“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.”
-Henry David Thoreau
This post and five others are based on a NY Times article by Eilene Zimmerman called, Six Companies That Did Not Survive 2010.
Did the economy fail us, or did we fail ourselves?
It’s a wicked question with humbling answers. When economic trends are booming and money flows like a never-ending well, anyone can make money. We’ll dangerous risks, be flippant about fiscal prudence, and assume the good times will keep on rolling.
In good times, anyone making money considers themselves a good business person. When things turn, so does the story.
All of the sudden, the same brilliant person responsible for the boom isn’t taking the lumps for the bust. As the money faucet is turned off, the tune shifts from, "aren’t we wonderful" to "the system is against us."
Something I’ve noticed through the eyes of my mentors is that hard financial times don’t sink businesses. Hard financial times expose fatal weaknesses that sink businesses.
Those weaknesses are not always of the traditional business sort either. Poor spending habits or people management are not always the root weakness which causes the end. More often than not, there is a mindset issue at the core. Take Gotham Concierge for example.
Founded in 2004 by Alison Kero, Gotham Concierge was a personal assistance and professional organizing service in Manhattan. Catering to busy housewives, disorganized lawyers, and hedge fund managers alike, Ms. Kero had all the clients she could handle.
The types of postmortem analysis we would have performed in my MBA classes would have us find the environmental factors (the declining home and stock markets in 2008) and the internal issues (thousands of dollars on ineffective advertising) that lead to the demise. All of those pieces are there, but they are symptoms, not the root cause.
Ms. Kero says that she couldn’t stand the tedium of running errands for others. "I realize now I didn’t love what I did. I loved running a business."
It seems kind of weak and wimpish to say, "I didn’t love what I did"… doesn’t it? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s a revelation of huge proportions and one the rest of the world could benefit from.
From a mindset perspective, this is a case for purpose, vision, awareness, and gratitude.
Yes, I think that everyone should love what they do, but I don’t think love is what you base your business on. Love of your profession is crafted. That’s right. You can fabricate love for your work… and here’s how.
RECIPE: Love of profession
Serves how many: In the hands of the right person… millions!
Ingredients: Equal parts purpose, vision, and gratitude.
The purpose should be fresh from your soul. Its potency will determine the consistency of the dish. If your purpose is stale, the mixture won’t withstand the heat.
Choose your vision according to taste. Be it complex or simple, the vision has the largest impact on the finished dish. Make sure it is what you want.
Use the gratitude throughout the process. Coating the cookware so nothing burns out. Mix thoroughly with purpose and vision to unlock their flavors. Finally, sprinkle gratitude across the top as the finish.
Prepare and serve with ample awareness. Without it you may find yourself over-cooking your love into obsession, which is not safe for long-term consumption. It is also likely you will run out of Love of profession when you need it most.
Why these four ingredients?
Purpose- Why are you there? What do you hope to get and provide from your choice of profession? Why does it matter? Without a deep, driving purpose… you’ll sway and give up in tough times. You’ll also develop apathy in the good times. Nothing is more disheartening than the owner of a business who doesn’t care. Have a purpose.
Vision- You need an idea of what you want the business to provide and how it fits into your life. Most of us do it the other way around. We set off to grow a business and figure we’ll find a way to put our life around it later. We end up consumed by activities that we don’t like but can’t get away. Have a vision for your life first.
Gratitude- If you do not actively seek the things that are right in your life, you’ll never find them. More money and customers won’t satisfy us later if we don’t appreciate now. Being grateful is a fundamental quality of successful business owners and is 100% choice. Be grateful.
Awareness- Times of indefinable abundance tend to blind us. When we can be sloppy and still prosper, our fall isn’t far behind. The gift of adversity is that it creates an environment that requires awareness. Be as conscious of your actions and results during ups as you are during downs and you’ll have fewer down.
Ms. Kero shut Gotham Concierge down in August 2010 and has since opened a different business that we hope she loves. Learn from her lesson; create your own love of profession, and serve up your own economic conditions.