form your core. From there, you can strategically focus to grow your business.

The simple truth is that you are more likely to succeed where your passions and interests lie than trying to make a go of it in a hot market. For entrepreneurs, it really is more about the meaning than the money.